Orange County (California)

Orange County is a prominent suburban region in Southern California, south of Los Angeles and part of the extended Los Angeles metropolitan area. A patchwork of 34 independent municipalities, Orange County has a very culturally diverse population and a terrific and irrefutable reputation as a tourist destination given its mild climate, its miles of beaches, its famed surfing, and its two popular amusement parks: Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.


Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park


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

Mission San Juan Capistrano


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 County to 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 communities.


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

Map of Orange County

By car

Several freeways provide access to Orange County. Interstate 5 is the primary north-south link, connecting to San Diego to the south and the heart of Los Angeles to the north. A mesh of freeways link Orange County to the greater L.A. region; in addition to I-5, Interstate 405 starts near Irvine and heads northwest to Long Beach and L.A.'s Westside, State Route 57 heads north from Santa Ana into the San Gabriel Valley, and State Route 91 cuts east-west across the northern portion of Orange County between the South Bay and Riverside.

By plane

John Wayne Airport (IATA: SNA) in Santa Ana is the only commercial airport within Orange County, and is very pretty with its palm-lined entry road. Several major and regional airlines fly here, and most of the major car rental companies have locations at this airport. For general aviation, Fullerton Municipal Airport in Fullerton has fuel and overnight parking facilities.

Many locals and travelers find that it is often cheaper, albeit more time consuming (especially during rush hour), to fly into an alternate airport and then drive to their final destination in Orange County. Besides SNA, there are four major airports in the vicinity of Orange County: Long Beach Airport (IATA: LGB) in Long Beach, 20 miles (32 km) west of Santa Ana; LA/Ontario International Airport (IATA: ONT) in Ontario, 33 miles (53 km) north of Santa Ana; Los Angeles International Airport (IATA: LAX) 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Santa Ana; and San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN) in San Diego, 89 miles (143 km) south of Santa Ana.

By train

The Pacific Surfliner in San Clemente

Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner service runs multiple times a day between San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Luis Obispo, with six stops in Orange County: the San Clemente Pier, San Juan Capistrano, Irvine, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Fullerton. This is a particularly useful service for visiting San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano, and there are good bus connections between the Anaheim and Fullerton stations and Disneyland.

Two Metrolink commuter rail lines serve much of Orange County: the Orange County Line overlaps with the Pacific Surfliner between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and Oceanside in San Diego County, stopping more frequently than the Surfliner. The Inland Empire-OC Line overlaps with the Orange County Line north from Oceanside before splitting off in Orange to head northeast to Riverside and San Bernardino. A third (and less frequent) line, the 91 Line, skirts through the northern edge of Orange County on its run between Riverside and Downtown Los Angeles, stopping in Fullerton and Buena Park.

Get around

Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is the primary provider of bus service in Orange County, with lines that serve much of the county. Fares are $2 regular, 75 cents for seniors, with a day pass costing $5 ($1.50 for seniors). Within Anaheim is a tourist bus service called ART, and L.A. Metro Route 460 offers a direct link between Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and Downtown L.A.


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. However, you may be highly disappointed when arriving to a city like Anaheim or Cypress.

Stay safe

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.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.