The central Orange County area west of I-5 in California is known for its sunny weather, palm trees and quiet residential neighborhoods that sit next to busy industrial and commercial areas. When traveling in the various neighborhoods that make up central Orange County, you can find many single-family homes,
apartment buildings, and a wide selection of retail businesses and restaurants.
The central area for this location lies within easy driving distance of many surrounding cities and communities, including Santa Ana,
which sits a little over two miles to the north. Other nearby locations include Tustin to the northeast, Irvine to the east, Costa Mesa to the southwest, Fountain Valley to the west, and Westminster to the northwest.
Schools in Central OC West of I-5
School data provided by GreatSchools
Restaurants & Nightlife
An area hotspot for restaurants includes downtown Santa Ana, where you can find a wide selection of cuisines, including Venezuelan, American, Mexican and other ethnic fare. One favorite local restaurant in Santa Ana, Playground, features a large menu of chicken, cannelloni and fish items. Try out the wild mushroom ramen, which contains Shanghai cabbage, scallions and slow egg.
Venezuelan restaurant Mil Jugos, also in Santa Ana, serves a variety of ethnic menu items from that country. Its signature Arepas features grilled corn bread stuffed with a variety of seasoned meats or other fillings. One example is the Chicharron, containing pork belly and nata and queso fresco.
Located close to John Wayne Airport in Irvine, Mick’s Karma Bar has a wide selection of menu items to choose from. The signature Karma Burger contains a handmade, juicy sirloin steak patty topped with American cheese, crispy lettuce, tomato, red onions and the special Karma Sauce.
Journey to Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking for a steam-cooked meal made right before you as you sit at the bar. Try the bouillabaisse, steamed shrimp, crab, lobster and white fish, mixed with the best mussels and clams, all cooked in a tomato and leek base.
You can usually find something going on in central OC area at night. Whether you plan on visiting one of the area bars or taking in some musical entertainment, night-time fun is typically right around the corner.
Enjoy a taste of some of the best beers from the California and Portland, Oregon, area by visiting the Native Son Alehouse in downtown Santa Ana. Grab a beer and relax on the balcony, which overlooks popular downtown Santa Ana locations, including the Yost Theater.
If you seek beer and musical entertainment, stop by The Copper Door. This area destination, popular with the locals, hosts a variety of live music, stage shows and other forms of entertainment, such as trivia. It also has a selection of beers on tap or mixed drinks to enjoy while you attend one of its events.
If you seek more robust entertainment, the Yost Theater offers a large assortment of musical, theater and sporting events. You can even have dinner and drinks at your event.
History & Culture
The area in and around the western part of central Orange County saw growth in the years following World War II, as veterans from that war moved to the area to raise their families. In recent years, cities such as Santa Ana have attempted to revitalize their downtown areas with much success. Santa Ana has renovated and re-opened the historic Yost Theater in the newly declared Artist’s Village.
The Bowers Museum puts on a wide assortment of exhibitions geared toward teaching families about the world around them and California's history and culture.
If you seek ongoing events, check out the Artists Village Open House in Santa Ana. This free event takes place the first Saturday of each month and includes artwork displays and theater performances from over 150 participating studios and galleries located in Santa Ana’s downtown district.
Biking and walking are viable transportation options for getting around Santa Ana and the surrounding area. Other ways to get around central OC west of I-5
include taking the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) buses available for public use. You can also take the Amtrak to various areas outside the central OC region. To get a taxi, you have a few options, including using a mobile device to order one from Uber, calling a taxi service or finding a cab stall at one of the area hotels.
You can access area freeways and highways easily from the central OC region, including the 5, 55 and 22 Freeways. When you have finished driving your vehicle, park it in one of the area lots or on the street. Most parking in Santa Ana is metered between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. but free after 8 p.m.
The cost of living in central OC west of I-5 sits about even with the rest of the area, and rent for a one-bedroom
residence costs about $1,622. You can buy a beer for around $4 to $5, and a ride on a city bus costs $2 for a one-way trip. A gallon of gas costs about 20 percent more than the national average.
The central OC area west of I-5 has many different shopping destinations, including central and downtown Santa Ana, where you can find a variety of boutiques and specialty shops like Elegant Diva Shoes on South Fairview Street, which features a wide selection of stylish shoes, bags, and accessories.
Take a trip down to Costa Mesa to the south and check out South Coast
Plaza, an upscale luxury shopping mall with many high-end shops. The high-end stores at South Coast Plaza sell such brands as Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.
If you seek groceries, look no further than the area Food 4 Less. Here you can find great prices on all of your grocery needs, such as fresh meats, produce, and a wide selection of other items. If you prefer fresh produce, check out Sprouts Farmers Market in Irvine.
Area parks also have a number of activities you can participate in, including exercise,
playing with the kids or attending one of many events throughout the year. One such place, the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park, puts on a large variety of yearly events, including It’s Boo Time at the Santa Ana Zoo and Winter Zoobilation. For adults, Sunsets at the Zoo Summer Concert Series and Brew at the Zoo beer-tasting events draw in a crowd.
Birch Park provides a nice relaxing environment, including many trails for hiking, cycling, and watching nature. You can also work out at the park’s Fitness Zone, catering mainly to the area's senior citizens. Free to the public, the park also allows pet
owners to bring their pets as long as they remain leashed.
The Irvine Central Bark Dog Park provides the perfect place for dog owners to exercise their pets because it features almost three acres of open areas for off-leash play. You can also find a separate area for smaller dogs and a watering facility for your pets.