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Plan your vacation to Costa Mesa

Posted on January 14, 2020 | 1:12pm

From hitting the gym to eating better or taking time to enjoy the outdoors, a new year often means taking better care of yourself. Did you know that taking time off from work benefits your well being too? It also helps your professional performance. So why don’t more of us use our time off to do something we love⁠—travel? According to the US Travel Association, “⁠planners are more likely than non-planners to travel during their vacation days.” We’re celebrating National Plan for a Vacation Day, on January 28, to encourage you to plan for all of your vacation days at the beginning of the year!

Traveling doesn’t have to mean an expensive, long-distance trip either. We think that with a bit of planning, you can have a fantastic staycation or, even better, an Eatcation™ in Costa Mesa. Here are our highlights coming up through spring in the City of the Arts®.

Tet Festival. Photo courtesy of UVSA.

January

Celebrate the Year of the Rat at South Coast Plaza with special events and performances, along with in-store promotions and contests from January 23 – February 9. The Tet Festival is the largest Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival in the country. There will be traditional Vietnamese food, entertainment and customs from January 24 – 26 at the OC Fair & Event Center. Finally, Pacific Symphony’s Lunar New Year at Segerstrom Center for the Arts includes dynamic performances of Easter and Western music and dance from January 25 – February 9.

February

Spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Costa Mesa. Relax at one of our spas, go to a wine tasting and have some fabulous food with our romantic dining recommendations.

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

March

Cirque du Soleil Volta comes to OC Fair & Event Center March 18 – April 19. Follow the story of Waz, a game show contestant, as he searches for acceptance. The incredible show features aerial artists gracefully flying in sweeping arcs, acrobats performing on a unicycle, artists shape diving and BMX bikers. 

Photo courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center

April

A great event for the whole family, Imaginology brings together science, technology, engineering, arts and math with hands-on activities designed to be fun and educational. The event takes place April 17 – 19 and is free.

Year Round

Take advantage of the amazing culinary scene in Costa Mesa with an Eatcation™. Try our DIY Top Chef tour, go on our Beer Trail or check out all of our food accolades to try the best of the best. 

No matter what time of year you plan to visit, there’s always plenty to do in Costa Mesa. You can start with your travel style to help you plan your itinerary. See what events are going on during your stay by looking at our calendar. Then, book your stay by finding the best hotel deals

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Fun and food for an active getaway in Costa Mesa

Posted on December 24, 2019 | 12:10pm

It’s the start of a new year, and a new decade. Whether you’re ready to tackle those resolutions, or just want to get healthy after the holidays, here is your curated list for an active getaway to Costa Mesa that’s still full of fun and food! Our holiday hotel deals are available until January 15.

Fun 

Fairview Park

There’s no shortage of hiking trails in Orange County, but we’re partial to Fairview Park. Costa Mesa’s largest park includes 7 miles of scenic trails for hiking, running, biking and even horseback riding. The 208-acre park also features a forested sanctuary, open fields and hills. You’ll find plenty to do, including the Goat Hill Junction Railroad, offering free model train rides on the third weekend of each month.

Photo courtesy of Rockreation

Rockreation

Orange County’s best indoor climbing facility, Rockreation, features 12,000 square feet of climbing terrain. It includes varying angles, top-rope climbing and bouldering. It’s a great environment for first timers to seasoned climbers. The only thing you need is workout clothes and Rockreation will provide the rest. You’ll also find exercise machines, cardio equipment and weights. 

Surf lessons

What could be more synonymous with California than surfing? Take a short drive from your hotel to the beach for surfing lessons. Surf schools offer group and private instruction, with wet suits and boards provided. Lessons are, typically, about 2 hours. You’ll be catching a wave in no time.

Photo courtesy of Pedego Electric Bike Tours

Pedego Electric Bike Tours

Head over to nearby Corona Del Mar where Pedego Electric Bike Tours offers a guided bike tour through Corona Del Mar, Balboa Island & Balboa Peninsula. You’ll see highlights of the area, including the quaint shops of Balboa Island to the stunning view of the ocean. You can also rent bikes in 2-hour, 3-hour or all day options, if you’d prefer taking your own path or want to follow our Costa Mesa Bike Route.

Costa Mesa Art Walk

Take in the City of the Arts by following our Costa Mesa Art Walk. The art walk showcases the free public art located around Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory and South Coast Plaza. Continue your art tour by walking to Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), across the street from South Coast Plaza. Stay within walking distance at Avenue of the Arts, The Westin South Coast Plaza or Costa Mesa Marriott.

Tavern + Bowl

End your trip with a fun night of bowling at Tavern + Bowl at Triangle Square. You can reserve one of their state-of-the-art bowling lanes for up to 6 people, starting at $35 per hour. Online reservations are available as early as 1 week in advance. Just make sure to book at least the day before, as same day reservations are not accepted. 

Food

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

From organically grown produce to flame-grilled proteins, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop at SOCO & The OC Mix is the perfect stop for a healthy lunch. We recommend getting one of their delicious salads, like Zorra the Greek or antioxidant orchard. This fast-casual restaurant also has build-your-own salad and entree options.

The Den Café

Located in The LAB Anti-Mall, The Den Café offers healthy options for every meal (including brunch). Try the sunrise yogurt bowl for breakfast or the quinoa veggie burger for lunch. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well.

Birdie Bowl & Juicery 

Also in SOCO & The OC Mix is Birdie Bowl & Juicery. Split an acai bowl (they’re big enough to share), or try one of their cold-pressed juices. It’s a great spot to stop for a break during an active day.

Costa Mesa is full of things to do during a healthy getaway. Learn about all the activities available in and around the city for more options. For more dining choices, we have a list of health conscious dining and a full list of Costa Mesa restaurants. If you want a relaxing break, make an appointment at one of our spas. Don’t forget to also check out our holiday hotel deals before they end on January 15!

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Posted in Food, Misc, Play

10 Not-To-Miss Holiday Events in Costa Mesa

Posted on December 2, 2019 | 9:52am

We love the holidays in Costa Mesa! It’s the perfect time to spend with loved ones and make memories together. Get into the holiday spirit with these festive holiday events. Make it a weekend getaway with our holiday hotel packages!

Holidays at South Coast Plaza

Visit Santa at Santa’s Village & The North Pole November 22 through December 24 in the Macy’s Home Store Wing of South Coast Plaza. There are crafts and activities for children. Photo packages available starting at $15, or bring your own camera for $10. You can also ride the Reindeer Carousel in Carousel Court or Santa’s Express Train in the Macy’s Home Store Wing for $1.

Holidays by Design

Stop by SOCO & The OC Mix on Saturdays from November 30 to December 21 for Holidays by Design. Listen to live music while you shop and dine at The OC Mix. There’s also storytime with Mrs. Claus, followed by art and crafts. Each week features a different storybook and craft project to take home. The event is free, but tickets are required for storytime.

The Polar Express

The Polar Express comes to Costa Mesa on December 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Kids can ride the train, write letters to Santa and get their pictures taken with him too. There are also other fun activities like face painting, cooking decorating and ornament making. This event is free.

A Christmas Carol

The 40th annual South Coast Repertory production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a holiday tradition. Step back in time to Victorian-era London as Tiny Tim, the Cratchit family and  the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come teach Ebenezer Scrooge the meaning of Christmas. See Hal Landon Jr. take his final bow as Scrooge November 30 to December 24. Tickets are limited.

Snoopy House

The Snoopy House display, now in its 50th year, attracts an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. See the Peanuts gang as they celebrate the holidays, enjoy live music and train rides for kids. Children and families can also get their photos with Santa, who visits nightly at 6. Snoopy House is available for viewing from 5:30-9:00 p.m. December 13-22 at Costa Mesa City Hall. This event is free.

The Nutcracker

Costa Mesa has three productions of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” this holiday season! “The Nutcracker” for Kids, with two performaces on December 7, is a shortened version featuring a grand finale sing-along and a visit from Santa. There are also free activities at each performance including an instrument petting zoo and opportunities to meet Pacfic Symphony musicians. 

With an impressive cast of over 100 performers, the American Ballet Theatre production will have sugar plum fairies dancing through your head. The featured performers alternate, so be sure to check the schedule before booking your tickets. The ABT “The Nutcracker” runs from December 13-22.

The Duke Ellington Orchestra will dazzle audiences with Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker” on December 15. Arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, this performance combines the Tchaikovsky score with the jazz. The Duke Ellington Orchestra is the only ensemble carrying on the tradition directling from Duke Ellington.

Holidays Around the World

The Julianne and George Argyros Plaza becomes a winter wonderland for “Holidays Around the World” from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 14-15. Live performances celebrate global holiday traditions like Chinese lion dance, Indian Bollywood dance, German holiday folk dances and Mexican ballet folklorico and more. The festivities also include rides on the Holiday Express train, seasonal crafts and snowfall. This event is free.

WinterFest OC

Did you know you can ice skate and watch snowfall in the heart of Orange County? Returning for its fifth year, Winter Fest OC brings a magical winter experience to the OC Fair & Events Center from December 19 through January 5. The immersive event includes a Victorian village, ice skating trail, carnival rides, entertainment and visits by Santa. This year, there’s also Winter Fest After Dark with drink specials, live music and more. 
There are so many holiday events in Costa Mesa that we can’t fit them all into one blog. To find all the events, check out our calendar. You can also download our Visitor Guide for more things to do and see in Costa Mesa and Orange County. Stay for more festive fun with our holiday hotel deals.

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Posted in Misc

Fun (and Free!) Things To Do In Orange County This Fall

Posted on September 3, 2019 | 6:23am

Orange County might be known for its “forever summer,” but there is still plenty to do during the autumn months—and tons of free events and activities. From Oktoberfest to free museum admissions to hiking, here are our picks for what to do in Orange County during fall.
Enjoy your day at the beach, and then return to your luxury vacation rental home forthe perfect holiday, vallartarentals.com/ want you to enjoy the distinguished warmth and hospitality,

Best of all? Costa Mesa is your perfect central location to stay for the weekend, but quickly get to all the top spots of The OC. There are plenty of great hotel deals in Costa Mesa that can act as the perfect springboard for your fun fall Orange County activities.

Take the Kids to the Orange County Children’s Book Festival

Grab the kids and go to this family-friendly event, which has free admission. On September 30, head to Orange Coast College, where more than 125 authors (this year, Kobe Bryant is a special guest) and 25 illustrators will be in attendance. See how popular characters are illustrated, attend readings and discussion panels, and visit the petting zoo and wild animal stage. It’s a great (and free) way to get your children interested in literature.

Celebrate Oktoberfest in Huntington Beach

You don’t have to go to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest! Every Wednesday through Sunday throughout September and October, head to Huntington Beach’s huge Oktoberfest celebration. From oom-pah bands to bratwurst to pretzels to, of course, tons of beer, this fun festival has it all, including a parade and a special Kinderfest celebration for families. Best of all? Admission is free on Wednesdays and Thursdays, making this celebration budget-friendly.

Attend a Free Event at Argyros Plaza

The free events at Argyros Plaza have become a huge draw to Costa Mesa, and they continue into the fall. September 21 is National Dance Day, which will feature live performances and interactive lessons. Also on the calendar are a Silent Disco on October 11, a special fall celebration with storytelling, tunes, dance and more on October 19, and the All Abilities Celebration with art-making and performances on October 26. There’s something for everyone at the Argyros Plaza.

Visit Newport Bay and Muth Interpretive Center

A walk around Newport Bay is always a good idea, especially when temperatures cool off. Wander down the various paths or cycle around the area, and don’t forget to stop at the Muth Interpretive Center, where you’ll learn all about the species that can be found at the bay. Parking is also free and ample around the area.

Attend the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational

From October 5 to 13, attend this classic Laguna Beach event. Watch painting demonstrations and learn all about art from these master plein air painters. You can also enjoy refreshments and meet the artists at certain events and attend special Q&As, all for free.

Take the Family to the Environmental Nature Center

The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach is always a fun place to spend a few hours visiting the butterfly house and learning about Orange County’s habitats. But in the fall, they host the Fall Faire and Pumpkin Patch on October 13, which features plenty of games, a petting zoo, live animals, DJs, face painting and a plethora of pumpkins. This yearly event is a huge draw, so get there early.

Attend an Art Walk in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana or Laguna Beach

On the third Saturday of the month, Costa Mesa offers an art walk at Lions Park, including offerings from great local artists, live music, DJ, food trucks and end the afternoon with an awesome Dance battle! Every first Thursday of the month, head to Laguna Beach for their local art walk, when the town’s galleries stay open later so guests can check out art artwork and nibble on refreshments. This is also a great day to check out the Laguna Art Museum, which offers free admission on first Thursdays and boasts an absolutely amazing collection of California art. Meanwhile, Santa Ana hosts their own Art Walk on the first Saturday of the month, and just opened a free trolley earlier this year that can take visitors to the city’s myriad galleries. Both days are also a good opportunity to explore the respective cities and all they have to offer.

Take a Hike!Cooler temperatures means hiking just got a whole lot easier. Head out to local trails in Orange County like Talbert Regional Park Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Quail Hill in Irvine, challenging Whiting Ranch in Trabuco Canyon, Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach, Black Star Canyon in Santa Ana, or Salt Creek Trail in Laguna Niguel. Learn more about OC Parks here!

There are plenty of trails for all fitness levels around Orange County and street parking is typically available for free. You can also bring your bike to cycle around the trails; here’s a map of Costa Mesa bike trails. Experienced hikers will love Whiting Ranch and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, while those looking for a more low-key hike will love exploring Bommer Canyon and Quail Hill.

Visit Discovery Cube OC

Are you a Bank of America cardholder? Then head to Discovery Cube OC on the first Sunday of the first full weekend of the month for free admission to this fun, kid-friendly museum. There are always cool exhibits at this interactive museum, covering everything from superheroes to healthy cooking to dinosaurs and rockets. This is another fun way to get kids interested in STEM subjects.

Check Out Sherman Library & Gardens

Admission is free at this cool library and garden on the first Monday of every month. Check out their amazing collection of cacti and succulents, herbs, flowers like orchids, roses, and heliconias, and more. Meanwhile, the library documents the development of Southern California with books, photographs, maps and newspapers. You can spend an afternoon whiling away the hours at this informative (and beautiful) spot in Newport Beach, learning all about Orange County.

Visit California Scenario (and Take Some Pictures)

You’ve seen it all over Instagram: California Scenario, created by Isamu Noguchi (locals call it “Noguchi Garden.”) Spend an hour or two checking out this tranquil sculpture garden located in the heart of Costa Mesa’s Arts District, which documents the various elements that make up our state. Situated on 1.6 acres, the garden in its design symbolizes various geographical characteristics in California, incorporating indigenous plants and materials. Not only is it a great photo opportunity, but a nice place to spend some quiet time and maybe even enjoy lunch.

Stroll the OC Great Park

Free parking means visiting the OC Great Park is a great deal. This gigantic park has plenty of space to cycle, skateboard, or just stroll around. There’s also plenty of free art to check out, including a gigantic walkable timeline that outlines the history of the park and Orange County in general. Also check out the rotating contemporary art exhibits at the Palm Springs Courtyard and the cool, old-school planes at Hangar 244.

Celebrate Halloween

There’s plenty of fun, free Halloween-themed events in Orange County! Check this list for some ideas, but we’ve got some too. Go trick-or-treating at Anaheim Plaza, where stores and restaurants will be dishing out candy. There will also be face painting, a kid-friendly DJ, and a balloon artist. Or head to the Halloween Spooktacular & Trunk or Treat in Dana Point, which will have free refreshments, crafts, entertainment, carnival games, movie showcases, and plenty more.

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12 Budget-Friendly Eats in Costa Mesa

Posted on August 24, 2019 | 4:03am

With Orange County’s only Michelin-starred restaurants, 3 Bravo TV “Top Chefs” and a bevy of amazing eateries, Costa Mesa has built a reputation for being an Eatcation™ destination for foodies. If you’re looking for bites that won’t break the bank—but still taste amazing—there are plenty of frugal options around town. Here are 12 can’t-miss, budget-friendly eats in Costa Mesa that will have you coming back again and again.

Taco Mesa Chilaquiles con Pollo

Taco Mesa

When you walk into Taco Mesa, the first thing you might notice is that the walls are plastered with amazing reviews. There’s a reason why: the menu is chock-full of delicious, budget-friendly eats, especially on Taco Tuesdays, when tacos are only $1.75 a piece. Try the al pastor or carnitas and add rice and beans for only $2 more. Or, stray from the tacos and try out their filling enchilada duos, burritos, or quesadillas.

Their breakfast is also a steal. Standouts include the huevos rancheros and the machaca ropa vieja (scrambled eggs with shredded beef), both for $8.50, but you really can’t go wrong at Taco Mesa.

Kashiwa Ramen

Costa Mesa’s newest ramen place, Kashiwa Ramen, is also a great deal. Starting at $10, you can get a filling bowl of ramen with your choice of protein (the spicy pork belly is our recommendation). Skip the toppings—the original base is filling (and delicious) enough as is. The side dishes, like takoyaki, karaage bowls, and edamame, are also reasonably priced.

Haus of Pizza

This pizzeria holds a special place in many locals hearts for a reason. Every day, Haus of Pizza has a special dish at a discounted price. Personal favorites include the traditional spaghetti and their special panzerotti (fried dough stuffed with ground meat and smothered in marinara sauce), which is only offered Wednesdays and Thursdays.

But if you opt not to enjoy the daily special, the rest of the menu is also reasonably-priced. Personal pizzas start at $7.30 while many other entrees are less than $10. Most entrees also come with your choice of soup, salad, or their delicious garlic bread.

Vietnam’s Pearl

Another long-time Costa Mesa eatery, Vietnam’s Pearl offers delicious (and large) bowls of pho for less than $9. If pho isn’t your thing, their rice combination dishes are also cheap and satisfying and can be customized to your taste buds (the pork chops and 5-spiced chicken are both standouts). Bahn mi sandwiches, also under $10, are another cheap option and make the perfect frugal lunch.

Sushi Imari

Nothing beats a great lunch special, and Sushi Imari offers an awesome deal. For $11, you can get a two-item combo, while $12.50 nabs you a three-item combo. Choose from various teriyakis, bulgogi or karaage chicken, as well as different rolls (cucumber, California, and spicy tuna are all options), and round it out with gyoza, tempura, egg rolls and more.

Although it’s priced slightly higher at night, this same option is still a great deal if you can’t make it to Sushi Imari until dinner time. Other budget-friendly highlights on the menu include their udon and teriyaki bowls.

Honda-Ya Box

If you’re heading to this local izakaya, check out the specials, where you’ll often find healthy salads and delicious poke bowls for under $10. The rest of the menu at Honda-ya Box is no slouch either—find cheap ramen and udon mixed in with a variety of musubis and curry rice. There are also lunch specials during the week that make this spot an even better deal. All in all, It’s the perfect spot for a group that wants to try a little bit of everything.

Rooster Café

Breakfast and brunch can be a minefield for your wallet, but Rooster Café has everything you could want at a budget-friendly breakfast joint. The breakfast burritos are a highlight, as are one of the many scrambles with Portuguese sausage and red potatoes.

The lunch menu is also budget friendly. From burgers to build-your-own sandwiches to carne asada fries, there’s something for all tastes. Best of all, with their open-late schedule, you’ll never find yourself scrambling for a place to eat after making your stops along Costa Mesa’s Beer Trail.

MaDee Thai Kitchen

Craving Thai food? Head to MaDee Thai Kitchen if you don’t want to break the bank. Their fried rice and stir-fried noodle dishes are all around $10 to $11, while vegetarians can get a variety of delicious tofu dishes for around the same price. Or, opt for one of their noodle soups—the tom yum soups are highlights on this all-around budget-friendly menu.

Hong Kong Express

Nobody does portions like Hong Kong Express. If you’re craving Chinese takeout, head to this local favorite. Takeout boxes are crammed to their near-breaking point with delicious orange chicken, teriyaki chicken, and egg rolls. Their wings are a standout—in fact, they’re usually sold out by the end of the day. Try calling ahead of time to secure this cheap menu favorite.

Tenkatori Karaage

Tenkatori Karaage is comfort food at its best. Order from their “box menu” section for karaage chicken paired with miso soup, rice, and your choice between croquettes and tempura, California or veggie rolls, and green salad or steamed veggies—all for under $12. Other frugal options on the menu include rice bowls, salads, and curries. Even their rolls are all under $8.

Bangkok Corner

Bangkok Corner is another standout, budget-friendly Thai restaurant. Find curries (including their popular yellow curry) for around $10. Other cheap entrees include spicy eggplant, Thai barbecue chicken, and their delicious tom yum noodle soup.

From Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can also grab a lunch special for only $7.95. On the lunch special menu are a variety of different curry dishes and stir-frys. Dishes are also served with steamed rice and salad, plus your choice of protein.

Mongolian Bar-B-Que Pan Asia

Another cheap, all-you-can-eat option! Mongolian Bar-B-Que Pan Asia offers an all-you-can-eat dinner option for only $17 and a wide variety of lunch specials for under $10. Pile your bowls up with your favorite veggies and choice of protein (try the lamb for a unique flavor profile). All-you-can-eat options also come with rice and delicious pocket biscuits to fill with your meat of choice.

It’s clear that this city is a fabulous foodie destination with over 150 Costa Mesa restaurants, for all tastes and all budgets. Too many to try in just one day? Make it an Eatcation™ and stay overnight with some of our amazing Costa Mesa hotel offers!

What’s your favorite Costa Mesa restaurant? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted in Misc