One great thing they share in common is pleasant weather year-round, and that means two things: They're most fun to explore on foot, and there's always something to do. Here, we share five of our favorite areas to take a stroll.
VIBE: O.C.'s second largest ' and most populated ' city is home to the world-famous Disneyland"®" Resort, sports teams, live music venues, attractions and pristine Anaheim Convention Center. Its downtown area is seemingly always lively with locals and tourists and, with a more metropolitan vibe, is reminiscent of Los Angeles. And just the same, it's most exciting to take in the action on foot.
EAT: Head to the Anaheim Packing District for a diverse and tasty foodie experience. The newly opened Urbana, located in the historic Packing House, brings a taste of Mexico with an 'innovative' twist and incredible tequilla selection (flights coming soon). Nearby Adya offers savory Indian fare in a chic setting (bonus: extensive wine list). Seafood lovers should dive into The Chippy Fish n Grill (or 'Chippy's,' as locals call it) for fresh catches and cuts. Sawleaf Vietnamese features fresh family recipes that have been passed down for generations.
PLAY: After a day in Disneyland, nothing tastes better than a beer '" and Anaheim Brewery is all about local flavors. Let the kids roam free in Farmer's Park while you relax in the garden with a pint. Or, head to the tasting room for a sampler. For an activity the whole family will fall for, try the art of flying trapeze at SwingIt on hip Center St. Promenade.
VIBE: This sweet and sleepy 'Old Towne' just north of Santa Ana preserves much of its mid-century charm. The downtown district, occupied mostly by professionals, Chapman University students and tall trees, winds around Orange Circle and features unique restaurants, cafes and boutiques and dozens of antique shops all within walking distance. It's the perfect place to share a meal with friends, read at a coffee shop or bakery, going antiquing, or just sit on a bench and people-watch.
EAT: For years, Felix Continental CafÃ© has been a locals' window to Cuba ' via fine dining at street vendor prices. You can't go wrong with Gabbi's, offering modern Mexican cuisine in an artistic loft-style setting. Bruxie is another locals' favorite, beloved for its waffle everything. From savory fried chicken sandwiches to seasonal desserts, all dishes here come with authentic Belgian waffle bread. For something else that's sweet, The Perfect Circle Cupcakery whips up a variety of perfectly delicious ' you guessed it ' cupcakes.
PLAY: The restaurants here are the place to 'play.' After you've had your fill, head to an antique shop. Orange Circle Antique Mall is the largest, and its two floors offer everything from cool vintage records and books to retro clothing and jewelry to old housewares and collectibles. The Circle's surrounding neighborhoods are also a draw 'here you'll cruise past several cute homes, enormous trees and tropical birds that migrate between them.
VIBE: This bohemian 'colony' once comprised of artists and surfers" and much of its retro charm remains today." Winding along six miles of rugged coastline and blue-green waters, Laguna's main draw is its beaches. In the summer months, a tri of art and performance festivals '" Festival of the Arts | Pageant of the Masters, Sawdust and Art-a-Fair ' attract enthusiasts from around the globe. A pedestrian-friendly downtown area makes it perfect for walking the streets lined with art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars, and live music venues.
EAT: Find a world of flavors in just a few blocks of downtown. Two things Laguna does really well are Mexican and seafood. Find both at La Sirena Grill and Carmelita's, each serving up some of the freshest fare in O.C. Central Coastal Peruvian restaurant stirs up a light and delicious sangria, perfectly paired with any of its savory dishes. Brussels Bistro grills a mean gourmet burger and offers a temping flight of beers. At both 370 Common and Broadway by Amar Santana, find an upscale atmosphere complemented by to-die-for menu selections.
PLAY: Rent standup paddleboards, surfboards and other ocean adventure gear from a variety of outfitters including La Vida Laguna, which also offers lessons. Main Beach is the most expansive and populated, while North Laguna's quieter coves ' all within walking distance of downtown ' are great for kayaking, padding, snorkeling, diving, surfing, swimming or just sunbathing. Through August, the arts and craft festivals in the canyon are a must-visit (hitch a ride on the trolley, or take the sidewalk straight from town). Stroll the streets any night of the week and find bustling nightlife and bars hosting live music performances.
VIBE: This old city in northern OC that gave birth to the punk rock music scene (Mike Ness from Social Distortion and The Offspring were among those to claim roots here) is also home to California State University students, which significantly shapes its culture and downtown scene. Sections of the rustic downtown area feel like a stroll back in time, with historic and charming structures that house restaurants and cafes and bookshops and music venues. Beautiful walkways intersect its shady, tree-lined streets.
EAT: Monkey Business CafÃ© serves up a side of charity for at-risk youth while providing healthy fare to patrons. It also takes pride in its partnerships, supporting organic and ethical food and coffee vendors. Rutabegorz is a SoCal chain, as well as a Fullerton favorite for hearty meals that are moderately priced. Commonwealth Lounge & Grill, which sits on the periphery of the hip 'SoCo' (South of Commonwealth) district, offers upscale cocktails and dinner plates for college budgets. Enjoy a side of live music.
PLAY: Half the fun is in walking the shady streets and admiring the old architecture, style and students milling around." Shops worth checking out are Roadkill Ranch & Boutique, whose passion is 'scouting Indie artists and designers to bring special, one-of-a-kind vintage pieces,' and Mo's music store, a must-stop for musicians and record collectors. The Night Owl coffee shop stays open until 3 a.m., serving up caffeine, poetry readings and music performances, including open-mic nights.
San Juan Capistrano
VIBE: This charming and somewhat sleepy city rose around the Spanish Mission San Juan Capistrano (built 1776) and still feels like a step back in time with it's historic architecture, quaint village and close-knit community. The city is ideal for walking, and even offers a map to a self-guided strolling tour, taking you past many architecturally significant and scenic buildings and sites."
EAT: Downtown boasts a bevy of casual and upscale eateries to satisfy any craving. A few local exclusives are must-tries. In addition to its authentic Mexican cuisine, El Adobe's history is also a draw: part of the landmark restaurant and cocktail lounge was once a court and jail in the early 1800s. Stop into El Campeon to dine at the restaurant (more delicious Mexican), have dessert at the bakery, and shop the market for take-home goods. Dive into The Swallows Inn for a drink at the area's only honky-tonk, where you'll find eight brews on tap and local country acts on stage in this intimate venue.
PLAY: San Juan Capistrano's Mission is the seventh of 21 Spanish Missions in California (the state was under Spain's rule until 1821, when Mexico gained independence). Learn about the rich history of this area jewel as you admire its beautiful stone church, quarters and vibrant gardens. Architecture and walkability of SJC are its best features, so pick up a map from City Hall (or one of the local shops) and admire its many historic structures along your path. Don't miss the oldest neighborhood in California, the Los Rios District located across from the railroad tracks. There are original adobe structures and homes that remain from the early mission workers in the 1700's. The eucalyptus and" willow tree lined streets await those to stroll through the enchanting shops and restaurants, located in the historic homes." Parents of little ones (as well as animal lovers!) will enjoy an afternoon at Zoomars petting zoo, where ponies, pigs, llamas, bunnies and sheep are among the furry friends who roam its pastures. Tots can take a spin on the choo choo train, while older kids can join in the hunt for gold, fossils and precious gems.