Best Places to Live in Orange County [2021] | Which Orange County City is For You?

Located just south of Los Angeles County, Orange County is a bustling area with an ideal climate and proximity to prime beaches like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. And of course, who could forget Disneyland? Orange County has a long history of habitation, beginning with hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago through the Spanish colonization of the 1700s to present day, where tourist attractions bring flocks of people to its 34 cities. Orange County has a current population of 3.19 million, with a median age of 38.3 and a median income of $89,759, which is almost $30,000 higher than the national average. That’s not the only thing higher than the national average, though: the median home cost of houses in Orange County is $709,800, with a home ownership rate of 57.4%. With so much to do, Orange County is a great place to live, whether you’re a young professional, a family, or a retiree.

When it comes to moving, everyone has a different reason. Maybe you’ve scored your dream job, you’re looking for a bigger house for your expanding family, or you’re just starting out on your career journey. Whatever your reason for moving, you’ll want to find the right Orange County city for you. If a new job prompted your move, you’ll want to consider the commute as well as what amenities the city might have. If you’re a student or young professional, you may want to be closer to the best nightclubs or the hippest restaurants. And if you have a family, the quality of schools is absolutely something you’ll want to check out before deciding where in Orange County to settle. If you’re planning to make Orange County your next home, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of living in each of these desirable Orange County cities.

Best Cities in Orange County

One of the most obvious benefits of living in Orange County is its proximity to so many parks, beaches, and shopping centers. From Disneyland, which is nestled in the central part of Orange County, to Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, there’s always something to do. Check out our guide on the best cities in Orange County to see which city is the right one for you!

Irvine | Best for Safe, Clean Master-Planned City in Orange County

irvine ca

  • Population: 282,584
  • Median Income: $101,667
  • Great for: Families, students, professionals

Why is Irvine one of the best places in Orange County? Consistently voted as one of the top three cities to live in Orange County, Irvine might just be the perfect city for you. From the prestigious University of California, Irvine to numerous parks and trails, Irvine is a safe, master-planned community with a rich history in farming and ranching. Nestled in the eastern part of Irvine is the Orange County Great Park, a massive park project with 450 acres developed and a total planned 1300 acres of amenities. Other attractions include the Irvine Museum, the Pretend City Children’s Museum, shopping at the Irvine Spectrum Center, and the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition to many entertainment options, Irvine boasts a number of Fortune 500 companies with corporate headquarters in the city limits, meaning the opportunities for a great career abound. If you’ve got children, you can rest assured that the public schools rate among the best in the state. Woodbridge, Woodbury, and Turtle Rock are some of the best places to live near Irvine, CA.

Newport Beach | Top Place to Live in Orange County, CA for Surfers

Built around one of the few remaining natural estuaries in Southern California, Newport Beach is a unique city with a gorgeous landscape. One of the things Newport Beach is known for is the variety of its many villages. Each has its own character–such as Lido Marina Village, with waterfront dining and stores, or Newport Center, filled with high-rise office buildings and premium shopping centers. These both rank as some of the greatest neighborhoods in Orange County. The city’s eight miles of beaches mean ocean activities are a must, but that’s not all there is to Newport Beach. The city hosts the Newport Beach International Film Festival every spring, an annual marathon, a variety of parades, as well as a series of free concerts. If you’re looking for a city where the weather is nice year-round and there’s always something to do, Newport Beach might just be the perfect place for you.

Laguna Beach | Nicest Beach Town in Orange County

laguna beach ca

  • Population: 23,147
  • Median Income: $121,474
  • Great for: Active nature lovers

Although Laguna Beach may be a small town, its pristine beaches draw millions of visitors every year. This beachside community, with verdant rolling hills, has one of the most beautiful landscapes in Southern California. At the town’s largest beach, Main Beach, you’ll find a boardwalk, tide pools, a sandy expanse of beach, and basketball and volleyball courts, all within walking distance of shopping and dining in Laguna Beach’s downtown. Across its many different beaches, you’ll find various conditions that allow for different activities, like scuba diving, surfing, bodyboarding, skimboarding, skindiving, and fishing. Aside from many oceanside activities, Laguna Beach also has a walkable downtown and hosts a number of arts festivals each summer. Laguna Beach is filled with luxury Orange County neighborhoods perfect for affluent individuals. Located north of the town is the gorgeous Crystal Cove State Park, which has plentiful beaches and trails as well as a 12-acre historic district that preserves rustic cottages built in the early 20th century as a seaside colony.

Yorba Linda | Upscale, Master-Planned Suburb in Orange County

  • Population: 67,815
  • Median Income: $129,391
  • Great for: Affluent professionals and families

Located just east of Anaheim, home to the Disneyland/California Adventure theme park, you’ll find the affluent community of Yorba Linda. Considered one of the most prosperous cities in Orange County, Yorba Linda boasts high property values, low rates of crime, and excellent schools, both public and private. Yorba Linda is also home to a number of amenities: an equestrian center, the Black Gold Golf Club, many recreational facilities, a community center, and parklands with open trails. Additionally, Yorba Linda is one of 13 US cities to host a presidential library, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Yorba Linda may be one of the more expensive places to live in in Orange County, but its status as one of the “100 Best Places to Live” in the US means the extra expense is worth it.

Dana Point | Excellent Oceanfront Orange County City to reside in

  • Population: 33,913
  • Median Income: $97,519
  • Great for: Artsy beach lovers

The small town of Dana Point is located just south of Laguna Beach. The landscape of Dana Point is a mix of rolling hills and coastal bluffs, which make for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Scattered throughout the small town of Dana Point, you’ll find sculptures, mosaics, murals, and fountains, all part of a city-wide program developed to bring art to the public space. At the Dana Point Harbour, you’ll find shopping, dining, boat watching, among many other activities. Although the town is small, its commitment to environmental conservation is big, with a successful water management program, a growing number of solar panels and other forms of green energy, and the Dana Point trolley program, meant to reduce single-commuters on the road. This is the best place in Orange County for those who love art and the beach.

Laguna Niguel | Tight OC Community with Sprawling Parks

  • Population: 65,652
  • Median Income: $103,910
  • Great for: Families, nature lovers

If you’re wondering where to live in Orange County, you can’t go wrong with Laguna Niguel. One of the things you’ll notice about Laguna Niguel is the sprawling parks and green spaces. In fact, roughly one-third of the city is officially designated as open space, and because of that, sightings of coyotes and other critters is common. Like many of the other superior cities in Orange County, Laguna Niguel was once used for raising sheep. Today, it has a strong retail and commercial environment. Some notable attractions in Laguna Niguel include the Orange County Natural History Museum as well as the Niguel Botanical Preserve, a beautiful garden area with miles of walking trails and more than 2000 types of plants collected from around the world. Laguna Niguel lies just inland from the coast, meaning a trip to the beach is only a quick car-ride away. 

Mission Viejo | Perfect City in Orange County for Families

mission viejo ca

  • Population: 96,124
  • Median Income: $114,688
  • Great for: Families, students

Located in the southeast corner of Orange County, Mission Viejo is a master-planned, residential community with houses lining the tops of the rolling hills. With land considered useless for farming, the hills of Mission Viejo were once used for grazing sheep. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the community began to attract residents. Today the town is full of amenities, from shopping and skate parks to bike trails and arts classes. Mission Viejo is home to Saddleback College, a quality community college with an especially good arts program. If you’re looking for quiet suburbs with access to amenities, this might be the place for you.

Seal Beach | Quaint, Beachside Town


  • Population: 24,364
  • Median Income: $67,917
  • Great for: Beach enthusiasts, retirees

Why is Seal Beach one of the top Orange County places to live? Seal Beach, which lies on the northern border of Orange County, is considered the “gateway” to the coast of Orange County and was named for the seals that once lined its sandy beaches. Today, the sandy swaths of coastline provide the perfect conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Although the town is small, Seal Beach boasts the second-longest wooden pier in California. If you’re looking for quiet, small-town living close to big-city amenities, Seal Beach might be the perfect place for you. With a senior transportation program, this quiet town is especially perfect for retirees.

Cities in Orange County to Avoid

One thing’s for sure about Orange County: crime rates are much lower compared to other parts of California. Still, there are some cities in Orange County you may want to avoid. In general, cities in the northern part of Orange County, which lie closer to Los Angeles, tend to have a more urban feel and slightly higher rates of crime. On the other hand, cities in the southern part of Orange County have more of a small town feel with less crime. Here are a few cities you may want to avoid when looking for a home in Orange County. 

  • Costa Mesa: Crime is 28% higher than the California average
  • Brea: Crime is 24% higher than the California average
  • Westminster: Crime is 14% higher than the California average
  • Buena Park: Crime is 1 % higher than the California average
  • Tustin: Crime is 1% higher than the California average

Cities in Orange County Map

If one of these desirable cities in Orange County sounds like the perfect place for your next home, we’d love to help you move. Call our highly rated Orange County professional moving company at 949-639-0330 to get your free quote today. We’ll make moving to your new home or business a seamless process.