Are you visiting Orange County, California for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in The OC!
When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is Disneyland, but I also take them to Mission San Juan Capistrano in South OC – for a more local, authentic experience.
When I want to escape the crowds/tourists, my favorite place to visit is ChocXO – a chocolate factory in Irvine, where you can sample and purchase high-quality chocolates and go on the “Bean to Bar Chocolatier Tour” to see how chocolate gets made. Your taste buds will thank you…
If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Surf & Sand, Laguna Beach for kissing with a view. I stayed in Laguna Beach overnight and will certainly return to this oceanfront hotel. One of the top resorts in Southern California, their Aquaterra Spa is not to be missed. The Splunches package, with spa treatment and lunch at Splashes is the way to go.
The best place to walk the dog is Huntington Beach, the dog-friendliest city in OC – in fact, all of Southern California.
Museums are wonderful (don’t overlook the Irvine Museum), but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit Knott’s Berry Farm and Medieval Times, both in Buena Park.
If you are looking for fantastic farm-to-table cuisine, I recommend SoCo and The OC Mix in Costa Mesa.
The best place to go for coffee & breakfast is Old Vine Café at The Camp in Costa Mesa or if you want to splurge on a fancy breakfast, The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach.
Looking for cheap food in Orange County? Go to Irvine Diamond Jamboree for an incredibly diverse Asian restaurants, bars and 85C Bakery, a unique Asian-inspired coffeehouse. For a great happy hour check out Red Bar inside Hotel Irvine. This hipster hotel is the place to stay when you find yourself in Irvine. You’ll understand why I say “orange is the new black” after you’ve slept here.
Tortilla Republic in Laguna Beach is the spot for late night dining as well as lots of other high-end restaurants and bars along Main Street.
For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Andrei’s Restaurant in Irvine – they offer 100% of their profits to charity. There are also 5-star restaurants within the oceanfront resorts Splashes at Surf & Sand, Laguna Beach and The Studio at Montage Laguna Beach.
Seeing a lot of water? The OC is best known for its 42 miles of coastline – and there are dozens of inland cities, too!
When you come to The OC, get your picture taken at Pacific City, the new outdoor destination along Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. The best vantage points for pictures are taken on the Huntington Beach Pier and Downtown Disney.
In Orange County, outdoor lovers will want to hike, bike and horseback ride at Irvine Ranch Open Space, which includes Black Star Wilderness Park, Fremont, Limestone and Weir Canyon nature preserves.Looking for a little exercise? Walk or bike along Main Street or the boardwalk in Huntington Beach. You can also rent electric bikes. I haven’t ridden one yet, but I want to give it a spin.
After a day of adventure, Pacific Waters Spa is the best place to go for a spa treatment, located in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa.
If you are a museum lover, The OC’s hidden gem museum is Irvine Museum.
The OC Register and OC Weekly will keep you posted on what’s happening in The OC.
You can tell a lot about The OC from visiting its famous beach cities like Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
In the spring you should attend a show at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a performing arts complex in Costa Mesa offering live theater, broadway musicals, international operas and classical concerts. The Segerstrom Concert Hall wraps up their season in June.
In the summer you should attend Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival and the US Open of Surfing.
Did you know that The OC still has great weather in the fall? Sunny and 75 degrees through September, October and sometimes even November. My visit was right before Thanksgiving and it was so sunny that I had to wear sunblock. Ya, ya, I know you should wear sunblock year round; duly noted.
If you want to get into the holiday spirit, come to Orange County for the South Coast Plaza tree lighting ceremony in the winter. I was a guest of the Westin South Coast Plaza during my visit to Costa Mesa and the hotel sparkled with good cheer and Christmas traditions. It doesn’t hurt that the South Coast Plaza is right next door. This place gives a five star resort experience in a retail environment and if you are traveling with kids, don’t miss the merry go round. They change out the carousel animals for reindeer over the holidays!
Insider Tip: Want to make your travel easy? Try flying into Orange County’s airport. I’ll bet you didn’t know that John Wayne Airport (@johnwayneair) is centrally-located in Irvine and easy to fly directly into The OC. For additional insider tips follow @Nancydbrown on Twitter and @VisittheOC.
Looking to spend more time in Southern California? Just north of Orange County, you can visit Los Angeles and just south of Orange County, you can visit San Diego.
If You Go
I flew from San Francisco, California to John Wayne Airport on United Airlines, but there are plenty of airlines that fly into Santa Ana (SNA), including American, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, Southwest & WestJet. To learn more about Things to See and Do in the OC go here. I was a guest of Orange County Visitors Association, http://www.visittheoc.com, while researching additional travel stories. Article, video and photos are my own, as are my opinions.
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