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Things to do in Costa Mesa

From its humble beginnings as an agricultural community to its stronghold on retail, Costa Mesa is a must see while in Orange County. 

OC Bucket List: Costa Mesa

Incorporated in 1953, Costa Mesa was originally a Spanish settlement that grew exponentially during World War II and has become a great destination for locals and tourists. Costa Mesa, which is named after its geography, means coastal tableland but is much more than its proximity to the coastline.

Here are the must-see destinations in Costa Mesa.


OC Fairgrounds

Sitting on 130 acres of prime OC real estate is the home of the Orange County Fair. The OC Fairgrounds hosts much more than just the yearly fair, with over 150 year-round events held here annually the OC Fair and Event Center is a must see. 

From their humble beginnings as a 3-day fair with horse races and small exhibits in Santa Ana in the late 1800s to the 23-day run with over 1.3 million in attendance annually, the Orange County Fair brings a down home feel to the big city. 

The annual fair features mouth-watering fair foods from fried twinkies and fried butter to roasted corn and funnel cakes, all while you enjoy Centennial Farm, the Demolition Derby, or one of the many exhibits that you can take in. During the fair, you can also get tickets to concerts at Pacific Amphitheatre where world class acts like Pat Benetar, Smokey Robinson, Dwight Yoakam, Cheap Trick, and Bush have taken the stage.

Throughout the year the OC Fairgrounds hold events for all interests including Farmers Markets, Gun Shows, Craft Fairs, Winter Fest, and much more. During the pandemic, they even transitioned to host drive thru experiences to continue entertaining with events such as Fair Foodie Fest, Jurassic Quest, Urban Legends Haunt, and Winter Fest. No matter the time of year, the OC Fairgrounds has something for everyone. 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa


South Coast Plaza

One of the most popular destinations in Costa Mesa is South Coast Plaza. This upscale mall is a great place to enjoy a posh shopping and dining experience that is quintessential Orange County. Featuring 250 boutiques and over 30 restaurants, this mall turns more in revenue a year than any other mall in America.

Sprawling over 2,800,000 square feet, the fourth largest mall in the country, has taken the cake as one of the best places to shop with the highest concentration of fashion retail. 

Anchored by Nordstrom’s, three Macy’s stores, Bloomingdales, and Saks Fifth Avenue, South Coast Plaza not only offers a great selection of high end, high quality merchandise, shoppers are in for a great experience, no matter where they shop. This mall features smaller, yet just as upscale boutiques such as CELINE, Wolford, Dior, and The Webster. Whatever your style or budget this mall is the place to be. 

Opened in 1967, South Coast Plaza has gone through several renovations with the most recent completed in 2007 just in time for the mall’s 40th anniversary. 

If you are looking to spend the day at this mall, be sure to check out The Hall Global Eatery, Wolfgang Puck Kitchen, or the always classy Italian chain, Maggiano’s Little Italy. Be sure to visit South Coast Plaza the next time you’re in town! 3333 Bristol Street


Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Since 1986, Segerstrom Center for the Arts has been the premier performing arts complex in Orange County with three theaters on the same property and more for practice.

Segerstrom Hall seats 3,000 in an opera style theater where attendees can enjoy musicals or ballets. Samueli Theater is a 375-seat theater that is home to jazz and theater events as well as special events. The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is a 2,000-seat concert hall as well as home to the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ that has over 4,000 pipes and over 50 voices, which is truly remarkable. 

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the permanent home to Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society of Orange County, and the Pacific Chorale. If you are coming here to enjoy the performances offered, be sure to also visit the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza which features restaurants, picnic areas, and a permanent stage to continue your experience outdoors. 

If you are in Costa Mesa don’t miss out on this truly remarkable experience that is suitable for the whole family. 600 Town Center Drive


The LAB Anti-Mall

The Little American Business, AKA The LAB, is a modern-styled, indoor/outdoor retail and dining hub in the middle of Costa Mesa. More than 25 years ago, The Lab set out to make a place for the little guy in this retail hub, now the LAB Anti-Mall features over nine stores, nine eateries, a barber shop and a record store. In a place like Orange County where South Coast Plaza and other high-end shopping are so well known and frequented, the LAB is a great place for the smaller businesses to thrive. And just across the street, The CAMP is a unique, eco-friendly retail and dining campus that blends seamlessly with The LAB. 

If you are looking to express your artsy side and bring it home, be sure to check out A Store at The LAB where you can find quirky pieces for the painter, writer, or artist in your life. If you’re not looking to shop, grab a bite to eat at Bootleggers and get a jolt of joe at Nook Coffee. 2930 Bristol Street


Taco Maria

If you are looking for a casual, tasty dining experience then look no further than Taco Maria. Voted number three of 101 best Restaurants in 2019 by the LA Times, Taco Maria offers artisan Mexican cuisine with a Southern California twist. Chef Carlos Salgado opened Taco Maria in 2013 with the mission to bring his Mexican heritage to the table all while using the best ingredients possible. 

The simplistic atmosphere of this restaurant allows guests to enjoy their food which, as simple as their ingredients may sound, are balanced and extraordinary. Simply put you should check out Taco Maria for an out of this world culinary experience tucked away in Costa Mesa. Taco Maria is located inside SOCO & OC Mix with plenty of parking and other enjoyable experiences within walking distance. 3313 Hyland Ave Ste C21


SOCO & OC Mix

In the heart of an already bustling urban town, SOCO & OC Mix brings a different flavor of shopping, posh dining and professional design shops to Costa Mesa. With over 300,000 square feet of showrooms for home design, restaurants, boutiques and one of the largest farmers markets in OC, SOCO & OC Mix is a must see! 

All 20 showrooms here are open to the public despite the industry standard of trade only design shops which allow for a bigger selection than anywhere else. If you are in it for the food instead, be sure to check out the artisan coffee shops, wine boutiques, or upscale cheese eateries. Whatever your taste, SOCO & OC Mix is sure to satisfy it! 3313 Hyland Avenue


California Scenario Noguchi Garden

The Noguchi Garden is one of Orange County’s best art displays. This sculpture Garden is free to the public and symbolizes the geographical elements of California, utilizing indigenous plants and materials. The garden was commissioned by the Segerstroms in 1979 and completed by Isamu Noguchi in 1982 and pays homage to California’s agricultural heritage. The California Scenario sculpture garden is comprised of six principal elements: Forest Walk, Land Use, Desert Land, Water Source, Water Use and Energy Fountain. 611 Anton Boulevard


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Rebecca has an undeniable love of writing and recently graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. She enjoys watching hockey, scuba diving, swimming, and working out.