We turned to community leaders, residents, statistics, history, and even a few former presidents to tell you something incredible about every one of the 34 cities we call home.
“The city has been great to my students. It hosts a beach concert series (where students perform) on the sand. My students literally feel like rock stars. I like to take friends to The Fisherman’s Restaurant. Then we walk on the beach trail … they say, ‘You get to work here!? What a great town!'” —Tony Soto, instrumental music director, San Clemente High School
“My city is a place for learning, through the 250 clubs started by residents. It also houses full emeritus classes through Saddleback College. Residents celebrate the arts, which are dear to many women and men to keep our creative process vibrant and lively.” —CeCe Sloan, resident and activist
San Juan Capistrano
“Our city has deep historical roots. Many families can trace their roots to the early days of San Juan. Also, the city has always had horses. It’s part of the town’s identity from times of the Old West to the present day.” —Kathy Holman, owner of Ortega Equestrian Center
“We have a significant population of 20-somethings. Because of this, there is a heightened sense of creativity and innovation flowing around the city. I love the culture, the artistic vibe, and the entrepreneurial spirit.” —Lamont Hartman, pastor
Photos by Mariah Tauger
Ask the Council
Who better than City Council members to sing the praises of their cities?
“A perfect day here would include the Paseo Gonzalez plaza. It’s an outdoor venue with places to eat and shop—sometimes there are strolling musicians. The feeling is, ‘Sit down, relax, we made this plaza for you!'” —Rose Espinoza, councilwoman
“I like to start my day at Soka University, having breakfast in the cafeteria. People often come over and talk about the environment or other topic of interest. Soka recently celebrated its 16th anniversary and for all 16 years I’ve been there.” —Ross Chun, mayor pro tem
“I hike in the hills with a view of Saddleback above, riders and horses below. No earbuds, simply the music of the birds among the eucalyptus and sage. Taking my grandsons to watch a Little League game at our community center is the perfect end to a day.” —Mel Carruth, mayor
“We have the benefit of many things within hand’s reach. My wife and I like to walk to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and then venture down Walker Street to mingle with residents at Central Park. We’ve definitely got a small-town feel.” —Marshall Goodman, mayor pro tem
These locals share their tips about favorite spots, eats, and things to do in the artistic and picturesque seaside town.
Best hike: Top of the World, which starts at Alta Laguna Park, provides scenic views of the canyon and the Pacific Ocean.
Hidden gem: Ruby Street Park, a romantic blufftop area with picnic tables. It’s where we got engaged!
—Sean and Ashley Tiner, Laguna Beach residents and avid hikers
Favorite shop: Vertigo Home. The owners’ tastes are influenced by Scandinavian design, which has the store always feeling refreshed, innovative, and practical.
Favorite coffee spot: Laguna Coffee Co.
Best bar: The Seahorse, a speakeasy tucked behind red velvet curtains at Pearl St. General, an artisan mini grocery shop.
—Ali Rybczyk, Laguna Beach-based artist
Where I take tourists: Sawdust Art Festival, one of the most popular art shows and where I got my first job.
Best way to get around town: Longboarding or hitching a ride on the free trolleys.
Most unique activity: Throw it back to the hippie days and join a full moon drum circle at Aliso Beach (my mom does it).
—Gabriella Mintzer, photographer and Laguna Beach native
Favorite spots to eat: For a date with my girlfriends, I like The Rooftop Lounge. My daughter and I often go to Avila’s El Ranchito—they have great vegetarian tacos!
Favorite beach: Moss Point
What I love about Laguna Beach: The artsiness, the colorful people, and that life seems to slow down here.
—Leslie Sweetser, florist at Browne’s Flowers in Laguna Beach
Photos by Mariah Tauger
You Said It!
We asked locals why they love their cities.
“One of my favorite things is the city’s walkability and the sense of community. Our oldest public building is St. Isidore Historical Plaza, which hosts community events such as tamale-making classes.” —Mark Lengsfeld, founder of Build It Workspace
“My favorite landmark is Oso Creek, which flows from its headwaters north of the 241 tollway, traversing the unique eco-systems and the well-kept homes and paths that make Mission Viejo so special.” —Laszlo Mariahazy, professor at Saddleback College
“I love the diversity throughout the community. My favorite shop is Tienda de El Salvador. It has all these great snacks and grocery items from Central America that I can’t find anywhere else.” —Danilo Serranilla, Stanton Library branch manager
Rancho Santa Margarita
“We love to take guests to beautiful Rancho Santa Margarita Lake. We have some fantastic restaurants on the lake’s edge, and a nice walk around the lake after dinner
is so picturesque.” —Kelli Ellis, interior designer
“My favorite thing about my city is the historic Placentia Library next to City Hall. As a child, I remember marveling at the huge water fountain outside and roaming through endless corridors looking for my next summer read.” —Janae Gooch, student
“My favorite place is Centro Collective. It’s a small, independent restaurant that uses high-end ingredients. I prefer to support small businesses, especially if they’re as small as Centro.” —Michele Levine, owner of Maven’s Treats