The Best Things To Do In Costa Mesa (California) – Costa Mesa, California, is a mile from the beach and halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. When Costa Mesa was founded in 1953, it began as a small agricultural community. Costa Mesa, a city of roughly 110,000 residents in Orange County, is located along California’s scenic Pacific coast. It was formed more than seven decades ago.
With its famous Segerstrom Center for the Arts, shops, 30 well-kept parks, a golf course, and three libraries, it has evolved into a contemporary, bustling city. Costa Mesa is close to several of California’s most famous beach communities, including Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach, as well as Disneyland Resort.
Visitors to Costa Mesa can choose from a wide range of outdoor recreational, artistic, cultural, and culinary options. For those looking to explore the often congested freeways, day trips to San Diego and Los Angeles are popular.
Disclosure: Due to new safety regulations, some of the information regarding the attractions and sites listed below may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please contact the location.
When to Visit Costa Mesa
Costa Mesa, like most of Southern California, has year-round sunshine, so there is never a bad time to visit! Summer provides the warmest temperatures and the longest days, giving you more time to enjoy all of Costa Mesa’s great activities.
Keep in mind that in May and June, Southern California is known for its “June Gloom,” which brings overcast sky in the morning (bring a light sweater or jacket) but usually dissipates by afternoon.
California doesn’t really have much in the way of seasons, so spring and fall are pretty much the same as summer. In the winter, it may rain, but temperatures remain mild — highs seldom fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows rarely fall below the 50s – making Costa Mesa an ideal destination for some winter sun.
Location and Getting Around
Costa Mesa is less than an hour’s drive (40 miles) from Los Angeles, making it an ideal weekend vacation or day trip location. San Diego is also 86 miles away (1 hour and 15 minutes).
It’s also close to Disneyland (20 minutes) and the beach only a few minutes away. It shares its southern border with Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach is only 7 miles away. It’s also only 4 miles from John Wayne International Airport, which offers flights to a variety of domestic destinations as well as cities in Mexico and Canada. Costa Mesa is an excellent spot to stay if you are visiting Orange County.
Although public transit is available, it is inefficient, thus having a vehicle is suggested for optimal flexibility. If you don’t want to drive, Uber or Lyft are excellent options. The theater district and downtown are both easily walkable.
What Are The Best Things To Do In Costa Mesa (California)?
Costa Mesa, about an hour south of Los Angeles, is brimming with culinary, foodie, and creative activities. To be honest, Costa Mesa should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Orange County. There are plenty of things to do in Costa Mesa (California), whether you’re seeking world-class shopping, award-winning culinary, or an acclaimed arts scene!
Costa Mesa is not to be missed when visiting Orange County, California, offering fantastic shopping at South Coast Plaza, arts and theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, as well as an incredible culinary experience at the award-winning restaurants.
Here are some best things to do in Costa Mesa (California), including some fun activities:
1. Noguchi Garden
The award-winning Noguchi Garden, located on Anton Boulevard in Costa Mesa, is one of the area’s most popular outdoor attractions. The garden’s construction began in the late 1970s. It now spans nearly two acres and is home to a variety of native and exotic plants, flowers, as well as trees.
The garden is separated into several unique areas, including walking trails, fountains, and cultivated gardens that blend natural and man-made components perfectly. The garden, also known as the California Scenario, is open to the public on a regular basis and is only a few kilometers from downtown.
2. South Coast Repertory Theater
The South Coast Repertory Theater has been a staple of local live entertainment for more than 50 years. It is located on Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa and typically receives wonderful reviews from industry insiders and people who recognize a good show when they see one.
The theater’s season goes from early fall to early summer, and it includes everything from old classics to contemporary comedies, musicals, and murder mysteries. Workshops, guest speakers, and residencies for budding actors and producers are among the programs offered by the theater’s staff to community residents.
3. Fairview Park
Fairview Park in Costa Mesa, which spans more than 200 acres, provides plenty of wide-open places for individuals looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy the great outdoors without having to go to far-flung state and national parks.
The park has a network of paths that weave through a variety of natural settings and are accessible to walkers, runners, cyclists, and horseback riders. Picnicking, as well as flying kites and remote-control airplanes, are popular activities. The park serves as a public event venue throughout the year, including festivals, fairs, an annual fish fry, and a carnival.
4. Costa Mesa Estancia
Mexican immigrants have had a significant impact on California’s history, as they have migrated north in search of steady work and a better life. They’ve taken their culture, cuisine, and architecture with them, as seen by the Costa Mesa Estancia, one of Orange County’s oldest original structures.
Estancia Park’s ancient mansion is set on a bluff above the Santa Ana River wash. As a memorial to the area’s pioneers who arrived over two centuries ago, it has been preserved in nearly-original condition. The house was designed to house cowboys and ranchers who looked after vast herds of horses and cattle in the area.
5. South Coast Plaza
Orange County has some of the finest neighborhoods in the country. For those looking to stock up on fashionable attire while visiting the city, there are plenty of luxury store options. The South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is home to a range of high-end boutique shops, contemporary eateries, and national and international brand retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales.
Many of the city’s best hotels and beaches are within walking distance of the plaza. Personal shopping, foreign language support, and currency exchange are among the services it provides that are not generally found in traditional malls.
6. Bad Coffee
There’s pretty much general agreement that Bad Coffee is unquestionably wonderful, despite the fact that its name may be a great illustration of reverse psychology in marketing. A couple of self-described coffee snobs who wanted to provide Costa Mesans with thirsty high-quality beverages started the company in 2016.
The shop’s abundant natural lighting, comfortable chairs, easily accessible electrical outlets, and quick Wi-Fi have all received positive feedback from previous customers. Adams Avenue in Costa Mesa is where you can find Bad Coffee. Along with fresh baked goods like muffins and pastries, the menu offers a number of non-coffee options like sparkling water, chai tea, and juice.
7. Segerstrom Center for the Arts
On Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, there is a multi-venue entertainment complex called the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Early in the 1980s, it was founded. The Pacific Symphony and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County are now housed in this cutting-edge performing arts facility, which also has spectacular architecture.
Nearly 6,000 people can be accommodated in the center’s several halls. They provide a choice of performances all year long that are appealing to a number of visitors, including kids. Summer camps, art lessons, as well as a dancing school are among the activities and special events offered by the center’s staff.
8. Orange County Museum of Art
The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is worth a visit for anyone who can pull themselves away from the area’s picturesque beaches and sophisticated shopping venues, even though it’s technically in Santa Ana, just a few kilometers outside of Costa Mesa municipal limits.
A large collection of thousands of items that focus on California history from the turn of the 20th century to the present can be found in the museum, which is located inside South Coast Village. Historical photos, sculptures, pieces of Native American art, and modern digital, video, and multimedia artwork are all on display.
9. The CAMP
The CAMP is a well-liked substitute for the hippy crowd, who typically avoids mainstream attractions like national chain coffee shops or shopping malls. It is a well-liked location for remote working and socializing, and is located in Costa Mesa’s trendy SoBeCa district.
It is distinguished by green spaces and small businesses that provide a variety of organic food and drinks, health and beauty products, and locally produced arts and crafts.
For most of the year, Orange County’s weather is ideal for outdoor activities. In addition to hosting live performances, The CAMP also hosts art walks, movie screenings, and culinary events.
10. Los Lagos Course at Costa Mesa Country Club
There may not be a nicer climate year-round for golfers than that found in Orange County in Southern California. One of the best golf values in the area can be found at Costa Mesa Country Club’s Los Lagos Course, which stretches just over 6,500 yards from the blue tees.
The par-72 course is well-known for its well-kept fairways and greens, lovely surroundings, and the water as well as sand hazards that keep things interesting without being unduly challenging. A fully stocked pro shop, restaurant and bar, and also practice facilities for those who need to warm up before hitting the courses, are all available.
11. Hanare Sushi
Hanare Sushi is one of those restaurants that tends to go unnoticed by all but the most discerning diners, hidden away in a very unassuming storefront on Bristol Avenue in Costa Mesa. Although the main attractions at Hanare are often classic sushi and sashimi, the restaurant also serves up modern entrees like steamed lobster with a mushroom reduction and squash soup topped with caviar.
Big families trying to feed their empty stomachs on a budget may find the restaurant to be an unsuitable choice due to its pricing, which is undoubtedly on the expensive side. Having said that, it’s absolutely worth checking out if you’re seeking for a distinctive dining experience in a laid-back setting.
Looking for a more relaxing restaurant in California? Take a look at this 15 best restaurants in West Covina (California)!
12. Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, is about ten minutes from Costa Mesa’s center. Big waves, elite surfers, amazing beaches, and expansive ocean vistas may all be found at the beach. Every year, millions of people go there.
Huntington Beach has a variety of annual sporting events like professional beach volleyball and surfing competitions, even though many people prefer to locate a peaceful stretch of beach to enjoy the sand, sun, and surf. The seaside area has a ton of dining options, shopping options, parking options, and restrooms with showers that are perfect for rinsing off sand and salt at the end of a long day.
13. Whale watching Tours
Whale sightings are rather frequent in the warm Pacific waters off the coast of Southern California, particularly when they are calving. From Newport Harbor, numerous whale watching tours depart. You will have a good chance of witnessing a variety of whale species and other marine creatures no matter when you visit.
It’s usual to see blue, finback, and humpback whales, and when they leap from the water, it makes for some stunning splashes. One of the most lasting vacation memories for many tourists is going on a whale watching cruise. They’re especially well-liked with families taking children who enjoy animals on vacation. Visitors also frequently spot seals, killer whales, and porpoises.
14. Bommer Canyon
What is now Bommer Canyon was sometimes one of the original cattle camps in the area. The preserved canyon is well-liked by hikers, mountain bikers, as well as horseback riders due to its stunning rock formations, steep ravines, and picturesque stands of shade trees.
It is a recognized state and national natural landmark and is situated near Irvine, only ten kilometers northeast of Costa Mesa’s downtown. There are many routes in the canyon, but some of them are only accessible to visitors who are traveling in a guided group. Dogs are not permitted in Bommer Canyon, so if you’re traveling with one, you’re not allowed.
15. The Bowers Museum
The Bowers Museum on North Main Street in Santa Ana houses a varied mix of items from all over the world, in contrast to the majority of the area’s museums, which typically focus on California art, history, and culture. The museum has the name of a philanthropic local who donated the land in the ’30s.
Although it began with a small collection, it has since expanded to more than 10,000 pieces, some of which come from as far away as China, South America, India, and the South Pacific. There is a designated kid’s area on site, and the museum staff frequently hosts temporary displays from private collections and other institutions.
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The Best Places To Eat In Costa Mesa (California)
A little city in Southern California, Costa Mesa has a lot to offer. Just about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles is Costa Mesa. The best things to do in Costa Mesa (California) include taking advantage of the amazing food scene and extensive shopping, despite the city’s proximity to Disneyland and the California beaches.
The ideal getaway from Los Angeles and the neighboring areas is Costa Mesa. Along with having the top attractions, Costa Mesa is also less expensive to stay in than other coastal towns or Anaheim (where Disney is located). Costa Mesa is still a high-end resort despite the lower rates, and it is close to beaches and other attractions.
Eating is one of the best things to do in Costa Mesa (California) and Costa Mesa has developed into a haven for foodies. The eateries in Costa Mesa will surely satisfy your palate with their fresh SoCal ingredients!
1. Old Vine Cafe
The most important meal of the day, so the saying goes, is breakfast. One of the nicest things to do in Costa Mesa, in our opinion, is to have breakfast here, particularly if you plan on visiting the Old Vine Cafe at The Camp.
A favorite among fans is the “Open Face.” A fluffy biscuit is drenched with chipotle gravy, chicken sausage, and eggs for a unique take on the classic biscuits and gravy.
2. Taco Maria
You must partake in at least one meal at Taco Maria if you’re seeking for one of the best things to do in Costa Mesa (California). Taco Maria has won over many people’s hearts in the area. Most notably, the adored LA Times food reviewer Jonathan Gold, among others (who helped to elevate and change the Los Angeles dining scene).
Taco Maria was selected the LA Times’ 2018 Best Restaurant of the Year by Gold. Additionally, Carlos Salgado has been nominated for a James Beard award. Chef and his wife’s constant presences at the restaurant allows them to closely supervise the quality of every plate that leaves the kitchen. The pork belly taco, the chicken taco with the chef’s mother’s unique mole recipe, and the scallop ceviche, are the highlights of the lunch menu.
3. Birdie Bowl
Acai and pitaya bowls, smoothies, wellness shots, and almond date shakes are all available at Birdie Bowl. This restaurant is simplistic but excellent and clean.
The store is located in the heart of The OC Mix plaza, which is home to some of Costa Mesa’s best fast food options and superb boutique shops.
You may have heard about Habana for a while, and now that you’re in Costa Mesa, you’ll have the chance to give it a try. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed. In an exotic setting, Habana provides contemporary Cuban cuisine. It boasts a lovely patio area and was recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the nicest spots in the US for outdoor dining.
There is absolutely nothing like the lechon asado (roast pork) here. The meat is incredibly tender and practically melts in your mouth, and it is served with an irresistible, garlicky sauce. Try a mojito or sangria while you’re here; the cocktails are also fantastic.
5. Fill Bakeshop
The best mochi doughnuts around! A few distinctive changing flavors available at Fill Bakeshop include white rabbit candy (which tastes something like a creamy vanilla flavor), halo halo (a Filipino dessert), guava cheesecake, banana chai, and others. Mochi cookies are also available.
Even More Places to Eat in Costa Mesa
Still looking for more recommendations for restaurants in Costa Mesa? Check out these spots below:
• Vaca: Amar Santana, a former Top Chef, serves traditional Spanish tapas with a contemporary twist.
• The Hall Global Eatery: A South Coast Plaza establishment run by Santana as well. The Hall contains three different concepts – a deli, a cafe, and a sit-down Mediterranean restaurant under one roof.
• Din Tai Fung: Din Tai Fung has an outpost inside South Coast Plaza and is well-known for its Shanghai-style soup dumplings. The pork and crab dumplings they make are a must-try!
• Terrace by Mix Mix: Filipino, French, as well as Italian flavors are combined in creative small plates at Terrace by Mix Mix. The terrace is exceptionally beautiful!
There are many things to do in Costa Mesa (California), whether you’re seeking top-notch dining, world-class shopping, or an esteemed cultural scene. Costa Mesa, which is in the center of Orange County, is frequently disregarded in favor of nearby attractions like the beaches or Disneyland, which is unfortunate because it has so much to offer and is home to some of the best things to do in Orange County. Even locals are unaware of how cool Costa Mesa is, so it still got the feel of a hidden gem.
Costa Mesa, also referred to as the “City of the Arts,” is home to a thriving fine and performing art scene as well as numerous eye-catching public art pieces and murals. It also houses the only two Michelin-starred restaurants in Orange County as well as the third-largest shopping mall in the country.
It’s a perfect place to center yourself when visiting Orange County as it’s only 20 minutes to Disneyland, 15 minutes to the nearby beach cities (such as San Clemente and Laguna Beach), and 20 minutes to the historic San Juan Capistrano.
Have you visited Costa Mesa before? Which activities in Costa Mesa are some of your favorites? We’ll love you to share them!
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