Where is the best place to live in Orange County?
Pressed against the Pacific Ocean and brushing the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Orange County is full of great locations for all types of lifestyles. Orange County is the third most populous county in the state, so there are A LOT of places to choose from. To help you decide the best place for your Orange County life, we looked at Orange County’s suburbs and rated them for safety, household income, education level, and the job market to determine the best suburbs Orange County has to offer home buyers. For this list, we gathered our data from Data USA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below are the top 10 best Orange County suburbs to live in.
1. Newport Beach
Home to the Balboa Peninsula, Newport Harbor, and two piers, Newport Beach is a town that prides itself on its diversity of restaurants and top-rated schools. Although many of Orange County’s cities run along the coast, Newport Beach’s shoreline was recognized in 2012 with CNN’s Five Stars for Cleanest Beach in the U.S. Whether you're kayaking around Balboa Island, renting bikes by the pier, grabbing a bite to eat on Lido Island, or enjoying a drink on the Peninsula, there is so much to enjoy in the city.
As one of the best places to live, it is also home to several of the richest neighborhoods in Southern California including Corona del Mar and Pelican Hill. A more affordable nearby alternative to Newport Beach is Costa Mesa. Located just inland of Newport, Costa Mesa is just a little further from the surf but offers tons of great neighborhoods ranging from luxury enclaves to affordable townhomes and condos.
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2. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is the art capital of Orange County. Settled by a group of artists in the 1920’s, it retains it’s artistic identity–even bus stop chairs were designed by artists that attend LCAD. Every summer, the city holds its historic Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters, as well as the Sawdust Art Festival. Rolling hills and a rocky coastline make it easy to see what drew artists to this location and how it's become one of the most luxurious places to live in Southern California.
The Laguna Beach lifestyle is all about having fun and enjoying the unique events that the city has to offers plus so much more to discover. Popular neighborhoods include The Village in the middle of downtown and the gated oceanfront community of Emerald Bay. Discover some more of the best neighborhoods in Laguna Beach here.
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3. Yorba Linda
Often identified as the richest city in the U.S. by the Census Bureau, Yorba Linda is a suburban town with a thriving job market. Yorba Linda doesn’t have it’s own police department, but is successfully patrolled instead by Brea’s police and is one of the safest towns in Orange County. And, it is still one of the safest places to live in Southern California.
Yorba Linda is an amazing place to live with a variety of real estate to choose from including luxury homes on spacious lots with sweeping views of Orange County. Equestrian properties are very popular among Yorba Linda residences as well as the city offers more space to spread out and enjoy your hobbies. Find some of the best neighborhoods in Yorba Linda here. Other popular North Orange County neighorhoods include Villa Park and Orange Park Acres, also offering lower population density than other surrounding cities. Living in Yorba Linda also puts you close to some of the best restaurants and so many things to do.
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4. Dana Point
When Richard Dana first saw the coastline that would become Dana Point he called it “the only romantic spot on the coast.” Marked by it’s coastal bluffs and the tide pools that run along the beach, Dana Point is an idyllic example of Southern California living, making it popular among locals. Plus, Dana Point is home to some of the best beaches in Orange County. Learn more about the beaches in Dana Point here. Or, discover some of the best neighborhoods in Dana Point, CA.
Dana Point's downtown Lantern District has recently gone through a revitalization as well, highlighting all of the amazing shops, eateries, businesses in the city, and plenty more things to do.
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Irvine has been found to be the Safest Big City in America by the FBI for the past 9 years. As Orange County’s business hub and home to University California, Irvine, a top-tier research school, Irvine is a destination for many. This city is characterized by big open spaces and wide streets–a welcome change from Southern California’s compact living.
Common homebuyer questions about Irvine real estate include Mello Roos taxes which are included in many of the newer neighborhoods. While buyers need to budget for Mello Roos taxes, they aren't as troublesome as you might think. Irvine is also a top place to live in Orange County because of all of the high-quality High Schools.
What’s the best neighborhood in Irvine CA?
There are over 20 individual neighborhoods in Irvine so determining the best is difficult. Each featuring great schools, convenient shopping, and lots of local parks, you really can’t go wrong. Based on local search volume, the strength of community, and popular schools, here are the top 10 Irvine neighborhoods we’ve identified. On the top of the list are Woodbridge, Orchard Hills, and Northwood. Plus, discover more Irvine neighborhoods here.
Is Irvine the best city in Orange County CA?
While that is up for debate, Irvine is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to live in Orange County. Ranking as one of the safest cities in the U.S. with stellar public schools and amazing weather, Irvine is one of the best cities in Orange County. The only thing Irvine is missing is night life, although there are plenty of things to do just a short distance away.
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6. San Clemente
San Clemente is a charming seaside town and the perfect location for people who love to feel close to nature. Hiking and biking trails snake across the town’s coastline and ridgeline, leading to a spread of great beaches. A great family atmosphere combined with a slew of family-owned restaurants makes this town a great place for anyone looking for a small, beach town vibe.
The city is known for its various quirks including the unofficial annual office chair races down Avenida Rosa on the fourth of July. It also made our list of best neighorhoods to live in all of Southern California. find some of the best places to live in San Clemente here.
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7. Aliso Viejo
Aliso Viejo is a quiet, inland Orange County suburb that lives by the motto “Live, Work, Learn, Shop and Play.” With lively weekend entertainment, 21 parks, and a Town Center a maximum of 3 miles from every resident, Aliso Viejo is the perfect environment for growing families.
Homes prices in Aliso Viejo can range drastically depending on zip code as the city offers a wide variety of real estate for buyers including affordable condos and townhomes, all the way up to million-dollar estates. Nearby cities include Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods, a very popular 55+ community.
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8. Seal Beach
Named for the seals that swim the waters around this seaside suburb, Seal Beach is a sleepy coastal community that neighbors Long Beach and is a short drive from downtown Huntington Beach. Easy access to freeways makes Seal Beach an ideal location for beach and city lovers. The charming downtown Main Street is a great place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a cup of coffee at a local favorites like The Hangout, Old Town Cafe, and Humblemaker Coffee.
Seal Beach offers great schools as well, served by the Los Alamitos School District. The most popular neighborhoods in Seal Beach are located close to the coast, and inland you will find the 55+ community of Leisure World. Read more about some of the best Seal Beach neighborhoods here.
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9. Mission Viejo
Mission Viejo is a large master-planned town with a diverse range of people. Although this city is not coastal like much of Orange County, a large lake at its center gives this hilly town access to lakeside properties and a range of water activities. In fact, it ranks as one of the best cities to live in California.
The city offers a wide variety of homes for sale including affordable townhomes and condos, as well as multi-million-dollar homes. Mission Viejo is also popular among home buyers looking for spacious backyards as many of the older neighborhoods offer lots with premium yard space, unlike most new construction. Nearby popular communities include Rancho Santa Margarita and Ladera Ranch.
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10. Lake Forest
Small, safe and well-planned neighborhoods give Lake Forest an irresistible charm. The landscape is full of hills and, true to it’s name, a wealth of trees. Although Lake Forest is a suburban dream it neighbors Irvine, the business hub of Orange County, making it a prime location for young professionals to established families.
The city also has a wide variety of shopping and dining along El Toro Road that has been built up over the years, and the newly constructed Foothill Ranch Towne Center. Offering residents tons of green parks, ample shopping, and a beautiful lake, Lake Forest is a wonderful place to set down roots.
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BONUS: Laguna Niguel
Based on popular demand we had to include the city of Laguna Niguel on our list of best suburbs in Orange County. Located just inland of Dana Point and Laguna Beach, this coastal community offers larger homes and lots with the same beach city vibes. Surrounded by Laguna Hills, San Juan Capistrano, and Aliso Viejo, the city is very well maintained and includes tons of designated open space.
Thanks to the location, you will find plenty of Laguna Niguel homes for sale with some of the most beautiful beach views in all of Orange County. Find some of the best neighborhoods in Laguna Niguel here. Residents enjoy tons of shopping, great schools, a very clean community, restaurants, and plenty of other great things to do.
What is the most dangerous city in Orange County?
Safety is always a concern when shopping around for the best place to live. These top cities to live in are among the safest cities in Orange County. To find the most dangerous cities in Orange County, check out the FBI Crime report for 2018.
Don’t hesitate to find a home in your favorite Orange County suburb. In Orange County, you’re never too far from LA and San Diego and can enjoy beautiful beaches and great food any time of year.
What is the wealthiest city in Orange County?
The median price of a Southern California home hit $680,000, up 22.5% over the past year according to DQ News/CoreLogic. By comparison, annual price gains averaged 9.5% over the past nine years. And Orange County is one of the wealthiest counties within SoCal, standing out above the rest with an even higher median price. According to the latest report from CAR, the median price in Orange County hit $1,138,000, a year over year increase of 30.8%.
The wealthiest city in Orange County is Newport Beach where the median household income is $127,223, and the median property value is $1.9 million.
What are some affordable safe cities in orange county CA?
Even though Orange County is an expensive place to live, there are plenty of affordable and safe choices throughout the county. Among the most affordable - with the lowest crime rates - are Aliso Viejo, La Habra, Cypress, and San Juan Capistrano.
Check out our blog post for a full list of the Top 10 Most Affordable Places to Buy in Orange County including Placentia, Garden Grove, and Anaheim.
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