aerial shot of central Orange County

Best Cities in Central Orange County

By: Ron Sudman
August 10, 2023  | ,
Central Orange County refers to the area in the county between the Northern and Southern Coastal regions. It includes cities such as Santa Ana, Orange, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Tustin, and Westminster, mostly midsized landlocked cities just a few miles from the Pacific coastline. Homes in the area are less expensive than those on the water, so you can have your cake and eat it by choosing a home in Central OC.


Fountain Valley was incorporated in 1957 and referred to as the high-water table in the area when the name was chosen for the city. Early settlers in the area built drainage canals to make the land usable for agriculture, which was the dominant land use until the 1960s, when housing tracts accelerated.

Fountain valley

Fountain Valley is a “Suburban City,” meaning most residents commute to other urban centers for work. However, in recent years, Fountain Valley has seen increased commercial jobs with the “Southpark” district, located along the Santa Ana River. Mile Square Regional Park calls Fountain Valley home. This park is 640 acres containing two fishing lakes, three 18-hole golf courses, playing fields, and picnic shelters. Not to mention a 78-acre Recreation Center and Sports Park owned and operated by the city, where you will find tennis courts, basketball courts, and a gymnasium. There is so much to do in this beautiful city.


Orange is a unique city because most of the homes in the downtown district were built before 1920, while most other cities demolished such houses in the 1960s, and Orange preserved them. Interestingly, Orange is the only city in the county planned and built around a plaza. Most of the original structures built during this period are still used today.

Orange chapman

Look for things to do in Orange, and there is something for everyone. Ranging from shopping at The Outlets at Orange, an outdoor shopping and entertainment center. It features Neiman Marcus, Old Navy, Vans, AMC Theatres, and Dave & Buster’s. Take a break from shopping by strolling along the lake at Irvine Regional Park. Need something for kids, no problem. A Railroad Park and a Zoo are located inside Irvine Regional Park. Orange is home to the prestigious Chapman University and is famous for its annual Orange International Street Fair.


Westminster was designated an “All-America City” by the National Civic League due to its multicultural community comprising Western, Mexican, and Vietnamese history. Westminster is home to the Rose Center Theater. A 17,286 square foot theater with 419 seats. Four musicals are produced annually, and the stage is rented out to other organizations.


Things to do in Westminster: Located throughout the city, you will find various historical landmarks such as the Vietnam War Memorial, Westminster Memorial Park, and Little Saigon. A great shopping day can be found at the Westminster Mall, which houses more than 120 national and local shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Or take a short drive and enjoy a day at the beach while taking a drink to refresh yourself.


Garden Grove was founded in 1874. Once known for its strong agriculture, the city quickly became known for its local produce like walnuts and oranges, and this is still alive today thanks to celebrations such as the annual Strawberry Festival held here.

Garden grove

The city still has a substantial Asian influence, with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean residents all calling the city home. This means that the city also has a wealth of delicious Asian restaurants as well as Asian supermarkets where you can pick up imported produce, and even Asian bakeries that sell both traditional sweet treats and those with a Vietnamese-inspired twist.

As Garden Grove is located in sunny California, you can also expect a range of outdoor activities and spaces here, and you won’t be disappointed in the form of parks, aquatic centers, and even open-air attractions like amphitheaters where you can catch a musical concert or a theatrical performance under the stars.

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North Tustin is tucked away in the foothills and hills between Orange and Tustin. It is the largest unincorporated area in the county and one of the country’s wealthiest communities, following only places like Newport Beach, Villa Park, and Coto de Caza. Residents are lured by large lots, expansive views, and the freedom of being in an incorporated community.

It’s tough to find a $2 million estate in Orange County where you’re allowed to have chickens or a blue driveway, or even a lake in the front yard. But these are some of the freedoms afforded to residents of North Tustin. Residents say, “It’s like living in the country in the middle of Orange County”.


Residents in Stanton enjoy a small-town community feeling. The city was incorporated in 1956 and has experienced growth and prosperity. Stanton residents will enjoy significant retail opportunities, active civic volunteers, and business-friendly City organizations. Residents benefit from the city's wide variety of programs, including great parks, a family resource center, and annual holiday events and programs.


Within the city, you will find entertainment and attractions. The city proudly showcases the finest shopping and services to suit every lifestyle. Stanton has a list of great restaurants either in the city or nearby. You will surely enjoy Stanton’s Annual Community Events like The City of Stanton's art exhibit, Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Halloween Festival, Movies Under the Stars, and the National Night Out.


People who know this area well sometimes refer to Tustin as The City of the Trees. Although various trees are responsible for this nickname, the Red Flowering Eucalyptus is the honorary City Tree.


The city offers sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Coast and Saddleback Mountains and is one of the oldest historical old towns found in Orange County. It offers a variety of historical sites and attractions within the city and makes a prime starting spot for visiting some of the other Southern California attractions. Tustin has something for everyone. You can check this cool Old Town Tustin Shopping, Dining, & Event Guide for the list of the various shops and restaurants to visit whenever you are in Tustin.


You will find people with various backgrounds, interests, and occupations here. The neighborhoods are quiet and attractive residential streets. Most of the City is designated for single-family residences, most of which are on half-acre lots. The city does have one shopping center, which includes a grocery store, banks, a pharmacy with a postal substation, a variety of specialty shops and offices, the City Hall and community room, and Villa Park Public Library – a part of the Orange County Public Libraries.

Villa park

Villa Park hosts “Villa Park Marine Thanksgiving” annually. This program allows community members to “adopt” a Marine from Pendleton base; most are young and have not been home in several months. What a fantastic way to give back to Service members. Due to Villa Park’s central location and proximity to the freeway system, the wealth of cultural, social, recreational, business, and philanthropic activities that Orange County offers are all within easy access.


Santa Ana is the second-most populous city in Orange County and is situated in the middle of Orange County along the Santa Ana River.

With the revitalization of its downtown area, Santa Ana now features The Santa Ana Artist's Village, created around Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center. The Artist Village houses several attractions on museums, theaters, art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and shops. The downtown area is home to the Santa Ana Civic Center, and the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.

Santa ana

All these next attractions at Santa Ana are worth exploring! Check out Bowers MuseumDiscovery Science CenterSanta Ana ZooHeritage Museum of Orange County, the Old Orange County CourthouseThe Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle House and Medical MuseumThe Santa Ana Fire Museum, and Santa Ana Public Library. End your fantastic day with a feast of food and drinks at 4th Street Market in Downtown Santa Ana.

Looking to purchase an investment property or looking for your next rental home, we would love to help you find the perfect home.

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