Orange County, CA, is a summer paradise. Endless sunshine, picturesque beaches, scenic views, enticing adventure parks, and fascinating landmarks – what more could you ask for? Whether you are into surfing and sand, a romp through Disneyland, a cultural experience of museums and art galleries, or a little bit of everything, you’ll find it in and around Orange County.
Can’t decide what places to include in your summer plans? Here are some recommendations to inspire you.
1. Newport Beach
It’s easy to understand why Newport Beach enjoys such favor among surfers, sailors, yachters, and anyone who is looking for abundant sun and sea. You can enjoy a relaxing beach experience at the Corona del Mar State Park, ride the waves at The Wedge, or take a ferry to Balboa Island.
If you’d rather stay on land, you might want to hike through Crystal Cove State Park or admire the beautiful boats docking in Newport Harbor.
Newport Beach is a wonderful place for whale watching, a unique experience that will surely become one of the high points of your Orange County trip. During the summer, you’re most likely to see blue whales, but if you’re lucky you might also spot humpback whales, minke whales, and dolphins.
Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, you can take a casual stroll among local shops, boutiques, and art galleries. End your day savoring a spectacular view of the Balboa Pier in one of the city’s fine seafood restaurants.
2. Hollywood and Beverly Hills
Add a touch of glamor to your Orange County vacation by booking a day bus tour to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Take photos of iconic spots, relish a glimpse of celebrity homes and famous filming locations, and snap selfies at the Sunset Strip and Santa Monica Pier.
If you are into history, you can also learn about the ascent of Hollywood from a small farming town to a global center of the movie industry.
Many companies are offering Hollywood and Beverly Hills tours, so shop around and choose one with knowledgeable local guides, positive reviews, and a not-too-full schedule that will allow you to savor the sights without rushing along at breakneck speed.
3. Disneyland Park
Young and old alike will love visiting the Disney fairyland in Anaheim. The lifelong memories you will create more than justify the pricey ticket.
It would take all day to list Disneyland’s popular rides, but some of the best-known ones include Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Apart from the rides, you can enjoy the many shows, parades, fireworks, and special events the park offers. Children will be thrilled to meet beloved Disney characters in person, while tourists of all ages will delight in the local boutique experience and a relaxing meal accompanied by some lively people-watching.
A trip to Disneyland is a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or another special occasion.
4. Laguna Beach
If you can’t get enough of the California coast, consider visiting – or even booking a beachfront lodging in – Laguna Beach, a small picturesque city halfway between LA and San Diego. Laguna Beach offers seven miles of beaches and coves, sea caves, and natural tide pools. One of the most widely known spots is Victoria Beach with its famed Pirate Tower.
The municipality includes over 20,000 acres of lovely protected wilderness that hikers, bikers, and sightseers will love to explore. Among the famous local nature and wildlife spots are the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Glenn E. Veder Ecological Reserve with its tidepools and underwater park, and the James Dilley Preserve.
If you’re looking for a relaxing outdoor experience with a bit more amenities, you’re going to love Heisler Park with its spectacular oceanfront views, gardens, walking trails, picnic tables, and barbecues.
Summer visitors to Laguna Beach will almost certainly be lucky enough to catch dozens of festivals and fairs, including the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival, the Fete de la Musique, and the Laguna Art-a-Fair.
5. Huntington City Beach
This renowned beach, the heart of Surf City, offers visitors 3.5 miles of pristine sand and attracts countless surfers, volleyball players, and ocean lovers each year.
One of the most famous local sights is the impressive 1,850-foot-long pier, a perfect spot to try some fishing or simply watch the sun dip into the sea and let the gorgeous sunset hues take your breath away.
Huntington City Beach features excellent amenities, including restrooms, outdoor showers, beach volleyball courts, and rentals for water sports equipment. Bikers will appreciate cycling down the Huntington Beach Bike Trail.
When you are ready to walk away from the sea and sand, Downtown Huntington Beach will be waiting for you with a plethora of restaurants, bars, shops, and other attractions.
6. San Juan Capistrano
The quaint town of San Juan Capistrano, located north of San Diego and south of Los Angeles, is a must-visit spot for every history lover. This originally Spanish settlement became part of the U.S. in 1848.
Local landmarks include the San Juan Capistrano Mission, established in 1776, and the Los Rios historic district, once home to local ranchers and builders. Los Rios, California’s oldest neighborhood, boasts of 40 remaining antique homes.
After you’ve paid your respects to the area’s rich history, you might like to visit the Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park for some hiking and wildlife-viewing, walk through the town’s exclusive boutiques, and grab a bite at one of the local restaurants.
With limited time and so many tempting possibilities, planning a vacation around Orange County, CA can be a challenge. I hope the ideas above will help you make the most out of your time off this summer.