Orange County Travel Brainstorming:

Let's Play WHAT IF...

Think with me about some potential special-case situations where a little advice from locals might be helpful in planning your Orange County vacation. You might be dealing with some time constraints or other issues that affect your planning. High gas prices may be forcing you to tighten your belts and look for a discount vacation. We’ll show you a few ways to save gas. A consistent theme would be trying to fit as much fun into a limited schedule. Or perhaps you have a particular perspective on vacations, desiring to focus on ecologically friendly activities.

So take a look at the WHAT IFs summarized below, and contact us about any specific situation you may have where we can be of help. Some of the answers are a bit lengthier and we’ll take you to a fresh page for the answer. Here we go:

What if you are staying in O.C. as part of a longer trip and only have say one day for the county?

What if you are here on a business trip and have only an afternoon and evening to check it out?

What if you are really on a tight budget and want to arrange a nice family discount vacation in Orange County?

What if you just don’t have an interest in visiting Disney or Knott’s (maybe somebody forced you to spend like 6 weeks at Walt Disney World in Orlando or something); and, furthermore, what if you like being near the beach but don’t really care to take your shoes off?

What if you are an amusement park (or roller coaster) crazy person and have no more than a few days to see all the Southern California theme parks?

photo thanks to S. Ginther!

What if you are flying in and are not going to rent a car (or just want to save gas)?

Let’s assume you are with your family, which makes it more interesting (these ideas should apply either way). And we’ll assume you are leaving the car at home, although a number of these ideas will also apply if you are instead simply looking for ways to save gas. In some cases, though, the time and money spent on public transportation will offset any savings in gas usage; you’ll be able to see that in each instance.

You’re probably landing at either LAX, John Wayne in Orange County, Long Beach Airport or Ontario International Airport in—of all places—Ontario. LAX and Ontario are 30-60 minutes from the heart of Orange County, depending on traffic/time-of-day, while Long Beach Airport is just over the county line, adjacent to Seal Beach. There are the usual ways to get to your hotel, depending on which hotel it is. The larger resort hotels may have their own shuttles, especially from John Wayne. There’s the taxi cab option, which won’t be a bad idea if you’re staying near John Wayne airport.

Think twice about taking a cab from the other two airport$. You can get a shuttle van from the airport for a varying fee. There are more-regularly scheduled shuttles from LAX to the Disneyland Resort area and John Wayne Airport. So, if coming from LAX, get to Disneyland or John Wayne Airport and then use local transportation to reach your hotel.

Your choice of hotel location is very important if you are traveling without a car. You want to stay in an area where there is easy public transportation. There are many hotels in the area around and between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. The Knott’s resort hotel has a shuttle that will take you to Disneyland. There are various shuttle services that can get you around that area.

If you want to go to the beach, you have a couple of options. First, you can take a taxi cab or shuttle. That will work best (i.e. cheaper) if you stay at a hotel within a couple miles from the beach. Of course you may pay more per night for that room, compared to a hotel further inland or away from Disneyland or Knott’s, so there’s a tradeoff depending on how much traveling you plan to do.

There are little motels in most of the beach towns that are within walking distance of the beach. Laguna Beach has a great city trolley system that runs throughout the summer, so you could stay at a hotel within a couple miles of downtown along PCH and get around town very nicely. There are also links to the OCTA bus system in Laguna. Metrolink can take you all over SoCal!

Speaking of OCTA busses, if you don’t stay near the beach, but want to be able to go to the beach, make sure your hotel is very close to a bus stop on a major traffic artery. There are a handful of transportation centers in the county, where you’ll find more of the bus routes originate; that’s a good neighborhood to shoot for. Visit the OCTA web site for a number of great services. One feature is that you can enter in the type of activity on the Orange County Destinations page and the site will suggest a bus route to get you there. Click above on the “Bus” button and find the system map, which you can download to help locate your hotel.

Don’t forget that you can take Metrolink train service from Buena Park down to San Clemente, with stops in between, and that there is good bus service at those train stations. You could take a bus or cab to the train station and jump on Metrolink to the beach at San Clemente. There is also a Metrolink station right next to the Mission San Juan Capistrano; no bus needed at that end of your trip.

The bottom line is that with some advance planning, patience, and the right maps you really can get around the county on public transportation pretty well. It will take you longer than if you have a car or can pay for a cab, so that is a strategic decision on your part.

What if you’d like to try for an ecologically sensible outdoorsy vacation; what can you do that doesn’t just burn a lot of gas and keep you in a theme park or museum?

Think you need to go to Wyoming or Alaska to emphasize environmentally friendly vacation activities? Well, it may be easier to go white-water rafting in those states, but thankfully we have the beach and some very interesting and challenging back-country parks and trails. Orange County is a big place!

To begin with, consider renting a car from a company that offers electric and hybrid vehicles. Here is a link to one such environmental car rental company that operates out of the Southern California airports.

In terms of healthy outdoor activities, the first thing that comes to mind is ocean kayaking, available at several points along the O.C. coastline. You can rent a kayak and spend a day exploring the beautiful, rocky shoreline in South County. You can explore Newport Harbor, or the Newport Back Bay, or Huntington Harbor among other choices. Take your camera to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve; actually all of these destinations are camera-worthy, some requiring more waterproofness than others.

Consider renting or bringing your own snorkeling or skin diving equipment; from Corona del Mar and south are quite a few places for skin diving. And don’t forget about the tide pools.

We have lots of fishing options from either a pier or from the beach. You need a license to fish from the beach but not from a pier. See the rugged hills beyond the city?

Beyond all the suburban development, there is some serious hiking (not just walking or strolling, of which there is also plenty) and mountain biking to be found in Orange County. You’ll want to be careful, as there is a surprising amount of wildlife in this region, including potentially dangerous mountain lions, coyotes, rattlesnakes and field mice. The mice may be small but they are scrappy.

If you are serious about some of these fun and healthy activities, I suggest you check out the website. This link takes you to a page on hiking. It’s got tons of specific information and maps to show you just where to go in O.C. for your event. When you get to the page, scroll down a bit until you see the Narrow Your Results section. At that point you should narrow your results. You’ll also see tabs to check out other sports. Once you’re done you’ll come back here to the Guru. You can also check out this link for more information and links related to beach-oriented activities.

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