Visitors Information in Avalon on Catalina Island
Exclusive Newport Beach, artsy Laguna, and the surf town of Huntington Beach are the stars, but lesser-known gems on the glistening coast—such as Corona del Mar and Dana Point—are also worth visiting. Offshore, meanwhile, lies gorgeous Catalina Island, a terrific spot for diving, snorkeling, and hiking. And despite a building boom that began in the 1980s, the region is still a place to find wilderness preserves, canyon trails, greenbelt bike paths, and stunning coastline.
You can also get an evocative dose of California history by visiting the 18th-century Mission San Juan Capistrano or enjoying state-of-the-art acoustics at one of America's premier performing arts centers (which, in quintessential OC form, is located next to the massive South Coast Plaza shopping center). Several major bands got started here, including ska-infected No Doubt, metal group Korn, and the punk band Social Distortion. And while local style was long focused on hometown surf-gear companies like Quiksilver and Billabong, the current obsession with chic designers means that Orange County now gets profiled in Vogue.
Some of Orange County's towns are now high profile, thanks to TV shows like The O.C., The Hills, Laguna Beach, and The Real Housewives of Orange County. But life here is much more diverse and sophisticated than the McMansion world depicted on TV. Orange County is now far more multicultural than its reputation. A strong Mexican influence contributes to the cuisine and architecture; the largest Vietnamese community outside Asia is that of Westminster's Little Saigon. Though the region has long been a one of California's conservative bastions, it's also becoming more politically diverse. And please don't tell the 3 million locals that they live in a suburb of Los Angeles. Orange County is different, with its own economy, culture, and lifestyle. It's more relaxed, more family oriented, and friendlier.