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(2016 - Winter/Spring Issue)



California’s “City of the Arts” also offers retail therapy and is a food haven.

Tucked between Anaheim and the coveted zip codes of Newport Beach on the coast, Costa Mesa (pop. 113,000) would be easy for a visitor speeding through the city on the I-405 freeway to dismiss as a typical suburb, except for the locals streaming in from all corners of the county and beyond to the city’s retail centres, inventive restaurants and major arts venues. The coast is within easy reach, however Costa Mesa is removed from the crowds and offers less expensive lodging.

First, a native village visited by Mission San Juan Capistrano padres who grazed cattle here, and later, a prosperous agricultural community, Costa Mesa hosted many thousands of trainees during World War II at the Santa Ana Army Air Base (site of today’s Civic Center, Orange Coast College and county fairgrounds). Many returned after the war, rapidly building the city into a major commercial and industrial centre.

Trendsetting Culture

Luxurious South Coast Plaza is the West Coast’s largest shopping destination and claims one of the world’s largest collections of fashion designers, but Costa Mesa also hosts a thriving alternative shopping culture.

The LAB “antimall” started the trend, mixing diverse and quirky shops and eating spots with art and DJ events; across the street, The CAMP is a bastion of eco-conscious local artisans, equally enticing for innovative restaurants serving rabbit tacos, native cashew cheese and gelato flights. The OC Mix is a something-for-everyone collection of unique shops and specialty foods. Foodies can eat their way from Costa Mesa to Newport Beach along the renowned East 17th Street Culinary Corridor, but even the funky strip malls harbour intriguing indie shops.

Costa Mesa adopted the motto, “City of the Arts,” in 1999. The four performance halls, studio space and education lab of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts constitute Orange County’s primary performing arts venue, hosting three resident companies and offering the best lineup of Broadway shows, dance and musical performers outside of Los Angeles. Also notable are the South Coast Repertory theater, Costa Mesa Playhouse and a local secret: the California Scenarios, also called the “Noguchi Garden” for famous artist Isamu Noguchi, whose 6,475-square-metre sculpture garden weaves native plants and stone into an abstract representation of the state’s redwoods, desert and everything in between.

Travel Planner

For information on where to shop, eat, play and stay in Costa Mesa, visit travelcostamesa.com.

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