I live in Orange County, which despite what the Real Housewives would lead you to believe, has quite a lot to recommend it. I'm actually from San Diego (Cardiff by the Sea, HOLLA), but I've lived here in the OC for almost 13 years, so by now this feels like home! For my Hometown Week post, I wanted to mention a few things to do if you happen to find yourself here.
(I am resisting the urge to say "THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE IN ORANGE COUNTY!" which, if you were a fan of The OC, you will recognize.)
- Rent a Duffy boat in Newport Bay. This is my #1 recommendation for tourists because it is easy, fun, and affords you one of the best views of Newport Beach. Duffy boats are electric boats that are easy to drive and you can rent them by the hour. It is so much fun to grab your friends and family, a pizza, some appetizers and some wine (duh) and drive around the bay for an hour or two. We do this at least once every summer and everyone loves it.
- If you have kids, visit what's locally known as the "dinosaur park." This park is in Laguna Hills, which is not exactly a tourist mecca, but it's a really fun park for kids. Stop at the Starbucks right across the street for something cool to drink while your kids climb on the "fossils" and explore the equipment.
- Go shopping at Modern Romance. This is one of my favorite local boutiques! There are several of them, and one is conveniently located right by my office. Not convenient for my bank account, though, because this boutique has a great mix of higher-end knitwear brands (such as Michael Stars and Splendid), cute ,and beautiful, affordable jewelry. It's one of the places I love to wander into on my lunch hour and browse.
- Go to the beach! Orange County has a lot of stunning beaches and this is one of our favorite things to do here. We are fond of Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, pictured here:
Is that pretty or what? Crescent Bay is easy to get to, has relatively calm, clear water, and restrooms! There are also tidal pools nearby and you can see Sea Lion Rock from the beach. Not surprisingly, Sea Lion Rock is a rock just offshore where sea lions congregate. It is a very creative and original name.
- Visit the Dana Point Harbor. This is another great place to visit as a tourist. You can walk along the marina and enjoy the names people give their boats (this is what I like to do, at least). You can also rent sea kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to explore the harbor. There is an amazing bagel shop at the harbor called the Coffee Importers. Both the coffee and the food are phenomenal there. It's a frequent weekend treat for our family.
Honestly, I could go on and on. Orange County has a reputation for being conservative and snobbish, and in some places that's deserved. However, it is also full of wonderful people and if you know where to look, you'll find a family-friendly, laid-back beach town with tons to do. Plus, you can't beat the weather. (Sorry, Texas.)
(Photo credits: duffyboat.com; lagunabeach.com)