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Fun (and Free!) Things To Do In Orange County This Fall

Posted on September 3, 2019 | 6:23am

Orange County might be known for its “forever summer,” but there is still plenty to do during the autumn months—and tons of free events and activities. From Oktoberfest to free museum admissions to hiking, here are our picks for what to do in Orange County during fall.
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Best of all? Costa Mesa is your perfect central location to stay for the weekend, but quickly get to all the top spots of The OC. There are plenty of great hotel deals in Costa Mesa that can act as the perfect springboard for your fun fall Orange County activities.

Take the Kids to the Orange County Children’s Book Festival

Grab the kids and go to this family-friendly event, which has free admission. On September 30, head to Orange Coast College, where more than 125 authors (this year, Kobe Bryant is a special guest) and 25 illustrators will be in attendance. See how popular characters are illustrated, attend readings and discussion panels, and visit the petting zoo and wild animal stage. It’s a great (and free) way to get your children interested in literature.

Celebrate Oktoberfest in Huntington Beach

You don’t have to go to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest! Every Wednesday through Sunday throughout September and October, head to Huntington Beach’s huge Oktoberfest celebration. From oom-pah bands to bratwurst to pretzels to, of course, tons of beer, this fun festival has it all, including a parade and a special Kinderfest celebration for families. Best of all? Admission is free on Wednesdays and Thursdays, making this celebration budget-friendly.

Attend a Free Event at Argyros Plaza

The free events at Argyros Plaza have become a huge draw to Costa Mesa, and they continue into the fall. September 21 is National Dance Day, which will feature live performances and interactive lessons. Also on the calendar are a Silent Disco on October 11, a special fall celebration with storytelling, tunes, dance and more on October 19, and the All Abilities Celebration with art-making and performances on October 26. There’s something for everyone at the Argyros Plaza.

Visit Newport Bay and Muth Interpretive Center

A walk around Newport Bay is always a good idea, especially when temperatures cool off. Wander down the various paths or cycle around the area, and don’t forget to stop at the Muth Interpretive Center, where you’ll learn all about the species that can be found at the bay. Parking is also free and ample around the area.

Attend the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational

From October 5 to 13, attend this classic Laguna Beach event. Watch painting demonstrations and learn all about art from these master plein air painters. You can also enjoy refreshments and meet the artists at certain events and attend special Q&As, all for free.

Take the Family to the Environmental Nature Center

The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach is always a fun place to spend a few hours visiting the butterfly house and learning about Orange County’s habitats. But in the fall, they host the Fall Faire and Pumpkin Patch on October 13, which features plenty of games, a petting zoo, live animals, DJs, face painting and a plethora of pumpkins. This yearly event is a huge draw, so get there early.

Attend an Art Walk in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana or Laguna Beach

On the third Saturday of the month, Costa Mesa offers an art walk at Lions Park, including offerings from great local artists, live music, DJ, food trucks and end the afternoon with an awesome Dance battle! Every first Thursday of the month, head to Laguna Beach for their local art walk, when the town’s galleries stay open later so guests can check out art artwork and nibble on refreshments. This is also a great day to check out the Laguna Art Museum, which offers free admission on first Thursdays and boasts an absolutely amazing collection of California art. Meanwhile, Santa Ana hosts their own Art Walk on the first Saturday of the month, and just opened a free trolley earlier this year that can take visitors to the city’s myriad galleries. Both days are also a good opportunity to explore the respective cities and all they have to offer.

Take a Hike!Cooler temperatures means hiking just got a whole lot easier. Head out to local trails in Orange County like Talbert Regional Park Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Quail Hill in Irvine, challenging Whiting Ranch in Trabuco Canyon, Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach, Black Star Canyon in Santa Ana, or Salt Creek Trail in Laguna Niguel. Learn more about OC Parks here!

There are plenty of trails for all fitness levels around Orange County and street parking is typically available for free. You can also bring your bike to cycle around the trails; here’s a map of Costa Mesa bike trails. Experienced hikers will love Whiting Ranch and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, while those looking for a more low-key hike will love exploring Bommer Canyon and Quail Hill.

Visit Discovery Cube OC

Are you a Bank of America cardholder? Then head to Discovery Cube OC on the first Sunday of the first full weekend of the month for free admission to this fun, kid-friendly museum. There are always cool exhibits at this interactive museum, covering everything from superheroes to healthy cooking to dinosaurs and rockets. This is another fun way to get kids interested in STEM subjects.

Check Out Sherman Library & Gardens

Admission is free at this cool library and garden on the first Monday of every month. Check out their amazing collection of cacti and succulents, herbs, flowers like orchids, roses, and heliconias, and more. Meanwhile, the library documents the development of Southern California with books, photographs, maps and newspapers. You can spend an afternoon whiling away the hours at this informative (and beautiful) spot in Newport Beach, learning all about Orange County.

Visit California Scenario (and Take Some Pictures)

You’ve seen it all over Instagram: California Scenario, created by Isamu Noguchi (locals call it “Noguchi Garden.”) Spend an hour or two checking out this tranquil sculpture garden located in the heart of Costa Mesa’s Arts District, which documents the various elements that make up our state. Situated on 1.6 acres, the garden in its design symbolizes various geographical characteristics in California, incorporating indigenous plants and materials. Not only is it a great photo opportunity, but a nice place to spend some quiet time and maybe even enjoy lunch.

Stroll the OC Great Park

Free parking means visiting the OC Great Park is a great deal. This gigantic park has plenty of space to cycle, skateboard, or just stroll around. There’s also plenty of free art to check out, including a gigantic walkable timeline that outlines the history of the park and Orange County in general. Also check out the rotating contemporary art exhibits at the Palm Springs Courtyard and the cool, old-school planes at Hangar 244.

Celebrate Halloween

There’s plenty of fun, free Halloween-themed events in Orange County! Check this list for some ideas, but we’ve got some too. Go trick-or-treating at Anaheim Plaza, where stores and restaurants will be dishing out candy. There will also be face painting, a kid-friendly DJ, and a balloon artist. Or head to the Halloween Spooktacular & Trunk or Treat in Dana Point, which will have free refreshments, crafts, entertainment, carnival games, movie showcases, and plenty more.

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12 Budget-Friendly Eats in Costa Mesa

Posted on August 24, 2019 | 4:03am

With Orange County’s only Michelin-starred restaurants, 3 Bravo TV “Top Chefs” and a bevy of amazing eateries, Costa Mesa has built a reputation for being an Eatcation™ destination for foodies. If you’re looking for bites that won’t break the bank—but still taste amazing—there are plenty of frugal options around town. Here are 12 can’t-miss, budget-friendly eats in Costa Mesa that will have you coming back again and again.

Taco Mesa Chilaquiles con Pollo

Taco Mesa

When you walk into Taco Mesa, the first thing you might notice is that the walls are plastered with amazing reviews. There’s a reason why: the menu is chock-full of delicious, budget-friendly eats, especially on Taco Tuesdays, when tacos are only $1.75 a piece. Try the al pastor or carnitas and add rice and beans for only $2 more. Or, stray from the tacos and try out their filling enchilada duos, burritos, or quesadillas.

Their breakfast is also a steal. Standouts include the huevos rancheros and the machaca ropa vieja (scrambled eggs with shredded beef), both for $8.50, but you really can’t go wrong at Taco Mesa.

Kashiwa Ramen

Costa Mesa’s newest ramen place, Kashiwa Ramen, is also a great deal. Starting at $10, you can get a filling bowl of ramen with your choice of protein (the spicy pork belly is our recommendation). Skip the toppings—the original base is filling (and delicious) enough as is. The side dishes, like takoyaki, karaage bowls, and edamame, are also reasonably priced.

Haus of Pizza

This pizzeria holds a special place in many locals hearts for a reason. Every day, Haus of Pizza has a special dish at a discounted price. Personal favorites include the traditional spaghetti and their special panzerotti (fried dough stuffed with ground meat and smothered in marinara sauce), which is only offered Wednesdays and Thursdays.

But if you opt not to enjoy the daily special, the rest of the menu is also reasonably-priced. Personal pizzas start at $7.30 while many other entrees are less than $10. Most entrees also come with your choice of soup, salad, or their delicious garlic bread.

Vietnam’s Pearl

Another long-time Costa Mesa eatery, Vietnam’s Pearl offers delicious (and large) bowls of pho for less than $9. If pho isn’t your thing, their rice combination dishes are also cheap and satisfying and can be customized to your taste buds (the pork chops and 5-spiced chicken are both standouts). Bahn mi sandwiches, also under $10, are another cheap option and make the perfect frugal lunch.

Sushi Imari

Nothing beats a great lunch special, and Sushi Imari offers an awesome deal. For $11, you can get a two-item combo, while $12.50 nabs you a three-item combo. Choose from various teriyakis, bulgogi or karaage chicken, as well as different rolls (cucumber, California, and spicy tuna are all options), and round it out with gyoza, tempura, egg rolls and more.

Although it’s priced slightly higher at night, this same option is still a great deal if you can’t make it to Sushi Imari until dinner time. Other budget-friendly highlights on the menu include their udon and teriyaki bowls.

Honda-Ya Box

If you’re heading to this local izakaya, check out the specials, where you’ll often find healthy salads and delicious poke bowls for under $10. The rest of the menu at Honda-ya Box is no slouch either—find cheap ramen and udon mixed in with a variety of musubis and curry rice. There are also lunch specials during the week that make this spot an even better deal. All in all, It’s the perfect spot for a group that wants to try a little bit of everything.

Rooster Café

Breakfast and brunch can be a minefield for your wallet, but Rooster Café has everything you could want at a budget-friendly breakfast joint. The breakfast burritos are a highlight, as are one of the many scrambles with Portuguese sausage and red potatoes.

The lunch menu is also budget friendly. From burgers to build-your-own sandwiches to carne asada fries, there’s something for all tastes. Best of all, with their open-late schedule, you’ll never find yourself scrambling for a place to eat after making your stops along Costa Mesa’s Beer Trail.

MaDee Thai Kitchen

Craving Thai food? Head to MaDee Thai Kitchen if you don’t want to break the bank. Their fried rice and stir-fried noodle dishes are all around $10 to $11, while vegetarians can get a variety of delicious tofu dishes for around the same price. Or, opt for one of their noodle soups—the tom yum soups are highlights on this all-around budget-friendly menu.

Hong Kong Express

Nobody does portions like Hong Kong Express. If you’re craving Chinese takeout, head to this local favorite. Takeout boxes are crammed to their near-breaking point with delicious orange chicken, teriyaki chicken, and egg rolls. Their wings are a standout—in fact, they’re usually sold out by the end of the day. Try calling ahead of time to secure this cheap menu favorite.

Tenkatori Karaage

Tenkatori Karaage is comfort food at its best. Order from their “box menu” section for karaage chicken paired with miso soup, rice, and your choice between croquettes and tempura, California or veggie rolls, and green salad or steamed veggies—all for under $12. Other frugal options on the menu include rice bowls, salads, and curries. Even their rolls are all under $8.

Bangkok Corner

Bangkok Corner is another standout, budget-friendly Thai restaurant. Find curries (including their popular yellow curry) for around $10. Other cheap entrees include spicy eggplant, Thai barbecue chicken, and their delicious tom yum noodle soup.

From Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can also grab a lunch special for only $7.95. On the lunch special menu are a variety of different curry dishes and stir-frys. Dishes are also served with steamed rice and salad, plus your choice of protein.

Mongolian Bar-B-Que Pan Asia

Another cheap, all-you-can-eat option! Mongolian Bar-B-Que Pan Asia offers an all-you-can-eat dinner option for only $17 and a wide variety of lunch specials for under $10. Pile your bowls up with your favorite veggies and choice of protein (try the lamb for a unique flavor profile). All-you-can-eat options also come with rice and delicious pocket biscuits to fill with your meat of choice.

It’s clear that this city is a fabulous foodie destination with over 150 Costa Mesa restaurants, for all tastes and all budgets. Too many to try in just one day? Make it an Eatcation™ and stay overnight with some of our amazing Costa Mesa hotel offers!

What’s your favorite Costa Mesa restaurant? Let us know in the comments!

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Your Guide to Costa Mesa Nightlife

Posted on July 16, 2019 | 6:33am

Want to experience the best of Costa Mesa’s nightlife while you’re here? You’ll have plenty of opportunity! From one of the country’s best dive bars to electronic dance music venues and everything in between, Costa Mesa has a nightlife scene for just about any traveler.

Bars for Live Music

The Wayfarer brings some of the best local bands to the stage on Costa Mesa’s Westside. The venue offers up a laid-back bar vibe, with a full kitchen and bar making it the perfect place for a happy hour bite followed by a show.

On the Eastside of the city, The Country Club is an upscale bar and restaurant with a dedicated stage and dance space. Live music begins in the evening during the week and during brunch hours on Saturdays and Sundays. And if you’re feeling thirsty in the afternoon, daily happy hour starts at 2 p.m.!

Keys on Main at The Triangle offers an entirely different experience as one of Orange County’s most popular dueling piano bars. It’s the perfect place to grab a beer with friends or celebrate a party and enjoy a constantly changing, impressive show.

For jazz, head to Barley Forge Brewing Co. on Thursday evenings for a casual evening of jazz, brews and food in the brewery’s tasting room on the Costa Mesa Beer Trail.

Bars and Lounges for Dancing

If your goal is to dance the night away, there are plenty of venues in Costa Mesa that offer live DJs weekly. At The Triangle, Time nightclub offers a spectacular light show in a 13,000 square-foot space, in the look and feel of a Vegas club. Enjoy celebrity DJs, bottle service, and definitely come dressed to impress. Mansion OC is another spot in the trendy SoBeCa district, including a pool table and outdoor lounge along with live hip-hop Saturdays. On a smaller scale, Casa, Commissary Lounge and Mesa all bring in live DJs to create the perfect night out atmosphere.

Laid Back Vibes

If you’re looking for a neighborhood bar kind of feel, try any tasting room on the Costa Mesa Beer Trail, Ruin Bar at The LAB, The Harp Inn or Goathill Tavern. Goathill is famous for its more than 100 beers on tap and its dive bar atmosphere, complete with peanut shells crunching underfoot.    

Upscale and Modern

If your drink of choice is a martini, you might lean a little more on the upscale side of Costa Mesa’s nightlife. Silver Trumpet, Mastro’s and Water Grill are all perfect options for a subdued ambiance to relax with a date or friends while enjoying a perfect craft cocktail or high-end wine.

LGBTQ Friendly

This summer will bring a second LBGTQ-specific nightlife destination, Strut, to Costa Mesa Westside. Strut aims to be a completely inclusive playground for all while paying homage to one of America’s most colorful eras, the ‘80s. In the meantime, there’s always Tin Lizzie, Orange County’s premier gay bar with a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

What’s your favorite spot for Costa Mesa nightlife?

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The Best-Kept Secret for A Perfect Spring Break in Orange County

Posted on January 29, 2019 | 10:28am

Finding yourself going a little stir crazy as we head into the second half of the winter season? We have good news: spring break is coming, and the perfect spring break getaway is just a hop, skip and jump away!

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Sip & Savor a TASTE of Costa Mesa

Posted on September 13, 2018 | 12:49pm

taste -- costa mesaOne of the biggest culinary events in Southern California is coming to Costa Mesa October 19-21 with the first ever Los Angeles Times TASTE – Costa Mesa! The three-day event will showcase some of Costa Mesa and Orange County’s finest restaurants and cutting edge chefs with unlimited tastings of food and seasonal cocktails in a unique outdoor setting at The MET.

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