Orange County Travel Guide

This is something I’ve been working on for a long time. Orange County is a place a lot of non-Californians want to visit but don’t really know where to begin. Since moving home and working in a travel agency in Connecticut, I’ve had a lot of people come in and say they want to visit Southern California but they don’t know where to begin.

“What’s there even to do there?”

So much! But if you visit without doing your research, you can definitely miss out on why so many locals love their little piece of paradise.

How to get there and get around:
Flying into Orange County really depends on where you are beginning and ending your trip, and also, where you are coming from. John Wayne Airport (SNA) is Orange County’s main airport, but there isn’t always the best options for flying in and out of the OC.

The Southern California airports are a beast in themselves so much so that I did a post on just the airports a few weeks ago. You can check that out here to see which airport is best for you.

Without a doubt, rent a car. Parking will probably be an additional cost at most hotels so take that into consideration, but there is no easy way of getting around in Southern California besides a car. And plan to be sitting in some traffic at some point during your trip.

Where to say:
There are tons of places to stay in Orange County but again, that really depends on what you plan on doing while you are there. If you are going for the theme parks, there is really nothing better than staying on property at Disneyland, but since there are only three hotels, availability isn’t always the best. (Don’t worry, they’re building another hotel soon so there will be more options.) But staying around Katella in Anaheim is always a good back up. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels in Anaheim but here are my favorites:

Country Inn and Suites by Carlson
Hotel Indigo Anaheim
Sheraton Park hotel at the Anaheim Resort
Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort
SpringHill Suites at Anaheim Resort
If you’re not planning on visiting Disneyland, staying closer to the beach may be better for you. Key is to stay closer to where you are going to spend the most time. Or splitting your time between Anaheim and the beach. Most of the beach hotels are absolutely amazing. I mean you’re on the Pacific Ocean but here are some of my favorites:

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, Huntington Beach
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, Newport Beach
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast
Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas, Newport Coast
The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach

What to do:
Orange County is really broken down into the Beach Cities, and the rest of the OC. Most people when they think Southern California, they think beach, but if you are willing to explore inland OC, there is so many hidden gems most visitors don’t know too much about.

Inland:
Spend a day or two at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Parks (Anaheim)
Eat or go bowling at Downtown Disney (Anaheim)
Enjoy dinner and a show Pirate’s Dinner Adventure or Medieval Times (Buena Park)
Cheer on the home team at a Anaheim Ducks Hockey game (Anaheim)
See LA’s second best baseball team at a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game (Anaheim)
Take a bike ride along the Santa Ana riverbed (Anaheim and Yorba Linda)
Take the kids to Discovery Cube OC (Santa Ana)
Check out a show or grab dinner at Anaheim GardenWalk (Anaheim)
Explore some history at the Nixon Library (Yorba Linda)
Ride some roller coasters at Knotts Berry Farm (Buena Park)
Shop or play at Irvine Spectrum (Irvine)
Antiquing and window shopping in Orange Circle (Orange)

Beach Cities:
Explore the art galleries near Main Beach (Laguna Beach)
Eat a chocolate covered banana at Dad’s on Balboa Island (Newport Beach)
Shop the outdoor mall at Fashion Island (Newport Beach)
Rent a Duffy Boat (Newport Beach)
Golf at Pelican Hill or the Ranch (Newport Coast, Laguna Beach)
Have a beach day at Doheny State Beach (Dana Point)
Window shop at South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa)
Paddle board at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort (Newport Beach)
Shop island style at Lido Marina (Newport Beach)
Relax on the beach at Main Beach (Laguna Beach)
Go Whale Watching (Newport Beach)
Hike Crystal Cove State Park (Newport Coast)
Watch the surfers or hop on a board yourself at Salt Creek Beach Park (Dana Point)

My favorite restaurants:
There are so many restaurants in Orange County! This is defaintely a great place for big time foodies who love to explore and try new things. These are by no means every option for reastaurants between LA and San Diego. I think I’d be here all day if I listed that, but these are just some of my personal favorite resturants from my three years living there.

Breakfast:
Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, multiple locations around OC
Bruxie, Brea
Latte Da Bagelery, Anaheim Hills
Pepe’s Finest Mexican Food, Brea

Lunch:
Slaters 50/50, Anaheim Hills
House of Blues, Anaheim
Kopan Ramen, Fullerton
The Hat, Brea
Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico, Laguna Beach

Dinner:
Salt and Ash, Placentia
Reunion Kitchen + Drink, Anaheim Hills
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea
Roman Cucina, Fullerton
South of Nick’s Mexican Kitchen + Bar, San Clemente
Bruno’s Italian Kitchen, Brea
Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen, Brea
Napa Rose, Disneyland
The Ranch, Anaheim

 

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