The Dana Point Lantern District is in the heart of Dana Point’s Town Center on Del Prado Avenue. You’ll know you are at the right spot when you turn off the Pacific Coast Highway and are immediately greeted by the Dana Point Lantern District sign welcoming you.
This district offers multiple Dana Point restaurants, galleries, and shops to explore within walking distance of each other.
The area known as The Lantern District is distinctive for its Spanish-style architecture, wide streets lined with white adobe houses, and street names, all named after maritime signal lanterns. Why you may ask? Because an entrepreneur at the time, also known as a “trader,” would signal to the ships coming to the port where they were stationed by lighting up color-coded lanterns.
There used to be more than 150 copper lanterns lining many of the original Dana Point streets in the early nineteenth century, but as of today, there are only five lamp posts that remain standing. Of the five lampposts, three still have lanterns attached. Fifteen more lanterns stand atop modern poles in the Dana Point Plaza, restored and installed in 1989. Others are prized possessions in personal collections, including four owned by the Dana Point Historical Society – all with the intent to preserve a part of a specific time in Orange County history.
Today, the Lantern District combines the romance of the past with modern amenities. By preserving its history, beauty and unique character, the Dana Point Lantern District offers visitors more than a pleasant commerce experience, but the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane when walking through the district that was discovered over a hundred years ago. Take a stroll down Old Golden Lantern Avenue, check out a hotel ruins, or stop at the Blue Lantern Gazebo to feel the same ocean breeze on your face that explorers and traders felt so many years ago.
This newly revitalized spot offers many things to do for locals and visitors alike. Check out one of the many Dana Point Lantern District restaurants along the mile-long stretch. We especially recommend some seafood while you are. We are, after all, right on the Pacific Ocean. Combine history and flavor by stopping by the Coastal Kitchen, the first commercial building in Dana Point, now a family-owned restaurant. Before heading out of town, check out some of the Dana Point Lantern District shops or explore the nearby Dana Point Harbor.