What are the five best things to see and do in Orange County?

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Believe it or not, Orange County is so much more than a mass of suburbs and housewives. The area flaunts wide, beautiful beaches and charming coastal towns with gorgeous harbors (Newport), art galleries (Laguna) and tree-lined coves shading beautiful yachts (Dana Point). If you can’t see it all, spend a day at Catalina Island or Balboa Island, peruse the shops in downtown Laguna Beach or famous mall Fashion Island and be sure to bring your kids to the original Disneyland.

1. Catalina Island. Avalon is located on Catalina Island and is the perfect escape, whether it’s for a weekend or an afternoon. You can walk around the tiny charming town in less than an hour, and it’s filled with cute seafood places and quirky little shops.

2. Art galleries in Laguna. If you love art, you’ll want to stop and peruse all the charming little galleries that fill the downtown Laguna area. The best way to see them is on a Friday night when they all throw open their doors and host free wine and cheese receptions.

3. Shop. Get your shopping fix at one of the most popular shopping centers in Southern California. The retail mecca, Fashion Island includes more than 200 stores, a large food court (with an alfresco dining area) and several upscale chain restaurants, including China Grille and Fleming’s. Major department stores include Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, while shops range from Anthropologie to Urban Outfitters.

4. Balboa Island. This tiny, densely populated man-made island is one of Orange County’s most popular attractions. You can drive onto the island via Jamboree Road or hop the ferry from Balboa Peninsula. The pretty island has some of the most expensive real estate in the country and the main street, Marine Avenue, is lined with boutiques, restaurants and ice cream shops selling the popular Balboa Bars, vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and then covered with nuts or candy, or the frozen chocolate bananas.

5. Disneyland. What’s a trip to Southern California without visiting the Happiest Place on Earth? Disneyland is a must on your travel itinerary if you have kids —or even if you don’t. The park is divided into seven lands; each packed with fun-filled rides, games and, of course, your favorite Disney characters.

Giuseppe Lama

1. Get outdoors, by land or by sea! Orange County has some of Southern California’s most beautiful open space preserves for biking and hiking. Along the coast, kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing and surfing are popular. The weather is bright and sunny most days, so soak it up. Guests of The Resort at Pelican Hill can preview these activities and book them through the Concierge.

2. Southern California is known for its shopping, and Fashion Island is a top Orange County spot for locals and visitors alike.  You can actually see the Pacific Ocean as you stroll around the palm-lined paseos and outdoor courtyards. Complimentary personal shoppers can be arranged through Pelican Hill to help you plan and carry out your shopping adventure, too.

3. Duffy boats in Newport Harbor are a fun way to experience Orange County’s coast any time of year. These electric boats come with an iPod docking station, stereo, plush seating, two wood-top dining tables, a canvas top and retractable surrounding windows. They are easy to operate, so you relax and take in the spectacular coastal views. The Resort at Pelican Hill can even provide a “picnic on the water” to enjoy aboard.

4. Crystal Cove Beach is a picturesque spot along three miles of pristine coastline, with a marine life refuge and charming historic district where Hollywood once filmed movies. There’s swimming, diving, surfing and tidepools, or hiking and biking along the bluff-top nature trails. After all that activity, sunbathe in the California sun and check out the Beachcomber Café right on the sand. Guests of The Resort at Pelican Hill can take an complimentary coach from their guest room door right to the sand.

5. Golf is a year-round activity in Orange County. The mild climate and variety of courses make it easy for any level of golfer to get out there. The three Fazio-designed courses, including 36 holes at Pelican Hill and 18 holes at Oak Creek Golf Clubs, are a must-play when you’re visiting the area. The Resort at Pelican Hill offers preferred rates and tee times to guests.

The five best things to see and do in Orange County are:
1. A coastline drive up Pacific Coast Highway from The St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point to Huntington Beach is one of the best ways to experience what Orange County has to offer. With breathtaking ocean view stops along the way, world-class dining and unique shopping, this is the only way to experience Orange County’s “Riviera.”

2. Enjoy a visit to the historic Mission in San Juan Capistrano and spend the day in San Juan Capistrano’s charming downtown at antique shops and quaint restaurants.

3. Experience the Dolphin Safari out of Dana Point harbor for one of the best dolphin viewing excursions in the world.  You’ll get an alternative view of the Pacific Ocean from an underwater viewing pod — a true eye-to-eye look at the world under the sea.

4. Spend a relaxing morning strolling around The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, along Salt Creek Beach and Strands Beach. Or, go for a scenic bluff hike on your own or with one of the resort’s trained fitness center instructors. It’s a great way to start your day.

5. Spending the day in Laguna Beach, a beautiful coastal village and artists’ colony. Located just a few minutes north of The St. Regis Monarch Beach, Laguna is home to exquisite galleries and unique boutique shopping. During the summer, don’t miss the famed “Pageant of the Masters,” an epic portrayal of paintings re-created by live actors.

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