Known for its gorgeous beaches, bustling shopping malls, and year-round flip-flops and shorts weather, Orange County, California remains a popular attraction for tourists and new residents. With access to surfing, theme parks, and hiking trails during any season, it’s no surprise that over 42 million visitors pass through this region of Southern California annually.
History of Orange County
Several Native American tribes occupied the area that would later become Orange County for generations before the arrival of a Spanish expedition led by Gaspar de Portola in 1769. The first official European settlement on the land, Mission San Juan, was established in 1776.
When California became an official US state in 1850, the region was originally a part of Los Angeles County. For two decades, local politicians in outlying towns struggled to form a separate county with no success. This process commenced in 1870 when the former mayor of Anaheim, Max Strobel, petitioned to have all land south of the Gabriel River become a county independent of Los Angeles. Strobel envisioned that the town of Anaheim would be the seat of the new county; however, for the next 20 years, various bills were presented to the State Assembly and ultimately declined by the Senate.
Finally, in 1894, Colonel E.E. Edwards from Santa Ana created a new bill that would establish Orange County. Several prominent figures in California backed Col. Edward’s proposal, including California Republican James McFadden, and William Spurgeon, a local Democrat. Delegates in San Francisco also joined this growing force as they felt that Los Angeles County held a great deal of unnecessary power, and believed its population was excessive. Eventually, their lobbying efforts were rewarded and lawmakers in Sacremento passed the bill, although the bill was not officially signed until March of 1889.
Orange County’s name was most likely inspired by the citrus fruit of the same name in an effort to attract the attention of immigrants by suggesting that the land was fertile, and ideal for growing tropical fruit trees.
Current Demographics of Orange County
As of January of 2017, Orange County has a population of 3,010,232. 60 percent of residents are Caucasian, 33 percent are of Hispanic or Latino descent, 17 percent are Asian, 1 percent are African American, and other races are below 1 percent. 1,521,452 are female, and 1,488,780 are male. 22 percent of Orange County residents are under the age of 18, and 13 percent are over the age of 65. English is the most commonly spoken language throughout the county with 58 percent speaking it as their only language, while 25 percent speak Spanish as their first language.
84 percent of people living in Orange County graduated from high school, and 37 percent of people have a four-year degree or higher. The average household income is currently $76,509, and less than 12 percent of the population are below the national poverty level.
The Climate in Orange County
Like much of the coast in Southern California, Orange County is pleasant year-round. The climate, a Mediterranean type, generally has warm, dry summers and mild, damp winters. The dry season is typically longer than the wet season, meaning that winters in Orange County are quite short. Winter temperatures in the area average around 50 degrees, while summers average temperatures in the mid-70’s. Of course, on some days the temperature can drop above or below average, and winter lows very rarely drop into the 40’s; however, almost anyone who lives in Orange County will agree that the climate during either season is comfortable, if not perfect.
Orange County’s Local Government
The seat of Orange County is Santa Ana, and the county’s government is comprised of six elected officers chosen by registered voters living anywhere in Orange County.
As of 2017, Hugh Nguyen, Republican, serves as Clerk-Recorder. Sandra Hutchens, Republican, has been the Sheriff-Coroner since 2008. The Auditor-Controller is Eric Woolery, CPA. Shari Freidenrich, CPA serves as Treasurer and Tax Collector. Claude Parrish, Republican, serves as County Assessor. Finally, the current District Attorney and Public Administrator of Orange County is Tony Rackauckas, Republican. Rackauckas has been in office as D.A. since January 4th, 1999.
Members of the Board of Supervisors in Orange County are elected by voters in one of the County’s five regional districts; officials on the Board of Education are elected in the same manner.
The Economy in Orange County
Orange County (more specifically the city of Irvine) is the home of many Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 company headquarters, including Broadcom, Allergan, Epicor, Standard Pacific, and Sun Healthcare Group. Several notorious technology-based business headquarters are also in the region, such as video game creators Blizzard Entertainment, and Linksys, a company that manufactures internet routers. Regional headquarters for various international businesses are frequently found in the cities of Irvine, Cypress, and Fountain Valley and include Mitsubishi, Mazda, Toyota, and Hyundai.
Outside of business administration, bustling shopping malls and plazas in Orange County are plentiful, making the retail industry a considerable portion of its economy. For instance, South Coast Plaza in Costa Meca is the third largest shopping center in the United States and the most sizeable mall in the entire state of California.
Tourism, of course, is also an enormous part of Orange County’s economy. Disneyland Resort is one of the most frequented theme parks in the world and employs approximately 23,000 people locally. Another popular theme park in the area, Knott’s Berry Farm, attracts over 7 million tourists annually.
Orange County’s efforts to continually create new jobs, increase wages, and cut unnecessary business costs are not going unrecognized. In December of 2016, findings from a Milken Insitute survey confirmed that the county’s economy is the strongest that it has been in over a decade. Over 40,000 new jobs are predicted to be created this year in addition to the 43,000 positions that opened in Orange County during 2016. According to the OC Register, there are a number of industries and fields currently trending in Orange County; a noteworthy surge in construction jobs is present, as well as healthcare positions. Due to an increase in income and resident spending, retail employment opportunities in Orange County are also expected to escalate.
Sports in Orange County
Orange County is currently home to two major league sports teams, including NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and the MLB’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Since 1966, The Angels’ home games have been hosted at Angels Stadium in the city of Anaheim. The present owner of the Angels, Arturo Moreno, became the first Latin American to obtain ownership of a major league baseball team in the USA when he purchased it in 2003.
Huntington Beach in Orange County, properly dubbed “Surf City”, is home to the annual Vans US Open of Surfing Competition. This league qualifying competition attracts some of the world’s most accomplished surfers and nearly 500,000 spectators to the sands of Huntington Beach for nine full days. Residents and tourists who attend this famous event can also expect to enjoy BMX and skateboarding competitions, art exhibitions, and live entertainment in addition to surfing.
Attractions in Orange County
Orange County is well-known for its world-famous theme parks and amusement parks. The most notable park is Disneyland, located in Anaheim, and first opened its gates in 1955. An upcoming expansion of Disneyland is the highly-anticipated Star Wars Land, a theme park named after the acclaimed sci-fi film franchise produced by George Lucas, and is expected to be open for visitors no later than 2019. Visitors seeking sleeping accommodations within walking distance to Disneyland’s many attractions may arrange to stay at the Disneyland Resort Hotel. A number of other extraordinarily fun amusement parks can be found in other areas of Orange County, including the well-known Knott’s Berry farm in Anaheim, Wild Rivers Water Park in Irvine, and Adventure City in Stanton.
Orange County is also a true paradise for shopping enthusiasts, with countless options for both luxury and outlet shoppers alike. Fashion aficionados will treasure their time shopping at approximately 200 high-end department stores, boutiques, and jewelry stores at South Coast Plaza in Costa Meca. South Coast is the third largest shopping plaza in the United States and the largest in the state of California; therefore, over 23 million people visit the retail mecca annually, and the mall exceeds over 1 billion dollars in sales every year.
One of the most alluring aspects of Orange County is its numerous beaches, each with its own unique style and landscape. While Huntington Beach is known worldwide for its excellent year-round surfing conditions, with nine miles of sandy coastline, it is also a fabulous spot to bring the family to for an afternoon of sunbathing, picnicking, or beachside volleyball. For tourists with a flare for the fine arts, Laguna Beach is a popular destination, mostly due to the various art-centric events it hosts, including the Sawdust Art Festival, the Pageant of the Masters, and Art-A-Fair.
Some of the best zoos and animal sanctuaries in Southern California can be found in Orange County. Those with a passion for marine life will feel right at home at Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. This non-profit organization is committed to the care and rehabilitation of local marine life such as seals, dolphins, and small whales. Another favorite among the area’s residents and tourists is the Orange County Zoo, which focuses primarily on wildlife that is found naturally in the Southwestern United States. Examples of some of the animals encountered at the OC Zoo include white-tailed deer, black bear, hawks, mountain lions, coyotes, and jackrabbits.
A beloved baseball team, some of the most luxurious malls in the nation, over ten fantastic amusement parks, beautiful weather year-round, and world-class beaches are but a few reason people flock to Orange County, California as either visitors or new residents. Whether these people are here to stay or leave, Orange County more often than not offers a rich, unique experience for every individual.