Just 40 minutes from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Orange County is home to scores of burgeoning actors, many of whom perform in the region’s thriving theater scene. While the O.C. has such renowned theatrical venues as South Coast Repertory Theater and Laguna Playhouse, there are also casual theaters – some even downright kitschy – where you can enjoy dinner while watching a performance.
Broadway Meets Magic
Based in the historic region of Old Town Tustin, Encore Dinner Theater first opened its doors in 1959 as a movie theater. Now serving as a dinner theater, the 250-seat, two-tiered venue has a throwback feel, complete with ornate chandeliers and old-fashioned, red leather U-shaped booths. The theater stages everything from magic shows to cabaret performances to Broadway musicals such as “Grease” and “The Sound of Music.” Merlin’s Magic and Comedy Dinner Theater is less than five minutes east of Old Towne Orange. The theater showcases the workings of its resident magician, who often looks for volunteers from the audience. Performances take place inside a private room at Rib Trader restaurant on weekends and select holidays. Reservations are required.
Scene of the Crime
The Gourmet Detective in Newport Beach is an interactive dining experience where you get to mix a little murder with your meal. A mystery unfolds throughout your meal and into the night, when you’re given the chance to guess who committed the murder out of a cast of characters. The Dinner Detective in Santa Ana provides a similar experience, complete with a four-course meal. Many of the actors who perform as part of the murder mystery are trained in improv and can alter the course of the story depending on their interactions with the audience. The Dinner Detective often disguises cast members as audience members in an attempt to throw you off solving the case.
Tied in Knotts
Just 10 minutes on foot from famed themed park Knott’s Berry Farm, on Buena Park’s bustling Beach Boulevard, is Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Watch singing swashbucklers pillage and plunder about while sailing aboard a replica 18th century ship measuring 46 feet long with 40-foot-tall masts. The ship, set inside a large indoor lagoon, is the centerpiece for an interactive show that includes games and challenges for audience members. Housed inside a castle and just steps away is Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Cheer on the team of show horses, knights and jousters performing at the center of the large arena for a royal court. You’ll have to eat your feast with your hands – utensils weren’t prevalent during medieval times!
Dine at Disney
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim provides a unique setting for dinner theater experiences. Based in Disneyland’s Frontierland, the Golden Horseshoe is a counter-service eatery designed to look like an Old West saloon, complete with massive 1850s chandeliers and cabaret chairs. Grab a fast food meal or ice cream sundaes, their specialty, before sitting down for a musical revue featuring can-can dancers and singing cowboys. In order to get a good spot to watch Disney’s California Adventure’s World of Color -- a light, laser and water show featuring Disney music and characters -- you have to camp out for hours along the park’s lake. Save time and enjoy a meal during the show by booking a World of Color package which includes dinner at one of the park’s three restaurants, including exclusive seating with views of the show.
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