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Orange County Cool Cities

Cool Cities Overview

Orange County

Orange County has a few small towns and cool cities worth visiting. Dig your toes in the sand and take in the sun at one of many Orange County beach communities from Seal Beach to San Clememte. Catch a play in the artist community of Laguna Beach. Enjoy a root beer float at an original 1950's soda fountain in the Mayberryesque town of Old Towne Orange. Visit an original Spanish Mission in San Juan Capistrano where the swallows return every year. The portion of coast from south Newport Beach to Dana Point is known as the 'California Riviera' for its pristine beaches and upscale communities. From the laid back town of Seal Beach to the bustling Newport Harbor, you'll find all of the cool towns in Orange County listed on this page.

Orange County Cool Cities

Seal Beach is the northern-most beach in Orange County and borders Long Beach. Seal Beach has wide, sandy beaches and a quaint Main Street that leads to a pier with a playground. The City of Seal Beach has taken great care in maintaining its small town appeal over the years. Walking down Main Street is like visiting a California beach community from decades ago. The shops, bars, fish taco stands and restaurants are all worth a visit. The Bay Movie Theater plays classic films year round for cheap. The many Irish bars on Main Street make Seal Beach a popular destination on St. Patrick's Day. Stop in to O'Malley's Bar on Main Street where scenes from the Clint Eastwood film, American Sniper were filmed. This is a great pier community for its friendly people and original laid-back feel.

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Newport Beach

Newport Beach is located at PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) and the 55 Freeway. As part of the 'California Riviera', this very upscale community is a mix of pristine estuary, fun-filled harbor, thriving beach community and multi-million dollar neighborhoods. The Newport and Balboa Piers are a hub of entertainment offering restaurants, bars and touristy shops. A paved bike path spans the length of Newport Beach and bike rentals are available at the piers. Boat rentals and dinner cruises are a great way to unwind in Newport Harbor. Ride the ferris wheel at Balboa Fun Zone. Get a below water view on the Sea Life Discovery submarine. Catch the Catalina Flyer for a day trip to Catalina Island. Other activities include swimming, surfing, deep sea fishing, skating, biking, walking, basketball, volleyball and more. Board a whale watching tour out of Newport Harbor and catch a glimpse of a growing population of whales that migrate our coast each year. Rent a kayak and explore the Newport Back Bay Estuary or follow the roads and trails around it for a 10-mile loop. Rent an electric Duffy boat and cruise the Newport Harbor in style. Several harbor restaurants offer dock access and call-ahead service for boaters. Fashion Island puts on the Ritz as Orange County's premier shopping venue containing many high-end retailers. Corona Del Mar State Beach offers both a large sandy beach and secluded cove and is backed by a community of impressive seaside cottages and mansions.

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Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is located at PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) and the 133. This artist community is nestled in the canyons and coastal foothills of the 'California Riviera'. Shopping, sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, golfing, surfing and great night life are the main activities in Laguna Beach. Five star hotels and equivalent restaurants line PCH. Laguna Village offers plenty of small town charm with boutique shops and restaurants. Follow the walking path through Heisler Park, which offers panoramic lookouts of the Pacific Ocean, native gardens, picnic areas and multiple beach access points. Laguna Beach has a rich history in the arts and Harrison Ford, Mickey Rooney, Betty Davis, William Wendt, Wyland and many more once called it home. True to its heritage, every year Laguna Beach hosts the Festival of the Arts and the Sawdust Festival. Peruse the Laguna Art Museum or catch a performance at the Laguna Playhouse. Crystal Cove State Beach features an original beach house community known as Crystal Cove Cottages situated on the sand at water's edge. These cottages are available for rent and include the Beachcomber restaurant and bar. El Moro Canyon State Park features an ocean view campground and many miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Laguna's beaches consist of Main Beach and many large & small coves separated by rocky cliffs. Located in South Laguna, the Montage Resort is Orange County's premier resort perched on a bluff above some of the most beautiful beaches in the state.

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Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point is located off Interstate 5 from the Pacific Coast Highway exit (PCH). Dana Point is a mix of pristine beaches, bustling harbor, active state beach, small beach communities and luxury resorts. The hub of Dana Point is the Dana Point Harbor, which features the Dana Point Aquarium, fishing pier, swim beach, picnic grounds, restaurants, hotels, fishing charters, whale watching, boat rentals, boat tours and more. The Ocean Institute of Dana Point features fish tanks of local fish species in a learning environment. Around the bend from the Ocean Institute are tide pools teeming with starfish, sea urchins, anemones and hermit crabs. Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard to explore the inner harbor or a Sea-Doo and head out to play in the swells of the open ocean. Hop on a whale watching boat and see dolphins, humpbacks, gray whales and even the elusive but massive blue whale. Board a deep sea fishing charter and bait your line for calico bass, white sea bass, bonito and halibut. Book a sailing cruise that includes a captain and tour the beautiful Orange County coastline by sea. The hot sun, white sand and refreshingly cool ocean waters await at many Dana Point beaches including the pristine Salt Creek and the always active Doheny. Pitch a tent or bring the motorhome for beach camping at Doheny State Beach. There are many great seafood restaurants in Dana Point Harbor and Cannons offers the best panoramic view of the entire harbor and coast.

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Old Towne Orange

Old Towne Orange is located at the intersection of Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue between the 91, 57, 22, and 5 freeways in Orange. Old Towne (also known as 'The Plaza') proclaims itself to be the antiques capital of Southern California. Dozens of antiques stores are mixed with touristy boutiques, restaurants and cafés. The Plaza offers plenty of small town charm with turn of the century brick buildings, a central park & fountain and an abundance of Craftsman homes. Watson's Drug Store and Soda Fountain is an historic place that still functions as it did over 100 years ago with a drug store, pharmacy, diner and still operational soda fountain. The Filling Station was an historic gas station that now operates as a café complete with antique filling pump on their outdoor patio.

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Los Rios Historic District

San Juan Capistrano is located off Interstate 5 from the Ortega Highway exit (Hwy 74). San Juan Capistrano was founded by Spanish missionaries back in 1776. They built the Mission San Juan Capistrano, which remains the main attraction to the area today. Some of the original church ruins are still standing despite an 1812 earthquake that nearly destroyed it but much of the Mission grounds remain intact. The San Juan Mission is famous for the 'Return of the Swallows' every year in March. Near the Capistrano Mission is the Los Rios Historic District, one of the oldest communities in California. Original adobe homes still stand on Los Rios Street but Los Rios is best known for its quaint restaurants and boutique shops. Down a connecting alley from Los Rios Street is Zoomars Petting Zoo where children enjoy feeding goats, rabbits, ponies, tortoises and other farm animals. Directly across the train tracks from Los Rios Street is The Vintage Steakhouse that serves terrific steaks from retired Southern Pacific train cars converted into a classy restaurant & bar. The train cars also serve as a functioning train depot where business people and travelers board Amtrak trains. Visitors to San Juan Capistrano can also perfect their game at San Juan Hills Golf Course, which features a championship 18-hole golf course.

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