I moved to California in 2015, and since then I have absolutely loved living in Orange County. At this point in my life, I cannot imagine living anywhere else.
OC has everything, and whatever it doesn’t have is only a short drive away. We have mountains, gorgeous beaches, awesome hiking trails, cool attractions for the kids, and so much more.
Read more: The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List
Plus, just a 2-3 hour drive away are amazing places like Joshua Tree National Park and Big Bear Lake (where it actually snows), and Palm Springs.
When you hear about California it’s usually something about Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, right? Orange County is just one hour from the famous City of Angels, so it tends to steal the spotlight away.
In reality, Orange County is just as beautiful and has so much to offer! Are you ready to find out why exactly I love living in Orange County so much?
6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California
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1. The Beaches are Absolutely Gorgeous
There’s something very special about California beaches. This was a very important point that helped make my decision to move to Orange County.
I fell in love as soon as I stepped foot on my first California beach, which was Imperial Beach in San Diego County. I was with my husband, and I remember when we got there it was a perfect time because the sun was setting, and there was nobody else around. It was just us and the wide-open beach. It was cold and windy, but it was a nice change from the hot and humid weather back home in Puerto Vallarta.
Now that I live here, I have had a chance to explore even more beaches, and Orange County definitely has some of the best.
One of my favorite things about OC is that you will experience a different vibe in each beach city. For example, Laguna Beach has a small-town feel with a quiet artsy scene that seems to attract a sophisticated crowd. But a little further north in Huntington Beach there is more of a hippie, casual, free-spirited vibe.
If you plan to visit Orange County one day, I recommend that you at least try to see Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. They are all very close to each other so you could easily see all 3 in one day if you want!
Plan a day to drive the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) starting in Laguna and ending in Huntington. Don’t miss capturing the famous Huntington Beach Pier at sunset!
2. Endless Amount of Outdoor Activities
Californians take their outdoor activities seriously. There are so many things to do here that sometimes deciding what to do on the weekend is a real struggle. Camping, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, snow skiing, what isn’t there to do in this state?! You will never get bored!
Since I have been living in Orange County, my fitness game has drastically increased. I have never lived in a place where outdoor activities were acceptable all year long, so this is a major plus for me. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to explore cool spots like sea caves, red rock canyons, ocean view hikes, and participate in outdoor yoga classes.
Another favorite activity of mine is kayaking. It doesn’t have to be open ocean kayaking, there are a few options that do not require you to go directly to the ocean. Newport’s Back Bay and the Dana Point Harbor are popular options. We kayaked in Dana Point and saw a few sea lions!
You can also go whale watching year-round (which I highly recommend)! I purchased a Groupon for Davey’s Locker which was an awesome experience! We saw several whales, including a mommy with a baby, and tons of dolphins. The captain knew exactly where to go for all of the action.
3. The Food is Diverse
Let me be clear, I am not referring to California’s beloved In-N-Out. (For those of you who do not know about this, it is the burger-and-fries fast-food chain that California seems to love so much.) Californians might hate me for this, but I am not impressed. I have had way better burgers in my lifetime.
What I am referring to is the variety of food options from different cultures around the world. Where I come from (Wisconsin), there are not nearly as many food options. The culture is not as diverse as California, so I suppose that could be why. Living in Orange County definitely opened up my taste buds and I love trying all kinds of new foods now!
There are types of food in California that I have never even heard of before. Whatever you want you can definitely get here in Orange County.
By the way, if you are interested in visiting a decent burger-and-fries type of place, check out Ruby’s Diner. It is a classic diner that services American food (and awesome shakes)! My favorite is the diner located at the very end of the Huntington Beach Pier; you will have excellent ocean views!
4. First Class Shopping
California has some excellent shopping options. It is home to the rich and famous after all! Orange County’s shopping might not be as “good” as LA’s, but we definitely have some great options. Since I am not a big spender I normally don’t shop at the high-end malls. I typically stick to the outlet centers or my favorite, Target!
When I do shop, one of my favorites is The Outlets at San Clemente. WOW, this place is gorgeous. It has that Mediterranean style architecture with the white stucco walls, arches, and tile roof. Plus, it’s directly across from the ocean! If you are looking for some “higher-end” shopping options you can check out Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza or Newport’s Fashion Island.
5. The Weather really is Perfect
If the weather wasn’t as great as it is, these other points probably wouldn’t matter as much. The summer definitely brings some heat, but it’s easy to pack up the car and head to the beach for the day. I love the fact that I can enjoy the beaches even in the middle of winter!
Spring and Fall are my favorite times of the year since the weather seems to be 75 and sunny, absolutely perfect.
OC pretty much has great weather all year, which might be my favorite thing about living here. Wisconsin weather sucks compared to California, and I definitely do not miss that snow.
We do have two months out of the year where the weather is a little less “ideal” (but we are spoiled). We have this thing called “May Gray” and “June Gloom” which means the morning is cloudy with what the weatherman calls a “marine layer”. The ocean area is cloudy in the morning, but once the sun heats up it usually melts all that away. Once in a while, this marine layer could linger into the afternoon. This is nothing that I would specifically try to avoid though.
6. Excellent Location
Another one of my favorite things about living in Orange County is the fact that I can easily drive to so many awesome places!
With Los Angeles to the north, San Diego to the south, and Riverside (Palm Springs area) to the east, this gives Orange County a prime location. No wonder it’s one of the most expensive counties in California!
There are so many things to do in the area and I pretty much know that I can drive 2 hours and be in any one of those locations. Plus, we are a little less populated than our neighbors, which makes living here a whole lot easier.
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Another bonus is that there are 2 nearby major airports to choose from! I definitely recommend using Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA) if it fits your budget. In my experience flights are a little more expensive here than Los Angeles (LAX), but it might be worth it depending on where you are staying. This route is way less stressful than flying into LAX.
If the flight options to SNA are not ideal then your next best option (and probably the cheapest) would be LAX. If you are staying in Orange County expect a 1-2-hour drive from the airport. Traffic through south LA county can be so annoying.
If you are considering living in Orange County yourself or taking a trip here, feel free to ask me any questions!