More than 40 million annual visitors head to Los Angeles every year to spend some time checking out the city’s big attractions such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive, and more. However, just around half an hour’s drive south of LA (and very close to Anaheim, where Disneyland is located) lays another destination that you do not want to miss: Orange County.
The “OC”, as it is known, is frequented by many Hollywood A-listers and other celebrities who call the area home or own weekenders there. (There are also plenty of cool hotels to choose from in the area — check out Expedia.com for some options.) A Southern California drawcard, Orange County boasts miles and miles of stunning Pacific beaches, as well as plenty of wilderness trails, super-yachts, coastal golf courses, and of course, many glam boutiques, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Read on for some OC highlights to add to your itinerary on any visit to this lovely part of the world.
Huntington Beach Pier
To start your first day off in Orange County nicely, go for a leisurely walk along the Huntington Beach pier, an iconic spot in the area. During a stroll along the pier, which stretches around a third of a mile into the Pacific Ocean, you can be relaxed by the blue waters or spend some time watching locals surfing, jogging, cycling, or playing beach volleyball along the Ocean Strand.
If you need some caffeine to jump start your day or want to enjoy a traditional American breakfast, head to the end of the pier where Ruby’s Diner is located. The cafe serves up generous meals with something to suit everyone (including health-conscious options), and has lovely views to enjoy while you eat.
Learn How To Surf
If you feel motivated to get in the water yourself, perhaps you might like to learn to surf at Huntington Beach. This is the perfect place to pick up the skill, as the area boasts no less than 15 different surf schools located along the beach front and is home to the U.S. Open of Surfing. In addition, if you want to find out more about the sport, you can spend some time exploring the nearby International Surfing Museum.
Hire A Segway
If you are looking for a unique way to check out the sights of Huntington Beach, consider booking a ticket on a Segway tour. Surf City Segway runs guided 90-minute beach tours that begin with safety instructions and a video tutorial. Tourists can choose from the Ocean Front Trail Segway Tour all year round or the Extreme Sand and Off-Road Excursion from September to March.
Relax the Afternoon Away
If you need some down time after all that activity, it is worth heading to the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. Here, at this Mediterranean-inspired, sprawling resort, you will find a day spa where you can unwind and relax in style.
The spa grotto is particularly lovely — this cluster of spas is surrounded by lush greenery that will make you feel as if you are a million miles away from the city. After you have pampered yourself, you might like to then start the evening with a signature cocktail or a glass of quality local wine at the Hyatt’s Red Chair Lounge. Take a seat in an armchair in front of the fire during the winter months and enjoy listening to a live band play all year round.
Explore Crystal Cove State Park
If you want to really stretch your legs and do some hiking, drive 20 minutes down the North Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to one of the area’s best natural wonderland: Crystal Cove State Park.
Located just north of Laguna Beach, and a popular spot for weddings and film making, this area boasts just over three miles of rugged Pacific coastline, plus many inland canyons, and is interspersed with a variety of scenic walking trails. The Park is also the location of the Crystal Cove Historic District of beach cottages, one of which you may recognize form the 1980’s film “Beaches.”
Spend Some Cash At Fashion Island
Just around ten minutes’ drive back up the coast from Crystal Cove is Newport Beach. Here you will find plenty more great OC attractions to check out, including the outdoor shopping mecca: Fashion Island. This center is home to over 125 different department stores, fashion boutiques, and designer outposts; including Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Valentino, amongst others.
Check Out Some Celebrity Homes
If you would like to see how “the other half live,” take a 45-minute “Celebrity Homes and Yachts” tour in Newport Beach, the most popular option run by The Fun Zone Boat Company. The cruise excursion will give you the opportunity to see some of the most prized real estate in Orange County — Newport Beach mansions — as well as yachts in the area, the Harbor Islands around Newport Beach, and more. You will also learn about the movie star history of the area, and hear plenty of Hollywood gossip!