See Orange County the way America intended, behind the steering wheel of a Cadillac convertible. The cars are powerful, the roads are open and you'll feel free as you cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway with the wind in your hair and your shades on, Thelma & Louise style! Be aware that some rental operators only allow drivers over the age of 25.
An icon of American culture, renting an RV will be an unforgettable experience that gives you total flexibility and helps you save on accommodation costs. Some RVs are stunningly luxurious, so unless you're on a shoestring budget, think flat screen TVs, microwaves, coffee machines and king-size beds. Try Cruise America, offering RVs in a range of sizes for 3-7 people.
Reenact some of your favourite American movie scenes by hopping on a Greyhound. The trips are only worth long distances up and down the scenic coastal drive. If you're staying local, the public bus systems are reliable, affordable and probably the best bargain when it comes to your transport options. Buy a one-day pass on board for multiple beach trips for around US$4.
Locals often overlook trains in favour of cars, buses and the open road. But they do offer a cheap and efficient way to get around Orange County's coastal and inland towns. Sit back, relax and watch the beautiful Southern Californian landscape go by. Amtrak's carriages are clean, modern and cover vast areas. See how far you can go!
Orange County towns are some of the safest in America and crime is low in comparison to the edgier regions around Los Angeles. But, like every city, there are certain areas that you should avoid. East Anaheim, La Jolla and the Atwood areas of Placentia, Westminster and Garden Grove have all been called out for minor street gang problems.
The uptown glamour of LA is slowly seeping its way into Orange County fashion thanks to hits like The OC and major reality TV shows thrusting it into the limelight. But surfer staples of thongs, denim shorts and t-shirts still dominate the fashion scene. There are some fabulous shops in Huntington specialising in the beach chic look if you feel like joining in.
If you're here for the beaches and waves, the best time to visit is in the summer months between June and August. Flights will be at premium prices as this is when East Coasters flock to the West to soak up the Californian sun. But be wary of the well-known Californian phenomenon of 'June Gloom', where stubborn grey clouds can arrive and refuse to leave.
The thrilling rides and colourful shows at Disneyland are an essential item to tick off on any trip to Orange County. But hour-long queues for the major attractions can wear your patience thin and make tempers sizzle. Reduce the risk of ride rage and try to visit mid-week, at night or in winter. Be warned that the operation hours are cut at low traffic levels.
Get there in 16 hours, 30 minutes via San Francisco with United Airlines. Flights leave every afternoon from Kingsford Smith Airport.
The quickest route to Orange County is on Delta, stopping in Los Angeles with a total journey time of just over 15 hours.
Fly Qantas and United with two stops in Sydney and San Francisco to reach Orange County in 23 hours, 30 minutes.
Specialising in running guests between the parks and the airport, the luxury Disneyland Report Express is your best option if you and your family are heading straight to the rides. Book in advance and your driver will meet you at the airport, ready to shuffle you straight onboard and down the freeway to reach the thrills and adventures as soon as possible!
Irvine City's public shuttle service operates four routes around Orange County. From the airport take Route A, which will run you to Tustin Station in order to connect with other shuttle buses taking to you closer to your final destination. If you're travelling on a shoestring, this is a good option as the fares are cheap.
Metered cabs and vans line up at the Ground Transportation Area of John Wayne airport and are available at all opening hours of the airport. Coordinators will help you choose the right cab based on the size of your group. Taxis can take up to five passengers and vans up to seven. No waiting around, comfortable vehicles and a fuss-free trip to your front door.
Major operators like Hertz and Alamo have rental car counters located on the Arrivals Level between Terminals A and B. American roads are a breeze to drive because they're wide and spacious. But remember – you're driving on the opposite side of the road so go slow at first as it might take some getting used to!
Explore amazing creatures from seas and jungles all over the world at San Diego's state of the art animal parks: Sea World, San Diego Zoo and the Zoo's Wild Animal Park. Feed dolphins, fly through the air on white-knuckle rides, encounter magical rare Pandas and roam vast savannahs. For $130 per adult, you can get a pass to all three.
Southern California's soul can be found in the soft sands and surf along its golden beaches. Slide into your thongs and immerse yourself in the laid-back lifestyle with a tour of the Orange County coast, from Huntington to Santa Monica, the home of Baywatch. Stop for some beach volleyball and people watching at eccentric Venice Beach. The tour takes 12 hours and starts from $125 per person.
Channel your inner celebrity and follow in the footsteps of La-La Land's most iconic stars with a VIP tour of Universal Studios. Visit famous sets, get exclusive behind-the-scenes access and discover the secrets of Hollywood's top selling shows. With a gourmet lunch, valet parking and your own private escort, you might be mistaken for the real deal. Watch out for those paparazzi!
Bring your brave face to an action-packed day at California's world-famous Disneyland Resort. A Park Hopper Ticket will give you admission to the original theme park and Disney California Adventure Park opposite. Little and large will love meeting iconic cartoon characters, racing on gravity-defying rides and letting imaginations run wild. A two-day Park Hopper ticket starts from AU$166 per adult and $155 per child.
A charming restaurant and winner of several Zagat awards. This authentic Swiss-French menu boasts melt-in-your-mouth cheeses – including Raclette – and heavenly mains prepared to perfection by Swiss chef Bernard Althaus. The chalet-style décor could probably be updated and the tables given a little more room, it's more expensive than some restaurants but you'll love every cent's worth.
Award-winning Napa Rose is suitably sophisticated for romantic moonlit dinners and friendly enough for family eating after a day on the rides. The lauded chefs serve contemporary Californian cuisine with exciting dishes like strawberry sage barbecue duck breast and spit roast prime rib of pork. Indulge your taste buds in calm, wooden surroundings overlooking the electric atmosphere of Disneyland in front.
Winner of the 2011 Zagat award for 'Best Décor', although the Pacific Ocean views outside are equally exquisite. From the mouthwatering garden tasting menu, the halibut and foie gras shine. Pair it with a Love 'n Roses cocktail and reach a foodie's nirvana! Attention to detail and service is immaculate, with footstools for your belongings and blankets to keep you warm on cooler nights outside.
Immerse yourself in the elite sophistication of Pelican Hill, one of Orange County's most luxurious resorts with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Indulge your romantic side over lunch or dinner and try to sample as much as possible. You will dream about these dishes for days. One warning: don't overdo the starters and main. Their homemade gelato is almost transcendent, particularly the honey lavender.
Perched on the edge of the ocean with magnificent views and the sound of crashing waves underneath. The Rooftop Bar is a romantic, Spanish villa-style bar above La Casa Del Camino hotel. Order sangria and take a front row seat on the balcony to watch the sunset light the Californian skies ablaze.
Witness the magic of Disneyland under moonlight at the evening shows, which light up the sky with brilliant colours and dazzling lights. The nighttime parade Fantasmic! and the fireworks are spectacular and provide an exhilarating family night out. Some of the rides stay open, if you fancy a late night adrenalin rush.
The Saloon is a relaxed, Laguna Beach favourite, which goes against the Californian bar grain of slick, smooth and sophisticated. Channeling a European pub vibe, you'll be standing amongst merry drinkers knocking back beer, whiskey, shots and wine surrounded by antique-style paraphernalia. Don't expect to find any cocktail blenders here!
Dan 'the man' Vincent is this sophisticated nightspot's secret weapon. He has earned international acclaim for his cocktail mixing skills – his Lemondrop martinis and Plum Basils are sensational. The outdoor patio is relaxing or head inside where the walls - adorned by works from local artists – provide a perfect backdrop to a stylish night out.
Rent a car and go on a surf safari through the laidback beach towns peppering Orange County's golden coastline. Stop off for a closer look at Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach or Newport for some fresh seafood. That afternoon, drive south to Mission San Juan Capistrano, a charming historical area belonging to a former Spanish mission. Wander through exquisite flowerbeds and visit the county's oldest surviving residential street. That night, head to Huntington for frozen margaritas.
Throw on your most comfortable shoes and a 'fanny pack' – it's time to dive into the best theme parks that Orange County has to offer! Start off by purchasing a Hopper Ticket, which will admit you to Disneyland and her younger sister, Disneyland California Adventure. Soar into the air, come tumbling down and defy gravity on some of the world's most thrilling rides. For the faint-hearted there are gentler rides on offer as well. Top attractions include California Screamin', Grizzly River Run and Tower of Terror. Don't look down!
After a white-knuckle day of rollercoasters, it's time to give your nerves a break. Take a two-hour journey down to beautiful San Diego, passing gorgeous citrus groves and shorelines. Wander the city's sparkling streets and soak up the Spanish vibes. Don't miss out on sampling the mouth-watering authentic tapas. That afternoon, make your way to world-famous San Diego Zoo and wander through acres of beautiful enclosures, home to rare and wonderful animals from all over the world.
You can't come to California without a taste of the celebrity lifestyle. Head north to soak up some dazzle from the streets of Los Angeles. Wander designer-clad Rodeo Drive, indulging in some people watching and retail therapy, before heading over to Hollywood to see the handprints of movie icons at the Chinese Theatre. Back in Orange County that evening, continue the glamour theme with a night out in Newport Beach.
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