Orange County

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Southern California Orange County

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Introduction

While Orange County is the smallest county in Southern California, it is hardly insignificant. It is home to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and numerous other attractions. 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.

Regions

  • 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.

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Cities

  • 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 - A gateway to Los Angeles known as the home of the popular Knott's Berry Farm amusement park and lots of used car lots.
  • Fullerton - Home to Cal State Fullerton, the Fullerton Arboretum, and the shopping district of 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.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Plane

John Wayne Airport (SNA IATA) 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 (LGB IATA) in Long Beach, 32 km west of Santa Ana; LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT IATA) in Ontario, 53 km north of Santa Ana; Los Angeles International Airport (LAX IATA) 64 km northwest of Santa Ana; and San Diego International Airport (SAN IATA) in San Diego, 143 km south of Santa Ana.

By Train

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.

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.

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Getting 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.

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Eat

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.

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Drink

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.

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Sleep

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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Contributors

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This is version 7. Last edited at 11:11 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 10 articles link to this page.

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