Best Places OC
Credit: Joseph Barber Photography

11 Places in OC to Take Your Cool Friend From LA

We’re Not Keeping Score, but You’re About to Get 11 Major BFF Bonus Points

From the high profile of Hollywood to the bling of Beverly Hills, LA sure does have an allure, but the big city’s little sister offers much more than meets the eye. We’re talking about OC, of course! Local hotspots hit solid gold when it comes to curated vibes and refined styles. Relaxed coastal hideaways and secret cocktail bars are the main attractions, while popping off on Instagram is merely an added bonus. Not to mention that these places lack the crowds and traffic—and they actually come with parking. Have a hay day at these 11 favorite OC spots, and your LA friend may rethink big city living. 

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Coffee Dose

Coffee Dose
Credit: Jordan Shiley

Let’s just say this coffee shop is where you’ll want to take your bestie, but maybe not your grandma. Bold and playful in character, with hilariously profane cups, Coffee Dose is the perfect place for a girl-hang. No matter what health trend your urbanite friend is currently into, Coffee Dose has it covered. Unique beverages like The Detox, made with organic charcoal, matcha, raw almond milk and wild honey, have health nuts and caffeine junkies alike addicted to this shop. Dine in the retro-inspired, pink-and-green cafe as you shamelessly indulge in the Bone Broth Waffle or Sir PsychoSexy Sando—this menu is anything but ordinary. 

Locations: Irvine, Costa Mesa, Laguna Hills

 

Semi Tropic Wines

Best Places OC
Credit: Akin Odebunmi

Catch up with your bestie over natural wines that promise convos lasting long into the night. Jazz music lingers in the air at Costa Mesa’s first natural wine bar, Semi Tropic Wines. This hideout is redefining the wine scene with a collection of minimal-intervention selections that pair perfectly with cheese plates and seasonal snacks. String lights illuminate the patio and usher in an atmosphere of slow-paced living—it’s like sharing wine on your own back porch. The interior plays off the all-natural theme with light-washed wood and minimalist decor. It’s the perfect melody that makes a trend-setting hipster feel right at home. 

Local Insight: Thursdays are Jazz nights at Semi Tropic Wines. From 6:30-9 p.m., grab a glass and sway the night away to the sounds of the brassy saxophone and vibrations of the cello.

Location: Costa Mesa

 

OCMA

Best Places OC
Credit: Orange County Museum of Art

Everyone knows about the Getty and the Griffith, but a gem that often goes undiscovered is the Orange County Museum of Art. This innovative art gallery has launched careers of many young artists, and it plays an integral part in Orange County culture. New to their inventory are the ethereal paintings of Jennifer Guidi, as well as the abstract installations of Chicago-based artist Tony Lewis. Take some time to explore the grounds, which were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne, articulated with the same artistry as the works housed within. You’ll find the gallery on the campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. 

Location: Costa Mesa

 

September

Credit: September

Designed more like a diamond hotel lobby on the shores of Tulum than a basic tea room, September’s coastal aesthetic rivals the vibe of LA favorites like WeHo’s Great White. From the layered stone flooring to airy rattan lamp shades, everything about this shop’s vibe screams luxury boho. Both the dining space and coffee creations are begging to be photographed. The Asian-inspired menu boasts unique combinations like sesame, egg and sweet purple potato. For those with a sweet tooth, our favorite order is a creamy iced matcha latte and an ice cream fondue to split! 

Location: Westminster

12/5

 

Museum of Peace and Quiet

Best Places OC
Credit: Museum of Peace and Quiet

If we’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that almost anything can be achieved in loungewear. The Museum of Peace and Quiet is an archive of artfully designed modern pieces intended to enhance everyday living. Find your favorite new fall set tucked away in this charming Corona Del Mar courtyard. This label offers simple, low-impact designs that are recognizable by neutral color palettes and signature brand fonts. Previously found at pop-ups, the museum is the newest extension of their brand. Calm and cozy, this Corona del Mar hideaway has everything you need to bundle up with a match-lit candle and a fall-favorite read. 

Location: Corona del Mar

 

Vacation Bar

Credit: @dana_gaydon

This oasis of a cocktail lounge brings a slice of Havana to downtown Santa Ana. Rich in character and charm, Vacation Bar revitalized a historic centennial building with retro checkered tile and a greenhouse of lush tropical plants. From menu creation to interior design, every aspect of this bar manifests a neoclassical, luxury atmosphere. Even the furniture was handmade by neighboring businesses. Food and drink selections offer a melting pot of flavors inspired by the owner’s travels around the world. Among our favorite cocktails is the Gucci Flip Flops, made with tequila, passion fruit, Aperol foam and ghost chili salt. 

Location: Santa Ana

 

The Coast Vintage Market

Credit: Becca McHaffie

There are few things as thrilling as finding cottage core pieces that perfectly spruce up your home! Hunt for antique treasures at OC’s largest vintage market every second Sunday of each month. A cornucopia of one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods and heirlooms, the Laguna Hills Mall parking lot turns into a fair riddled with nostalgia—and hey, they always say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Save the date for the next market, scheduled for Oct. 8 from 8 a.m to 3 p.m. Your best bet for finding gold is in the morning, and be sure to follow the bounty with  Sunday brunch at El Torito. Happy hunting! 

Location: Laguna Hills

4/8

 

Anaheim Packing District

Another historic landmark that’s now repurposed with trendsetting flair is the Anaheim Packing District. Originally built in 1919, what once was a citrus packing facility has found new life as a gourmet food hall—the ultimate culinary adventure. Artisanal ice creams, international cuisine and themed watering holes satisfy any craving nearly any time of day. White Elephant has the best Thai in town, and the flavors of ZeroZero39 are worthy of Rome! In the evening, fall down the rabbit hole and find yourself in The Blind Rabbit, a prohibition-inspired, reservation-only speakeasy. Check out the event calendar for information on pop-up events and live music nights.

Location: Anaheim

 

Hotel Joaquin

Credit: Roger Davies

Convince your friend to stay a while because a stay at Hotel Joaquin is an OC bucket list item. Designed to feel like a retreat, this little coastal bungalow brings together California’s pioneering soul with easy-breezy accents. Darling rooms are finished with custom artworks and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. Step out on the patio where ocean views will take your breath away. This hotel doesn’t just embrace the health-forward coastal lifestyle—it manifests it with farm-to-table dining, holistic yoga sessions and meditative sound baths. Sleep in—but no later than 10 a.m. because breakfast at Saline is included and ends half an hour later.

Location: Laguna Beach

 

Little Ox Coffee

Credit: Little Ox Coffee

Fullerton is one of OC’s up-and-coming areas, so explore it before the crowds take over! Brand new to the area, Little Ox Coffee is quickly making a name for itself as the city’s go-to caffeine joint. It’s the ideal atmosphere for catching up with friends over boldly brewed cuppas. The modern, natural-lit cafe is detailed with contemporary glass-paneled walls and a skeel-marbled bar. Their salted vanilla latte is ridiculously delicious—and not at all too sweet. Little Ox Coffee is best for a morning spent catching up over coffee, yet freshly pulled espresso drinks are worthy of a grab-and-go too. 

Location: Fullerton

 

Lido Marina Village

Best Places OC
Credit: Joseph Barber Photography

The epicenter of OC, Lido Marina Village is the local destination that even LA dwellers are flocking to. It has all the urban icons, such as Malibu Farm and Clare V., but it’s the local favorites that make this center so unique. Since most of the shops have an LA presence, be sure to show your bestie our local treasures: Grab a waterfront drink at Lido Bottle Works, shop the latest home decor trends at Amber Interiors and send them home with a loaf of sourdough from Rye Goods. Go big or go home, and sail away in an iconic Newport duffy with Vision Electric Boat Rentals. The marina is beautiful, and views are even better by boat! 

Location: Newport Beach

 

Lover of the beach, food and fitness, Emily enjoys exploring all sunny Southern California has to offer! She has a passion for sharing about her favorite local gems and began writing for Locale in 2022. On the weekends, find her creating recipes for her food blog or out in Laguna!

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