Chip Martin
Chip Martin

Best Places to Live in Orange County 🏆🏙️ – Explore the 12 Best Cities to Live in Orange County

Orange County is not just a coastal paradise but also a melting pot of diverse communities, offering an idyllic environment for a spectrum of lifestyles. Whether you’re a sun-loving family, an up-and-coming professional, a carefree single, or looking to spend your golden years in peace, Orange County has a spot for you. Here's an overview of the 12 best places to live in Orange County to fit your lifestyle and budget.

Irvine – One of the Best Places to Live in Southern California

Irvine is overall one of the best places to live in Orange County CA no matter what you're looking for. It's consistently ranked as one of the safest cities in the U.S. and it was recently named one of the best places to live in the country. This large master-planned community offers a modern and vibrant lifestyle with a great quality of life.

Irvine is a top pick for families and young professionals thanks to its great schools, diverse neighborhoods, attractions, and major employers like the University of California, Irvine, and Peraton. Its diverse residents are also highly educated: 70% of adults over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Newport Beach – The Richest City in Orange County

With a median household income of $149,471, Newport Beach is one of the richest cities in Orange County and the country. What makes Newport Beach one of the best places to live in Orange County? It offers the epitome of high-end coastal living with stunning coastal scenery and a high quality of life.

Living in Newport Beach means endless opportunities for boating, scuba diving, fishing, and recreation. The city is home to Crystal Cove State Park, one of the largest areas of natural seashore and open space in Orange County, with 3.2 miles of beach, wilderness area, and an offshore underwater area for diving. It’s also home to Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, plus two iconic piers: Balboa Pier with an old-school amusement park and Newport Beach Pier.

 

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Laguna Beach – One of the Best Places to Live in Orange County for Artists

Drenched in color and culture, Laguna Beach is an artist’s haven, a city where the arts community flourishes against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Despite its remoteness from other metropolitan areas, Laguna Beach more than compensates with its distinct local culture and small-town atmosphere.

Its more isolated location means Laguna Beach offers secluded beaches that are less crowded than most OC shores. Because it's between San Diego and Los Angeles, Laguna Beach offers the benefits of small-town coastal living with easy access to large urban centers.

Seal Beach – Best City to Live in Orange County for Affordable Home Prices

Want to buy a home in Orange County? Seal Beach is one of the OC’s best-kept secrets. This small town of about 24,000 people has a median home price of just $425,000 – 61% lower than the Orange County median of $1.1 million. It’s not just affordable for the county: it’s one of the most affordable Southern California beach towns for home buyers!

What really sets Seal Beach apart is Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, a 965-acre park with a pier, saltwater marshes, and a diverse wildlife population. The city also boasts plenty of historic and cultural destinations like Heron Pointe Cultural Center and Bay Theater. This hidden gem is truly one of the best cities in Orange County CA for home buyers and nature lovers.

Yorba Linda – Great Place to Live in OC for Horse Owners & Families

One of the wealthiest cities in Orange County, Yorba Linda has a median household income of $148,325. It’s one of the top places to live in Orange County for active families, retirees, and horse owners thanks to its low crime rate, good schools, and large equestrian community.

Yorba Linda is one of a handful of Orange County cities that allows horses in residential zoned areas with minimum lot sizes. The city has more than 30 horse trails covering over 100 miles that connect into the Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

Aliso Viejo – One of the Best Places to Live in Orange County for Families

Aliso Viejo beckons families with its low crime rates, good schools, family-friendly amenities. Boasting the second lowest crime rate in the county, Aliso Viejo’s amenities and proximity to the coast make it one of the best places to live in Orange County for young families.

This quiet inland suburb is one of the best cities in Orange County where there’s always something to see or do. The Aliso Town Center is a top destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park is a major regional park with 4,500 acres of wilderness and hiking.

Orange – Centrally Located Orange County City with a Fun Downtown Area

Centrally located in North Orange County near major freeways, Orange is one of the top places to live in Orange County for singles, young professionals, and families. It’s best known for its historic plaza, the original 40-acre center of the town. Orange’s historic downtown area is a major draw for shopping, dining, and entertainment. It’s frequently voted Orange County’s favorite downtown and it hosts many festivals and the Orange Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market.

Learn more about what living in Orange is really like!

Costa Mesa – Where to Live in Orange County for Cultural Attractions & Dining

Costa Mesa, nestled in the heart of Orange County, is a vibrant city known for its sophisticated arts scene, upscale shopping, and eclectic dining experiences. It's home to the prestigious South Coast Plaza, a major shopping destination for luxury brands and boutique experiences. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is a local cultural monument that hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and dance performances, enriching the city's artistic landscape.

Costa Mesa's blend of high culture with the laid-back Orange County lifestyle makes it a uniquely appealing destination for residents and visitors alike, boasting a rich cultural tapestry and an unmatched quality of life.

Young professionals flock to Costa Mesa for its creative culture and its plentiful job opportunities. Several of the largest employers in Orange County are based in Costa Mesa, including Auto Club of Southern California, Fairview Developmental Center, and Menzies Aviation.

Santa Ana – One of the Best Places to Live in Orange County for Young Professionals

Santa Ana, the bustling heart of Orange County, is a city brimming with cultural richness and opportunity. Its relative affordability, educational and employment opportunities, top attractions, and lively nightlife make Santa Ana one of the best places to live in Orange County for young professionals.

Santa Ana boasts a very central location with major freeway access – perfect for commuting for work or enjoying the region’s many attractions. The historic downtown Santa Ana area is known for its vibrant arts scene, diverse cuisine, and fun nightlife – a big perk in an area not generally known for nightlife options.

As a buyer, you’ll find the $810,000 median home price relatively affordable compared to most cities in the OC. If you’re renting, you can expect to pay around $2,575. That’s a steal compared to cities like Irvine and Newport Beach where average rent is well over $3,000.

The city also boasts endless opportunities to learn or unwind. It’s home to the Santa Ana Zoo, the Bowers Museum known for its large Native American art collection, and the Discovery Cube Orange County, a fun children’s museum with hands-on exhibits.

 

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Tustin – Best City in Orange County For Families & Young Professionals with a Central Location

Tustin is a hidden gem nestled against the cities of Orange, Irvine, and Santa Ana. Its location is perfect for commuting to work or enjoying the amenities of the large cities. It’s just two miles from John Wayne Airport and served by two major freeways: I-5 Santa Ana Freeway and the SR-55 Costa Mesa Freeway.

Known as "The City of Trees," Tustin boasts picturesque streets lined with mature trees, adding to its charm and appeal. It’s one of Orange County’s oldest historic towns with great schools and a more liberal environment than many OC cities.

Old Town Tustin is a top attraction for taking a step back in time, with historic buildings along El Camino Real and Main Street dating to the 19th century. Tustin Market Place is a top shopping and dining destination in the area, with more than 120 stores and restaurants. Families love the Tustin Sports Park, a sprawling athletic complex with a large playground, baseball and soccer fields, and tennis and basketball courts.

Lake Forest – Best Place to Live in Orange County for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Outdoor enthusiasts find their sanctuary in the lush landscapes of Lake Forest. This city is named for its scenic lakes and the dense forests surrounding them, including the Saddleback Mountains. Its expansive parks and recreational areas provide a plethora of activities, from hiking to biking, making it a haven for nature lovers.

With extensive hiking trails, the famous Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, and the serenity of the Lake Forest Beach and Tennis Club, this is the place where the natural world and suburban comfort coexist harmoniously.

Lake Forest also boasts a thriving community with excellent schools, diverse dining options, and a welcoming atmosphere, making it one of the best places to live in Orange County for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike.

That isn’t all that makes Lake Forest one of the best neighborhoods in Orange County. While it’s a suburban city bursting with parks and natural space, it’s also adjacent to Irvine, Orange County’s business hub. This makes it perfect for young professionals and families.

Anaheim – One of the Best Places to Live in Orange County for Singles

There’s a lot to love about Anaheim, one of the best areas to live in Orange County and the county’s largest city!

About 55% of the population is unmarried. Singles can appreciate the large city’s plentiful nightlife and entertainment options. Anaheim offers diverse housing options including a large inventory of apartments and condos. Home buyers will find the median sales price lower than average for the county, even if it isn’t the most affordable place to buy a home.

For renters, Anaheim is much more affordable: average rent is just $2,350. It’s one of the cheapest places to rent in the OC and far more affordable than places like Santa Ana ($2,575), Orange ($2,590), Huntington Beach ($2,690), Irvine ($3,225), and Newport Beach ($3,725).

Anaheim offers a great location not far from Los Angeles and surrounded by four major freeways with the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARCTIC) providing a hub for rail and bus service for commuters. It’s served by 20 Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains too!

Young professionals can also appreciate Anaheim’s great job market. It’s home to the Disneyland Resort, the largest employer in Orange County, with great job training programs and the Anaheim Convention Center.

Map of the Best Places to Live in Orange County

Ready to make Orange County living a reality? If you have settled on where to live in Orange County, or you’re considering settling down elsewhere in Southern California, Daly Movers is here to help. Call our 5-star Orange County movers at (714) 538-2831 to request your free, personalized moving quote today!

Chip Martin
Chip Martin
BA in philosophy, Long Beach State 1974, various trades after college including cabinet maker and boat refinisher, then became a local moving driver in 1976, bought Daly Movers in 1979, managed company, and drove local and long distance until 1995 when I transitioned into sales/office full time. Almost fifty years later Daly Movers and I have sold, worked, and familiarized ourselves with virtually every type of household and O&I relocation.
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