About Orange County California | Traveler and Local’s Guide

Our Orange County California guide features information about living in and visiting Southern California. Explore things to do, real estate market trends, and more.

Where is Orange County California located?

Orange County, AKA the OC, is located along the West Coast in the middle of Southern California, nestled between Los Angeles County and San Diego.  Comprised of over exciting 30 cities, Orange County has a very culturally diverse population and offers tons of things to do for locals and visitors alike including amazing beaches, theme parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, events, world-class shopping, and more. 

Bordering LA on the north, San Diego County to the south, and both Riverside County and San Bernardino County to the east, you can surf the Pacific Ocean in the morning and drive up to the mountains in the afternoon on the same day. The Santa Ana Mountains create the eastern boundary of the entire county and of the Cleveland National Forest.

Demographics

Orange County is known for being less liberal than the rest of California, with conservative viewpoints dominating the many rich cities. With a total population of over 3 million, the median household income across Orange County is $95,934 with a median home sale price of $1,120,000 – the highest in Southern California. Unsurprisingly, the area has a very low poverty rate of 10.9%. 

An extremely diverse community, the most common languages spoken in Orange County other than English are Spanish (25.6%) and Vietnamese (5.98%). In fact, 46.6% of locals are non-English speakers, much higher than the national average of 22%.

Orange County CA Weather

The weather in Orange County is nearly always 72° and sunny – no matter the time of the year. The seasons are extremely mild with temperatures rarely dipping below 50°. The hottest months of the year are August and September, and the coldest months of the year are December and January. 

What to pack: 

The beauty of Orange County’s amazing weather is that you can basically wear anything you’d like nearly any day of the year – except of course a heavy jacket! 

Style: Casual-chic. Think relaxed and timeless pieces such as jeans and tee-shirts. For the ladies, a sundress is always a good bet. For men, lightweight fabrics and maybe some fun colors. And of course, any lululemon athleisure wear is always welcome. 

Footwear: Flip flops, Rainbows specifically if you’re feeling trendy. Rainbows leather sandals are a staple for any self-respecting Southern California native. They must be worn in first, but once they are these are the most comfortable and long-lasting flip flops you will ever find, and the headquarters is located in the laid-back beach town of San Clemente.

Beachwear: No matter what time of the year you’re visiting, bring your bathing suit! You never know when Orange County will have a random heatwave. Don’t forget your sunscreen, trendy sunglasses, and a hoodie if you decide to stay for a bonfire on the beach.

Things to do in Orange County

First of all, you will need a car to get around Orange County quickly and easily. If you fly into John Wayne Airport (SNA) or Long Beach Airport, plan on renting a car to make the most of your trip. 

Even though Southern California is an expensive place to visit, there are plenty of free things to do in Orange Couty including a trip to the beach, a hike in the Santa Ana mountains, a stroll through an outdoor shopping center like Irvine Spectrum or Downtown Disney, or a well-timed trip to a local museum or art gallery. 

Orange County Day Trips

Catalina Island 

Catalina is located just off the coast of Huntington Beach and is technically a part of LA County. You can catch a ferry ride to Catalina Island from Newport Beach, Dana Point, or Long Beach and you’ll be there within just one hour. Previously the playground of the rich and famous of Hollywood back in the day, Santa Catalina Island has a glamorous past. 

You can camp on Catalina Island but if you’re visiting for a day trip you’ll want to visit the city of Avalon and spend the day snorkeling, kayaking, eating, drinking, or just enjoying the sunshine. Trip suggestions: rent a golf cart to explore the island and take a tour of the Catalina Casino. 

Disneyland Resort

You can easily spend an entire day, or a long weekend, at the Disneyland Resort. Opened in 1955, the California park was Walt Disney’s original vision. Broken up into two separate parks, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, the fun is simply endless. California Adventure’s newest attraction to visit is the Marvel Avenger’s Campus. At Disneyland, the latest attraction is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with the new ride Rise of the Resistance. 

Explore Balboa Island

Balboa Island is a charming seaside town that you can easily enjoy on one beautiful day. We suggest renting a Duffy boat to cruise around the harbor, or a stand-up paddleboard if you’re feeling active. While you’re on the water you can admire all of the beautiful Newport Beach real estate ranging from vintage cottages to megamansions on the water. For food, grab a bite to eat along Marine Ave, and to round out the perfect day you MUST treat yourself to a frozen treat. 

Dad’s and Sugar ‘N’ Spice are right next to each other and both claim to sell the island’s original Balboa Bar—a chocolate-dipped ice cream dipped any sweet or salty toppings your heart desires. Or a classic frozen banana will do.

Beer Tasting Tour of Anaheim

Anaheim is not only home to the happiest place on earth, but also the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium, Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center, and an impressive amount of craft breweries. Known as the La Palma Beer Trail, there are several breweries within a six-mile span of La Palma Boulevard spanning Anaheim and Placentia, including The Bruery, Brewery X, Phantom Ales, and Bottle Logic. And that’s just the tip of the foodie scene in Anaheim. Other cool places to check out for quality food and drink include Modern Times Leisureworld and the Anaheim Packing District. It’s no surprise, Anaheim ranks as one of the best cities in California.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Not only is San Juan Capistrano one of the safest cities in Orange County, it offers tons of cool things to do as well. If you’re interested in learning about Southern California’s history, the Mission in San Juan is the perfect place to visit. Known as the “Jewel of the Missions” for its beauty, the mission was founded in 1776 and contains picturesque ruins, a bell wall, and gorgeous landscaped grounds. Every year, the famous cliff swallows of San Juan head back to Argentina and faithfully return in March when the city hosts their Swallows Day Parade.

San Juan Capistrano is a great place for a day trip because you can visit the Mission and then take a short walk to downtown where you can eat, drink, and shop along Ramos Street by the train tracks. Including a host of cute shops, wine bars, and restaurants with live music, the history and charm simply never ends. 

Orange County CA Cities

Roughly broken up into South and North Orange County, Orange County has tons of different types of communities to enjoy. North Orange County encompasses everything from the in like Anaheim and Anaheim Hills, Santa Ana, Buena Park, Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Orange, Villa Park, Garden Grove, and Westminster. 

South Orange County includes cities like Coto de Caza (home of the real housewives!), Irvine, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente. From laidback beach towns and posh coastal neighborhoods to equestrian-friendly cities and tight-knit suburbs, there’s a little something for everyone. 

Based on our list of the Top 10 best cities in Orange County, here are some of the most popular places to visit, or even settle down. 

Laguna Beach – One of the richest cities in Orange County, Laguna Beach is perhaps best known for its local art sceneBeginning in June, every summer the town comes alive with the annual Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters, Art-a-Fair, and Sawdust festivals. Grab a drink at a rooftop bar where you can enjoy the ocean views, and explore The Village. Famous beaches to visit include Main Street Beach, The Montage, and Thousand Steps. To learn more about living here, check out our Laguna Beach real estate guide

Seal Beach – One of the best luxurious places to live in Southern California, Seal Beach is an adorable beach town on the edge of Orange County, bordering on Long Beach. The beautiful beaches are much less crowded than those in South OC, and in the populous county, it feels like a welcome getaway. Including a 920-acre wildlife refuge that covers roughly two-thirds of city lands,  Seal Beach offers residents some of the most picturesque real estate and walkable neighborhoods in the area. Also located in Seal Beach is the retirement community of Leisureworld. 

Costa Mesa – Home to Segerstrom Center of the Arts and South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa is located right next to Newport Beach and offers tons of amazing places to shop, eat, drink, and enjoy the arts. Trendy places to visit include the LAB Anti-mall and The Camp, located across the street from each other and offering tons of cool places to eat, grab a craft beer or glass of wine, and just hang out. 

Newport Beach – Home to several of the richest neighborhoods in Southern California, Newport Beach is an exciting place to not only visit, but live. If you’re feeling fancy, take a stroll around Fashion Island outdoor mall and grab a bite to eat in Corona del Mar. If you’re feeling like a more casual coastal day, go for a hike or visit the tidepools in Crystal Cove and have lunch on the sand at the Beachcomber. 

Irvine – Irvine is the largest city in Orange County and has a large population of residents from Asian countries, most notably China. Largely suburban, Irvine offers over 30 master-planned communities with beautiful real estate, award-winning schools, parks, and amenities. Irvine ranks as one of the fastest-growing cities in Southern California and one of the safest as well. If you’re interested in moving to Irvine, check out the top 10 neighborhoods

Is Orange County California expensive?

With its perfect weather nearly 365 days of the year and a wide array of amazing attractions, it’s no surprise Orange County is an expensive place to live and visit. Fun Fact: Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States was born in Yorba Linda and lived in the small beach town of San Clemente. His former coastal home, dubbed the “Western White House” is currently for sale for $65 million.  

Crime: Safest Cities in Orange County

Orange County ranks as one of the safest places to live in the golden state, and according to the 2017 FBI crime statistics and census data, several Orange County cities ranked among the top 20 safest cities to live in California. Some of the safest cities in Orange County include Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, and Dana Point. To learn more, check out our full list of the Top 10 Safest Cities in Orange County.

Irvine is probably the most well-known as a safe place to live because it was named one of the safest cities in California, before following up the honor by ranking as the second safest city in America in 2021. It’s also been rated in the top ten healthiest cities and best cities to raise a family in the nation while being named the best place to start a business in California.

Is Orange County CA a Good Place to live?

If you haven’t figured it out yourself – yes! Orange County is a great place to live. Although the cost of living is one of the highest in the country, we think the benefits speak for themselves.

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