The Good Life
Born and raised in Orange County, I went away to the Midwest for college. After four years in fly-over country, I came back home to Orange County. Boy how you take the weather and beach for granted while you're here and miss them when you're gone. I'm so glad to see them again.
Honestly, Orange County is possibly the nicest place to live in the country. Granted it's expensive and crowded, but it has everything one might be looking for. I'll agree with the previous poster, you pay for what you get, and that holds very true in Orange County.
To the outsider, Orange County looks affluent and exclusive. Everyone owns a mansion, a yacht, a Rolls-Royce, a private plane, a country club membership, etc. In some parts of Orange County, this is very true. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in particular are well known for their wealthy residents. However, that is not true for the entire county. Let me give you the "Real REAL Orange County", not what is shown on "The O.C." or MTV.
Orange County has an excellent location. Close enough to L.A. to go up there everyday, but far enough away so you can breath. San Diego is only 90 miles to the south. Being between these two renowned cities is pretty great, but add to that being within 10-15 miles to the beach and two hours to hiking and skiing in the mountains. To top it off, Las Vegas is four hours away, Phoenix five and San Francisco six. You have many, many world-class destinations six hours or less away. If you chose to fly, John Wayne Airport is very convenient, clean and accessible. It's one of the best airports I believe in the country.
Orange County has many different types of communities. There are gated communities for those who want safety and security. There are middle class communities rich in diversity and strong in family values. There are urban communities for young adults or singles. There is living by the beaches, inland, or in the canyons. There are mansions, apartments and shacks. There are cultural centers and historic areas. People who think Orange County is just plastic surgery and materialism would be very surprised to go into places like Orange and Tustin and see their old town areas. Orange County actually has history and culture within it, believe it or not.
Things to do? Lets see: you can go to one of the many beach communities. Laguna is very beautiful and has a great batch of museums and art galleries. Huntington is a great place for younger people to go, and has some of the best surfing in the country. Whale Watch at Dana Point or get a frozen banana at Balboa Island. Check out Knotts Berry Farm or Disneyland. Take in an Angels or Ducks game. Shop at one of the many famous shopping centers, including Fashion Island, Irvine Spectrum or South Coast Plaza. Bike along one of the trails, play golf at one of the courses, or hike in the canyons and mountains. Dine at one of the numerous restaurants. You have many, many options.
Orange County is diverse. Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners and more all call it home. There are many great schools and churches to be a part of in Orange County. Strong universities like University of California-Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University all reside in Orange County. Numerous corporations have offices or headquarters in Orange County, so jobs are plentiful. Some of the cities are among the safest in the country.
And of course the weather. Almost perfect. Besides January and February having some rain, there are numerous days of sunshine and mild temps. Santa Ana wind events (strong winds from the desert, which sometimes cause wildfires when it's dry out) occasionally can happen as well.
Now of course there are negative things about Orange County. One is the cost of living. It's very high here. Luckily housing prices have been dropping lately, so it's slightly easier, but it's still more expensive than most other places. Two, the traffic can be pretty bad here. Not as bad as L.A., but with a high population base that is continually growing, it's a problem. I've learned carpool lanes and side roads, and that helps the commute immensely. South Orange County is a little more plastic and shallow than the North or Central communities, but they also have the bigger houses and the nicer amenities. Some areas of Orange County are not very nice, such as most of Santa Ana. The business district and art district of this city are very nice, but unfortunately this city has a high number of illegal aliens and rundown buildings and houses. Some parts of Anaheim are very nice, while other parts are more rundown. You have many options, so you'll find the best fit. My family lives in Orange, which is a great middle class community. It's very diverse, has a lot of great shops and restaurants, and a great historic area.
Overall, Orange County isn't perfect, but it might be the closest thing to the perfect place to live in this country.