Southern California is often a favored destination year-round for its agreeable weather and many family-friendly attractions. In particular, the county of Orange County houses a number of those venues that witness droves visiting for vacation and otherwise. Nestled between the cities of Newport Beach and Santa Ana is Costa Mesa, also known as the City of the Arts®, given its many performing arts and public art venues. Whether your interests lie in shopping, dining, culture or design, there are options aplenty to spend a weekend here or longer, should your visit allow.
An Award-Winning Culinary Destination
The city recently became home to the only Orange County Michelin-starred restaurants, Hana Re by Chef Atsushi Yokoyama and Taco Maria by Chef Carlos Salgado, selected among 90 restaurants in California, and the only two selected from the 34 cities in the county. Salgado is a three-time semifinalist for the coveted James Beard Award and in 2018, Los Angeles Times named Taco Maria Restaurant of the Year.
Other new restaurants that have recently opened doors and warrant a visit include Terrace by Mix Mix for cuisine influenced by modern Filipino flavors, French restaurant Knife Pleat, Marugame Udon, Japan's premium udon shop, which also has its exclusive Orange County location here and The Hall Global Eatery by “Top Chef” runner-up Amar Santana offering European food stands which is scheduled to open late December.
If you'd like a sampling of everything the city has to offer, then plan a visit during The TASTE – Costa Mesa in the fall, where dozens of top restaurants from throughout the city and Orange County participate, offering little bites and sips to experience their offerings. Co-hosted with the Los Angeles Times, it is a pop-up block party over two days with access to cooking demonstrations and talks by renowned chefs.
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We recommend Toast Kitchen & Bakery on Newport Boulevard for breakfast, where chef John Park was recently named Chef of the Year by Orange County’s Golden Foodie Awards. The French toast alone is ample proof of that verdict. Also, stop by Descanso for dinner, a modern Mexican taqueria located on Adams Avenue where you can choose to dine ‘a la plancha’ for tableside cooking by the chef and have the sopa de fideo (traditional noodle soup).
Attractions and Activities
Costa Mesa has alternative shopping experiences within the city that keep things interesting. Consider The Camp, which, aside from a few cool retail and dining concepts that are all local, also has a wine tasting spot, Wine Lab, to lounge at with friends. Keep an eye on the parking area with little nuggets of wisdom at each spot. One of the most photographed staircases in the area is located in here as well. You’ll know why when you see it!
Another spot along the same lines, right across the street, is The LAB (Little American Business) Anti-Mall, an open-air shopping destination with an art gallery, apparel stores, and other venues, which recently celebrated 25 years in business. There is also the South Coast Collection or SOCO, with a group of shops called the OC MIX — boutique spots, food hall, local businesses, and a venue for some community events.
Renowned as a leading international shopping destination, South Coast Plaza here has more than 250 boutiques and restaurants. The customized concierge services and luxury VIP experience includes valet parking and a VIP Passport with deals galore to delight the shopper in you. An exclusive Access Lounge is available to visitors with an invite card provided by local hotels or stores, or for American Express Platinum and Black cardholders.
Arts and Performing Arts
Costa Mesa is home to Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory, Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale and the West Coast school for American Ballet Theater. You certainly don’t have to wander too far to catch a performance or enjoy some live music. As for public art, a new mural titled Costa Mesa Bloom, located at Triangle Square, was recently commissioned inspired by the native flora, culture and diversity found throughout the city.
The Costa Mesa Art Walk takes you to Noguchi Gardens and California Scenario, a 16-acre park designed with native plants and materials to highlight the state’s natural resources. Almost 20 murals comprise the vibrant art scene in the city, including several utility boxes that bear the streaks of local artists. If museums and cultural attractions are more your style then add to your agenda, the Costa Mesa Historical Society Museum, Diego Sepulveda Adobe and Heroes Hall.
For your stay, Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa should fare high on the list. It is a Tribute Portfolio Hotel and the only one in Orange County. Part of the Marriott Bonvoy Premium boutique experience, it is located on the historic property of the Beverly Heritage Hotel. It has one of the most stylishly decorated interiors (watch out, Instagrammers!) and is also located along a lake where there are frequent sightings of migratory birds.
Clearly, there is plenty to do and see in Costa Mesa all year round. Additionally, the city is conveniently located near several other beachside getaways as well as just a few hours’ drive from San Diego and Los Angeles if you’d like to explore more or extend your stay. Simply plan on your next visit to the west coast to include this lesser-known SoCal destination. Remember to view the event calendar for an extensive list of city-wide happenings.
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