Out of all the places in the United States Orange County is one of the few places I feel most at home. The weather is comfortable and sunny year round. The people are down to earth and Minnesota friendly (make conversation whenever they see fit).
To get around I recommend taking a car. John Wayne (SNA) is the closest airport, but Los Angeles (LAX) and San Diego (SAN) are typically less expensive to fly in to. If you fly in to either of those large cities the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a great scenic drive. You will see many cute beach towns with shops and restaurants to stop on along the drive.
Drive from San Diego to Laguna Beach
On our drive we decided to try to stay on PCH as much as we could to take in the ocean views.
We stopped for a pick me up at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Parking is mostly on the street but not far of a walk. We were back on the road in no time.
We started to get hungry as we arrived in Encinitas. The main street is filled with places to eat so we chose to sit on the patio at the Bier Garden. We enjoyed a juicy burger before hitting the road again.
Crystal Cove State Park
On my first trip out to Orange County we knew we néeded to explore this state park. There are many trails within, and we walked along the beach for most of it.
As we neared the end of our walk, we saw the old beach town, and the beachfront restaurant Beach Comber. We knew we wanted to come back to eat so we went back for breakfast. The next day, we enjoyed ocean views and wonderful french toast.
Beach Comber Restaurant
Located with in Crystal Cove State Park you will find this gem, and if you dine with them they will validate parking for you.
We stopped for lunch and got the mahi mahi tacos. They are worth every penny and I look forward to going back.
If you park in the lot off PCH they have a shuttle to take you directly to the restaurant.
How often can you see the ocean from the mall? If you enjoy nice landscaping, fountains and flowers you will enjoy walking this mall.
Since we live in Minnesota outdoor malls are not as fun since the weather is not pleasant all year round.
It is dog friendly including inside some of the stores. It so large that they even have a Tesla dealership inside it. It truly is the outdoor version of Mall of America.
Art Walk Laguna
Laguna Beach is called the festival of arts and Pageant of the Masters for a reason. Along the ocean just off the beach you will find many sculptures, and colorful artwork.
If you walk up and down all the downtown shops you will find many art galleries. Also, you will see pieces of artwork scattered throughout the city.
Ice cream at Dolce Gelato
What is better than supporting a small local business and indulging in the best creamy ice cream in Laguna?
This sun shining place is located in downtown. The Seasalt Carmel Chocolate gelato is definitely the best ever.
The owner is there to take care of us almost everytime we have gone there. We discovered this spot the first time we explored Laguna together, and it is one of my favorite places to go to when we are in town.
Top of the World
The Top of the World was a spontaneous find in the hills of Laguna. We drove up to look at the homes built into the mountain side, but ended at this wonderful place.
Many trails branch off from this location. We will be going back to explore with our hiking shoes. In the meantime I will enjoy the fact that I got a nice picture with my best friend not in our workout clothes.
One year prior to when Damion and I started dating he lived in a 500 square foot studio apartment on Balboa peninsula in Newport Beach.
We have been back to Newport only twice since he moved back to Minnesota. This time we parked in the payed parking lot next to the pier.
Just off the pier there were many surfers catching waves, artists selling goodies, and a marvelous memorial for Ben Carlson a lifeguard that lost his life saving others.
We walked the boardwalk down to his old place looking at the houses and the beach that goes for miles.
His place was just outside restaurants, Balboa island, the ferry, and a carnival like fun land with a ferris wheel.
Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach is the closest Orange County beach town to LA. It can be crowded but it never feels lik7e it since it is so large. From the pier you can watch surfers catching waves. At the end of the pier there is also Ruby’s Diner with great ocean scenery. Occasionally there will be a pop up market and you are guaranteed to find artsy souvenirs if that is something you are interested in.
Dana Point Hilltop Cabana
Off of Blue Lantern you get phenomenal views of Dana Point Harbor at the Hilltop Cabana. Hanging out there watching the large boats go in and out of the marina is something I could do all day.
Damion has brought me there twice. He found this spot when he used to live in the neighboring town of Newport Beach. You can see the water looks more blue on a sunny day than a cloudy day.
Sunset at the Rooftop Lounge
I love a beautiful sunset over the ocean with a cold one in my hand.
On our last night in Laguna we decided to sit back and have a beer at Rooftop Lounge on the top of La Casa Del Camino. To get in you have to walk through the lobby of the hotel. There is a staircase that accends up to the rooftop lounge. It includes a large bar and many high top tables. We got incredibly lucky, but a reservation is highly recommended if you want to see the sunset.
We sat next to a sweet local couple that took our photos and talked to us about how fantastic it is living in Laguna. The sun lit the sky with many gorgeous colors throughout the perfect evening.
Other Popular must-sees
- Heisler Park
- Knotts Berry Farm
- Downtown Huntington Beach
- Irvine Regional Park
- Lyon Air Museum
- Seal Beach
- Fullerton Arboretum