Orange County is the typical Southern California paradise that the world expects from SoCal. No wonder then that there have been so many recent television shows set in the area, including 4 seasons of the O.C. and reality television fodder, Laguna Beach, The Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County. If people are going to be beautiful, wealthy and live a charmed life, the least they can do is let us watch them live out their lives and provide us with entertainment. So why should you visit? I’ve listed below 30 reasons to visit Orange County in California. Get off the couch, folks, and go live the life you see on television even if its only for a vacation.
The End of the Road
- The famous Pacific Coast Highway ends at Dana Point in Orange County. If you’re going to do a road trip it makes sense to go to one end or another of the road, right? We did the smart thing and headed south on the PCH towards guaranteed sunshine in southern California.
- Orange County is blessed with miles of sand and surf. But the kicker? It’s also got near-perfect weather all year-round so you can actually enjoy the beach for more than just the summer.
- Crystal Cove State Park, one of the best beaches in the OC, is 3.5 miles of beachfront perfection. There are lots of activities at the park – hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking etc. We went for the obvious simple pleasures – boogie boarding and swimming.
- The OC is famous for its tidal pools. We are talking hours of entertainment for inquisitive kids while you hang out in the sunshine on a beach chair.
- As you would expect, surfing is a big part of outdoor sports in the OC. One of the best beaches in California is Huntington Beach. Known as ‘surf city’, Huntington Beach is home to one of the largest world surfing competitions.
- Get a panoramic view of the OC from 500 feet in the air on the Big Orange Balloon at Orange County Great Park. Bonus: It’s really cheap!
- You can visit Mickey Mouse and friends in Anaheim – a theme park experience which can be made more fun with Julie’s 25 Secret Tips for Disneyland. Really need I say more?
- For more educational fun, check out the science museum at the Discovery Cube OC.
- Have a burger and a milkshake with a view at Crystal Cove Shake Shack which is located right of the PCH. Be prepared for a long wait.
- California’s famous In-n-Out burger is headquartered in Irvine. They are famous for the freshness of their burgers so you know their stores in the area have to be good.
- For dinner with a view, check out Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort at Laguna Beach. The food was good, but the view was amazing. It’s right on the beach perfect for walking off some of the calories that you just imbibed.
- Irvine has hundreds of miles of on-road and off-road dedicated biking paths. Obviously, these paths are good for hiking too.
- A planned city built by the Corporation of Irvine, Irvine is pretty, landscaped and has roads that make sense. It consistently gets rated as one of the safest cities in the USA.
- Orange County Great Park is a former Marine base turned into 1300 acres for outdoor enjoyment, including a Farmer’s Market, sports fields and playgrounds.
- Perhaps your idea of outdoor exercise, is flexing your credit card finger muscles. Even the mall at Fashion Island in Newport Beach has an ocean view!
An Arts Community
- The Laguna Art Museum, located right on the PCH, is the oldest art museum in California.
- The Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach has been a tradition in the area for 80 years. It is one of the biggest art festivals in the USA.
- I have to admit I did think that people getting dressed up and re-enacting Old Masters paintings for the Pageant of the Masters would be a good laugh. I came away impressed at the sheer pageantry of the show. It’s art, theatre and Hollywood magic all combined into one impressive show narrated by a booming Morgan Freeman voice.
- Less fancy, and across the street from the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters is the Sawdust Art Festival which can basically be described as Etsy in the sunshine with sawdust.
- In fact, there is art everywhere in the streets of Laguna Beach. What’s not to love?\
Fun Day Trips
- ‘You can take a day trip to pretty Catalina Island from either Dana Point or Newport Beach.
- You can also go whale watching trips from Newport Beach.
- Ferries run from Newport Beach to pretty little Balboa Island.
- The famed Joshua Tree National Park is about 2 hours from Orange County. Stay overnight in Joshua Tree at a glamping site to watch an amazing sunset followed by a view of stars galore.
- Both Los Angeles and San Diego are a couple of hours from the OC. Like Los Angeles, there are so many fun things to do in San Diego with kids that it really is a destination in itself.
Great Hotels and Transport
- The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach is a fantastic place to stay (with or without kids). Set on 500+ acres with accommodation in little bungalows and a golf course, pools, spa, restaurants, you may be loathe to leave this hotel. It would, however, be a shame to miss the rest of the OC!
- In 2015, Travel + Leisure included three OC hotels in its World’s Best Hotels List: The Resort at Pelican Hill (which has been recommended by readers of this blog), the Montage Laguna Beach and the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.
- The OC has an airport named after John Wayne who used to live in nearby Newport Beach. Technically it is an international airport (probably because it flies to Cabo in Mexico?)
- There is a super-cute Laguna Beach Trolley that runs a shuttle service around the town for free on weekends. Of course, the trolley starts at 11AM on Saturdays and Sundays because anything else would be uncivilised.
For more suggestions, check out A Local’s Guide to Orange County by a blogger friendwho grew up in the area. Have you been to Orange County? What else do you recommend?
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