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Fun and Free Things to Do in Costa Mesa During the Holidays

Posted on November 23, 2021 | 7:00pm

Holiday events are happening in Costa Mesa. It’s the perfect time for a quick getaway, with hotel deals as low as $99! From the return of A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory to Night of Lights OC at OC Fair & Event Center, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And of course, don’t miss holiday shopping at the West Coast’s largest shopping destination, South Coast Plaza. Looking for some fun and free things to do during the holidays too? Check out these great free holiday events!

Snoopy House at Costa Mesa City Hall

A Costa Mesa tradition for 50 years, the elaborate Snoopy House holiday display has been a Costa Mesa and Orange County holiday staple for more than 50 years, attracting an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. Snoopy House, which features holiday scenes populated by “Peanuts” characters, is available for viewing from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly from December 17 through December 22 in front of Costa Mesa City Hall. Santa will make special visits nightly beginning at 6. Children and their families will have opportunities to receive free photos with Santa.

Costa Mesa Art Walk Audio Tour

The Costa Mesa Art Walk Audio Tour showcases the sculptures around South Coast Plaza, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and South Coast Repertory. You can listen to the audio tour directly on your phone. During the holidays, you can also see the 90-foot South Coast Plaza holiday tree that has over 94,000 lights! The tree is located in Town Center Park.

Centennial Farm in Orange County Fairgrounds and Event Center on December 1, 2017. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

Discovery Day at Centennial Farm

Take the kids to a real working farm at OC Fair & Event Center for Discovery Day at Centennial Farm. Discovery Day has group activities such as radish seed planting for children to plant seeds to take to school, chick education to learn about the chick development process, oxen demonstration, cow milking demonstration and seasonal crops. Livestock includes pigs, goats, cows, poultry, sheep and rabbits. Visit Discovery Day December 1, 9 or 17. Both Discovery Day and parking are free!

The Original OC Swap Meet

Everyone’s favorite swap meet returns to the OC Fair & Event Center! The Original OC Swap Meet has over 150 local small businesses. Find out why this is one of Travel Costa Mesa’s most asked-about events November 27, December 11 and December 18. The event is free, but parking is $10.

STRUT Winter Palace Ball

Ring in the new year at one of Costa Mesa’s hottest new clubs, STRUT. With DJ Josh Peace and hosts like Luke Nero and Wilhelmina Caviar, you’re guaranteed a great time. Dress to impress in Ice King & Queen Looks for a contest that evening. There’s no cover entrance fee for this event on December 31, which is rare for a NYE party, and when you RSVP you will receive guaranteed admission to the Winter Palace Ball before 8 p.m. 

Photo courtesy of SOCO & The OC Mix

Makeshift Muse Holiday Market 

Makeshift Muse Holiday Market at SOCO & The OC Mix is a curated pop-up market with 80 local makers. The event features live, local music and a food court. This event is $10, but the cost will be waived for anyone that brings a toy or non-perishable food donation for the food and toy drive. The event is also benefiting Project Hope Alliance.

Holiday Story Time with Mrs. Claus

Small children will love Holiday Story Time with Mrs. Claus at SOCO & The OC Mix. Mrs. Claus will read stories and lead a holiday sing-a-long every Saturday from November 27 to December 18. Kids get to make and take home their own musical instrument, plus enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, seasonal treats and take photos with Mrs. Claus.  The event is free, but tickets are required. 

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Posted in Events, Misc, Play, Shopping

Holiday Events This November and December in Orange County

Posted on October 29, 2021 | 4:00pm

What if the holidays were exciting again? With theme parks, live theatre and more, the holidays are back in Orange County! Want to stay in the center of it all? Costa Mesa’s location makes an ideal home base for all the exciting holiday events happening in Orange County this year. Check out our holiday hotel deals for great packages and prices!

South Coast Plaza Tree Lighting

November 18

The annual South Coast Plaza Tree Lighting begins with a performance by the Orange County School for the Performing Arts with special guest Matthew Morrison. The celebration includes snow and an appearance by Santa! Then, watch as the 90-foot tree sparkles with nearly 100,000 lights. The event is free.

Winter Fest Presents Night of Lights OC at OC Fair & Event Center

November 26 – January 2

Winter Fest returns as Night of Lights OC, a drive-thru winter wonderland experience. The interactive drive-thru features over one million lights, tree lighting, holiday characters and an appearance by Santa. It’s a fun event for the whole family (pets are not permitted). You can even pre-order holiday treats to enjoy in your car through the drive. Night of Lights OC does include fog, haze and strobe light effects.

Photo by Doug Gifford

The Nutcracker at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

December 10 – 19

American Ballet Theatre’s exciting production of The Nutcracker returns to Orange County! Follow Clara and the Nutcracker Prince along a journey with toy soldiers, mischievous mice, snowflakes and a dazzling Christmas tree. Pacific Symphony performs Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score. A holiday treat for the whole family!

Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

November 12 – January 9

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort return this year! See both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure decorated for the holiday season. Both parks have a variety of holiday events and decorations. Enjoy the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park, a celebration of multicultural music, food and traditions. Try tasty bites and spirits from diverse cultures and celebrations too. Rides getting a holiday makeover such as Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. Watch the tree lighting on Buena Vista Street and visit Santa at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. At Disneyland Park, see the Wintertime Enchantment of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the “it’s a small world” Holiday Lighting and the Haunted Mansion Holiday. “Believe…In Holiday Magic” fireworks display lights up the sky on select nights!

Photo courtesy of Sawdust Art Festival

Winter Fantasy at Sawdust Art Festival

November 20 – December 19

Visit the famous Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach for Winter Fantasy. The holiday art festival features a wonderland of lights, decorations and falling snow! Shop handcrafted items from 150 makers and artists, take festival holiday classes with hands-on demonstrations and visit with Santa. There are also three stages of live entertainment from carolers, puppeteers, community performances and music. Winter Fantasy is open on Saturdays and Sundays, plus Black Friday, from 10 am to 7pm. 

Photo courtesy of Mission San Juan Capistrano

Capistrano Lights at Mission San Juan Capistrano

December 4 – December 30

Visit Mission San Juan Capistrano on select days in December for Capistrano Lights, an evening of holiday festivities. The evening includes a tree lighting of the Mission’s 30-foot tree, Dickensian carolers, surprise performers and photo opportunities under the 10-foot wreath and with Santa. The Serra Chapel will also be open after hours, along with the Mission Store and vendors with sweet treats and kids crafts. Tickets include daytime admission to Mission San Juan Capistrano, with multi-language audio tour, and holiday programming from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Please visit individual venue websites for COVID-19 safety requirements.

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Shop, dine and play in Costa Mesa

Posted on August 31, 2021 | 10:00am

It’s back-to-school time, which means new clothes, gadgets and more. Whether you’re shopping for kids or just want a wardrobe refresh, Costa Mesa has unique boutiques and the largest shopping destination on the West Coast. While you’re here, check out the world-class dining and entertainment options available too. Want to make it a mini-getaway? Check out our summer hotel deals!

Photo courtesy of @aiden_oc_baby

The LAB

The LAB Anti-Mall is a great place for shopping small and, even, environmentally conscious. Buffalo Exchange is a second-hand shop offering basics, designer, trendy and one-of-a-kind fashion. On the opposite side of The LAB, you’ll find an Urban Outfitters too. Looking for sustainable school supplies? Eco Now, a zero-waste shop and refill station offers plastic free lunch containers, bags, utensils and more. There’s also a cosmetic and skincare section. 

There are plenty of restaurants, if you need a bite to eat. The Den Café serves a variety of breakfast and lunch dishes. Seabirds Kitchen is a popular vegan restaurant. Try their avo taco, a vegan version of the fish taco. The LAB also has a Baba’s Hot Chicken. Habana is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. 

Photo courtesy of @johnnybayday

The CAMP

Eco-friendly retail campus The CAMP has several shops that favor environmentally conscious clothing. SEED Peoples Market offers curated fashion from local vendors and responsible brands, such as Patagonia. 2nd Street USA is a second-hand shop where you can find clothes and accessories. Purre Boutique has women’s clothing, home goods and accessories.

Take a break from shopping at one of The CAMP’s Eatcation®-worthy restaurants. Old Vine Kitchen & Bar has something delicious any time you visit. Stop in on the weekend for an incredible brunch (make sure to get a cinnamon roll). Chopped champion Rachel Klemek’s Blackmarket Bakery offers breakfast, lunch, pastries, desserts and a full coffee menu. Vegan diners will love Native Foods. For a quick bite, try East Borough’s take on classic Vietnamese dishes. Vitaly is always a great option for traditional Italian food, including gelato. If you’re visiting after 4, make a reservation at Folks. Their naturally leavened pizza and natural wines are a definite treat. We also recommend trying their amazing meatballs.

South Coast Plaza

The premier destination for shopping on the West Coast has everything you need for back-to-school shopping. Whether you’re picking up new tech from the Apple Store, shopping for clothes at one of the boutiques or department stores, you can find it at South Coast Plaza. For a full list of stores for kids clothes, shoes and accessories, click here

There are more than 30 restaurants to choose from at South Coast Plaza. Try the latest concept, Collage Culinary Experience, a food hall with Paradise Dynasty, Le Shrimp Ramen and Mah Jongs by Chef Mike currently open. The grand opening takes place this fall. You can find a list of all South Coast Plaza restaurants here.

SOCO & The OC Mix

If you’re also shopping for babies or toddlers, check out Whimsical Charm at SOCO & The OC Mix. You’ll find adorable clothes, robes, blankets and shoes. While you’re there, stop for coffee at Portola Coffee Roasters or a meal at one of their restaurants. The Cheese Shop serves sandwiches, get pizza at ARC or have dinner at Michelin star Taco Maria.

Things to Do

Check out our previous blog for Broadway shows and concerts coming to Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Visit our calendar for all the entertainment options coming to Costa Mesa during your visit. 

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Posted in Misc, Play, Shopping

Broadway Shows and Concerts Coming to Costa Mesa

Posted on August 19, 2021 | 7:00am

Indoor performances return to Orange County this fall with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts 2021-2022 season! Broadway shows and popular series – Cabaret, Jazz, and Chamber Music – are back with headliners and exciting productions. Whether you’re visiting Costa Mesa for a quick getaway or an extended stay, you’ll find a performance in the City of the Arts®. While you’re planning your visit, check out our hotel deals page.

All major Orange County arts organizations, including Segerstrom Center for the Arts, require ticket holders to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask while inside the venues.

Arts Orange County

Fall Concerts

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti – September 23

Broadway fans will be excited that Laura Benanti, Tony Award® winner for her role in Gypsy, makes her Cabaret series debut. Her other Broadway credits include My Fair Lady and Into the Woods. Benanti has also been featured in television shows such as Younger and the reboot of Gossip Girl

Cecile McLorin Salvant

Cecile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner – September 26

Dazzling jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant returns to Segerstrom Center of the Arts with celebrated jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner in Jazz series delight. The duo won a Grammy award for their collaboration, The Window, in 2020.

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth – October 2

The one-and-only Kirstin Chenoweth returns to the Center to showcase her new album, For the Girls, a tribute to some of her favorite female singers. Songs include hits from Dolly Parton, Dinah Washington, Barbra Streisand, Leslie Gore, Linda Ronstadt and more. 

BalletX dancer

BalletX – October 16

Renowned company BalletX makes their Segerstrom Center for the Arts debut this fall. The innovative and diverse company celebrates their 15th anniversary this year. They’ve been named “among America’s best” by The New York Times.

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty – October 21

Actress and singer Megan Hilty returns to the Cabaret series this October. Hilty starred as Ivy Lynn on NBC’s Smash, as well as in Wicked, 9 to 5 and Noises Off on Broadway. Her powerhouse vocals are sure to make for an entertaining evening.

Dianne Reeves, Chucho Valdés and  Joe Lovano.

Duets – October 22

Jazz lovers won’t want to miss a memorable evening of piano duets with three Grammy award-winning jazz greats. Dianne Reeves brings her immense repertoire and vocals, joining influential Afro-Cuban jazz pianist-composer-arranger Chucho Valdés and legendary saxophonist Joe Lovano.

Jesus Christ Superstar Broadway show singing

Jesus Christ Superstar – November 9

Jesus Christ Superstar marks the return of Broadway to Orange County. Called an “an adrenaline-pumping production” by The New York Times, this production reinvents the iconic  Billboard award-winning score. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice.

Postmodern Jukebox ensemble in period costumes with musical instruments

Postmodern Jukebox – November 18

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox puts a classical twist on modern hits. The ensemble of singers and musicians brings their thrilling live show to Costa Mesa as part of The Grand Reopening Tour. (Fans of the Bridgerton score will definitely want to check this concert out!)

Parsons Dance Company dancers

Parsons Dance Company – November 20

Internationally acclaimed Parsons Dance Company makes their Segerstrom Center for the Arts debut this November. Their athletic style, exuberant performances and innovative choreography make Parsons Dance one of the leading modern/contemporary dance companies.

Upcoming Broadway Shows

My Fair Lady Broadway show cast

My Fair Lady

The Broadway series kicks off in January with My Fair Lady January 11-23. The new production from director Bartlett Sher features classic songs such as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “The Rain in Spain” from Lerner and Loewe. Join Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins in this retelling of Pygmalion.

Wicked Broadway show cast

Wicked

Broadway blockbuster Wicked returns to February 9 – March 6. Travel to the land of Oz for the story of what happens before Dorothy drops in. Wicked has won more than 100 international awards. Music by Stephen Schwartz includes “Popular,” “For Good” and “Defying Gravity.”

Segerstrom Center for the Arts series tickets, including Broadway shows, Cabaret, Jazz and more, can be found here. For a full listing of events in Costa Mesa, visit our calendar.

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Posted in Events, Music & Art, Play

Fun and Free Things to Do at (and around) the OC Fair

Posted on July 30, 2021 | 11:00am

Planning to go to the OC Fair this year? It may be a bit different with limited capacity and advance tickets required, but your favorite rides, games, food and entertainment are there to enjoy. You will also find a number of fun and free things to do at the fair and nearby! With so much to do, why not make it a weekend getaway with one of our “SoCal So Cool” summer hotel deals?

Centennial Farm

Stop by Centennial Farm, a three-acre working farm with livestock, as well as fruit and vegetable gardens. During the fair, there are a number of free things to check out including dairy goats, milking demonstration, OC beekeepers and, of course, the new piglets. (Take a peek at the piglets on the pig cam.) 

California Fresh Exhibit 

The California Fresh Exhibit, located in the OC Promenade, celebrates the diversity of California’s agriculture. You can learn about different crops, grab some recipe cards, play the AR game County Bounty Treasure Hunt or watch a cooking demonstration. Visiting with kids? The exhibit has coloring sheets to dress the California bear for a trip to the OC Fair! 

heroes hall costa mesa

Heroes Hall

Heroes Hall is a museum and education center that honors the legacy of Orange County veterans and others who have served the country. The current exhibit is Private Charles J. Miller WWII Paintings from the South Pacific. You can decorate postcards to veterans and active duty troops which will be distributed by Operation Community Cares.

Entertainment

The OC Fair has a number of free events each day. Live entertainment varies, so be sure to check out the calender of events and OC Fair map. Whether you like magic shows, want to see the pig races or music (even dueling pianos), you’ll find something fun to see. Visual arts displays include everything from dragons to woodworking. 

woman meditating in TeWinkle Park

Costa Mesa Parks

Spending a couple of days in Costa Mesa? Make a trip to one of Costa Mesa’s parks. Popular parks include Fairview Park and TeWinkle Park. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy Costa Mesa Skate Park or Talbert Regional Park, which has a BMX area. If you’re traveling with small children, we also recommend Lions Park, with a newly renovated playground.

Orange County Beaches

Costa Mesa is only a few minutes from popular Orange County beaches, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. Enjoy beautiful Southern California weather while you surf, swim or relax on the beach.

Find more to do with our itineraries for solo, couple, family and pet-friendly travel. 

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