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

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.

  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    What should I pack for a trip to Orange County?

    Don’t bring too much on your trip to Orange County, as you’ll want to save room in your luggage for all of your shopping acquisitions. As far as clothing is concerned, always pack a bathing suit, since you’ll likely want to enjoy the pools/spas at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, as well as the beach. For evening strolls and dining under the stars, bring a light sweater, jacket or pashmina, and you’re set.
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    What is the best way to see Orange County in one day?

    A drive that starts and ends at the St. Regis Monarch Beach is a perfect way to experience Orange County in a day.  Start with breakfast at Motif at the St. Regis Monarch Beach (our world-famous brunch if you’re visiting on a Sunday!) and drive north to Laguna Beach, where you will peruse art galleries, chic boutiques, enjoy a bite at a delicious casual eatery – all against a beautiful Pacific Ocean backdrop.  Next, head a bit further north on Pacific Coast Highway to Corona del Mar, an enchanting village offering yet more lovely shops and ocean view strolling opportunities, as well as Sherman Library and Gardens.  Don’t miss Balboa Island — a wonderfully quaint residential island with a charming main street and views of the world-famous Newport Harbor.  Take a shopping jaunt at Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza.  In the evening, attend a Broadway show at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and then head back to the St. Regis Monarch Beach to enjoy a nightcap at the Lobby Lounge — the perfect end to an idyllic day in Orange County!
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    What is the best time to visit Orange County?

    Orange County is blessed with fabulous weather year-round. No matter the season, visitors enjoy the beach (strolls and tide-pooling in the winter and spring, basking in the sun in the summer and fall).  Enjoy shopping, dining and playing outdoors all year long, and especially in the summer, when special events like the Pageant of the Masters come to Laguna Beach. Don’t miss the holiday season in Orange County, when The St. Regis Monarch Beach features festive holiday decorations and traditions, including the annual tree lighting and sandcastle dedication. 
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    What is Orange County’s cultural scene like?

    Orange County has grown into a vibrant cultural center, with many thanks to the Segerstrom family, who has brought the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to our area. Here, you can take in music and stage performances from some of the world’s most famous performing artists, as well as Broadway musicals. Laguna Beach also has many of its own rich artistic traditions, including plays at the Laguna Playhouse, the Pageant of the Masters and Sawdust Festival, and First Thursdays Art Walks that give aficionados a glimpse into world-renowned galleries and artists’ studios.
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

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

    Orange County provides a wealth of free activities that appeal to everyone. From a stroll on the beach and hiking the trails near The St. Regis Monarch Beach to exploring tide pools at Crystal Cove, window shopping in Laguna Beach or Corona del Mar, and taking a drive along Pacific Coast Highway, you can be entertained without spending a dime.
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    Where is the best Orange County shopping?

    Orange County has become a shopping capital in its own right, with an eclectic and exciting mix of stores — from designer boutiques to one-of-a-kind independent stores. Choose from world-famous shopping destinations like South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island, or browse through chic boutiques in Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar. 
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

    What are the five best things to do with your kids in Orange County?

    The five best things to do with kids are:
     
    1. The beach is a great option for families with children. As a guest of The St. Regis Monarch Beach, you will have access to our private beach, including our exclusive tram, beach chair and towel service, as well as access the Monarch Bay Club for seasonal activities, including private surfing lessons and exceptional culinary creations.

    2. Dana Point’s central location allows The St. Regis Monarch Beach guests to enjoy many area attractions, including Legoland, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and SeaWorld. All of these parks are within driving distance and make for a great way to spend the day with children.

    3. During the summer months, you’ll want to stay at The St. Regis Monarch Beach to experience all of the resort’s family-friendly activities, including the Saturday evening butterfly ritual, where children and their parents are invited to pay homage to the migration of the monarch butterfly, with a celebratory butterfly release and champagne toast (for the grownups), followed by s’mores and storytime for the little ones.

    4. The Ocean Institute in Dana Point is a great place for children of all ages and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Join them for an ocean adventure cruise or hands-on marine science exhibits.   

    5. The St. Regis Monarch Beach is an easy drive away from two world-class aquariums: The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Stephen Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.
  • On May 27, 2012
    The St. Regis Monarch Beach answered the question: The St. Regis Monarch Beach

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

    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.
  • On November 15, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best way to see Orange County in two days?

    For the second day, spend the morning in Newport Beach, exploring Balboa Island and the cute touristy alcoves, and then move onto Laguna Beach for afternoon swimming and a chance to check out the art galleries and boutiques. Then end with dinner at Montage Laguna Beach’s Studio restaurant, a Five-Star restaurant. The restaurant serves Cali-influenced modern French fare; it uses ingredient plucked right out of its garden next to it and has gorgeous views of the water.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best Orange County food experiences?

    California prides itself on being committed to using local ingredients, and perhaps as a result dining in the O.C. is about as luxurious as anywhere else, which matches the area’s serene spas, gorgeous hotels with ocean views and high-end retailers, of course. The best food experiences in Orange County are those that speak to the area’s overall elegance and only-in-Southern-California vibes.

    1. Studio at Montage Laguna Beach. Housed in a cozy arts and crafts cottage overlooking the ocean, Five-Star Studio at Montage Laguna Beach is a study in understated elegance. The menu features contemporary California cuisine made with the freshest local ingredients. Settle in for a supper made up of divine dishes such as vinegar-braised short ribs with butter-roasted asparagus. The wine cellar features more than 2,200 bottles with plenty of California selections and wines available by the glass.

    2. Stonehill Tavern. Famed San Francisco chef-turned-restaurateur Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, located in The St. Regis Monarch Beach, is a sleek, intimate spot designed by Tony Chi with comfortable couches, glass-enclosed booths and a large terrace. The menu at this Four-Star spot includes Mina’s signature appetizer trios — three different preparations of one ingredient, such as tuna, lobster or duck, as well as twists on American classics (think fried chicken with mascarpone polenta and a root beer float for dessert). Plus, their impressive wine program focuses on boutique California producers, but also includes a diverse selection from Austria and Burgundy.

    3. Andrea. With an elegant interior of natural colors, lush potted trees and a covered terrace providing unparalleled views of the ocean and golf greens, you may think you are in Tuscany when you’re dining at The Resort at Pelican Hill’s Andrea, and that’s before the fresh northern Italian dishes and unique pastas made in the restaurant’s own temperature controlled pasta rooms even hit your table. The friendly service at this Four-Star restaurant will lead you to believe this is a more casual eatery than it is, but make no mistake, the food served here is carefully executed and well-sourced. The typical prosciutto, for example, is elevated with a Zibbibo wine-marinated melon.

    4. Balboa Island. This tiny, densely populated man-made island, is one of Orange County’s most popular attractions. Its 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, as well as frozen chocolate bananas. These sweet treats, along with salt water taffy, are an Orange County staple, and can be found at old fashioned candy shops like Dad’s Donuts & Bakery Shop and Sugar ´┐ŻN Spice, two local stalwarts in Newport Beach that both claim original ownership of the desserts.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is Orange County’s restaurant scene like?

    It’s all about fresh seafood and the use of hand-picked, local produce when it comes to dining in the O.C. Take Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, for example. The Five-Star restaurant flaunts a personal forager who snags produce from its own garden to use in the kitchen. This comes as no surprise, seeing as locals make healthy food a priority and make trips to the farmer’s markets regularly. As a result, many similarly minded chefs in SoCal are constantly searching orchards, farms and ocean waters in California for the freshest seafood and produce to serve in their restaurants. Southern Californian surfers, in particular, are fond of Acai, a Brazilian berry high in antioxidants, or Acai bowls, which include other fruits and granola. Acai is said to provide energy, strengthen your immune system and help maintain good cholesterol levels.

    In addition to quality ingredients, you’ll find a great deal of Mexican restaurants in Southern California. This is because California, as a whole, has Spanish colonial roots. Its original population consisted of Mexican ranchers and Spanish colonizers, which is why you’ll detect the influence in countless restaurants.
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