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10 Differences Between Los Angeles and Orange County

California Los Angeles
by Paige Smith Dec 17, 2016

1. LA beaches are for tourists and competitive volleyball players; Orange County beaches are for pro surfers, sunbathing locals, cliff divers, and water enthusiasts.

Orange County beaches are so much superior to the ones in LA. Orange County plays host to the U.S. Open of surfing in Huntington every year, plus it has some of the best pro surfing contests in places like Salt Creek and Trestles. Beyond that, it’s got hidden coves in Laguna perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling, shore-break beaches where skimboarders can shred, and gorgeous bays and harbors from Newport to Dana Point.

LA’s beaches, on the other hand, are crowded, polluted, and terrible for both swimming and surfing. The upside? Sexy, talented pro volleyball players who gather in places like Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica to practice their serves.

2. In Orange County, small talk is about the condition of the waves or the best Mexican food place; in LA, it’s all about which yoga studio you go to, which freeways you use to get to work, and what screenplay you’re currently working on.

Small talk in Orange County revolves mostly around the weather, the most recent swell, and if a new restaurant opened up. In LA, you’re swapping commute stories, talking about your favorite vegan food truck, and dishing on which B-list celebrity’s party you got invited to last weekend.

3. LA people are more career-driven; in Orange County, there’s a laid-back approach to work.

Nobody moves to LA for the food or the proximity to the ocean — they move there for a job. Or if not for a concrete job, then at least the promise of some spectacular professional opportunity. After all, the majority of people who live in LA either work in the entertainment industry in some capacity or want to. Add to that the amount of people in advertising, PR, business, fashion, blogging, or entrepreneurial pursuits and you can see how the whole city is hustling.

In Orange County, however, there’s not as much of an emphasis on grinding away at your job. Most people who live in Orange County choose to live there for lifestyle reasons (or because they just never left home), so people tend to be more laid-back and not as career-focused.

4. LA is a big city; Orange County is a suburban sprawl.

Technically, LA doesn’t have a city center, nor does it feel much like a typical city when you have to drive everywhere. But it is a city, and therefore has all the typical city-like things you’d expect: good food, museums, nightlife, massive events, concerts, and plenty to do all the time.

The OC, on the other hand, is suburbia with beaches. Coastal communities like Huntington, San Clemente, and Laguna Beach are fairly walkable, and areas like Irvine and Newport are becoming more urban and hip, but it’s still far from a city vibe. There’s plenty to do (especially if you dig the beach), but the OC still has that slow suburban pace.

5. LA has pollution, smog, and dirty streets; Orange County has fresher air and immaculate streets.

Orange County air quality isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than LA’s, where the smog is visible and can actually burn your lungs during a workout if you’re not used to it. On top of air pollution, LA also has some pretty dirty areas — we’re talking trash on the ground and urine stains on the walls. Because Orange County is home to a lot of middle-class families and small children, the streets are pristine and usually lined with gorgeous flowers and manicured shrubs.

6. LA nightlife is on point; Orange County basically shuts everything down at 9pm.

LA has no shortage of bars, breweries, clubs, and places to go wild at 2pm on a Sunday Funday. Drive an hour south, though, and the only nightlife you’ll find isn’t even worth the cost of an Uber. The best, most buzzy bars in Orange County close before 2am, and small dive bars and pricey wine-tasting spots are way more popular than a hip whiskey bar or dance club with a DJ — at least a good one, anyway.

7. LA has more history and culture; Orange County is relatively young and cookie-cutter.

Say what you want about LA, but it has Hollywood, baby. And there was once such a thing as “Old Hollywood,” which laid the foundation for much of LA’s current history and culture. Despite its constant construction, LA still has homes, cottages, and apartment buildings that are around 100 years old, whereas Orange County is full of cookie-cutter tract homes and fresh new developments.

8. Parking isn’t a problem in Orange County; in LA, it’s your worst nightmare.

In Orange County, you can cruise up to the curb of any restaurant, store, or market without having to pay a hefty fee or worry about checking the meter. Not so for LA, which reams its residents on the daily with absurd parking fines and super strict regulations. And good luck finding a spot in your own residential neighborhood when the parking signs warn about street sweeping, morning parking, overnight parking, and everything in between.

9. LA traffic is its own circle of hell; Orange County traffic is bad, but manageable.

The traffic in LA is horrendous and getting worse all the time — even just two miles on the 405 can take 45 minutes in a sea of red brake lights. Want to meet a friend downtown when you live in Santa Monica? Buckle up for a solid hour’s worth of stop and go.

In Orange County, however, traffic can be terrible, but usually only when you expect it to be, like rush hour and Tuesday mornings (don’t ask me why). And although Orange County drivers know how to be assertive on the road when they need to be, they’re nothing compared to a typical aggressive, no-holds-barred LA driver.

10. LA has more diversity of people; Orange County is pretty homogenous.

LA is home to people of many different races, ethnicities, backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and cultures. You can walk down any given street in LA at any time and hear at least three different languages being spoken. Orange County, however, is more racially and culturally homogenous, except in cities like Irvine, where Asian residents make up over 45% of the population (and the Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese food joints will blow your mind).

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