Nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County is an eclectic slice of West-coast suburbia, surrounding the less legendary county seat at Santa Ana. Called ?The OC? by locals before a certain TV show made the nickname national, it's home to some of California's biggest claims to fame, like Disneyland and the Pacific Coastal Highway. With well-earned bragging rights for its pristine, 40-mile shoreline and the consistently warm Southern California climate, Orange County offers quality chill-out time, whether you?re a rollercoaster nut or a trendy surfer chick.
It is possible to visit Orange County, head straight for Disneyland in Anaheim and stay there until it's time to board the flight home. Not only does Disneyland cover a lot of land and everything from cuddles with Minnie to its very own Twilight Zone?complete with freefall drop down the aptly-named Tower of Terror?there are also plenty of lodgings adjacent to the park's boundaries. Disneyland Park bills itself as "The Happiest Place on Earth" for far too many reasons to name.
For those who believe they?ve outgrown Disney but still enjoy classic rollercoasters, Knott's Berry Farm has plenty of rides, a ?ghost town? and arguably its main attraction, the famous boysenberry pie and preserves that give the park its namesake. Try Knott's Soak City Water Park next door to splash around cool off.
Californians have a reputation for their active lifestyles, and in the OC, everything from ocean kayaking to jetpacking is on offer. More sedate visitors might be happy with a helicopter tour of the coast or a whale-watching cruise from Newport Beach. If you?re a seasoned surfer, most beaches are open to the public and, unless located inside a state or national park, no admission fees are charged. Huntington Beach is the place to be seen on the surf, while Salt Creek normally has a more laid-back feel.
Families with youngsters should make a beeline for Golf Cove; the waves are small, the tidal pools offer kids the opportunity to do a little exploring, and the cove is an excellent location to launch a kayak. Shaw's Cove is one of the more secluded sites in Orange County, and its clear water and baby-soft sand make it irresistible to the diving crowd. Crystal Cove State Park occupies a 3.2-mile stretch of Pacific shore, and if you like a spot of early-twentieth century beachfront grandeur, the historic district is the place to start.
Vacationing culture fans will find plenty of creative stuff: Orange County's Laguna Beach hosts monthly First Thursdays Art Walks, involving over 50 galleries that offer live music, artist receptions and exhibitions from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. Gearheads can indulge their motoring passions at the Annual Orange Plaza Classic Car Show, held on the third Sunday of each April, with classic cars, custom vehicles and street rods galore. Summer visitors should time their trip for The Orange County Fair - 23 days of live music, carnival rides, food and exhibits kick off every July.
In terms of weather, Orange County delivers pleasant to flat-out gorgeous weather, year-round. Summer highs average in the 80s, while winter highs are typically in the 60s. However, in early Fall and late Spring, the OC can receive hot, dry Santa Ana winds, and the start of summer brings the cool, misty mornings known as ?June gloom?.
Insiders know to pick January through April to find low-fare flights into Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA). Typically, attractions are also less crowded during those months, and if you?re willing to hunt for them, hotels often have special discount packages during the low season.