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Costa Mesa: A Fun O.C. Suburb


Costa Mesa is what you could consider a family oriented college town; a place where college students can find affordable housing and a great place for young families to raise kids. The city is the home of two colleges, the South Coast Plaza, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the O.C. Fairgrounds. While Costa Mesa is probably the town most people just drive by, it is a young town with great shopping, a wealth of culture, beach proximity and lots of fun things to do with the family.

Lay of the Land

Costa Mesa is a small Orange County suburb covering approximately 16 square miles, with the San Gabriel river and Huntington Beach on the west. The city is bordered to the east by the John Wayne Airport and the Newport Back Bay estuary, and to the north by Santa Ana. On its southern end is an area called Newport Mesa, a blurred border between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

Getting Around Town

Bicycling: Like most Southern California cities, Costa Mesa is a car town. Conversely, since the city is pretty small and flat, with bike lanes on most major streets, bicycling is really the most economical way to travel locally.

Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA): Important routes include the 76 and 178 to Huntington Beach or Irvine, the 173 to Huntington Beach, the 55 to the South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island, the 35 on Brookhurst, 43 on Harbor and the 71 to Orange or the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.

Housing and Real Estate

Costa Mesa offers a variety of single family homes as well as multi-unit housing. Pricey luxury condos abound in the area surrounding the South Coast Plaza, while traditional California ranch style housing can be found on the eastern side of the city. Since Costa Mesa is also the base for two colleges and a short drive or bus ride from UC Irvine, the city is also a prime location for affordable rental housing and student living.
Median condo or house value: $591,000
Median Rent: $1,489

Costa Mesa Schools

Costa Mesa schools are part of the Newport Mesa Unified School District, which includes several California Distinguished Schools and has a history of strong athletic performance in aquatics and track. In addition to traditional schools, there are several alternative schools, including Early College High School, Davis Magnet, and Back Bay/Monte Vista High School. Costa Mesa is also the home of Orange Coast College and Vanguard University.


People come from all over Orange County and Southern California to shop at the South Coast Plaza, which has been called Orange County's version of Rodeo Drive. Additional shopping can be found at Triangle Square on Newport Blvd., Mesa Verde Plaza on Adams, Harbor Shopping Center on Harbor Blvd., and plenty of other local strip malls.

Arts and Entertainment

The O.C. Fairgrounds, which hosts events all year -- including concerts at the Pacific Amphitheater, the annual O.C. Fair, weekly farmer's markets and food truck Thursdays -- is a huge draw for O.C. locals and tourists alike. Costa Mesa is also the base for the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Trendy hot spots for dining and nightlife can be found at Triangle Square, in the heart of Newport Mesa.

Green Space

For such a small city, Costa Mesa has optimized its use of green space. In addition to golf courses, there are parks within walking distance of every residential neighborhood, with Lions Park on Newport Blvd. being perhaps the most well known. Regional parks include Fairview Park and Talbert Regional Park, which are part of a green-belt stretch along the east bank of the Santa Ana River.

Costa Mesa by the Numbers

Population: 109, 960
Median Age: 32
Median Income: $65,532

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