Orange County gets a bad rap. While recently chatting with a new friend in the desert, the classic look of disdain crossed her face when I mentioned Orange County—the Oh, I could never live in a bland homogenized community full of Orange County Housewives and zero charm. I get it. I thought the same before transferring to NBC’s OC bureau in 1999. Never did I think the eclectic nature of my favorite Hollywood or Mid-Wilshire districts existed in the OC.
But the opportunity to go staff instead of freelance was too great to turn down, so I thought, what the heck. Let’s see what we can find. And guess what? Pockets of charm DO exist. Nineteen years later, we are still here, although now vagabonding.
OLD TOWN VIBES
Counter to what some believe, Orange County isn’t all strip malls and sprawling suburbia. The north Orange County communities of Orange, Fullerton, and Santa Ana have great old town vibes with gorgeous historic neighborhoods, especially Santa Ana. We’ve stayed in three different Santa Ana districts during this vagabond phase, like this week’s location:
The Park Santiago neighborhood is a triangle of about 1100 historic homes near the 5 freeway and Main Street, a wonderful pocket of charm filled with mature landscaping and architectural variety. The homes range in age from around 1910 up to the 1960s, and vary in style from Tudors…
To Spanish influenced.
From California ranch…
To Mid-Century modern.
Even some large Colonial-Revival homes with elegant formal gardens in back, this one dating to the turn of the 20th century.
Park Santiago is a wonderful walking neighborhood, full of beautifully landscaped yards and interesting architecture. Plus, it’s close to restaurants and shopping, which is great for us since we both love to walk.
Home for the Week
This is our second stay in this Park Santiago AirBnB, a cute studio over a garage at the end of a driveway behind the main house.
While the main house was built in the early 1940s, the studio definitely has a mid-century feel, especially that cool angular roof line.
The hosts, Doug and Chris, have created a simple, yet elegant, spotlessly clean space.
The large window across from the bed is my favorite feature, reminiscent of the treehouse since the crystal clear windows are filled with tree views.
There’s a small kitchen with a single burner, microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker, with a lovely garden window where the plates and glasses are kept.
There’s a closet with convenient bins, and the cutest bathroom with a pink-tiled shower. There’s also a solar tube in the shower to let in natural light.
The space is comfortable, quiet, and they even baked us cookies. This is for sure one of our top picks. In fact, we love it so much, we have a third stay scheduled for July.
If you’d like to read more about the history of Santa Ana, how it grew out of a tall field of mustard in the 1860s and became the county seat, check out the Santa Ana History site.
Until next week’s Vagabond adventure (in another Santa Ana neighborhood)…
ONE YEAR AGO