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13 Memorable Things to Do in Orange County

Posted on April 30, 2019 | 10:20am | Travel Costa Mesa

Planning a trip to Orange County? We don’t blame you! With access to some of the best dining, shopping, activities and beaches (not to mention that sunshine), it’s the place to be! And at the center of it all is OC’s not-so-hidden-gem Costa Mesa, the epicenter of the arts, dining and shopping scenes.

If you want to stay close to all the action in Southern California, a weekend stay in Costa Mesa is the perfect home base with plenty to explore. Start planning with our list of 15 of the most memorable things to do in Orange County while you’re here!

If you’re planning to visit over Memorial Day weekend, find the best Costa Mesa hotel deals to stay close to the actions here!

Take in a Broadway Show

Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa serves as Orange County’s epicenter of theater and performing arts. Every season, it welcomes some of the best Broadway tours like “Hamilton,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” In its Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, you can find concerts by everyone from John Legend to Rita Wilson to international orchestras.

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award winning theater thanks to a dedication to the production of new, innovative plays. While smaller in scale than Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory presents the best new works and reinvented classics by acclaimed playwrights, as well as plenty of kid-friendly productions.

The week of Memorial Day,  visitors can catch “M. Butterfly” or the kids’ production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” at South Coast Repertory. At Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Broadway production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg’s “The Pygmalion Effect” are center stage.

Shop Designer Duds

South Coast Plaza may be the largest shopping center on the West Coast, but it’s far more than that. The international shopping destination houses one of the highest concentrations of designer and high-end boutiques in the country. While you can find all the typical favorites like J.Crew, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Free People and H&M, you can take your time browsing through designers like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana.

Take an Eatcation®

Southern California is known for its foodie scene, so why not make your stay a foodie-themed vacation? Costa Mesa is known as the Eatcation® destination of Orange County thanks to an inspiring culinary community that’s won recognition from across the nation. Try out our D.I.Y. “Top Chef” tour to visit the three Costa Mesa restaurants run by former “Top Chef” contenders and winners. Or, start with some recommendations from the experts at Foodbeast. No matter what your craving, you’re sure to find something for every palate.

Explore Orange County’s Art

Did you know Costa Mesa is also known as the City of the Arts®? From the Costa Mesa Art Walk to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts campus to public art installations at The LAB and The CAMP and even the Orange County Museum of Art, art lovers will have plenty to explore.

Find works by Bugs Bunny’s creator over at The Chuck Jones Gallery at SOCO and The OC Mix and drop in for one of their free community drawing classes at the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. For more local galleries, head just down the road to Laguna Beach for their monthly Art Walk event to meet some of the local talent.

Check Out The OC Fair & Event Center

While it’s best known for the annual OC Fair (July 12 – August 11), the OC Fair & Event Center hosts some of the most popular events in Orange County throughout the seasons! The OC Night Market, held in May, June and August, brings some of the region’s most unique food vendors together for three weekends of delectable and Instagrammable bites.

The OC Fair & Event Center is also home to Centennial Farm, a three-acre working farm, home to an array of livestock, and veterans museum Heroes Hall, both open to visitors year round.

oc fair

Get Outside at The CAMP & The LAB

In the heart of Costa Mesa’s SoBeCa District lies Orange County’s “anti-mall,” The LAB. This shopping center, whose name stands for Little American Business, is an outdoor escape for the creative and trendy while its sister site, The CAMP, located just across the street is the perfect fit for the eco-conscious shopper and outdoorsman.

costa mesa holiday shopping

Get Crafty

Looking a unique and hands-on arts experience? Try your hand on the potter’s wheel or with a brush at one of the many art themed events around Costa Mesa. Every month at Gunwhale Ales, Craft & Arts blends an appreciation for craft beer with creativity as guests create and paint their own collages. If you’re looking for a more practical takeaway, head to Costa Mesa Ceramics for Wine and Ceramics Night where you can try everything from making a mug to throwing your own pottery.

Visit The Happiest Place on Earth

A trip to Orange County wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Disneyland® Resort! Whether you’re heading there for a classic storybook experience, Disney California Adventure Park or the new Star Wars® Galaxy’s Edge ride (opening May 31), you’ll want to plan for a full day. Be sure to take advantage of Costa Mesa hotels’ daily Disneyland shuttle to get there without a hassle and skipping those parking fees. Learn more about the Costa Mesa Disneyland shuttle here.

Catch Live Music at The Wayfarer

The Wayfarer is a local favorite for live music with a focus on smaller, undiscovered artists and local musicians. The building itself has a history of helping launch major careers like those of Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids and Yeah Yeah Yeahs who all played in the venue in years gone by.

wayfarer costa mesa

Take a Walk on The Beer Trail

Craft beer lovers, rejoice! Nestled in and around SoBeCa District is the Costa Mesa Beer Trail, where you can sample creations from four Orange County breweries. The choice of order is yours, but you won’t want to miss Barley Forge Brewing Co., Costa Mesa’s first-ever production brewery. Also on the trail are Gunwhale Ales, Bootlegger’s Brewery and Brewing Reserve of California.

Catch a Game at Angel Stadium

For an unforgettable family experience, catch a home game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Check out some of the unique features of the stadium like terraced bullpens in the outfield, family-oriented seating sections, state of the art suites, a youth-oriented interactive game area and a spectacular view of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains.

barley forge beer

Hit the Beach

With more than a few beautiful beaches in Orange County, it’ll be hard to choose just one to explore. Luckily, Costa Mesa hotels are just minutes away from them all! Head just up Pacific Coast Highway to visit the Huntington Beach Pier or just down the road for the Newport Beach coast. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out or tips on locals’ six favorite lesser-known beaches and plan for a bonfire at Huntington Beach or Corona Del Mar!

orange county beaches

Explore Orange County’s Parks & Hiking Trails

Shopping, dining and beaches aren’t all Orange County is known for. It’s also home to some impressive parks and hiking trails. Check out our guide to great Orange County hiking trails here and make sure to explore Fairview Park and Talbert Regional Park, both nature family-friendly preserves in Costa Mesa.

Need some more itinerary ideas, check out our ultimate family-friendly itinerary here, or find your travel style here!

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