Orange County is a place that is sorely misunderstood. It is known from reality TV, movies, and preconceptions, but reality is quite different from fantasy. Orange County has many people who have money, but there are plenty of people who don’t.
Whether you are thinking about moving to Orange County or are visiting for the first time, it takes a while to truly get to know the region. Between Los Angeles and San Diego, it has a culture and sites all its own. Below are five places in Orange County that are worth your time.
You’ve probably heard of it from the show of its namesake, but that is simply not a good representation of Laguna Beach. It is the central beach city in the county. But it’s also the best beach city in the area. With hidden beaches, an artistic culture, and plenty of people who come from somewhere else to build their own world, Laguna Beach is a truly unique place.
Grab some fish tacos at Taco Loco after a day at the beach and before enjoying one of the many great bars in the area. The hotels, like the Montage if you want to live like royalty. It is amazing for a vacation, but if you are looking for a place to settle down and have enough money to do it here, you can’t beat Laguna Beach. It is one of the best destinations in Orange County.
Santa Ana is, in many ways, the heart of Orange County. It is the oldest town in the area. It also has the most authentic culture. Here is where you come to enjoy some drinks and amazing Mexican food. You can hit up the indie Frida Cinema movie theater or grab a coffee at Hopper & Burr. Walk around on a Sunday and grab a Michelada from Alta Baja Market. Things are changing fast in the city—for better or worse—but you should catch this incredible place in this phase of its existence. Santa Ana is real, raw, and beautiful. It’s not to be missed.
Sort of like an older brother to Santa Ana, Anaheim is one of the more famous places in Orange County. It is home to Disneyland, the Anaheim Angels, and the Mighty Ducks. Sports are big in Anaheim, but so is nightlife. There are plenty of craft breweries such as Bottle Logic, Monkish, and Noble Ale Works. You can come to Anaheim for Disneyland, but you’ll stay for all the good food and drinks. A night in Anaheim can really deliver.
In the Westminster and Garden Grove area, there is a large Vietnamese population. When the Vietnamese go anywhere, they bring with them their delicious food and amazing culture. Here is where you go to treat yourself to a bowl of pho after working out at a Westminster gym. You can grab an amazing Vietnamese coffee at any of the coffee shops. If you find yourself in Northern Orange County visiting Disneyland or one of the bigger cities, you’ll miss out without a trip to Little Saigon. Go to a temple. Eat some amazing food and soak in the culture of Vietnam.
Newport Beach is like Laguna, but it has a more unapologetic perspective on wealth and luxury. The beaches are great, but the restaurants are better. Nightlife is a big part of Newport Beach. If you are looking for a place to invest a lot of money in property, this is the spot for you. Or, if you want to pretend that you’re rich and take a great, slow-paced vacation, Newport Beach won’t disappoint. Take a trip to Balboa Island or Crystal Cove State Park and immerse yourself in beauty and luxury.
Orange County has all the things that you know it for, but it has much more. There is both the culture you know from the TV and movies and a very different culture under the surface. You don’t need to go far to find it. There is a reason that there is music, food, bars, and experience in Orange County. You might need to look for it, but when you find it you won’t be disappointed. It’s a great place to raise a family or take an awesome trip.