I moved to LA almost 8 years ago, and even after all this time, I keep making new discoveries that make me more and more in love with SoCal. The little girl inside of me who grew up in Minnesota still gets a wee bit giddy every time it hits 80 degrees on a December afternoon in the Valley. IS THIS REAL LIFE? I’m constantly feeling like I’m on a perma-vacay, and I’m A-OKAY with that!
But besides the mind blowing good weather here in SoCal, another benefit to living in Los Angeles is that there are literally SO many places to visit that are within a 2-3 hour drive. There is such diversity in terrain and destinations for weekend trips, it’s not even funny. From the beach, to the desert, to the mountains… we have it all.
Recently, I added a new destination to my MUST EXPERIENCE LIST for everyone visiting SoCal. It’s Orange County. Of course, when you think of Orange County, you think beach and sun… and you’re right! But I think the most exciting reasons to take a weekend (or more!) to explore the OC are the SHOPPING and the FOOD. Holy Macaroni. I thought LA had it all, but boy was I wrong. I spent three days exploring Orange County and came up with a guide to my favorite spots. From shopping to dining, I awarded each destination with a reason why I think it’s a OC MUST.
If you’re looking for the ultimate relaxation vacation, look no further. The Villas and Bungalows at Pelican Hill took me to my happy place. There is actually no need to really leave the Resort considering there’s ample dining, shopping and activities on site. I hit up The Spa At Pelican Hill while I was there and had an amazing massage, and took some time to lay by the incredible Coliseum pool, one of the world’s largest circle pools! It deserves a very large GOLD STAR, for BEST POOLSIDE.
It’s also clear that the coastal view is unrivaled here at Pelican Hill!
I was really looking forward to visiting Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach. It did NOT disappoint!!! I gave it the award for “Most-Instagram-able” because it was just so CUTE everywhere you looked! It is just swimming in photo-ops and is perfectly curated for a day out shopping with the gals or the fam. From the unique boutiques, to the sea-side air and outdoor restaurants… it really is a neat spot. My favorite stores were:
Serena & Lily: Super cute home goods (Pictured below)
LE LABO: The BEST fragrances
Elyse Walker: An assortment of designer clothing and accessories that will make you SWOON!!!!
If you ever are feeling like you’d like to spend a WHOLE DAY getting lost in the fabulousness that is Anthropologie, look NO FURTHER. The Fashion Island Anthropologie is literally the biggest and most badass Anthropolgie I’ve ever been to. I literally will never go to another store again. This is it. I’m coming back to Fashion Island over and over again FOR THIS. You just have to see it to believe it.
One of my favorite stops on my trip to Orange County was Soco and The OC Mix. It’s not just a place to shop, it’s an EXPERIENCE. From hosting Orange County’s largest farmers market, to wine tasting, design lectures and culinary classes /demonstrations… SOCO and The OC Mix is always full of life and fun. The shopping destination started as a hub for interior design (SOCO) and expanded into a curated mix of showrooms, restaurants, artisan food purveyors, boutiques, and creative studios.
I gave it the award for the Best Place to Shop for Gifts because in every store, I felt inspired to buy something special for a loved one. From shopping for succulents at the Uni Home Store, to the bite-sized treats at ST Patisserie…there really was an excellent MIX of places where you could find a very personalized, well crafted gifts for anyone you love!
In all seriousness, there’s a special place in my heart for high end fashion. As awesome Beverly Hills is for shopping, there’s something about Rodeo Drive that is a bit stuffy for me. What I loved about my visit to South Coast Plaza, was how accessible and cozy it made designer shopping feel. I felt inspired and empowered by all of the incredible window displays and decor. I actually bought my husband his wedding gift, an Omega Speed-master, here! It was a pretty surreal experience.
I will 100% be doing back to SCP for all of my high end shopping.
Fresh, simple, and mouth watering. Fig & Olive captures the essence of the Mediterranean diet with it’s assortment of creative crostinis. We ordered a platter of the most popular selections and were blown away by the presentation and delicious flavors of these bite sized creations. We ordered the Beef Carpaccio (a MUST) and tried the following crostinis (favorites starred*):
KABOCHA SQUASH, MUSHROOM, BURRATA*, GOAT CHEESE*, MANCHEGO, PROSCIUTTO
Lastly, what’s a guide to a city without recommendations for BEST DINNER?!
For me, this one is a tie. We went to A Restaurant and Broadway by Amar Santana… and both meals were BONKERS. Honestly, they don’t make food like this in LA. It takes a while to land on a stellar restaurant, but these two picks are home-run, slam DUNKS! I will be back to Orange County for the food. THIS IS A CERTAINTY!!!!