Visit Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County’s Hidden Gem!)

One of the highlights of my road trip in California was visiting Costa Mesa. Located in the heart of Orange County, circled by Anaheim (where Disneyland is), and some coastal beach favorites like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach with an easy drive to Laguna Beach and San Clemente. It’s 10 – 20 minute proximity to all the big name OC areas I’ve been wanting to visit made it an attractive destination but it was their culinary, art and shopping scene that gives this city it’s distinct personality. Being only an hour outside of Los Angeles, and San Diego (it’s the perfect half way point), it was an especially attractive weekend destination and one I look forward to visiting again. Named the City of the Arts for it’s extensive public art on display throughout the city and Segerstrom Center for the Arts which is the leading performing arts center offering artistic and educational programs as well. You should check out the Art Walk while you’re there! The video above takes you on a quick tour of all the below shopping and eatery’s on my list!

Where to Shop:

The shopping scene is Costa Mesa is off the chain, especially considering it’s home to the internationally regarded South Coast Plaza mall which is probably one of the largest attractions and makes Costa Mesa an international destination. (It’s like the United Nations of shopping lovers in there). However, in a see of malls, plazas and shopping centers there is something for everyone. Three major shopping experience stand out all unique in their own right.

South Coast Plaza

South Coast Plaza, a renowned international destination for shopping and dining, celebrates 50 years of quality. It has come a long way and expanded since opening with Sears in 1967. It’s also the first Nordstrom location after Seattle. Today, it is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants and carries a mix of stores from Forever 21 to Chanel. Its unparalleled collection of diverse retailers, includes Bottega Veneta, The Webster, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to Hermès, Gucci, Roger Vivier, COACH, Henri Bendel, Dolce & Gabbana, Sephora, Zara, UNIQLO and more, along with its customized concierge services, they also have a VIP Suite which I show off in my video. The window shopping alone makes it feel like a fashion museum.

A big highlight for me was the Louis Vuitton Fragrance Store, I didn’t even an exclusive fragrance store from the brand existed and is like a museum (also in my video). This year marks South Coast Plaza 50th anniversary a milestone they will celebrate all year with exclusive collaborations with global luxury brands, arts partnerships, special events, exhibitions, fashion shows, and more.

Where to Eat at the South Coast Plaza:

The Water Grill Restaurant

Excellent seafood, in nautical chic environment, we loved this restaurant. It’s a business casual vibe, great for a date night or place to take the parents.It’s few minute walk over the Unity Bride from South Coast Plaza so it takes you out of the shopping mecca in to calmer place adjacent to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (and good place to start the Art Walk).

Seasons 52 Restaurant

Located in South Coast Plaza this is a fabulous stop for lunch, again the seafood and flatbreads were excellent. The perfect place to take a shopping break and re-energize.

The LAB Anti-Mall

With so many malls, Costa Mesa even has an Anti-Mall, which was definitely my vibe. It’s more laid back and artsy and a great place for freelancers and writers to work from. It has really casual and charming restaurants with a lot of vegetarian options and coffee shops, a few stores including Urban Outfitters and Buffalo Exchange as well as a number of classic Airstreams that are used for smaller businesses, including a pastry shop and children’s clothes. At the base of the parking lot there’s the Habana restaurant with serves Cuban and Latin American food and has been the anchor of this center. It’s a great place to sit outside and grab a drink.

Across from The LAB is The Camp (2937 Bristol Street), which we didn’t make it to but was recommended for stores that are more lifestyle stores geared to a more health conscious or fitness related demographic. While that does describe me, we ran out of time but this, especially SEED People’s Market and Seabirds Kitchen, which is their popular vegan restaurant are on my list for next time.

The LAB Anti-Mall is located at 2930 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626

 SOCO and The OC Mix

soco and the oc mix card shop

This was one of my favorite shopping and dining destinations for all things local! It houses a group of shops called The OC MIX, one of the most acclaimed shopping and food halls in Southern California. With an eclectic collection of boutique shops and specialty food spots, it is a must do! I bought gifts for everyone from funky cards to cool jewelry — I almost walked out with Chalk paint (not to be confused with chalkboard paint, and if I didn’t have a flight ahead of me probably would have. It’s literally my new DIY obsession. There isn’t a shortage of places to snack, I had my best date shake ever at Birdie Bowl & Juicery. There’s also Taco Maria, which has a charming outdoor space and was started by two time James Beard nominated chef, Carlos Salgado. He opened his brick and mortar location in Costa Mesa after operating a successful food truck (of the same name) for a number of years. Taco Maria is rated as one of the best restaurants in Southern California by the L.A. Times with its modern, creative take on Californian-Mexican cuisine.

Where to Stay: Avenue of the Arts Hotel

We conveniently stayed Avenue of the Arts Hotel, located directly across the street from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and an easy walk to the South Coast Plaza shopping center. It’s a charming boutique hotel which felt like a cross between a Sheraton and W Hotel. Amenities included a fitness center, business center and pool located outside. With very cool decor and friendly staff, it was a great choice especially considering how prime the location was.

 Avenue of the Arts Hotel, 3350 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa, CA 92626