Nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego is Costa Mesa, a vibrant, eclectic city that’s home to world-class dining and award-winning entertainment. Costa Mesa celebrates the diversity of its six distinct neighborhoods, from the SoBeCa arts district to the funky vibe of the Westside. It also celebrates the diversity of its people, locals and visitors alike. Costa Mesa welcomes LGBTQ travelers and it's the perfect place to eat, shop and play on your next vacation.
Costa Mesa is quickly becoming a foodie destination. In fact, you could go for the food alone and you wouldn’t be disappointed. Hot spots include Taco Maria, chef Carlos Salgado’s Michelin star take on Alta California cuisine, located in SOCO & The OC Mix. Stop in at lunch for their a la carte menu, which features tacos and small plates, or try their pre-fixe menu at dinner. Also within SOCO & The OC Mix is ARC Food & Libations where chef Noah von Blöm cooks everything over an open flame. You’ll smell the smokiness before you even arrive at the restaurant. The ARC burger or one of their fire-grilled pizzas are always a great choice.
By Segerstrom Center for the Arts you’ll find Vaca, from Top Chef finalist Amar Santana and restaurateur Ahmed Labbate, offering Santana’s twist on traditional Spanish tapas and an impressive bar program. The canelon de pollo ahumado and Vaca tonic are delicious, but you can’t go wrong with tapas to share or one of their signature steaks. In nearby South Coast Plaza is Terrace by Mix Mix, showcasing chef Ross Pangilinan’s French, Italian and modern Filipino influences. Try the express lunch menu, a 3-course seasonal menu that changes daily.
The newest restaurants include Cafe Sevilla, serving traditional Spanish cuisine and entertainment. The Hall: Global Eatery, a food hall concept, includes a patisserie, Mediterranean grill and fine dining restaurant and bar. Regardless of your taste, you’ll find delicious food options in Costa Mesa.
Home to the largest shopping center on the west coast, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa is known for luxury shopping. You’ll find over 250 stores from designer brands to department stores. If you’re staying at a Costa Mesa hotel, you can also get access to their VIP Access Suite!
Just a few miles south you’ll find The LAB Anti-Mall. The LAB, which stands for “Little American Business,” is a retail campus of unique businesses like a record store in an Airstream, vintage and thrift stores, along with a brewery and art gallery. Across the street is The LAB’s sister center, The CAMP, which focuses on eco-friendly shopping and dining. Stop into SEED People’s Market for sustainable clothes, accessories and home goods. The LAB and The CAMP are two of the most Instagramable spots in Costa Mesa and definitely worth a trip.
Costa Mesa is the City of the Arts® and a visit wouldn’t be complete without enjoying some of the art that the city has to offer. Take a selfie in front of some street art, explore sculptures on the Costa Mesa Art Walk or find exciting new work at Orange County Museum of Art. If performing arts are more of your thing, you can see amazing performers at award-winning Segerstrom Center for the Arts or South Coast Repertory.
Costa Mesa has plenty of nightlife to offer, including two LGBTQ-specific locations: Tin Lizzie Saloon and Strut Bar & Club. Tin Lizzie Saloon’s origins date back to the 1950s, but Orange County’s premier LGBTQ bar definitely has a Victorian vibe. The walls are embossed with velvet, and you’ll find avant-garde photography along with ornate draperies and sconces. The entertainment is anything but Victorian, though: a satellite jukebox, pool table and monthly drag bingo make for a lively atmosphere. Be sure to check out their signature cocktails like the new fashion or aviation.
Strut Bar & Club has a distinctly different vibe—think 1980s neon. Strut Bar is open daily with a menu of craft cocktails and small bites. Strut Club opens Friday and Saturday night with DJs, dancing and exciting entertainment. Strut Bar & Club is all-inclusive and creates a safe space for everyone.
Costa Mesa is the perfect place to create your escape. For more information on Costa Mesa, including hotel deals, events and more, visit travelcostamesa.com.
Photos Courtesy of Travel Costa Mesa