BEST OF OC: 50 Must-Sees, Must-Eats & Must-Dos in Orange County

Here it is! The BEST of OC – a list of recommendations from OC residents

couple having fun on vacation at the lake

Must-Sees

Beach side cliffs and tide pools of Laguna Beach are where my wife and I shot our engagement photos. I just think it’s cool to see natural artwork via wind and water erosion. Couple that with the sandy beach and waves and you’ve got the perfect backdrop for photos. You’ll often find people taking engagement/wedding/family photos there. Juan Flores, Communications Manager, with the Bureau 3 years

Million dollar views. Pacific Edge for breathtaking, on the water romantic stays or vacation memories with your children, this is a hidden gem! My family has stayed there for years and it has become one of our family favorite trips! Julie Freund, Account Sales Manager, Partnership, with the Bureau 19 years

See the Disneyland Fireworks for free. Right in front of the Disneyland entrance, in the main promenade, is one of my favorite places to view the fireworks without entering the park. I like to pack light a dinner in my cooler, lay down a blanket, and plant myself in the middle of the promenade to view the show! Tessa Kranz, Tourism E-marketing Coordinator, with the Bureau under a year

Life’s a beach. Crystal Cove State Beach is my favorite – no T-shirt shops or anything: just beach and beach and beach! If you’re lucky you’ll see dolphins. Harriet Porter, Sales Director, Convention Sales, with the Bureau 4 years

Old time OC. My small town roots bring to Old Towne Orange often where I like to visit the antique shops and Watsons Drug Store. I’m a sucker for small town friendliness and this community has that and more.  I love the college town atmosphere mixed with the eclectic feeling of pubs and coffee houses. It is fun to stroll and shop along the streets near the circle where you can usually find a unique gift for yourself or someone else. Tony Toth, Convention Sales Director, with the Bureau 18 years

The simple things. San Clemente Pier is a romantic spot to watch the sunset…spectacular!  Must do: enjoy their restaurant’s New England Clam Chowder at the same time. Christina Dawson, VP Partnership Development, with the Bureau 10 years

Once in a lifetime. One of the most amazing experiences in Southern California is to see thousands of dolphins in the wild, just doing what they do. I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life onboard Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale-Watching boats last November!  I saw over 1500 Common dolphins swimming in a pod.  They were jumping out of the water and porpoising in the path of the boat!  I have never seen so many dolphins in my life!  It was AMAZING!!!!! Luanne Miracle, Manager, Tourism Development, with the Bureau 3 years

Christmas cheer. The candle-lighting ceremony at Disneyland Park is a once in a lifetime spectacle. The park is aglow with the holiday trimmings and over a thousand voices sing in unity to all the holiday favorites while the story of Christmas is told. My favorite was Jane Seymour! Daniel Carr, Convention Housing Manager, with the Bureau 6 years

Snowy backdrop. The best view of snow on the mountains after a good storm is at the intersection of State College & Bastanchury in Fullerton near Summit House Restaurant. It actually takes your breath away as you see the mountains; they look so close and so beautiful framed against a bright blue sky!  It’s especially fun if you have just come from a fun day at the BEACH and can see snow-capped mountains on your way home! Brenda Weber, Convention Services Manager, with the Bureau 2 years

Very crafty. Art Supply Warehouse is like a giant candy store for artists. They literally have everything. From pens, to paints, to hundreds of sketchbooks and any supply that any artist would want. I can’t walk into this place without buying something. All art stores should be this epic… Mark Lukas, Graphic Designer, with the Bureau 2 years

Dog days. I love going to the Huntington Beach Dog Beach on the weekends. It warms my heart as I watch all the varieties, colors, sizes and personalities of the dogs playing with each other in the sand and the water.  What is amazing on how well they all get along!  Cats could never do that… this is part of nature at the beach! Carolyn Pesenti Green, Convention Services Director, with the Bureau 19 years

Take a hike. Carbon Canyon Regional Park I like this park because there is a ten-acre grove of Coastal Redwoods tucked away in the back of the park.  You have to hike (moderate difficulty) to get to them and it is totally worth the effort. Bobby Taylor, Web & Emerging Media Manager, with the Bureau 2 years

Steal a kiss. La Casa Del Camino’s Rooftop Bar at sunset is the most romantic spot I can think of! Gina McQuade, Convention & Meeting Sales Director, with the Bureau 8 years

Fore! Look to the left from the tee box at the13th Hole South Course at Pelican Hill Golf Club to the majestic Pacific Ocean. Pods of Dolphins, whales, pelicans, and other sea creatures can be spotted, all the while trying to make that elusive birdie or hole on one!  To the right is Pelican Point and some of the most expensive homes in Newport Beach- Kobe Bryant lives there! Daniel Carr, Convention Housing Manager, with the Bureau 6 years

A walk to remember. I love walking down the meandering pathways in Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, past the dramatic cliffs and crashing waves of the Pacific. The most spectacular view here is from the gazebo in the park –it is a view that never disappoints. Elaine Cali, VP Communications, with the Bureau 26 years

Must-Eats

Burger fever. The best burger in OC is from Haven Gastropub out in Old Towne Orange. Homemade aioli and ketchup with arugula leaves instead of lettuce and good quality beef. Dann Mannahan, Web Producer, with the Bureau 4 years

Mi casa es su casa. Best whole in the wall Mexican food is Mexicasa on Lincoln in Anaheim.  It’s family owned for a million years and still is.  Best damn salsa anywhere.  The absolute best part is the price!!!  Family of four can eat for $25.00!!!  They also make a “wine” margarita to die for!!  No tequila just wine.  Good stuff! Kelly Grass, Partnership Services Manager, with the Bureau 11 years

Fish out of water. Kaisen Kaiten Sushi in Costa Mesa is one of the best revolving sushi bars I’ve been to that never fails to disappoint in quality sushi. They have daily specials on hand rolls listed in their window and always have their flat screen TV on ESPN for the latest Lakers game. Jamie Nguyen, Tourism Assistant, with the Bureau 2 years

Mama mia! I have been going to Luigi’s D’ Italia since I was a kid and the food has remained some of the best food in the county for homemade authentic Italian! Our favorite is the Tortellini D Angelo! Julie Freund, Account Sales Manager, Partnership, with the Bureau 19 years

A winning spot. The Catch not only has fine, award-winning brews from sister restaurant Taps, but the atmosphere before (and after) an Angels or Ducks game (and sometimes both), can’t be beat. They have great steaks, an awesome clam chowder soup and have you seen the OMG burger? Juan Flores, Communications Manager, with the Bureau 3 years

Sugar shot. Season’s 52 at South Coast Plaza has the most delicious wide-variety of SHOT GLASS desserts.  Pretty, unique and very tasty.  Not too much, not too little… JUST RIGHT following their healthy entree options too! Christina Dawson, VP Partnership Development, with the Bureau 10 years

Veg out. I like Rutabegorz restaurants (Fullerton and Orange) not only for the uniquely homey and historic atmosphere, but for the delicious and healthy food, some vegetarian, some low fat, all DELICIOUS !  What a unique and authentic SoCal experience! Luanne Miracle, Manager, Tourism Development, with the Bureau 3 years

Worldly delights. My favorite place to eat ia K’ya in Hotel Menage. The food is really delicious; there is a wide variety of food on their menu from places like New Orleans, New York, Japan, Italy and more. The atmosphere is very calming and sets me in a good mood. The main reason I love K’ya is because nothing is over $10! Tessa Kranz, Tourism E-marketing Coordinator, with the Bureau under a year

Ice, ice baby. Joe’s Italian Ice is by far our FAVORITE place to get an icy, cool treat!  They have the best Italian ice!  The staff is always cheerful and ready to take your order.  You can also ask for samples of each of the different flavors! Michelle Amon, Receptionist, with the Bureau 5 years

Fit to be Thai’d. The best hole in the wall restaurant is Thai Gulf out in Huntington Beach. It has the cheapest, most authentic and most filling Thai food in OC. They treat you like family, giving you unlimited Thai Iced teas, egg rolls, wontons and dessert, which includes a deep fried egg roll wrapped bananas & green tea ice cream- all for under 6 bucks! Dann Mannahan, Web Producer, with the Bureau 4 years

Est. in 1899! Watsons Drug Store is the best local joint! Great food and a wonderful old fashion ambience!!  Great wait staff… I think some have been there for decades! Jim Kissinger, VP Convention Sales, with the Bureau 26 years

Gem in Crystal Cove. Eat at The Beachcomber around 5pm to see the flag raise and have a cocktail and a nice dinner on the sand.Gina McQuade, Convention & Meeting Sales Director, with the Bureau 8 years

The Blue Frog Bakery in Old Towne Orange has the best apple turnover- flaky crust, perfect blend of cinnamon & nutmeg, gives you good energy to do lots of antique shopping in Old Towne Orange! Brenda Weber, Convention Services Manager, with the Bureau 2 years

Midday treat. I love the frozen lemonade at Frontier Land in Disneyland. I’m not a fan of lemonade, but I can’t pass up the frozen lemonade stand in Frontierland. There is just something special about it and a trip to the park would not be the same without one! Lora Stanley, Convention Sales, with the Bureau 15 years

Must-Dos

Get jazzed. Steamer’s in Fullerton has the best jazz– what can I say…? Great music– world class jazz artists! Jim Kissinger, VP Convention Sales, with the Bureau 26 years

Holy moly. A must-try hiking trail is Holy Jim: off-roading in my Jeep ‘til you can’t drive anymore and walk the rest to the falls! Harriet Porter, Sales Director, Convention Sales, with the Bureau 4 years

Explore Downtown. I absolutely love going to Downtown Santa Ana. It is called “Art Walk” and there are many galleries, bars, and specialty shops. My favorite place to go to is the Gypsy Den. It has a super relaxed hipster vibe, excellent food and beer, and they have open mic events weekly; where you can see a wide variety of musicians like cellists and accordion players. Tessa Kranz, Tourism E-marketing Coordinator, with the Bureau under a year

Picture this. One of the best backdrops for photography is Old Town Tustin can be used for weddings, commercialized photos or just to take pictures. The quaint town has a lot of greenery and vintage appeals. Plus, the area is quiet for a romantic walk to the nearest park or restaurant. Jamie Nguyen, Tourism Assistant, with the Bureau 2 years

One of a kind. American Vintage in downtown Fullerton is one of my favorite places to shop. Everything is unique and different and the pricing is pretty amazing. I always leave her feeling like I have a one-of-a-kind gem! Shayna Marks, Communications, with the Bureau under a year

Fire in the hole. The fire-pits in Huntington Beach are a great place to watch the sunset, roast SMORES, and relax with friends and family after a tough day on the links or shopping. Tip: get there early to get one. Daniel Carr, Convention Housing Manager, with the Bureau 6 years

Rock out. My favorite place to see live music is The Slidebar Rock-n-Roll Kitchen.  It is located in the historic SoCo District of Downtown Fullerton, CA. It has everything … great food, great music, and great collection of music memorabilia. Deedre Rieck, Convention Services Manager- Registration Services, with the Bureau 8 years

Put the top down! Best California “feel” is driving on Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar & Laguna Beach. Whether you are headed southbound and looking at the sand and the beautiful hilltop homes, OR headed northbound and enjoying a marvelous sunset, it reminds me EVERY TIME why I love living in Orange County! Brenda Weber, Convention Services, with the Bureau 2 years

Get in the (fun) zone. Balboa Peninsula feels like its own little world to me.  Even though it is a part of the opulent Newport Beach, it has a rawness to it.  I love to go fishing in the waterways or even jumping on a sport fishing boat for a 1/2 day trip out to sea. Bobby Taylor, Web & Emerging Media, with the Bureau 2 years

Canyon Life. It’s a great Saturday when I hit Cook’s Corner, the world famous biker bar in Trabuco Canyon around noon.  The atmosphere is symbolic of days gone by – a country haven nestled right in the heart of the hillside. Grab a pitcher of beer and mingle with the locals, look at the coolest bikes around or just relax with your friends. Either way, it’s old California with a simple, rustic and small town country vibe. Tony Toth, Convention Sales Director, with the Bureau 18 years

Run like the wind! Running in the annual Disney Half Marathon is a great way to experience Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, the Honda Center and Anaheim Stadium – with over 14,000 runners from 30+ countries. Many are dressed in various Disney character costumes! Ann Gallaugher, VP Tourism Development, with the Bureau 27 years

Shop til you drop. I like to bargain shop at The Block of Orange. Kenneth Cole Outlet Store, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th is a fierce fashion combination where you can really save. Victoria Diaz, Convention Sales Coordinator, with the Bureau 1 year

Beach to beach. I love “Beach-hopping” with my daughter – driving along the coast with the top down, starting at Laguna Beach, then to Crystal Cove for Lunch at the Beachcomber, and then on to Huntington Beach for more fun and to watch the surfers! Lora Stanley, Convention Sales, with the Bureau 15 years

Shades of green. My husband and I LOVE the Fullerton Arboretum.  You can have a nice picnic under a shady tree by the pond.  It is great for walking and checking out the beautiful plants.  My husband is a fan of photography, so we always take our camera to capture really great shots of plant life. Michelle Amon, Receptionist, with the Bureau 5 years

You spin me round! One of my favorite things to do is to ride the Teacups at Disneyland. Certainly, there are  more high-tech attractions  today, but to me this one is like a classic fairy tale. It still makes me feel like a little girl when I’m riding in it, when just getting dizzy and laughing in those giant painted tea cups was all I needed to have fun! Elaine Cali, VP Communications, with the Bureau 26 years

Deals, deals, deals! On almost any Sunday you can find everything from churros, jerky, luggage, socks, sunglasses, pre-owned cars, furniture…all in one place- the OC Swapmeet. Deals can be made and found everywhere if you look for them.  People watching is also recommended there. Daniel Carr, Convention Housing Manager, with the Bureau 6 years

 

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