For taking part in outstanding outdoor recreational activities, Costa Mesa is the place to be. In fact, it’s centrally located amid all the action. A string of Southern California’s finest beaches (Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach) are just a short drive away, with each offering a distinctive personality of its own.

OC Fairgrounds
If you happen to be in Costa Mesa in the summer, consider visiting the OC Fair, one of the top-10 largest fairs in the United States. Cotton candy, farm animals, carnival rides and much more are all part of the fun at this month-long event. If you don’t get to this hotspot during fair time, don’t worry. The same grounds on which the cows moo are also used for concerts and other enticing outdoor events throughout the year. Or make sure to come back next year for all the carnival fun!

Also on the OC Fairgrounds is the Centennial Farm, which opened in 1988, and is a working farm for educating youth about agriculture and farming. Each year the farm welcomes more than 25,000 students for free educational tours. Livestock barns, fruit and vegetable gardens support area food banks and other charitable groups.

The Pacific Amphitheatre, an outdoor concert venue which is the setting of some of the top concerts in California, is also on the fairgrounds. The Amphitheatre has hosted world-famous acts including Bob Dylan, Roger Daltrey and The Offspring, along with pop-culture stars like Selena Gomez, One Direction and many more. During the summer months, the Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series attracts concertgoers from all over the Southland and beyond.

The Beaches of Orange County
Located next to Costa Mesa, the world-famous Newport Beach is an Orange County mecca known for its beautiful sandy beaches with coves, which are popular with swimmers and sunbathers. The views are stunning, set against the immaculate ocean-side homes of luxurious Newport Beach. But, if it’s bonfires and a famed pier you’re looking for, Huntington Beach is a great place to visit when the sun goes down. Daytime outdoor activities here include beach volleyball and surfing. In fact, Huntington Beach is known all over the world as Surf City USA® thanks to its reputation of having consistent waves chased by surfers. The city attracts more than 8 million visitors to the world-famous municipal pier. Laguna Beach, just south of Costa Mesa, is a delightful seaside community with galleries and boutiques not far from the shoreline. The scenery is spectacular, with an azure coastline against rocky coves, which help attract about 3 million visitors annually to this picture-perfect town.

Parks
If you prefer more active pastimes and a great day out, Costa Mesa offers plenty of parks and other recreational activities to choose from. Fairview Park offers 208-acres of beautiful open fields, trails and forested areas. It’s a great park if you enjoy horseback riding, running, biking or hiking. When you want to take your favorite pooch out for a fun day, Costa Mesa’s Bark Park, a 2-acre fenced park where dogs can run around and play off leash. Adding to the park’s popularity is the fact that it’s actually the only one in Costa Mesa where dogs can be off leash. For those looking to either watch skateboarders or take part in the action, Volcom Skate Park is for you. Designed to include different areas for skaters with different abilities, it’s perfect for some great action. The area offers many other great parks though, each with their own benefits. And, with nearby parks in neighboring communities like Irvine, Anaheim and Newport Beach, outdoor activities are virtually endless.

Adding to the allure of Costa Mesa are the countless recreational activities to choose from. Want to learn how to fly? Royal Aviation based at John Wayne/Orange County Airport, offers a chance to take to the sky with their charter rentals, and flight classes where you can learn how to become a pilot. Along with a personal instructor, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Costa Mesa’s Rockreation is the place to go for those looking to rock climb, or build strength and endurance as a form of exercise. The indoor climbing facility offers 12,000 square feet of climbing terrain to take advantage of and is one of Orange County’s best climbing gyms. Nearby recreational activities include whale watching at Newport Beach’s Newport Landing, paddle boarding and boating opportunities within Balboa Bay, as well as whale watching in Dana Point.

Thrilling Theme Parks
Also extremely convenient to Costa Mesa are some of the world’s best theme parks, like Anaheim’s Disneyland® Resort, and Buena Park’s Knott’s Berry Farm. Each theme park offers its own set of incredible attractions, too. Knott’s is also famous for putting on seasonal events throughout the year, including their Halloween-themed Knott’s Scary Farm, where the entire park turns into a haunted house-style attraction. With dozens of rides, shows, and roller coasters, you can’t go wrong with any of the theme parks that dot the region. Leave your car behind. Participating Costa Mesa hotels offer convenient round-trip ART (Anaheim Resort Transportation) shuttle service to the Disneyland® Resort. Reservations along with a small fee are required for shuttle service.

Golf
Looking for some terrific places to tee off? Costa Mesa is perfect for golfing, offering excellent golf courses, which dot the region and the immediate surroundings. As one of OC’s longest public golf courses, Los Lagos in Costa Mesa Country Club offers golfers a challenging course. The front nine consists of holes that traverse gentle to not so gentle rolling hills. Or try the Mesa Linda course in Costa Mesa Country Club, which is another municipal public course. As the shorter of the two courses, and the more popular one, Mesa Linda offers golfers an exciting round of golf from beginning to end. Pelican Hill Golf Club in nearby Newport Beach is a luxurious setting doted with sage and eucalyptus meeting the deep-blue sea, creating a jaw-dropping scenery.

Discovery Cube Orange County
Had enough of the great outdoors, at least for a little while? Then slip into any of the top ranked museums operating in the area. The massive Discovery Cube Orange County in nearby Santa Ana, a favorite for kids of all ages, offers a 10-story cube operating under solar power. Activities here include interactive exhibits like their rock wall and ways to experience what it feels like to be in a hurricane. Make sure you also take in the Shake Shack at this impressive museum, which will become more impressive once you get a chance to experience the simulation of an historic earthquake. But don’t leave without trying to endure the mighty Bed of Nails, a platform of 3,500 sharp steel spikes, which dare you to lie down right there.

Had enough to keep you busy during your visit to the incomparable and unrivaled California city of Costa Mesa? Maybe for one trip. But just remember: there’s much more to do the next time you visit this hospitable enclave.

Article by Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky.

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