Costa Mesa in the heart of Orange County is most definitely one of California’s best-kept secret!
During our recent visit, we were pleasantly surprised at how this city is an epicenter for a killer foodie scene, arts and culture, shopping, and scenic outdoor exploration. It is safe to say that Costa Mesa is a perfect destination for solo travelers, couples, girlfriends, and families.
And this vacation was one where we got to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that – me time, mommy and baby time, daddy and baby time, and couple time… A vacation just the way we like it!
While a weekend is not enough to explore and experience everything that this official City of the Arts has to offer, it surely is a start to take a quick tour of the city’s neighborhoods and their uniqueness.
And the best part is its location – whether you are flying from a different part of the country (John Wayne Airport is just a 10 mins drive from the center of the city) or road tripping from another part of California, Costa Mesa is just a hop, skip and jump away. It is a perfect base to start your weekend getaway!
So stay in the heart of OC, Costa Mesa, and make the most of your visit to Orange County – it is only minutes away from some of the best Orange County attractions (including the most famous SoCal beaches and Disneyland). A huge plus – you can find hotels in Costa Mesa that fit every budget.
WHERE TO STAY?
The Westin South Coast Plaza – unwind in the spacious and luxurious guestrooms featuring the Westin Heavenly Bed, flat-screen televisions and the signature Westin style. Enjoy Starbucks coffee and a variety of snacks at the Grab-n-Go marketplace located near the front desk. The Lobby Lounge, overlooking the waterfall terrace, offers signature cocktails and chef select appetizers, as well as full-fledged meals.
The Westin South Coast Plaza is where we stayed at the entire time in Orange County and it was the perfect base to head out and explore all the places we wanted to. It is conveniently located near major attractions – across the Unity pedestrian bridge over Bristol Street is South Coast Plaza (the ultimate shopping destination), a short walk through nearby Town Center Park brings you to Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Basically, everything is either a 5-20 mins walk or 5-20 mins drive from The Westin Hotel.
This hotel offers daily round-trip shuttle service to the Disneyland Resort 🙂
WHAT TO DO?
Costa Mesa Art Walk + Public Art
Several of Costa Mesa’s public centers are also dedicated to celebrating the arts. So in addition to the performance and musical arts, Costa Mesa is also full of stunning public artwork.
Explore arts in Orange County on your own schedule by taking a self-guided tour that leads you through 15 works of public art in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Metro area. Download the Costa Mesa Art Walk map.
And there is plenty of other public artwork to be found. From vibrant wall installations to permanent gallery displays and interactive public art projects, both The LAB and The CAMP offer some of the best for lovers of art and music.
SOCO and The OC Mix is home to the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the creative spirit in all levels of artists through classes, exhibitions, and lectures.
Catch A Broadway Show
Segerstrom Center for the Arts The Center is well known for both its award-winning architecture and facilities and for the exceptional quality of performances offered there.
It welcomes some of the nation’s favorite Broadway productions, along with international dance companies and award-winning musicians, in a breathtaking facility. We were lucky enough that Aladdin was in town when we were too and thoroughly enjoyed watching this Broadway musical, read more here.
Watch A Play
South Coast Repertory, recognized with a Tony Award for its focus on developing new works and supporting new playwrights is a professional resident theatre. It is widely regarded as one of America’s foremost producers of new plays.
Take in some family-friendly theater at South Coast Repertory, offers shows for all ages.
Venture Through Noguchi Garden Aka California Scenario
“California Scenario,” is one of the country’s preeminent outdoor sculpture public gardens designed by artist Isamu Noguchi. Situated on 1.6 acres, the garden in its design symbolizes various geographical characteristics in California, incorporating indigenous plants and materials.
Six principal elements comprise California Scenario: “Forest Walk,” “Land Use,” “Desert Land,” “Water Source,” “Water Use” and “Energy Fountain.” However, the centerpiece of the garden is The Spirit of the Lima Bean, a sculpture of dramatic proportions, composed of 15 rust-colored granite rocks cut precisely to fit together.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Costa Mesa is also home to several shopping centers dedicated to boutiques and unique finds. If you’re looking for local gems, try SOCO and The OC Mix, which offers a mix of boutiques and eateries. Visit The CAMP and make sure to stop by SEED People’s Market, a local favorite, and the recently opened storefront for popular Japanese brand 2nd STREET. The CAMP and its sister site just across the street, The LAB Anti-Mall are worth a trip to explore their unique design and art installations!
Or head to the international shopping destination South Coast Plaza which offers everything from high-end designers like Prada, Hermes and Louis Vuitton to JCrew and Madewell and fast fashion brands H&M, Zara and Forever 21. And don’t forget to pamper yourself along the way. Read more here to see why it is one of my most favorite malls to date.
Soak Up The Sun On The Beaches
Costa Mesa is just 10 mins from the gorgeous 42 miles of Southern California coastline to bask in the sunshine with endless views of sparkling waters. Orange County is the ideal area of Southern California to hit to the sandy shores of the Pacific Coast. Some of the favorite beaches for surfing, walking on the pier and watching the sunset are Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar Beach and Crystal Cove Tide Pools.
Talk To The Animals At Centennial Farm
Located at the OC Fair & Event Center, the Centennial Farm houses a plethora of animals in addition to its fruit and vegetable gardens. Kids can meet livestock like cows, pigs, goats, and chickens, learn about agriculture and farming. The working farm has provided youth education about agriculture and farming since 1988.
Explore The Unique Neighborhoods
If you haven’t already realized by now, you can’t miss visiting The LAB Anti-Mall and The CAMP, two outdoor, eco-friendly alternative shopping centers with a dedication to local purveyors and a green, active lifestyle. And SOCO and The OC Mix, a collection of cutting-edge home stores with pop-up boutiques with a gourmet food hall tucked into its campus.
Take A Hike
Orange County is home to some exceptional hiking trails, from low-impact and beginner level to all-terrain all day hikes. For shorter family-friendly strolls, try Talbert Regional or Fairview Parks. Both offer flat trails through several acres of beautifully kept Southern California wildlife.
The more adventurous can try a hike through El Moro Canyon, which offers miles of switchback trails where you can view the beautiful shores of Crystal Cove beach below. Or, take on the Holy Jim Canyon Trail beginning in Trabuco Canyon, which leads to a waterfall.
OTHER THINGS TO DO?
WHERE TO GET THE BEST COFFEE & QUICK BREAKFAST BITES?
From discovering a new favorite brew or area of town to chatting up locals for recommendations on the best things to see and do, Local coffee shops is where it’s at. Below are some of the highly recommended coffee shops…
- Coffee Dose an Instagrammable hotspot
- Vitaly at The CAMP offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu
- Sidecar Coffee & Doughnuts be prepared to wait in line
- Milk & Honey good coffee + Instagrammable communal covered patio
- Nook Coffee is a perfect sanctuary for a cup of coffee and relaxation
- Thunderking Coffee Bar’s they even have boozy coffee cocktails
- Portola Coffee Roasters one of Southern California’s favorite
- Black Market Bakery don’t miss their freshly baked pastries, cookies, and sweets
- Bad Coffee the name may be deceiving
- Dough & Arrow this one is perhaps not for the traditionalist.
WHERE TO EAT?
Costa Mesa boasts itself of a hot dining scene, and rightfully so, it is indeed a foodie paradise! With more than 150 eateries in town, Costa Mesa is home to some of Orange County’s finest restaurants, garnering local and national accolades (LA Times’ Best Restaurant of 2018, Taco Maria, is located in the heart of Costa Mesa).
It’s easy to turn a vacation into an eatcation in Costa Mesa. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated spot for a business meeting, taking your family out for fine dining, or want a quick bite after shopping, Costa Mesa has you covered as the culinary center of OC.
- Rooster Café small diner open all day, but breakfast is especially worth the wait you’re likely to find upon arrival
- Eat Chow a local favorite thanks to a killer menu and laid back vibe
- Plums Café a local favorite brunch spot thanks to its Pacific Northwest flair
- Jan’s Health Bar has been an Orange County favorite for more than 20 years, and for good reason
- Birdie Bowl & Juicery pick up a green veggie pitaya bowl, chia seed pudding or a classic acai bowl when you’re looking for something light and refreshing.
- Outpost Kitchen offers fresh sandwiches and salads, bowls and baked goods in a relaxed, community-minded environment
- Seabirds Kitchen vegan spot that grew from food truck roots is a favorite for meat eaters and true vegans alike
- Greenleaf Chop Shop perfect spot to grab farm-fresh salads, sandwiches, flatbreads and more
- Mendocino Farms brings fresh seasonal ingredients to elevate your typical lunch
- Westend the underlying theme to all the restaurant does can be summed up with “good food, good music, good times,” (Open Table Diners’ Choice Award in 2018)
- Memphis Cafe a local favorite for its home-style menu and laid back vibe
- Taco Brat, Costa Mesa’s Mexican-German fusion hotspot with unexpected menu offerings like the Germexican nachos
- Native Foods Café an exclusively vegan menu of dishes like the Bistro Burger, curry and Buddha bowls, etc
- Taco Maria LA Times’ 2018 Best Restaurant of the Year
- Playa Mesa vibrant and airy dining room, wrapped around an exceptional tequila bar
- Terrace by Mix Mix With a pre-fixe lunch and decadent dinner served on its peaceful outdoor patio
- SOCIAL for a decadent meal and boozy coffee cocktail
- Vaca where you’ll find Spanish-inspired tapas and paella in an impeccable ambiance
- Silver Trumpet Hands down our Costa Mesa favorite. Experience a menu blending bold flavors of fresh, seasonal ingredients from California’s finest purveyors, farmers, and artisans
- Try local eateries like The Cheese Shop
- Relax with wine tasting at The Wine Lab, LCA Wines or the Mixing Glass.
So there you have it, Costa Mesa has everything to offer from theater and public art to fashion and the culinary arts. And whether you’re looking for a weekend away with the family, or heading out on a girls weekend, Costa Mesa is the perfect vacation spot to relax and recharge!
Costa Mesa is indeed the perfect location for every kind of traveler.