Orange County is a county in Southern California. A patchwork of 34 independent municipalities, Orange County's population is one of the most culturally diverse in the world. Orange County's terrific and irrefutable reputation as a tourist destination got it its own TV series, The O.C. The county's main tourist draws are its beaches and of course its two theme parks, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.
The climate is a pleasant semi-arid climate, with mild, wet winters and springs, and dry, warm summers and falls. High temperatures range from the 60s-80s (16-30°C) year-round, with low temperatures year-round ranging from 45-66 (7-19°C). While rain is rare, most nights in Orange County are foggy. The water temperature is 58F (14°C) in winter, 63F (17°C) in spring, 67F (19°C) in summer, and 70F (21°C) in fall. Smog is common throughout much of Orange County, though the coast usually has cleaner air due to ocean winds.
There are many cities large and small in Orange County – here are a few of the major ones.
- Anaheim - Home of Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks (National Hockey League) and Los Angeles Angels (Major League Baseball), second most populous
- Buena Park - The city known as the home of Knott's Berry Farm, lots of used car lots, gateway to Los Angeles.
- Costa Mesa - Retail center for the beach cities and home to the Orange County Fairgrounds.
- Fullerton- Home to Cal State Fullerton
- Huntington Beach - "Surf City". Huntington Beach has a long surfing tradition and famous beaches.
- Irvine - One of youngest and the largest city in terms of land size. A somewhat gentrified community with a significant Asian-American heritage.
- Laguna Niguel - one of the larger and more wealthy/exclusive communities in south Orange County, the city has most parks per square mile in the county and home to the Chet Holifield Federal Building.
- Newport Beach - one of the richest communities in the nation, and the setting of The O.C.
- Santa Ana - one of the oldest and largest cities in Orange County, with a tremendous Mexican-American population and cultural influences.
- Seal Beach - A small beach town with a host of cute shops, awesome local restaurants, and a handful of Irish pubs mostly situated on Main Street.
Comprised of 34 incorporated cities and various unincorporated regions, Orange County has a total population of more than 3 million, and is the fifth largest county in the United States. The population of these cities range from merely 6,200 (Villa Park) to over 300,000 (Santa Ana and Anaheim). Bordering Los Angeles on the north, San Diego in the south, and both Riverside County and San Bernardino County to the east, Orange County is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the east by the Santa Ana Mountains. The area enjoys beautiful beaches and warm weather year round. Orange County has a reputation for being more conservative than the rest of California, with fiscal conservative attitudes dominating in well-off cities and some social-conservative attitudes being prevalent in some of Orange County's thriving ethnic subcommunities.
Orange County is in the Pacific Time Zone and observes Daylight Savings Time.
For emergencies in Orange County, dial 911 toll-free from any phone including payphones. Dialing 911 from a cell-phone will place you in contact with the California Highway Patrol.
Santa Ana is the county seat.
English and Spanish are the two most common languages spoken in Orange County. Most government agencies will have someone available who speaks Spanish. In North Orange County, many businesses will have someone who speaks Spanish on staff; however the further south one travels, Spanish speaking staff can be less common, though someone nearby who speaks Spanish is likely and will usually help translate if asked. Because of the ethnic diversity of Southern California, there are many neighborhoods where other languages are dominant, mostly from Asian countries. The third most-spoken language, Vietnamese, is widely spoken in Westminster and Garden Grove, and to a lesser extent, in Fountain Valley and Santa Ana. In Garden Grove and Fullerton, Korean is widely spoken. Mandarin Chinese is common in Irvine. Japanese is more commonly spoken in Costa Mesa.
Several freeways provide access to Orange County.
- From the south: Interstate 5
- From the north: Interstates 5 and 405, State Route 57
- From the east: State Route 91
- John Wayne Airport  (SNA) - 18601 Airport Way, Santa Ana, +1 949 252-5200. Several major and regional airlines fly into John Wayne Airport. Most of the major car rental companies also have locations at this airport.
- Fullerton Municipal Airport  - 4011 W. Commonwealth, Fullerton, +1 714 738-6323, email: [email protected]. Fullerton Municipal is a general aviation airport with fuel and overnight parking facilities.
- Airports near Orange County, with approximate distance and driving time to Santa Ana
- LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT)  - 1940 East Moore Way, Ontario, +1 909 937-2700. 33 miles (53 km), 38 minutes.
- San Diego International Airport (SAN)  - 3665 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego +1 619 400-2400. 89 miles (143 km), 90 minutes.
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)  - 1 World Way, Los Angeles, +1 310 646-5252. 40 miles (64 km), 46 minutes.
- Long Beach Airport (LGB)  - 4100 Donald Douglas Dr., Long Beach, +1 562 570-2678, Fax: +1 562 570-2603 e-mail: [email protected]. 20 miles (32 km), 25 minutes.
- Orange County Transportation Authority  - +1 714 636-7433. OCTA lines cover all areas of Orange County. Fares - Regular: $2, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $1; Day pass - $5, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $1.25, 7-Day Pass - Regular: $15, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $7.
- To travel between Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, use Los Angeles County MTA  Route 460.
- Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, ☎ (714) 220-5200, . edit in Buena Park is Disneyland's neighbor and tends to be less crowded although many of the attractions are less family friendly.
- Pretend City Children's Museum, 29 Hubble, Irvine, CA 92618, ☎ (949) 428-3900, . edit in Irvine is a a non-profit organization built as a small, interconnected city designed to build better brains for children 0-8 years through purposeful play, hands-on learning experiences, role playing, and educational programming. More than a play place, the museum is a unique community resource offering developmental screenings and tools for families, educators and community agencies.
- The Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629, ☎ (949) 496-2274, . Cost: $6.50 adults, $4.50 children (ages 4-12), Ocean Institute members free. edit in Dana Point was founded in 1977, the Ocean Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean preservation through education, setting the standard for educational excellence and serving as a leading resource for universities, museums, teachers and all others seeking to increase their knowledge of the ocean. Located in beautiful Dana Point harbor alongside the Pacific Ocean, the Ocean Institute offers science and maritime history programs to youth during the week, and is open to the general public on weekends, 10AM – 3PM Visitors can enjoy ocean-themed exhibits, marine life touch tanks and aquariums with hundreds of marine creatures. Institute staff and volunteers are on hand to share the secrets of our seas. Unique maritime and ocean-themed items are available in the Chambers Gallery everyday, 9AM – 6PM. For an added charge, visitors can enjoy marine mammal cruises onboard the Institute’s R/V Sea Explorer or sail onboard the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. Facilities are available for rent for meetings, receptions and other events.
- Mission San Juan Capistrano, 26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675, ☎ (949) 234-1300, . Daily 9AM - 5PM; Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas & Good Friday afternoon.. The Mission in San Juan Capistrano is Orange County's only mission and one of its leading attractions. Activities for kids including an audio tour for kids in both English and Spanish. Lush gardens, koi ponds, historic adobe buildings and museum rooms with displays. Specials for Orange County residents, and other discounts, coupons, dine and tour packages and tickets sales can be found on their website. $9 Adult - includes free audio tour.$8 Seniors 60+ - includes free audio tour. $5 Children ages 4 to 11/ Children ages 3 and under are admitted free. Audio tour for children is optional for a cost of $2 per child. edit
- Little Saigon, . edit is the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, and a trip down Bolsa Ave in Westminster will take one directly into its heart.
- Play Go, in Little Seoul in Garden Grove. edit is one of the only places in Southern California to offer several Go parlors catering both newcomers and seasoned pros.
- Balboa Island, A community within Newport Beach, . edit has its own unique beachfront vibe, and a vibrant boardwalk.
- Top of the World, in Laguna Beach. editTop of the World - Named as the highest peak in the area it provides a spectacular view of the ocean and has been a longtime favorite destination for Orange County's romantically inclined. Sunsets and sunrises from this location are both incredible.
- Stewart Surfboards, 2102 S El Camino Real, ☎ 9494921085, . 9-6 7 days a week. editStewart Surfboards is a fixture in the surfing community, A great place to get started with surfing they offer surf lessons as well as surfboard rentals. Legendary longboard shaper, Bill Stewart creator of the modern longboard still owns and runs the store
- Flightdeck Air Combat Center, 1601 S. Sunkist St. Unit A Anaheim, CA 92806, ☎ 714)937-1511, . 12-6PM. $49-$79. editOpened in 2005, Flightdeck Air Combat Center is an authentic military flight simulation center providing civilians the chance to pilot a fighter jet flight simulator. All Sims are full scale replicas of F-16 cockpits. Flight-gear, training and in-flight instruction are provided. Flightdeck has been reviewed on many "things to do" sites and is consistently rated in the top 10 things to do in Orange County.
- Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, 34675 Golden Lantern (in Dana Point Harbor), ☎ (949) 496-5794, . 8AM - 10PM. $14.50+. editDana Wharf offers year-round whale watching and fishing! All trips are at a value-priced and fun for the whole family. Take advantage of the year-round 1/2 Price Special on Tuesdays where all trips are 1/2 off! May - October is the Blue Whale season and November - April is the Gray Whale Migration.
- California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton), 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92831, ☎ (657) 278-2011, . A public university with approximately 38,950 enrolled students at a 44.5% acceptance rate. The mascot is Tuffy the Titan and the university colors are white, navy blue, and orange. $6,436 in-state and $17,596 out-of-state. edit
- University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine), Irvine, CA 92697, ☎ (949) 824-5011, . A public university with approximately 30,760 enrolled students at a 38.7% acceptance rate. The mascot is Peter the Anteater and the university colors are blue and gold. $14,577 in-state and $37,455 out-of-state. edit
- Chapman University, 1 University Dr, Orange, CA 92866, . A private, non-profit university affiliated with the Christian Church. There are approximately 7,570 enrolled students at a 47% acceptance rate. The mascot is a Panther and the university colors are grey and cardinal. $47,234. edit
- Orange Coast College (OCC), 2701 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, ☎ (714) 432-5072, . A community college with approximately 24,000 enrolled students. The mascot is Pete the Pirate and the college colors are blue and orange. California residents: $46 per unit, Non-residents: $150 per unit. edit
- Irvine Valley College (IVC), 5500 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618, ☎ (949) 451-5100, . A community college with approximately 14,620 enrolled students. The mascot is the Lasers and the college colors are white and blue. California residents: $46 per unit, Non-residents: $242 per unit. edit
- South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa (Exit 405 at Bristol), ☎ (800) 782-8888, . edit South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa (Exit 405 at Bristol) is one of the top-selling malls in America, with stores ranging from Sears at the low end to Gucci and Armani (with private, invitation-only second floor showrooms) to cater to the more luxurious. South Coast Plaza is Orange County's premiere shopping destination.
- The Lab and The Camp (The Anti-mall), 2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, ☎ (714) 966-6661. 10AM-*PM. edit The Lab and The Camp are two adjoined outdoor malls catering to the young and hip, with a variety of boutique stores offering cutting-edge fashion and unique food offerings. There are generally also ongoing art exhibitions and other youth culture events.
- The Asian Garden Mall, 9200 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, ☎ (714) 379-9913, . 10AM-7PM. editThe Asian Garden Mall is the largest majority Vietnamese-owned and operated mall in America, and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. The two-story mall houses dozens of shops, restaurants, and wholesale stores of all types, including a wide variety of imported products and foods. Many stores do not place price tags on their merchandise, and buyers are expected to haggle with shopkeepers (A better price is generally had by someone with fluency in the Vietnamese language).
- Irvine Spectrum, 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618 (where the 5 and 405 freeways meet in Irvine), ☎ (949) 753-5180, . edit A complex offering a vast selection of entertainment, shopping and dining establishments. Always packed and lacking parking during Friday and Saturday evenings, the Spectrum is a popular hangout for all ages. Among it's many draws are the Edwards movie theater (home to Orange County's only IMAX experience), the Irvine Improv comedy club, a Ferris Wheel and Merry-go-round. For the daytime visitor there are many well known shopping outlets and department stores, as well as a comprehensive array of restaurants and bars.
Orange County has quite a niche for award winning dining, signature California cuisine and ethnic specialties. Orange County is a food lover’s haven with close to 5,000 restaurants serving everything from the freshest seafood to exotic delicacies.
- Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa has an incredible reputation for fresh and vibrant food, and they're routinely lauded in the local independent press (OC Weekly) for high-quality offerings at fast food prices.
- Javier's Restaurant with two locations in Newport Beach and Irvine, Javier's is considered higher end Mexican food with an upscale ambiance. It is frequented by the Orange County elite. The Irvine location is located at the Irvine Spectrum while Newport Beach overlooks Crystal Cove State Beach and has stunning Ocean views from the outside patio.
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from in Little Saigon, Orange County is paradise for Vietnamese food lovers. The area immediately surrounding the Asian Garden mall has a wide variety to choose from.
- Pho 84 is a good spot for the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup.
- Lee's Sandwiches serve Vietnamese Baguette sandwiches 24 hours in Little Saigon.
- Cafe Di Vang 2 in Garden Grove is a one-of-a-kind Little Saigon experience. The cafe is not notable for its drinks, but for its staff, who serve tasty but expensive (5 dollars each) smoothies and coffee while clad in little more than lingerie. Essentially the Vietnamese equivalent of Hooters, there are few cafes like it anywhere in America.
- Taste of India (Walnut & Culver) is a popular Indian restaurant with locations all over the county.
- Dosa Place (Red Hill Ave. and 5 fwy) has a good selection of South Indian cuisine.
- Shin-Sen-Gumi in Fountain Valley is a traditional, Japanese-style ramen shop with a multitude of cooking options rarely seen outside of Japan.
- Ebisu Ramen Restaurant, also located in Fountain Valley, is highly rated with very reasonable prices. It popularity is telling by the wait at times, especially during lunch.
- Mitsuwa Marketplace on Paularino Ave in Costa Mesa that has a great food court with several noodle stands and fun ambiance - like stepping into Tokyo for a second.
- Little Seoul has a single 24-hour Korean Barbecue restaurant, Tofu House.
- Gen Korean BBQ House in Irvine is a well-known Korean Barbecue restaurant with a trendy, modern style.
- Cafe Hiro in Cypress is a popular French-Japanese fusion cuisine restaurant. Founded by a former head chef at one of the top restaurants in Beverly Hills in order to give himself more control over the menu, luxurious and original cuisine is served at middlebrow prices (10-15 dollars per entree). The restaurant is notable for crafting a new and different homemade soup every day, included with each entree.
Orange County is home to three famous hamburger chains - Tommy's (Fountain Valley, at Magnolia and Warner), Fatburger (Irvine, at Michelson and Jamboree, and Aliso Viejo town center), and In-N-Out (all over).
- Tommy's is famous for putting chili on all of its products.
- Fatburger is notable for its thick and juicy burgers and steakhouse-style "fat fries".
- In-N-Out is lauded as a California favorite, with thin yet flavorful burgers. There is heated debate but no general consensus as to which chain is best - one's personal tastes and preferences are the best guide.
- Cafe Habana at The Lab in Costa Mesa is Orange County's most prominent Cuban restaurant, with a bordello-like atmosphere dimly lit by hundreds of candles.
Dinner with a View
- Orange Hill restaurant in Orange offers an upscale steakhouse with a magnificent view overlooking all of Orange County.
- Summit House in Fullerton which also offers an upscale dining experience with great views.
Izakaya, the Japanese style of cooking emphasizing a lively atmosphere and a wide variety of personal-sized mini-dishes to choose from.
- H2O Sushi & Izakaya Restaurant in Costa Mesa is a Japanese Izakaya style pub serving modern eats, cocktails, and sake.
- Matsu in Huntington Beach offers a more authentic Japanese atmosphere with a 70's feeling red-lit bar. The prices are good for quality sushi. Try the lunch time menu offered during the weekdays which includes bento-box meals that are enormous for about $10, and the sushi and sashimi lunch specials are half the price of the dinner versions.
- Koi in Seal Beach is also an excellent restaurant with some of the freshest fish you'll find around Orange County.
- Wafu Sushi in Costa Mesa is a small private owned restaurant offering the popular samurai burrito that is very popular with reasonable prices.
Tapioca bubble tea, also known as boba, is a recent local obsession imported from Asia - the milk tea is available in Orange County in all flavors, including some fruits and vegetables relatively unknown to the Western palate.
- Tea-ism or Cha for Tea in Irvine, near the UCI campus.
- Lollicup is a popular boba chain, with two locations in Irvine (Jeffrey and Walnut, Jamboree and Alton at the Diamond Jamboree plaza)
With Orange County's Chinese population not as concentrated into a single city as other local Asian enclaves, the Chinese restaurants vary more in location.
- Seafood Paradise no. 2 in Westminster offers great Dim-Sum 7 days a week from 10:30AM to about 2:30PM.
- The Gypsy Den at the Lab in Costa Mesa is well-known for a wide variety of vegetarian offerings, especially its adobe stew. For Asian vegan cuisine.
- Âu Lạc in Fountain Valley is a popular destination.
- Ruby's Shake Shack in Corona Del Mar, situated above a cliff directly overlooking the ocean, is a more than half-century old Orange County institution, serving up their famous shakes and also sandwiches.
Orange County Restaurant Week (OC Restaurant Week), . Orange County's Largest Dining event. Orange County Restaurant Week offers both locals and visitors the best dining Orange County has to offer. For those of you wanting to have a culinary vacation OC restaurant week is the time to visit. The event takes place every year in February. edit
Orange County is home to many great places to drink and very few options on how to get home after having a few. Getting around in Orange County is rather inconvenient without a car without having extra money to spend on transportation services, such as taxis. There are select areas where walking to a bar is viable option. Beach cities make up the majority of these such places; Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente have areas that are no more than a short walk from a bar. Most of the bars in these beach locations are not of the chain variety, so each has its own unique ambiance.
Away from the ocean there are many other great bars. Costa Mesa has an area where you find a sizable neighborhood bordering a commercial area with a great selection of chain and individual locations. Between 19th street (where the 55 freeway ends) and 17th street there is great bar crawl route.
- Starting at Triangle Square (19th Street and Newport Blvd.) you could get a substantial meal at the Yard House, while enjoying a sampling of their extensive draft beer selection.
- From there you can cross the street (carefully) and pay a visit to the Goat Hill Tavern, also home to a mammoth selection of beers on tap. The "Goat" always seems to have a lingering vommity smell but it all adds to the character, as does the vintage signage and peanut shells carpeting the floor.
- Continuing down Newport Blvd to E 17th Street, you'll take a left and shortly stumble across The Harp. Inside you will most likely meet at least one English person and one Aussie, one of whom will likely play rugby.
- Moving on from the Harp, continue in the same direction and eventually you will also find The Pierce Street Annex and the Little Knight. Try the Little Knight first, you'll find it just past Pierce Street Annex.
- Your final stop with be at Pierce Street Annex, by now you should be merry enough to handle this place. Inside you will find a dance floor and large bar and many drunk people.
- Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach has a rotating selection of the world's finest craft beers. If you are a beer elitist with a discriminating palette, this place is will be your haven.
Though the beach areas of the county are generally safe, localism among surfers can on rare occasions turn violent. Though the county is quite safe, street gang activity is comparatively common in areas such as East Anaheim and the and Atwood neighborhoods of Placentia as well as Westminster and Garden Grove.
Cities such as Irvine, Mission Viejo, Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda, Orange, Lake Forest and Newport Beach are among the safest in the country.
- Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a car to visit Los Angeles. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink's Orange County Line link various communities in Orange County with Los Angeles Union Station. The trip to Union Station usually lasts less than one hour depending on where you are departing from. From Union Station, the LA subway system takes you all through downtown Los Angeles, with trains and buses going up to 50 miles away in 4 directions. The downside of the train system is that it caters more to the commuter crowd and does not run all night.
- Long Beach is about 20 minutes west of Orange County and has several tourist attractions including the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
- San Diego may be reached via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner from Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano. A one-way trip lasts approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Legoland California is in Carlsbad in San Diego County and can also be reached via train - get off in Oceanside.
- To get to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, travel to LA Union Station and transfer to the Antelope Valley Line.
|This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!