Brought to international fame with television shows like “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “The OC,” Orange County is a Southern California hotspot. Originally an agricultural community full of citrus groves and cowboys, a drought transformed Orange County into a Hollywood celebrity retreat in the early 1900’s. It is now famous for its beaches, amusement parks, upscale shopping, golf and spas.
Known as “Surf City, U.S.A.”, Huntington Beach offers surf competitions year-round. Newport Beach is home to the Wedge, one of the world’s most famous body surfing locations. Visitors can explore the boardwalks in Newport and Huntington Beach by bicycle and take in the shopping, arcades, and piers.
Orange County has a rich history, with Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the first permanent European settlements in Southern California. As well as the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and the Crystal Cathedral.
The University of California Irvine, California State University of Fullerton and several private schools including Chapman University and Concordia University call Orange County home.
Upscale resorts, spas and golf courses are sprinkled along the coast and intermix with budget-friendly hotels and beach camping. There are nine campgrounds, some of the most popular are Doheny State Beach, Newport Dunes RV Park and San Onofre State Beach.
Five of the most luxurious Southern California resorts and spas reside here: the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, St. Regis Monarch Beach, Montage Laguna Beach Resort & Spa, Island Hotel Newport Beach and The Resort at Pelican Hill. Several of these resorts also provide the best golf courses in Orange County.
Home to over thirty wildlife and nature conservancy preserves, including underwater parks, the natural beauty cannot be overlooked. Tide pools are an integral part of most of the beaches and coves along the Pacific Coast.
Orange County is one giant entertainment center with world-renown amusement parks, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Wild Rivers. Catch a MLB Anaheim Angels or NHL Anaheim Ducks game. The Orange County Performing Arts Center provides Broadway shows, ballet and orchestra recitals. Concerts are held at the Irvine Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and Anaheim Honda Center. The third largest shopping mall in the United States, South Coast Plaza is located here.
Summer is when Orange County kicks it up a notch with fairs, festivals and outdoor concerts. The Orange County Fairgrounds is home to a weekly farmer’s market and the popular OC Fair, from July-August. Celebrating its art origin, Laguna Beach hosts the annual Festival of the Arts from July-August with its famous Pageant of the Masters, Sawdust Art Festival and daily events. Also, Balboa Island is famous for its Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, running for over 100 years.
When to Go?
Known world-wide for continuous sunshine and warm weather, Orange County is a perfect destination year-round. Weekends from spring to fall are the busiest time of year, when locals flock to the beaches to escape high inland temperatures.
How to Get There?
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this community is easy to reach from main international airports. Check out local John Wayne Airport and Long Beach Airport (30 minutes away) for low fares from West Coast cities.
Enjoy the warm weather and take an adventure hike, bike or row through one of the many protected areas, such as Crystal Cove State Park and the Newport Back Bay. The Balboa Ferry is an iconic symbol of this beach community; skip the long line for cars and walk on.
Additional must-sees include the beaches and tide pools; charming beach towns from San Clemente to Seal Beach; balloon rides at the Orange County Great Park; Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum; Crystal Cathedral; Santa Ana and Orange County Zoos.