Cities in Orange County, CA that are good for families sharing local insights, schools and neighborhood details that will hopefully make moving a little easier on you!
Recently, I have been asked the question over and over “what IS THE BEST neighborhood or city in Orange County for families?” And ” Where should we live” and “where are the best schools”?
Shedding some local insight, opinions and a few facts to bring you the best cities to live at within orange county and why
The City of Newport Beach one of the most attractive communities in California. It is close to the ocean, well taken care of, and a beautiful city with amazing shopping and restaurants. Newport Beach also has some amazing schools, and with all of this comes extremely high home costs. So if you are not on a budget here are some of my favorite family communities.
Cities in orange county ca
Newport Beach, neighborhoods
Lido Marina Village
Lido is a charming little island off the peninsula when you pass 32nd street. It’s popular for shopping, waterfront dining, the historic Lido Theater, and of course gorgeous views of the harbor. Right over the bridge sits Lido Isle, a family-friendly neighborhood, that the locals love and is still full of charm! The public Elementary here is so cute and right on the beach! Newport Elementary
Corona Del Mar
Corona Del Mar is popular for families who want the walkability and be able to cruise to the beach or a restaurant without getting in the car! Locals love it here. Likewise, it is full of great families, lots of doggies and despite the stereotypes, a lot of really amazing people. The public Elementary is Harbor View right off Goldenrod.
Newport Coast is full of newer homes, upscale hotels and the Pelican Hill Golf Resort. Families love it here for the gated communities, the close knit neighbors, and many have a community pool for the kids or your own pool depending in the neighborhood you choose. A nearby Elementary School is Newport Coast Elementary and is highly spoke of.
The Port Streets
Another unique popular neighborhood, located in the East Bluff Harbor View area off of San Joaquin road. The Port Streets community is a great family neighborhood of Newport Beach with amazing large custom homes and some older ones with charm still left. They do have a homeowners association that includes two community clubhouses and community pools. There are lots of areas for kids to play including parks, baseball fields, and birthday party areas! Anderson Elementary is said to be an amazing school, and the families love that they can walk their kids to school.
Bonita Canyon is a luxury gated community that is located off Bonita Canyon Road and close to MacArthur Blvd. It is guard gated and full of lovely families. Community and public elementary school is Anderson, but the popular JCC and TBT private schools are minutes away!
Cities in Orange County, CA
Mission Viejo is considered one of the largest master-planned communities ever built under a single project in the United States. Mission Viejo is suburban in nature and culture. The city is mainly residential, and very popular with families and children due to the good schools, affordability and and safe neighborhoods.
Just remember if you’re commuting to work or plan on driving anywhere else you will most likely pay for the toll roads. It might not seem much to you but it adds up.
Here is the simple math my husband and I did when we considered moving this way. ( At the time, He would have be commuting to the Newport area 5 days a week). To be fair I told myself 2 days a week to use the toll.
The price on the 73 to Newport coast/Irvine exit is around $11.00 one way more or less.
( $22.00 a day x 5 days a week = $110.00)
Let’s say 4 weeks in a month and your spending an extra $440 a month (not to mention my commuting costs and any weekend activities you do) We budgeted spending an extra $750 a month in tolls alone and therefor for us it was not the right move. If you plan to stay in south county it might be the perfect place for YOU!
Mission Viejo neighborhoods
Santa Margarita Parkway/Alicia Parkway
One of the most popular areas due to the amazing neighborhoods and great schools. The local elementary is Melinda Heights and has a score of 9 which is above average for the area!
Felipe Road/La Paz Road
This is another elite residential area made up of scenic parks and pretty villas lining every impeccably paved street. Felipe Road/La Paz Road notably houses a large population of Armenian and Iranian descendants-the largest compared to any other neighborhood in America. A greater part of the working population in this neighborhood is employed in management, executive, and professional occupations.
The Lanzarote/Orsola neighborhood is as pretty as it gets in Mission Viejo. Lanzarote/Orsola comprises a population of varying ages. A vibrant mix of well-educated seniors to prep schoolers and elite professionals make for a lively population in this neighborhood. The Lanzarote/Orsola neighborhood also offers families a diverse range of housing options to choose from.
Cities in Orange County, CA
Enjoy ocean breezes and city views high above the coastal beach cities. This area is located right above Laguna Beach and Dana point, offering amazing neighborhoods and easy access to the 73 freeway.
Local insights: Don’t forget to add those toll road fees to your monthly budget. Families love it here to save money on housing costs and get a little more for your money. It’s also a great investment opportunity for small condos that you can potentially rent out and popular for the retirement community.
Laguna Niguel neighborhoods
The guard-gated community of Palmilla
– One of the most popular neighborhoods, offering the best views, a safe gated community and plenty of space in all of the properties. Homes range from 3-6 bedrooms and this is probably one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city! Public Schools are within Capistrano Unified.
Greens East is a highly desirable community located near Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point Harbor, shops, restaurants, and Beautiful Ritz Carlton, Monarch Beach and Montage Resorts! Moulton Elementary School is the closest public Elementary School which gets great reviews.
Crown Valley Highlands
Another popular neighborhood with homes ranging from the high 700,000-1.2 million. It is highly desirable for families with newer remodeled homes and a great community feel. It is also home to Moulton Elementary School.
The City of Aliso Viejo is both a master planned community, as well as a City that was incorporated in 2001. People like Aliso Viejo for several reasons: 1 being location close to 73 FWY which means easy access to Laguna and Newport Beach without the Laguna and Newport Beach price tags. Another reason is that Aliso Viejo has a ton of open space with only 4911 people per square mile, and lots and lots of nature trails and open space that the master planned community maintains. It’s also drawing a younger demographic with the average age of the city being 37 years old.
Local insights: Schools are excellent, and the City is continually ranked as one of the safest cities in the nation. (Yes Toll road fees however consider the low property tax rates)
Cities in orange county ca
Irvine is one of the nation’s largest planned urban communities and encompasses more than 65 square miles. It borders Newport Beach and goes all the way up to the 241 toll roads. Known for the best schools in Orange County and low crime.
Local insights: A lot of us think Irvine should be two cities since it is literally so big and has totally different vibes from one side to the other. There are literally 56 elementary schools in Irvine and most of them are very highly rated with 5 being a *10 which is quite impressive.
Turtle rock is home to an amazing elementary school that offers a 9 out of 10 rating and a traditional year schedule. The neighborhood is clean and well maintained with a lot of families and kids. The average home price is 1.2 million. with several options for 3 and 4 bedrooms homes. The community has parks, pools and great amenities for families to enjoy.
Turtle ridge is very popular due to its amazing location and proximity to Newport Beach. It has a fantastic family feel, great neighbors and of course access to the best private and public schools at the bottom of the hill. Most of the homes are on the smaller side so you really sacrifice space for the community. Unless you buy in the upper community you can get a larger home with 5/6 bedrooms but there is a major price increase and the community feel is a bit less since the homes are more spread out. The Elementary school is Vista Verde and is a blue ribbon school with a score of 10!
Woodbridge and Woodbury
Both of the neighborhoods are very popular and close to another blue Ribbon School Stone Creek Elementary with a score of 10! Families love it here for the parks, community pools, great schools, and very low crime. It’s also centrally located and has easy access to freeways for commuting.
These newer homes are big, beautiful and brand new construction! The neighborhood is pristine, modern and full of families. You can get a lot more for your money since it’s more inland than other parts of Irvine. They also have amazing schools and plenty of dining and shopping centers for close access and ease ability. The Public Elementary School is Portola Springs Elementary.
Cities in orange county, ca
Huntington Beach is a seaside city in Orange County in Southern California. The population was 189,992 during the 2010 census, making it the most populous beach city in Orange County. It is close to Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa and Seal Beach. Huntington Beach (locally initialized “HB”) is known for its long 9.5-mile stretch of sandy beach, mild climate, excellent surfing, and beach culture.
Local Insights: Although main street can be known for the parties, drinking and bar scenes that is not what the city is all about. Families love it hear and there are lots of communities that are safe, offer community and a fun down to earth environment. This laid back town is for outdoor enthusiasts that love the ocean, bike riding, surfing, animals and flip flops of course!
Huntington beach neighborhoods
One of the most desirable family neighborhoods in Huntington Beach, Seacliff is located in west Huntington Beach. with spacious, high-valued homes the community feels welcoming. Homes built in the 1960’s and several of them remodeled. The sizes of the homes range from 1,650 to 4,211 square feet. The average price is $530.07 per square foot. Seacliff community is perfectly located just blocks away from the beach.
Seagate is gated community and have some of the best waterfront houses available. Most homes are average in size and high in price with 2 to 4 bedrooms. The average price is $641.67 per square foot. You’ll also have an association price to pay but well worth it with private boat docks, vacation/resort style living, six tennis courts, a spa, two association pools, several water sports, and a yacht club!
Central Park area
If you love nature and have kids this is a great location not to far from the beach! One of the biggest parks in OC the largest children’s library west of the Mississippi. Located just five miles from the pier, you’ll find paved paths, dirt trails, and open fields hugging two lakes, as well as playgrounds, picnic areas, a “Secret Garden,” Shipley Nature Center, Disc Golf Course, Sports Complex, Equestrian Center, Dog Park, two dog-friendly lakeside restaurants, and so much more to explore.
This is the best place to be if you are looking for low key, away from the crowds but want the beach lifestyle. Most of the homes in the harbor are waterfront and have boat docks making it a dream lifestyle for me! (one day) You can also find affordable condos to rent or apartments if you love the area. The area is famous for its annual holiday boat parade so you have probably cruised through the harbor before and viewed a lot of the homes from the water.
If you want to be downtown, be prepared to pay for it. You’ll most likely be in a condo or high rise style living and sacrifice yard space and quiet evenings. You would however have amazing walkability and be close to everything without needing to drive your car.
Tustin is a city located in Orange County, California. As of 2018, Tustin had a population of 82,344. The city is located next to the county seat, Santa Ana, and does not include North Tustin. Because of a top 10% ranking in start-ups and sole proprietors per capita and one of the shortest commutes in Southern California, the city was chosen in 2009 by Forbes as one of the top 25 towns to live well in America.
Local Insights: you will find great weather, open spaces, a lot of nature, horse enthusiasts and high priced homes with decent but not great schools.
Cities in orange county ca.
San Clemente is a coastal community Known as the “Spanish Village by the Sea”, San Clemente has long been known for its Spanish style architecture. Downtown San Clemente restaurants and shops are adorned with red tile roofs, cream stucco walls, and dark wood doors and windows. Families and surfers alike love this town and the average home price is $897,000.
Best Elementary Schools?
Dana Point is located just south of Laguna Beach sitting on the waters edge. With 6.5 miles of sand, Dana Point has easy access to beaches that are available right off Highway 5 and PCH. Most people own their homes her with the average home costing around $833,000
Local insights: Families love living here for the laid back beach lifestyle and the walkability to restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and local parks. Many young professionals and retirees live in Dana Point and residents tend to lean conservative. The public schools in Dana Point are highly rated.
San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano is a medium-sized city located off the coast in south county. It is well known for the mission, as well as an equestrian area. For families, the school district is CAPISTRANO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT which has 62 schools and an average of 27 kids per class.
Local Insights: Families love the ranch style homes, the open space and the coastal breezes brought in from the shoreline. Average home cost is currently averaging $755,000
Brea, one of the oldest communities within Orange County, was incorporated in 1917 as the city of oil, oranges, and opportunity. Already well established as an oil producer, Olinda Village in Brea’s rolling northern hills continued to draw workers and it was time to organize a town and prepare for future growth. Today, Brea is a bustling, but close-knit community of almost 44,000 residents, who enjoy a high level of public services rarely found in a smaller community.
Local insights: Families seem to really love brea for the warm community feel and array of local activities. Home prices are affordable and commuting to work is accessible with a central location and access to most major freeways.
In 2005, CNN ranked Yorba Linda 21st among the best places in the U.S. to live. In 2012, Yorba Linda was ranked 42nd on Money magazine’s list of America’s best small cities. Similarly, in an article by CNN Money, Yorba Linda was one of the richest U.S. cities and the richest in Orange County as reported by the Census data, showing a median household income of more than $120K: “Among towns of between 65,000 and 250,000 in population, Yorba Linda, California, where six-figure incomes are the rule, had the highest median income at $121,075”. Yorba Linda has been identified as one of the richest cities in the U.S. by the U.S. Census Bureau, which shows a median household income of $121,075, higher than any other city in 2006.
Local insights: People love Yorba Linda for the schools, the property space and the outdoor living with natural trails and horses! Most people complain about nightlife and local activities, however it’s a short drive to the beach cities.
Rancho Santa Margarita
Thanks for reading along and being a part of this community! I encourage you to come say hi and keep in touch with me on Instagram and please subscribe below to receive emails when new articles are published!