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Best Orange County neighborhoods: 11 places to live‍

Neighborhood insights
Best Orange County neighborhoods: 11 places to live‍
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If you're contemplating a move to Orange County, California, you'll quickly discover this Southern California gem offers a broad range of distinct neighborhoods, each with its unique appeal. Orange County is ideal for living with its perfect weather, magnificent beaches, top-rated schools, and prosperous economy. View our insider’s guide to Orange County’s real estate market for more high-level context on the market. If you’re interested in or seeking property management solutions, we also have a helpful guide to Orange County property management.

Choosing the right neighborhood depends on a host of factors. Consider your lifestyle needs, preferred amenities, proximity to work or schools, and the type of community you want to belong to. As you find the perfect neighborhood in Orange County, trust Doorstead to take care of your Orange County property management needs, ensuring a seamless and stress-free experience.

Here, we've curated a list of 11 of the best neighborhoods in Orange County, providing insights into their unique characteristics and what makes each one a top choice.

1. Newport Beach

Newport Beach, a stunning seaside city, perfectly blends Pacific grandeur, a thriving economy, and a dynamic cultural scene. Its charm lies in its unique combination of small-town appeal and big-city luxuries. As the jewel of Orange County's coastline, Newport Beach is known for its stunning beaches, luxury real estate, and high-end shopping.

Newport Beach offers a vibrant arts and culture scene with plenty of theaters and galleries, plus an array of gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques. It's also a hub for outdoor activities, with the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve offering walking and biking trails and numerous marinas serving as the launching points for sailing, paddle boarding, and cruising experiences.

Day-to-day life in Newport Beach

Imagine waking up daily to panoramic ocean views and enjoying activities like surfing, sailing, or simply lounging on the beach. The neighborhood offers a variety of gourmet dining options and shopping at Fashion Island. Communities like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach are sought-after for their high-end properties and stunning views.

The city continues to charm residents with its beautiful beaches, picturesque harbors, and upscale shopping and dining options.

The thriving business environment, bolstered by many high-tech, financial, and real estate companies, means abundant job opportunities. In recent years, Newport Beach has become a hub for innovative tech startups, offering new exciting career possibilities.

Residents appreciate the city’s dedication to preserving the environment. With an emphasis on sustainable living and a commitment to maintaining green spaces, Newport Beach showcases the best of nature.

As for housing, Newport Beach offers various options, from luxury beachfront houses to elegant condos catering to different lifestyle needs. The city has also seen an uptick in smart home technologies, with many residences adopting sustainable and high-tech features.

While the cost of living remains higher than the national average, residents find that the unique blend of beach town charm, luxury living, excellent amenities, and a strong sense of community make the cost worth it.

Newport Beach has one of the highest property values in Southern California. But it also offers a good mix of housing options, from beachfront properties to more affordable condos. According to Zumper data, the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Newport Beach is $3,020 as of June 2023.

In 2023, Newport Beach continues to offer the quintessential Southern California lifestyle—where the pace of life is as swift or as leisurely as you want it to be. It's where you can start your day with a sunrise surf, spend the afternoon shopping at fashion-forward boutiques, and end the day dining at a gourmet restaurant overlooking the ocean. It's an embodiment of the perfect coastal city.

This upscale community will be perfect if you enjoy coastal living with all the finer things in life.

2. Irvine

Known for its meticulously designed communities and leading-edge economy, Irvine stands out as a dynamic and family-friendly locale. Irvine is recognized for its award-winning schools, abundant jobs, especially in tech, and master-planned communities. Its charm is a fusion of its progressive character and tranquil suburban ambiance.

With its numerous community parks, including the massive Orange County Great Park, residents are never far from green spaces or outdoor recreational activities.

Job opportunities are abundant, particularly in tech, healthcare, and education, bolstered by the city's strong economy. The thriving economy boasts significant employers in the education, technology, and healthcare sectors, making the city a magnet for professionals. Irvine's educational offerings are among the best in the country, with top-rated public schools and the world-renowned University of California, Irvine, within its borders.

At the same time, areas like Irvine and Costa Mesa are popular among families and young professionals for their affordability and accessibility to business centers.

Day-to-day life in Irvine

Life in Irvine is suburban bliss. There are various parks, shopping centers, and a strong emphasis on community events. Commuting is easy with many residents working in the area. According to Rent Cafe, the average rent for an apartment in Irvine is $3,069. The city is one of the safest in America, offering various housing options, from apartments to luxury homes.

Irvine’s diversity shines through its food scene, where residents enjoy a multitude of international cuisines. Meanwhile, the city's commitment to public safety, excellent healthcare facilities, and vibrant arts and culture scene further enhance the quality of life here.

Despite the city's growth, Irvine maintains a close-knit community vibe, aided by its numerous festivals and community events. In 2023, Irvine remains a city where convenience, community, and quality converge, making it a great place to live and work.

This is an excellent choice for families and professionals desiring top schools, a strong sense of community, and shorter commutes. Family-oriented communities in Orange County, places like Irvine and Mission Viejo, known for their excellent schools, tend to attract more homeowners, particularly families seeking single-family homes.

The city of Irvine, known for its strong technology sector, has a mix of housing types. Here you'll find detached single-family homes, townhouses, and multi-family units, many within master-planned communities with shared amenities.

3. Huntington Beach

With a soul deeply rooted in surf culture, Huntington Beach showcases an infectious laid-back vibe alongside a vibrant social scene. Huntington Beach, nicknamed "Surf City USA," is famous for its surf-friendly beaches and relaxed atmosphere. It is the embodiment of Southern California's beach culture.

Huntington Beach's downtown area is a hub of activity with many shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve offers tranquil natural beauty and is a popular spot for birdwatching, while the iconic Huntington Beach Pier is a must-visit locale for residents and tourists alike.

Day-to-day life in Huntington Beach:

Life here revolves around the beach for many, whether surfing, beach volleyball, or enjoying sunsets on the pier. Even if you're not a surfer, the city's expansive sandy beaches, perfect for lounging or beach volleyball, and the iconic Huntington Beach Pier, ideal for fishing or simply enjoying a sunset, encapsulate the beach lifestyle loved by locals.

The city's downtown area remains an energetic hub filled with a diverse mix of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The Main Street and Pacific City offer shopping, dining, and entertainment. Neighborhoods in Huntington Beach continue to embody a friendly, laid-back vibe. A solid educational system with reputable schools and an array of housing options from beachfront homes to cozy suburban houses contribute to the city's appeal for families.

According to data from Zumper, the average rental price for a 1-bedroom apartment here is $2,373 as of 2023.

In 2023, Huntington Beach maintains its relaxed yet lively character, offering an everyday life that feels like a beach holiday. If you're a sun and ocean enthusiast who loves a laid-back lifestyle, Huntington Beach would be your best bet.

4. Fullerton

Fullerton, a city rich in history and culture, offers a vibrant lifestyle to its residents. Its lively downtown area and tranquil residential neighborhoods make it a uniquely appealing city. Fullerton is recognized for its vibrant arts scene, historic downtown, and excellent educational institutions.

The Muckenthaler Cultural Center hosts many art and cultural events annually, enhancing the city's artistic appeal. Fullerton's extensive trail system, encompassing urban and wildland trails, provides nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts a haven. Fullerton is also home to several higher education institutions, including California State University Fullerton. Education remains a cornerstone of Fullerton's community. Educational institutions provide top-notch education and also contribute to the city's cultural and community events.

Day-to-day life in Fullerton:

The neighborhood is a mix of quiet residential areas and bustling commerce. It's a hub for music and art lovers with many galleries, theatres, and live music venues. Housing in Fullerton in 2023 ranges from historic homes that reflect the city's rich past to contemporary apartments in urban settings. The city continues to be a blend of the old and new, offering a unique charm that makes it an attractive place to live.

Living in Fullerton in 2023 means being part of a community that values education, cultural diversity, and a balance of urban convenience with a touch of historic charm.

According to rental data from Zumper, it costs on average $2,055 to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Fullerton.

This neighborhood is ideal for those seeking a lively arts and culture scene and a strong educational sector.

5. Tustin

Tustin seamlessly merges its rich historic charm with modern amenities, creating a distinctive and welcoming atmosphere. Tustin's historic district offers charming old buildings, antique shops, and unique eateries. This city brims with community spirit, making it a close-knit and friendly neighborhood.

Tustin is known for its beautiful tree-lined streets. Various community parks offer a place for residents to relax, play, and connect. The Marconi Automotive Museum and the Tustin Area Historical Society add to the city's charm. With its diverse dining scene, from trendy cafes to international cuisine, food enthusiasts will indeed find something they like.

Tustin is also known for its excellent education system. The city's schools consistently receive high ratings, and several have been distinguished as California Distinguished Schools. Tustin's proximity to higher education institutions like the University of California, Irvine and Chapman University also adds to its appeal for families and students.

Day-to-day life in Tustin:

Tustin offers a balanced lifestyle with a friendly, small-town feel yet easy access to urban amenities. Outdoor activities are plentiful in its many parks. Living in Tustin in 2023 provides a unique blend of small-town charm and urban conveniences, making it an appealing choice for those who value a sense of community and accessibility. In terms of housing, Tustin offers a variety of options that cater to diverse lifestyles and budgets. From historic homes in tree-lined streets to modern apartments in newly developed areas like the Tustin Legacy, residents can find something that suits their needs.

According to RentCafe data, the average rental price for an apartment in Tustin is $2,747 monthly.

This could be your pick for one of the best places to live in Orange County if you desire a tight-knit community vibe with historic charm and easy access to urban conveniences.

6. Mission Viejo

With its undulating green hills and striking Spanish mission-style architecture, Mission Viejo is an idyllic locale to call home. This master-planned community is known for its picturesque tree-lined streets, high-ranking schools, and recreational facilities. The city exudes a friendly, small-town vibe, making it a welcoming place to settle.

For nature enthusiasts, O'Neill Regional Park provides camping and hiking opportunities, and the Mission Viejo Country Club is a haven for golf lovers. The city hosts numerous events yearly, fostering a strong sense of community. The city's extensive library and active community center demonstrate a solid commitment to learning and community involvement.

Day-to-day life in Mission Viejo:

In Mission Viejo, everyday life is characterized by a friendly community atmosphere, access to outdoor recreation, and a high quality of life, all set in a beautifully designed, Spanish mission-style setting. Expect a family-oriented suburban lifestyle with plenty of outdoor activities around Lake Mission Viejo. Here, residents can go fishing, boating, or simply enjoy concerts and movie nights on the beach.

Residents enjoy the convenience of well-maintained public facilities and services, including a library, community centers, and public safety services. Mission Viejo also has a diverse selection of shopping and dining options, from local boutiques and cafes in quaint shopping plazas to larger retailers and restaurants in the Shops at Mission Viejo.

According to Zumper data, the average price to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Mission Viejo is $2,475 monthly.

Mission Viejo is an excellent choice for families who love outdoor activities and value a close-knit community.

7. Anaheim

Anaheim is best known as the home of Disneyland, but also for its sports teams and lively entertainment district. Beyond the fun of Disneyland, Anaheim offers a vibrant and dynamic environment that is rich in history and cultural diversity. The city uniquely blends residential tranquility, entertainment hotspots, and commercial bustle.

Anaheim's historic Packing District offers an array of unique eateries in a communal dining space. At the same time, the nearby Platinum Triangle district is a burgeoning urban environment with high-rise condominiums, office spaces, and entertainment venues. Despite the city's bustling entertainment scene, Anaheim offers quiet, suburban neighborhoods.

In historic cities like Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Orange, you can find various properties, including Craftsman-style homes, Spanish Revival architecture, and Victorian homes. These cities also offer modern condos and apartments, particularly in their rejuvenated downtown areas.

Day-to-day life in Anaheim:

Anchored by the iconic Disneyland Resort, Anaheim’s entertainment sector thrives, providing locals access to a world of magic right at their doorstep. Beyond Disneyland, other attractions like Knott's Berry Farm, the Anaheim Packing District, and a plethora of shopping and dining options ensure there’s always something to do in the city.

As home to the Los Angeles Angels (MLB) and the Anaheim Ducks (NHL), sporting events are a regular part of the Anaheim lifestyle. The excitement on game days is palpable, making it a thrilling city for sports enthusiasts.

Despite the bustling tourism and entertainment industry, everyday life in Anaheim for residents is also about community. The city comprises several unique neighborhoods, each offering local amenities, such as parks, community centers, and schools.

In terms of housing, Anaheim offers a range of options, from apartments in high-rise buildings in the vibrant Platinum Triangle area to single-family homes in quieter residential neighborhoods.

According to Zumper data, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Anaheim is $1,995 as of June 2023, up 9% from last year.

In 2023, Anaheim continues to be a city that effortlessly combines the thrill of a bustling metropolis with the comfort and convenience of a hometown community. It's a city where each day can be a new adventure or a relaxing retreat. Anaheim is ideal for families and individuals who love being in the heart of the action, with plenty of entertainment options.

8. Laguna Beach

Renowned for its picturesque beaches and flourishing art scene, Laguna Beach offers a charming coastal lifestyle. This city is a unique fusion of natural beauty, artistic flair, and community spirit.

The city is a paradise for nature lovers, with over twenty parks, preserves, scenic coves, and beautiful beaches. The Laguna Art Museum, the many art galleries, and the community’s commitment to supporting local artists reflect the deep-rooted artistic heritage of this charming city.

Luxurious beachfront properties are a staple in areas like Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, often boasting breathtaking views and easy access to the ocean. These areas feature both high-end condos and expansive single-family homes.

Day-to-day life in Laguna Beach:

Everyday life in Laguna Beach, Orange County, in 2023 retains its unique, artistic, and relaxed beach town vibe. Nestled between hills and the Pacific Ocean, this picturesque seaside community offers a distinctive quality of life that has long drawn both artists and beach lovers alike.

Despite its international fame, Laguna Beach retains a close-knit community feel, with residents enjoying farmers markets, community events, and local traditions throughout the year. Life here revolves around the beach, art galleries, and the many festivals held throughout the year. The community has a laid-back, artistic vibe.

Laguna Beach offers a variety of housing, from quaint cottages to luxury beachfront homes. Its unique neighborhoods each offer their own charm and character, making it a truly special place to call home.

According to RentCafe data, the average rent for a 949-square-foot apartment in Laguna Beach is $3,142, putting it higher than other Orange County neighborhoods.

The Laguna Beach neighborhood is perfect for those who appreciate natural beauty, art, and a relaxed beach town atmosphere.

9. Yorba Linda

Yorba Linda, characterized by its rolling hills and sprawling landscapes, is a city that values community spirit and quality of life. Yorba Linda is recognized for its high standard of living, excellent schools, and being the birthplace of President Richard Nixon. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is a popular attraction in Yorba Linda.

The city provides excellent outdoor activities with over 100 miles of trails and 30 city parks. The Black Gold Golf Club offers a premier golfing experience, and the Yorba Linda Country Club is a hub of social activity. Yorba Linda epitomizes an upscale, suburban lifestyle.

Day-to-day life in Yorba Linda:

Living in Yorba Linda is characterized by an upscale suburban lifestyle, a strong sense of community, and abundant outdoor recreational activities.

This upscale community offers quiet, family-friendly living with easy access to hiking trails, golf courses, and equestrian facilities. The city has a variety of shopping and dining options, from local boutiques and restaurants to more extensive, well-known chains. The community also hosts various events throughout the year, like the annual street fair, contributing to the strong community spirit in Yorba Linda.

Choose Yorba Linda if you prefer an upscale, quiet residential area with plenty of recreational opportunities.

10. Dana Point

Dana Point, renowned for its stunning cliffs and beautiful harbor, is a dream come true for water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. This seaside city is synonymous with a luxurious yet laid-back coastal lifestyle. Dana point is also famous for its beautiful beaches and whale-watching opportunities.

The city offers a diverse dining scene, with numerous seaside eateries offering everything from gourmet cuisine to casual beach fare. Dana Point Harbor, with its marinas and eclectic mix of shops, is a bustling hub of activity.

Day-to-day life in Dana Point:

Living in Dana Point, residents enjoy the relaxed beach town vibe combined with upscale amenities. Known for its beautiful harbor, the city is a paradise for water enthusiasts, offering surfing, fishing, paddle boarding, and sailing opportunities. Residents enjoy various water sports, beach activities, and dining at waterfront restaurants.

According to RentCafe, the average rent for an apartment in Dana Point is $3,164.

Dana Point is an ideal choice if you're a water lover seeking a laid-back beach lifestyle.

11. San Clemente

With its beautiful beaches, Spanish colonial-style architecture, and friendly community, San Clemente offers a delightful blend of leisure and lifestyle. It perfectly captures the casual elegance and laid-back spirit of a classic Southern California beach town.

San Clemente's weather is near perfect, often boasting the best climate in the country.

San Clemente's coastal trail offers stunning views and is an excellent place for a casual stroll or bike ride. The city’s farmer’s market and numerous outdoor festivals provide residents with opportunities to support local businesses and artisans.

Day-to-day life in San Clemente:

Everyday life in San Clemente in 2023 is akin to a perpetual vacation. This city uniquely blends small-town charm, scenic beauty, and beach culture.

Life here is relaxed, with surfing, beach-going, and shopping in the quaint downtown area being popular pastimes. San Clemente's downtown area is a vibrant hub with many boutiques, antique shops, and restaurants. According to RentCafe data, an apartment rental average in San Clemente is $2,805 monthly.

San Clemente is famous for its Spanish colonial-style architecture, beautiful beaches, and iconic pier. San Clemente would be a good fit for those who appreciate Spanish architecture and a small-town beach atmosphere with a near-perfect climate. With such variety, you're sure to find an area in Orange County that fits your lifestyle and feels like home.

We hope this guide has given you a glimpse into life in these 11 unique neighborhoods. Whether it's the vibrant energy of Huntington Beach, the artistic vibe of Laguna Beach, the family-friendly suburbs of Irvine, or any of the other unique neighborhoods we've explored, Orange County has something for everyone.

Transitioning to a new home is an exciting journey, but it can also be complex and time-consuming, particularly regarding property management and leasing. That’s where Doorstead comes in. At Doorstead, we provide full-service Orange County property management with a unique rent guarantee. See two recent homeowner success stories with the rent guarantee, or learn more about how Doorstead works.

Did you find this article on the best places to live in Orange County helpful? If so, please share it with your friends! And if you're looking for more helpful tips and resources on renting, homeownership, and property management, visit the Doorstead blog.

Ally Gong
Ally Gong
Content Specialist

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