As someone born and raised in Newport Beach, Orange County, I find that most of my personal writing related to my hometown involves lamenting its very prevalent issues. But despite my mixed relationship with the place, I can’t deny that I often have a good time when I go back to visit. There are pockets of the county that I genuinely enjoy beyond their comfort and familiarity. Below are some of my favorite places to go when I visit Orange County.
Crystal Cove Beach
Starting off the list is arguably one of my favorite places in the entire world: Crystal Cove. Aptly named for its beautiful blue-green waters, Crystal Cove provides the perfect combination of chaparral, backcountry wilderness and old frontcountry charm.My favorite part of going to Crystal Cove is exploring the tide pools, which are always full of ocean life. While you’re there, make sure to stop by the Shake Shack for a gorgeous view and a tasty milkshake.
Old Town Tustin
Old town Tustin is a historical and artistic center of central Orange County. It features quaint homes and businesses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition to the architecture and museums, the parks and recreation department of Tustin often puts on street fairs, which make for a very pleasant Saturday afternoon. It’s a great place to support local businesses and learn more about the history of Orange County.
Huntington Beach Pier
The Huntington Beach pier is one of the most iconic locations in Orange County. It’s a great place to surf, cycle, or just take in the sun. It’s one of the few places in OC that seems to be always bustling with activity, especially on the weekends or on street market days. Walking the boardwalk makes for good people watching, and you can finish off your day at the end of the pier with a burger and fries from Ruby’s.
Laguna Beach was originally founded as an art community, and while the bouginess of Orange County has certainly permeated its city walls, it still maintains a creative and picturesque vibe. It’s full of cute brunch spots and galleries alongside a busy beach and boardwalk. There are several hidden beaches, caves, and viewpoints sprinkled throughout Laguna, but that’s for the explorer to find.
Fountain Valley Skate Center
While this location may just be on the list due to the nostalgia and warm memories I have here, I do genuinely recommend it for visitors to Orange County. The skate center offers roller skate rentals, fun music, and is host to some genuinely very talented roller skaters. It contains a small arcade, complete with tickets and prizes, and a very bowling alley-esque food area. If you have some time to kill while you’re in Orange County, why not spend an evening skating your worries away?
See, I promise there are things to do in Orange County outside of Disneyland and shopping malls. Some other locations of honorable mention include Balboa of “Arrested Development” fame, the Laguna Canyon wilderness park, and Black Star Canyon. Whether you’re into the outdoors, culture, arts or food, there’s somewhere in Orange County for you.