Taking its name from the acres of orange groves that once populated this region, the affluent Orange County is now better known for its globally famous theme parks, well-known residents and political conservatism than it is for its citrus fruits. Set on the west coast and squeezed between Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, Orange Country has plenty to lure international tourists, from first-class surfing to Disneylands white-knuckle rides.
History: the county itself was created in 1889 at a time when its main industry, orange growing, supported the local economy. It wasnt until Walt Disney envisaged Orange County as the site of Disneyland in the 1950s that the county underwent a major population boom. Its proximity to Hollywood and railway links helped to make it a popular retreat for celebrities and its reputation for icons was further elevated when Orange County-born Richard Nixon became President of the US in 1969.
Sightseeing: the primary attraction in Orange County is Disneyland, divided into five fun-filled lands and neighboured by California Adventure, the newest addition to the park. Knotts Berry Farm, a rival theme park, has an equally if not more exciting array of roller coasters to churn your stomach. Those looking for a more down-to-earth experience can visit the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace or any one of the charming towns along the coast including Huntington, Newport and Laguna.
Shopping: shopaholics will have little to turn their noses up at in Orange County, with the mega South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa being one of the regions primary shopping hubs. If its Gucci, Versace and Armani goods you are looking for, you will not leave disappointed. The less affluent might like to try The Lab or The Camp, which cater to a younger crowd with their less expensive, hip boutiques and cultural events.
Eating and drinking: park-goers are not allowed to bring their own food into Disneyland, meaning you will need to shell out on a meal or two between rides. Outside the Magic Kingdom, visitors will find the eateries along the coast in the upscale beach towns of Huntington, Newport and Laguna to be mostly international and chic with a price to match. However, there are plenty of fast food options in and around the malls. Bars stretch along the coast boasting mostly beachside locations.
Where to stay: hotels within Disneyland, including Disneyland Hotel, Disneys Grand Californian Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, can be very expensive and rooms normally need to be booked well in advance. The alternative is to stay at one of the many hotels or motels in Anaheim, a 45-minute drive from the park. Prices and facilities range from low-end to upscale, meaning it is easy to find accommodation to suit every budget.
Getting there: for international visitors, the nearest airport with the greatest number of connections is Los Angeles International Airport, commonly referred to as LAX, which is a 45-minute drive from Orange Countys Santa Ana. Interstate 5 passes through Orange County providing good, though often congested, road links and there are frequent rail links with both Los Angeles and San Diego, with the former being a rail hub for nationwide connections.