Diverse cities harbor troves of California history, ethnic cultures and thriving arts scenes
Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, San Clemente
John Wayne/orange County Airport (SNA), located at the juncture of Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and Newport Beach near I-405
TOURISM WEBSITES visittheoc.com visitanaheim.org visitbuenapark.com travelcostamesa.com surfcityusa.com destinationirvine.com visitlagunabeach.com visitnewportbeach.com sanjuancapistrano.org
Days when Disneyland, 42 miles of idyllic beaches and swaths of orange groves were all that lifted “The O.C.” out of Los Angeles’ shadow are long gone. Orange County today is a diverse collection of cities counting famous surf breaks, historic missions, art colonies and scenic marinas among its attractions.
While beach towns—from surf-centric Huntington Beach to tony Newport to artsy Laguna to serene San Clemente—still embody the casual, creative California of popular imagination, inland cities have grown into shopping, entertainment and sports meccas. Irvine—encompassing a University of California campus, the evolving Orange County Great Park and several “villages”—was the vanguard of a trend toward master-planned communities in recent decades.
Defying the suburban stereotype, Orange County cities possess distinct personalities. Even Anaheim, with its modern convention center, revival of the historic Center Street Promenade commerce district, and bustling Packing House food market, has distinguished itself from the Magic Kingdom. About 30 percent of OC residents hail from another country, and English is a second language for 45 percent; Little Saigon is the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. A true melting pot, the county hosts a dizzying array of ethnic food, festivals, markets and cultural events.
Performance venues such as the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the South Coast Repertory are sprinkled throughout the county. Destination shopping malls, including Irvine Spectrum, Costa Mesa’s South