Popularly known as “The OC,” Orange County is the heart and soul of Southern California. A world-class visitor destination of fun bordered by Los Angeles to the north, San Diego to the south, the Pacific Ocean on the west, and the Inland Empire on the East. The ultimate in California dreaming, this area offers sun-soaked adventures in a land of endless summers. Warm sunshine, swaying palm trees and breathtaking ocean views create a relaxed lifestyle where shorts, sandals and sunglasses are always in season. With its sparkling beaches, luxurious resorts, exciting theme parks and unlimited opportunities for shopping and dining, Orange County offers opportunities for everyone.
A playground for families, Orange County contains theme parks where fun and fantasy reign. See Cinderella’s Castle and Mickey Mouse at the world-famous Disneyland® Resort. Disney’s California Adventure offers thrilling rides and spectacular shows. Meet Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang at Knott’s Berry Farm. Cool off at Knott’s Soak City or Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine.
This region also offers opportunities for hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, road biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, picnicking, and camping. Ecological reserves thrive along the coastlines and wetlands, eastward to the wildlife sanctuaries in the canyons and inland hills. Skin dive in kelp beds rich with sea life off Doheny State Beach. Explore Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, a relatively untouched wilderness within the 400-square-mile Cleveland National Forest. Or just kick back and fish for halibut off one of the county’s many public piers.
Stunning ocean views at Monarch Beach and Pelican Hill and the challenging slopes at Aneheim Hills showcase some of the most diverse golf courses in California. The U.S. Open of Surfing is held each year in Huntington Beach. Sunsets fade to dressy nights on the town amongst the stars, the celestial and the famous kind. Shopping, dining, and night life range from bohemian to vogue, restful to rockin’. Artists and performers color the neighborhoods of the OC during its numerous festivals and celebrations. Quintessential California, Orange County has it all.
Popular destinations include; the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach, Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, the South Coast Plaza-the largest mall in California, Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park, Santa Catalina Island, the Bowes Museum in Santa Ana, Laguna Beach’s 7 miles of picturesque coastline, and of course Disneyland.
Native American groups that long inhabited the region were the Tongya, Juaneño and Luiseño. Founded on All Saints Day, November 1, 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano was the first permanent European settlement. Many Ranchos were formed in the early 1800’s with land grants from the Mexican government during the Mexican period in Alta California. In the 1860’s a severe drought devastated the prevailing industry, cattle ranching. Much of the land then came under the control of land barons like Richard O’Neill Sr. and James Irvine. Settlers attracted by the discovery of silver in 1887 were brought in by the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads. Due to the growth of the area the California legislature divided Los Angeles County and created Orange County on March 11, 1889. The completion of the Pacific Electric Railway in 1904, connecting Los Angeles with Santa Ana and Newport Beach, made Orange County an accessible weekend retreat for celebrities of an early Hollywood. The connection was so significant for the area that Pacific City changed its name to Huntington Beach in honor of Henry Huntington, president of Pacific Electric. In the 1920’s transportation further improved with the completion of U.S. Route 101(Now mostly Interstate 5.) After World War II the agriculture began to decline in the area but the county’s prosperity soared as a bedroom community. The opening of Disneyland in 1955 gave the area a further boost. In the 1980s, the population topped two million for the first time; Orange County had become the second-most populous county in California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 3,010,232, up from 2,846,293 at the 2000 census, making it the third most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County and San Diego County.
In the northwestern part of Orange County is the coastal plain of the Los Angeles Basin. To the east and southeast lie the Santa Ana Mountains. The highest point,, Santiago Peak at 5,689 feet and nearby Modjeska Peak, 5,489 feet, form a ridge known as Saddleback which is visible from almost anywhere in the county. The Loma Ridge runs parallel to the Santa Anna Mountains and is separated from the taller mountains by the Santiago Canyon. The Peralta Hills extend westward from the Santa Ana Mountains through the communities of Anaheim Hills, Orange, and ending in Olive. Most of the population resides in the shallow coastal valleys of the Santa Ana or the Saddleback. The major river in the region is the Santa Ana, flowing from northeast to southwest its major tributary is the Santiago Creek. Other watercourses within the county include Aliso Creek, San Juan Creek, and Horsethief Creek. In the North, the San Gabriel River also briefly crosses into Orange County and exits into the Pacific on the Los Angeles-Orange County line between the cities of Long Beach and Seal Beach. Laguna Beach is home to the county’s only natural lakes, Laguna Lakes, which are formed by water rising up against an underground fault.
Orange County has a warm, dry Mediterranean climate with the coastal areas frequented by fog in the summer. Known for its ideal year-round climate, this area has an average daytime temperature of 73 degrees. Temperatures above 90 degrees are rare and the ocean breezes cool the air. The OC experiences about 328 days of sunshine and clear blue skies a year. Most of the precipitation comes in the form of rain in January, February and March. The best times to visit are the spring and fall, but with the mild climate outdoor activities are available throughout the year.