Orange County

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Orange County is a county in Southern California. A patchwork of 34 independent municipalities, Orange County's population is one of the most culturally diverse in the world. Orange County's terrific and irrefutable reputation as a tourist destination recently got it its own TV series, The O.C. The county's main tourist draws are its beaches and of course its two theme parks, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.


  • Beach Cities - One of Orange County's most prominent attractions is its numerous beaches that offer access to the Pacific Ocean for sunbathing, swimming, a famed surfing scene, fishing piers, and dining and bar scenes in the beachside communities catering to beachgoers.
  • Inland Cities - The inland suburban cities with many business districts, shopping malls, and some major attractions scattered around the region, including O.C.'s two amusement parks.


Orange County city boundaries

There are many cities large and small in Orange County – here are a few of the major tourist destinations.

  • Anaheim - The most populous city in Orange County, home of the famous Disneyland theme park and two major sports teams: the Anaheim Ducks hockey team and the Los Angeles Angels baseball franchise.
  • Buena Park - Known as the home of the popular Knott's Berry Farm amusement park, lots of used car lots, and a gateway to Los Angeles.
  • Fullerton - Home to Cal State Fullerton, the Fullerton Arboretum, and Downtown Fullerton
  • Huntington Beach - The most popular stretch of beach in Orange County, with a long surfing tradition and famous beaches.
  • Irvine - A somewhat gentrified community with a significant Asian-American heritage, this is one of youngest and largest cities in Orange County. Home to UC-Irvine university and the large Irvine Spectrum shopping and entertainment complex.
  • Newport Beach - One of the wealthiest communities in the nation, with a popular nightlife scene and one of the busiest beaches and boardwalks in the area, as well as a marina where you can go on a whale watching tour or take a ferry to Catalina Island. Within the city is Balboa Island, a community with its own unique beachfront vibe and a vibrant boardwalk.
  • San Juan Capistrano - A charming and historic settlement that's home to the picturesque remnants of the only Spanish mission in Orange County.
  • Santa Ana - One of the oldest and largest cities in Orange County, with a large Mexican-American population and cultural influences.
  • Seal Beach - A small beach town with a host of cute shops, awesome local restaurants, and a handful of Irish pubs mostly situated on Main Street.


Comprised of 34 incorporated cities and various unincorporated regions, Orange County has a total population of more than 3 million, and is the fifth largest county in the United States. The population of these cities range from merely 6,200 (Villa Park) to over 300,000 (Santa Ana and Anaheim). Bordering Los Angeles on the north, San Diego in the south, and both Riverside County and San Bernardino County to the east, Orange County is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the east by the Santa Ana Mountains. The area enjoys beautiful beaches and warm weather year round. Orange County has a reputation for being more conservative than the rest of California, with fiscal conservative attitudes dominating in well-off cities and some social-conservative attitudes being prevalent in some of Orange County's thriving ethnic subcommunities.


English and Spanish are the two most common languages spoken in Orange County. Most government agencies will have someone available who speaks Spanish. In North Orange County, many businesses will have someone who speaks Spanish on staff; however the further south one travels, Spanish speaking staff can be less common, though someone nearby who speaks Spanish is likely and will usually help translate if asked. Because of the ethnic diversity of Southern California, there are many neighborhoods where other languages are dominant, mostly from Asian countries. The third most-spoken language, Vietnamese, is widely spoken in Westminster and Garden Grove, and to a lesser extent, in Fountain Valley and Santa Ana. In Garden Grove and Fullerton, Korean is widely spoken. Japanese is more commonly spoken in Costa Mesa.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Several freeways provide access to Orange County.

  • From the south: Interstate 5
  • From the north: Intestates 5 and 405, State Route 57
  • From the east: State Route 91

By plane[edit]

Many locals and travelers find that it is often cheaper, though more time consuming (especially during rush hour), to fly into an alternate airport other than SNA, and then drive to their final destination in Orange County. These are airports near Orange County, with approximate distance and driving time to Santa Ana:

By train[edit]

  • Metrolink - Toll free: +1 800 371-5465. Two Metrolink lines run into Orange County, one between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano and the other from San Bernardino to San Juan Capistrano. Each line has several stops in Orange County. A third line, the 91 Line runs from Riverside County to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. It has one stop in Orange County, in Fullerton.

Get around[edit]

  • Orange County Transportation Authority - +1 714 636-7433. OCTA lines cover all areas of Orange County. Fares - Regular: $1.50, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $0.75; Day pass - $4, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $1.25, 7-Day Pass - Regular: $15, Seniors (65 & over) and persons with disabilities: $7.


Virtually every city in Orange County has a shopping mall. Among the most prominent are South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, one of the top-selling malls in America, The Lab and The Camp in Costa Mesa, two adjoined outdoor malls catering to the young and hip that are collectively known as "the anti-mall", the upscale Brea Mall in Brea, the outdoor Outlets in Orange, the upscale outdoor Fashion Island in Newport Beach, and the unique Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, the largest majority Vietnamese-owned and operated mall in America, with dozens of shops, restaurants, and wholesale stores with a wide variety of imported products and foods where buyers are expected to haggle with shopkeepers.


Orange County has quite a niche for award winning dining, signature California cuisine, and ethnic specialties. Burger joints and Mexican restaurants can be found throughout the county, Westminster is a paradise for Vietnamese food lovers with some Dim-Sum offerings as well, Irvine has many Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants, Fullerton has a thriving Korean scene, Costa Mesa has a very diverse dining scene, and the beach cities offer plenty of casual offerings as well as seafood restaurants.

For burgers, Orange County is home to three famous hamburger chains: Original Tommy's, Fatburger, and In-N-Out. Tommy's is famous for putting chili on all of its products. Fatburger is notable for its thick and juicy burgers and steakhouse-style "fat fries". In-N-Out is lauded as a California favorite, with thin yet flavorful burgers. There is heated debate but no general consensus as to which chain is best; one's personal tastes and preferences are the best guide.


Orange County is home to many great places to drink and very few options on how to get home after having a few. Getting around in Orange County is pretty tough without a car, unless you have a fat wallet to spend on taxis or limos. There are select areas where walking to a bar is viable option, with beach cities making up the majority of these such places; Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente have areas that are no more than a short walk from a bar. Most of the bars in these beach locations are not of the chain variety, so each has its own unique ambiance, with the exception of Sharky's, which has locations up and down the coast and the same frat crowd in all of them. There are a few micro-breweries in the area, for example in Bottle Logic Brewing and Phantom Ales in Anaheim and a number of sports bars with large selection of regional beers such as The Brew Kitchen Alehouse in Los Alamitos.


Most people visiting Orange County tend to stay in one of the Beach Cities, but these tend to be expensive, particularly over the weekend. The main hotel areas are Anaheim and Buena Park because of the amusement parks there, but you might want to also consider Costa Mesa and Cypress, which have some good hotels catering for business travelers during the week and tend to have good weekend prices.

Stay safe[edit]

Though the beach areas of the county are generally safe, localism among surfers can on rare occasions turn violent. Though the county is quite safe, street gang activity is comparatively common in areas such as East Anaheim and the La Jolla and Atwood neighborhoods of Placentia as well as Westminster and Garden Grove.

Go next[edit]

  • Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a car to visit Los Angeles. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink's Orange County Line link various communities in Orange County with Los Angeles Union Station. The trip to Union Station usually lasts less than one hour depending on where you are departing from. From Union Station, the LA subway system takes you all through downtown Los Angeles, with trains and buses going up to 50 miles away in 4 directions. The downside of the train system is that it caters more to the commuter crowd and does not run all night.
  • Long Beach is about 20 minutes west of Orange County and has several tourist attractions including the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
  • San Diego may be reached via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner from Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano. A one-way trip lasts approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Legoland California is in Carlsbad in San Diego County and can also be reached via train - get off in Oceanside.
  • To get to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, travel to LA Union Station and transfer to the Antelope Valley Line.
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This region travel guide to Orange County is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page