The beaches and the Pacific surf are what draw visitors to Orange County, located roughly 30 mi (48 km) south of Los Angeles. Well known around the world as the site of the Disneyland amusement park, this county also boasts a number of parks, luxury resorts, and unmatched shopping opportunities. One of the jewels of Orange County is the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, which features botanical gardens and activities like kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and fishing. Accessible by boat, the Reserve is California’s largest estuary and is home to several species of native wildlife that can be viewed in their natural habitat. Laguna Beach, found just south of Newport Beach, is celebrated as an arts community that offers several galleries and museums that showcase local and international artwork. Another popular attraction in Orange County are the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, whose peaks provide visitors with views of Los Angeles to the north.
In the 1950s Anaheim consisted mainly of orange groves. Thanks to a man named Walt Disney, all this has changed and today Anaheim has been transformed into one of the family fun capitals of the world. Without a doubt, the most popular attraction in the area is the Disneyland Resort, which includes the world-famous Disneyland Park and the newer Disney’s California Adventure Park. However, other activities are on hand to provide entertaining diversions from the theme parks, including two major league sports teams. The NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim play at the Arrowhead Pond arena and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim host their Major League Baseball (MLB) opponents at Angel Stadium. The area boasts a wide range of accommodations for all types of travelers including deluxe, world-class resorts, budget motels and everything in between. Eateries and restaurants also vary in scope from fast food to gourmet cuisine.
Although beaches are hardly a novelty on the central coast of California, Huntington Beach has distinguished itself as the state’s premier surfing contest location and is aptly nicknamed Surf City USAÂ®. Rock and roll giants Jan and Dean recorded the song Surf City in 1963, helping to increase interest in the area. True to its nickname, Huntington Beach is home to the International Surfing Museum, the Surfing Walk of Fame and the U.S. Open of Surfing. Beach volleyball, frisbee-golf, beach barbecues and walking in the state parks are perfect activities for visitors eager to take advantage of the year-round temperate climate. Tourists can also check out the local cultural scene at such venues as the Huntington Beach Playhouse and the Huntington Beach Art Center. Restaurants, bars, and accommodations are on hand to suit all tastes and many of Los Angeles’ major attractions are only minutes away.
All beaches are not created equal, as most residents of California’s Orange County can attest. While Huntington Beach is well-known for its surfing activities, Laguna Beach lies 16 miles further south and is internationally known as a seaside haven for artists. During the late 1920s, almost half of the 300 permanent residents were artists, and many Hollywood actors maintained residences in the town. Today, Laguna Beach offers some of the best scuba diving in Southern California and is frequented by environmentalists and vacationers, as well as artists. Visitors can browse through the collections of over 40 local art galleries and attend some of the community art events—like the Sawdust Art Festival—that are featured throughout the year. Golfers find their haven at the Aliso Creek Golf Course and walkers, cyclists and nature-lovers find pleasure in the many local parks and the seven miles of beach.
Nestled between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach on California’s Central Coast lies Newport Beach. What distinguishes Newport Beach from other coastal cities is the harbor. Newport Harbor contains seven picturesque islands, including Lido and Balboa, and over 9,000 boats call the harbor home. The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum features model ships and engines, interactive displays and short movies chronicling the evolution of yachting and boating in the area. Newport Beach also offers 39 mi (63 km) of bike lanes and 11 mi (18 km) of off-road bike trails. Sailing, surfing, sport fishing, cruises and wildlife watching are popular water activities. Whether shopping at Fashion Island, discovering the wetlands at the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Nature Preserve, dining at one of the over 300 area restaurants, exploring historic Cannery Village, or enjoying the spectacular ocean views from Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach is a marvelous travel destination.
Sights & Attractions
This historic area surrounds Newport Blvd and features homes, shops, antiques and more. The famous landmark has an amusement center for kids and daily boat tours depart from the docks. Address: Newport Beach, CA
The Village takes in eight square blocks and was once the home a commercial fishing fleet. Today the canneries, boatyards, and repair shops are a center for artists and tourists. Shops, restaurants and art galleries provide pleasures to suit the senses. Address: 30th Street between Villa Way and Newport Boulevard | Newport
ExplorOcean is proud to introduce the nation’s premiere ocean literacy center. This center has been designed to educate visitors to the essential principles of ocean literacy through exciting hands-on activities. From mapping the ocean floor to manning an ROV, in the Ocean Literacy Center no one keeps their hands to themselves! So roll up your sleeves and dive in- an ocean of wonders awaits!
Address: 600 East Bay Ave | Newport Beach, CA | 92661-1347
International Surfing Museum
The museum houses surfing artifacts that illustrate the history and the highlights. Address: 411 Olive Avenue | Huntington Beach, CA | 92647
Orange County Museum of Art
The Orange County Museum of Art chronicles California’s art history by presenting changing exhibits and educational programs. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and children under 12 and OCMA members are free. On Thursdays, the museum is open until 8 pm and admission is free to the public. Address: 850 San Clemente Drive | Newport Beach, CA | 92660
Newland House Museum
Newland House was built in 1898 and is Huntington Beach’s oldest residence and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Open to the public Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday for limited hours. Address: 19820 Beach Boulevard | Huntington Beach, CA | 92648
Surfing Walk of Fame
The Surfing Walk of Fame imitates the famous Hollywood sidewalk and immortalizes, in stone, famous surfers or some aspect of the surfing industry. Address: 101 Main Street | Huntington Beach, CA | 92648
Art-A-Fair -A Fine Art Festival
One of Southern California’s most popular art festivals for real artwork by world-class artists at reasonable prices. Enjoy a memorable day seeing the juried art of 125 renowned national and international artists, along with some of Laguna’s finest artists including oil, acrylic, watercolor, sculpture, mixed media, digital art, charcoal, pencil, ceramics, glass, jewelry, photography, and wood. On weekends, Art-A-Fair bustles with live entertainment, workshops, and artists’ demonstrations. Tivoli Too! serves epicurean cuisine daily- conveniently located on the grounds. Address: 777 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach CA
Festival of Arts & Pageant of the Masters
The annual festival celebrates decades of Laguna Beach artistry and runs in July and August for six weeks. The festival features over 100 regional artists, community plays, outdoor pageants, tours, a parade and more. Address: 650 Laguna Canyon Rd Laguna Beach
Sawdust Art Festival
The Sawdust Art Festival features more than 175 artists located together in a village with sawdust-covered paths. Included is live music, circus acts, food and refreshments. Address: 935 Laguna Canyon Rd. Laguna Beach