Centrally located between Los Angeles and San Diego, in the heart of Southern California is Costa Mesa, an internationally acclaimed arts and theater district thriving with entertainment, luxurious shopping and hidden foodie gems. In this post, I’ll be sharing one of the most Googled topics on the area – “Fun Things To Do In Costa Mesa Ca,” to provide an easy reference guide for this booming Orange County hotspot.
Where Is Costa Mesa?
Costa Mesa is one of the easiest SoCal destinations to reach. Being that it’s only 4 miles from John Wayne Airport, Orange County (SNA) – a low-key airport offering a relaxed hub to the OC, along with fantastic flight rates. Service is offered by most major airlines with hundreds of daily domestic routes. As well as, international flights to and from Mexico and Canada.
You can also reach Costa Mesa via Long Beach Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport, Amtrak or car (road trip!).
Fun Things To Do In Costa Mesa Ca
There’s a reason over 46 million people visit Orange County every year. In addition to nearly 300 days of sun, it has this west-coast-laid-back-progressive vibe you can just feel. The ‘glow-up energy’ (as I like to call it) ignites travel, inspires creativity, and encourages an outdoor/plant-based love. I am 100% on board for this. And Costa Mesa is one of the destinations that, in all honesty, still feels a bit undiscovered. What started as a semi-rural farming community, and is now a suburban city of about 112,000, there is so much to discover in the area – from world-class shopping to Broadway productions – it’s a one-of-a-kind experience not to be missed.
A world renowned international destination for shopping and dining, South Coast Plaza is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants and the celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
From Bottega Veneta, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to Hermès, Gucci, Roger Vivier, COACH, UNIQLO and more, shopping at South Coast Plaza has been a Costa Mesa namesake for over 50 years.
Insider Tip: Costa Mesa hotel guests, along with other visitors to South Coast Plaza who carry Platinum AMEX, have complimentary entrance to the VIP ACCESS Suite at South Coast Plaza where you can enjoy a glass of champagne, latte or light bite. Think of it as a luxury airline lounge, but at a shopping center.
Inspired by phenomenal local talent and a diverse community, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts opened in 1986. It has since grown to be one of the nation’s most respected multi-disciplinarily cultural institutions. As Orange County’s largest non-profit arts organization, the Segerstrom Center is committed to supporting artistic excellence, unsurpassed experiences and community engagement.
The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is the jewel of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts plaza and features a magnificent façade of Portuguese limestone and graceful glass wall. In addition to the Center’s own presentations and guest artists, this magnificent concert hall hosts resident companies Pacific Symphony, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Pacific Chorale and has hosted names such as Tony Bennett, Beverly Sills, YoYo Ma and the New York City Opera. Jazz, pop, opera and classical music are featured in concert series events. – Travel Costa Mesa
I recommend checking out their event calendar for current show schedules!
Costa Mesa has a wide array of free public art on display which you can follow via a self-guided walk (map with exact locations and descriptions can be found here on the Travel Costa Mesa website).
Once a night-vision goggle factory, The LAB celebrated 25 years in 2018. THE LAB stands for “Little American Business”; celebrating small and unique businesses and restaurants. Here you’ll find Cuban food at Habana, an organic coffee bar at NOOK, vegan eats at Seabirds Kitchen and Gypsey Den, along with a few small hidden bars and locally owned boutiques housed in Airstream trailers. – Travel Costa Mesa
The LAB Anti-Mall is a relaxed, whimsical experience that has Instagram written all over it. From the aesthetic to the food, you’re going to want to come camera ready. And plan to spend an entire afternoon. It’s worth it.
An outdoor mixed-use space with restaurants and shops focused on independent business owners, as well as health conscious or fitness related lifestyles. “Green” is everywhere, from the native vegetation to the progressive and select retailers offering their organic wares in the first-known environmentally sensitive retail campus in the United States. – Travel Costa Mesa
Within SOCO you’ll find a group of shops called The OC MIX, one of the original and most acclaimed shopping and food halls in Southern California (opened in 2009). With an eclectic collection of boutique shops and specialty food spots, as well as community events, the OC Mix is good for the whole family and great way to relax and enjoy some SoCal weather. – Travel Costa Mesa
- On Saturday’s from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a certified Farmer’s Market is held featuring local producers, located off the main parking lot.
- Portola Coffee Roasters’ flagship location is here; award-winning coffee
- Birdie Bowl and Juicery, great for breakfast Acai bowls, smoothies
- Greenleaf Chop Shop, across the courtyard near the fountain – health-conscious dining options with freshly sourced, local ingredients.
- Tackle Box, owned and operated by Bravo TV’s Top Chef alum Brian Huskey also located here
Located inside The OC Mix, We Olive is an experience entirely on its own, with complimentary olive oil tastings, wine by the glass and local craft beers. Check out their all day Happy Hour every Monday, “Kill the Keg” Thursdays, or Perfect Pairing events the first Tuesday of each month featuring 5 wines, 5 olive oils, and 5 cheeses.
Where To Eat In Costa Mesa Ca
From fine dining to family friendly, Costa Mesa has a food scene fit for any palette. Here are my personal recommendations:
Habana at The LAB is the original location of this restaurant (they expanded to Irvine last year with the bakery/café) and was one of the first tenants at The LAB more than 25 years ago. The menu offers a Cuban flare and craft cocktails and iced tea. Dine al fresco and enjoy one of the U.S.A.’s top spots for outdoor dining, according to Trip Advisor.
I recommend checking out this restaurant for lunch and definitely order the Shrimp Ceviche, Habana’s Caesar or Cuban Chopped paired with their famous mojitos.
Located in The Camp, it is popular with the locals as a late-night hangout or happy hour. Mesa is the perfect spot for small plates, craft cocktails and live music.
I recommend the Margherita Pizza or Charcuterie paired with an “Eleanor Rigby” cocktail (Earl grey infused Ketel One Citroen, Honey, Lemon, Elderflower and Lavender).
The Country Club is a premier 21 and over destination for libations, gourmet dining and live entertainment in Costa Mesa’s hip 17th Street corridor. Executive Chef Zach Sherer has curated an extensive menu that offers dishes ranging from short rib hash and house-made country club donuts during weekend brunch to Spanish octopus, flatbreads, broiled filet and roasted butternut squash Agnolotti for dinner. While you dine, enjoy a signature cocktail from The Country Club’s unique list of libations, whether it’s a Costa Mesa Old Fashioned or an Inverness featuring Zonin, Prosecco, pear brandy and cardamom.
The Country Club is well known for their weekend brunch, every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm with bottomless mimosas and live music!
I recommend the Bananas Foster Pancakes, Brioche French Toast or Smokey Salmon Salad and a handcrafted Bloody Mary!
Located in SOCO, Taco María is a Costa Mesa Mexican kitchen owned by the award-winning Chef Carlos Salgado, serving a la carte taco menus, prix-fixe four-course dinners, and brunch.
I highly suggest you check out their seasonal menu and experience true Alta California cuisine.
Recognizing the importance of corn to reinterpreting or evoking Mexican cuisine, Salgado nixtamalizes and processes all of Taco María’s masa products in house from heirloom varieties of corn grown by small family farms in Mexico. – Taco Maria
Five of the top 10 ramen noodle spots in Orange County are located in Costa Mesa. So it’s a necessary meal while in town, and Kitakata came highly recommended! The lines can get a bit long…but the hype is well-deserved and worth the wait.
Welcome to the Anti-Bitch Club. We’re Coffee Dose, a Costa Mesa / LA coffee shop that specializes in pushing boundaries. We offer therapeutic lattes, cold brew coffee, cheeky merchandise, and vegan + keto-friendly treats made with only the purest, natural ingredients. – Coffee Dose
Definitely an Instagram hot spot with uber chic lattes made with charcoal, turmeric or even CBD.
Where To Stay In Costa Mesa Ca
Perfectly appointed near some of the best shopping and dining in the world, The Westin South Coast Plaza is across from South Coast Plaza, a short walk to Segerstrom Center for the Arts and directly across from Water Grille, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Vaca Spanish tapas, by Bravo TV’s Top Chef Alum, Amar Santana.
Hotel amenities include a rooftop heated pool, tennis courts plus a WestinWORKOUT® fitness center and Westin® Heavenly Beds.
It is a beautiful hotel in an absolutely ideal location. Just a few minutes from John Wayne Airport, Orange County (SNA) and close to literally everything in Costa Mesa!
The Westin is a short drive or uber to neighboring beach towns; Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. And near a variety of outdoor adventures in Irvine, where you’ll find hundreds of biking and hiking trails.
Costa Mesa, also known as “The City of the Arts,” offers a unique Orange County experience that feels much different than other Southern California destinations. Whether you want to enjoy a Broadway show, boutique shop, or use it as a jumping off point for a variety of day trips, Costa Mesa is a welcome retreat and definite west coast gem.
For more Fun Things To In Costa Mesa Ca check out this post by friend Michelle of Modern Day Moguls!
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Disclosure: This “Fun Things To Do In Costa Mesa Ca” guide is in collaboration with Travel Costa Mesa. The opinions expressed here represent my own, which I take great pride in providing pure honesty…because I’m OBSESSED with sharing the Good!