Explore another side of SoCal this year

Feb 19, 2024

A vibrant place filled with bright murals, colorful art installations and a wide array of performing arts, the self-proclaimed City of the Arts® ensures you’re never far from beautiful sights.   

Situated in Orange County, California, just a few miles from the Pacific Coast, Costa Mesa’s dependable sunny weather makes it an ideal getaway for exploring outdoors any time of the year.   

Home to the largest shopping center on the West Coast and two Michelin star restaurants, Costa Mesa earns its reputation as a retail therapy and culinary hot spot. Whether you fly into a nearby airport or drive, you’ll want to arrive with an appetite and a little extra room in your luggage for the trip back.   

Allow this guide to be your starting point for a trip to Costa Mesa.

Art: Living up to its trademarked name    

A destination for the visual and performing arts, Costa Mesa has a constant flow of creativity literally running through its streets. Twenty art pieces make up Costa Mesa’s free public art walk. Explore the city and listen to a self-guided audio tour to learn more about these impressive installations, including a sculpture garden.

While you’re on the move, keep an eye out for some of the city’s many street murals. The "Welcome Home" mural by world-famous artist Shepard Fairey is the largest in Orange County, measuring 7,000 square feet. You’ll also find tribute murals celebrating Dolly Parton and the late Kobe Bryant. These whimsical works of art add flair to everyday buildings around the town (and some make for the perfect Instagram moment).

You'll also want to plan for a show or two at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which has hosted Broadway favorites like “Wicked” and "Disney's Lion King," plus musical artists like John Legend. The center is also home to a resident dance company and the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Chorale.

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), with its space-age architecture, is like an art piece in itself. The museum holds more than 4,500 pieces of modern art and gives “art to everyone” with free admission for the next 10 years, thanks to a generous endowment. 

Local eats: Flavors to fuel your trip  

Start your morning with a cortado from Hola Adios Coffeeshop; try paella at the Cuban restaurant Habana; and end the day on a sweet note with a churro from El Moro at Mercado Gonzalez located inside the Northgate Market, a bustling food hall brimming with the aromas of fresh, authentic Mexican food from a variety of vendors. Full of exciting culinary experiences, a trip to Costa Mesa will really feel like an Eatcation®. (Yes, the food scene is so expansive, they trademarked that.)

Foodies will want to indulge in (at least) one of Costa Mesa's two Michelin Star restaurants. Reserve a coveted spot at the 10-seat Hana re sushi for a chef-led omakase experience or sample the ever-changing seasonal menu at Knife Pleat for truly artful French fare. You can also get your fill of noodles on “Ramen Row," a stretch of town with over half-a-dozen restaurants that specialize in the delicious Japanese meal.  

Sample craft beverages on the Costa Mesa Beer Trail, which features five brewery tasting rooms (four of which are in walking distance from each other). Green Cheek Brewery is serving up original brews like their self-explanatory It's a Lime Lager and unique Lavendar Lemonade hard seltzer. Just across the street is Salty Bear Brewing, pouring equally interesting brews like their Cerveza Horchata and Acai Berry Hard Seltzer. Both breweries have outdoor patios so you can sip in the sunshine. If vino is more your style, Semi Tropic Wines is known for their natural wines that you can opt to pair with their selection of cheese and charcuterie boards, or, you can check out these wine tasting opportunities around the city.

Shopping: Very refined to one-of-a-kind  

One of the largest shopping centers in the country, South Coast Plaza is a luxury shopper’s dream. There are over 250 boutiques and restaurants, including high-end designer brands (Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Chanel and Prada among them) and unique dining experiences like the Collage Culinary Experience, which offers cuisine from around the world. 

And if you’re not a mall shopping kind of person, The LAB—Little American Business, which bills itself at the “anti-mall”—is for you. Home to independent and homegrown businesses, you’ll find goods like vinyl records (made all the cooler by being sold out of an Airstream trailer) and handmade jewelry, plus local dining, including artisanal pizza and plant-based ice cream. 

There are also specialty shopping centers like The CAMP, which features a hub of environmental- and health-conscious shops. You can also explore SOCO & The OC Mix is comprised of two parts: SOCO (the South Coast Collection) is an interior design center with over 20 showrooms geared toward interior designers, but also open to homeowners looking for inspiration; and The OC Mix, an expansive shopping and food hall comprised of small business and independently owned restaurants.

Don’t leave town without exploring the 17th Street Promenade Shops. Essentially Costa Mesa's main street, this is a prime spot for a leisurely afternoon spent strolling through local shops and restaurants, just a couple miles from the Pacific Ocean. 

Ready to go? Start planning your trip with Costa Mesa hotel deals.

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