The holiday season is a popular time of the year when friends and family come to visit Orange County. There’s a lot to love, like the weather, and a lot of activities to choose from, such as a family-focused beach and Disneyland Resort adventure, a romantic interlude for two at a luxury resort and spa, a fashion-forward shopping spree at chic shops and the world’s best boutiques, or a deep dive into OC’s cool and cosmopolitan art, culture, and cuisine scenes.
If your guests are planning a visit to South Coast Plaza and Orange County during the holiday season, here are some ideas for an itinerary:
CULTURE AND CREATIVITY NEXT DOOR
From popular Broadway hits like Wicked and Hamilton, to cutting-edge new plays and world premiere ballets, the art and culture campus across the street from South Coast Plaza is the epicenter of arts in Orange County. Built on land donated by the Segerstrom Family, owners of South Coast Plaza are the Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, the grand Segerstrom Hall and the stunning Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. All venues have holiday performances scheduled during December, including a Johnny Mathis concert, Fiesta Navidad, A Magical Cirque Christmas, and of course, A Christmas Carol.
Stop by the soaring Richard Serra sculpture and view the progress of the new home for Orange County Museum of Art, an architecturally stunning contemporary art museum under construction and slated to open in 2022.
Nearby is California Scenario, an internationally recognized sculpture garden that’s a favorite for social media photos. Pedestrian-friendly plazas, parks and bridges link it all together, with major works by well-regarded artists interspersed everywhere. Go on a self-guided sculpture tour.
Just six miles away from South Coast Plaza, Bowers Museum has just unveiled a new exhibition All That Glitters: The Crown Jewels of the Walt Disney Archives, featuring the jewelry and accessories from Titanic, The Princess Diaries and other favorite Disney and 20th Century Studios films. The museum also presents other exhibitions that highlight cultures around the world.
With Disneyland, California Adventure, and Knott’s Berry Farm among the world-famous theme-park attractions near South Coast Plaza, visiting families enjoy wonderlands of adventure all decorated for the holiday season.
For those who want to be in or next to the Pacific Ocean, Orange County’s 42 miles of oceanfront have a sand, surf, and shore style for every sensibility. A quintessentially Californian beach day in the fall and winter includes waves perfect for surfing and sunshine in the forecast. Pods of dolphins can often be seen from the beaches and bluffs, while whale watching excursions leave each day from the harbors of Newport Beach and Dana Point.
Families with younger kids love the broad, sandy shores of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, with piers, playgrounds, ice cream stands, cafés, and surf shops conveniently located all along the coastline. Visitors can discover harder to get to beaches loved by locals, like Wood’s Cove, 1000 Steps, Crescent Bay, Crystal Cove, and the Wedge by making friends and influencing OC people to reveal their secret spots.
STROLLING THROUGH DOWNTOWN
Orange County has historic downtowns worth the trip, especially for those looking for something quaint and walkable. Old Towne Orange, downtown Laguna Beach, and San Juan Capistrano, home of a historic Mission and an up-and-coming culinary scene, are all worth exploring. Through Dec. 30, Mission San Juan Capistrano presents Capistrano Lights on select early evenings, during which the Mission is illuminated in festive lights and presents holiday performances.
BISTROS, BOÎTES AND BITES
Avowed culinarians, foodies, and influencers in search of what’s trending to taste, post, and savor can experience global flavors at South Coast Plaza. Critically acclaimed restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Knife Pleat (French), Terrace by Mix Mix (Filipino/European-inspired), Hamamori (Japanese), AnQi Bistro (Vietnamese-inspired) and Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese) are located within the center, with Water Grill (Seafood), Costa Contemporary Kitchen (Peruvian), Antonello Ristorante (Italian), Darya Fine Persian Cuisine and Royal Khyber Fine Indian Cuisine, Outpost Kitchen (Australian), and others a short walk or ride away. Celebrity chef and Top Chef finalist and judge Amar Santana (a Top Chef finalist and judge) has Vaca, a bustling hot spot with a modern take on Spanish cuisine, from tapas to prime steak – and creative cocktails.