Looking for a super fun (and warm) Momcation idea? Costa Mesa, California has incredible food, a thriving arts scene, trendy boutiques, and a huge mall! Find out my favorite things to do in Costa Mesa CA, keep scrolling down for all the recommendations!
This list of the best things to do in Costa Mesa CA post was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
I don’t know about you, but by the time September rolls around, I’m completely wiped.
We usually spend the summer traveling as a family, running around town, and taking kids to and from summer camp.
And then school starts and it’s dealing with new schedules, trying (and failing) to come up with creative lunch ideas, frantically gathering school supplies, etc.
And then everyone gets the famous “Back to School cold.”
Yep, by mid-September, I’m ready for a Momcation.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a Momcation is a vacation FOR moms where you get to do what you want, when you want, without your children or partner. You can take them with friends or you can travel solo.
The whole point is that you get some time away from Momlife in order to recharge and regroup so you’re able to continue being a rockstar Mom!
So, when Travel Costa Mesa invited me to spend a few days playing around Costa Mesa, I jumped at the opportunity!
After exploring this Orange County gem for a couple of days, I’ve come up with my favorite fun things to do in Costa Mesa without kids any time of year. You’ll quickly see why it’s one of the best weekend getaways in Southern California.
In fact, Costa Mesa would be an awesome winter getaway in California! Who doesn’t love Southern California?
Top 10 Things to do in Costa Mesa CA
1. SEE A PLAY
I’m a HUGE theatre enthusiast! We’ve had season tickets to several local Seattle theatres throughout the years and we try to attend as many Seattle Children’s Theatre performances as we can with our kids.
So, when I found out that Costa Mesa is known for their performing arts, I knew we had to see a show! I mean, it’s one of the top things to do in Costa Mesa at night.
We ended up seeing American Mariachi at the South Coast Repertory, a cool live entertainment venue.
I admit, I came in knowing nothing really about Mariachi music besides what I’ve seen at Mexican restaurants. And I had never heard of this show before.
The basic premise is a girl and her outspoken cousin defy tradition and create their own mariachi band as a loving gesture for a mother who is slowly fading away.
It’s about women dreaming big and embracing the transcendent power of music.
This performance was inspirational, funny, and aggravating, and left me feeling like I could conquer the world but also in tears. It gave me all the feels!
This Tony Award-winning theater is widely regarded as one of America’s foremost producers of new plays and they produce up to five new productions each season.
They also have a whole lineup of Broadway shows each theater season at South Coast Repertory and I’d highly recommend checking one out.
The theatre is intimate and there isn’t a bad seat in the house!
2. EAT CUBAN FOOD
I’ve only had Cuban food a handful of times and it’s always been in the Seattle area. It’s been tasty, but less than memorable.
We headed to Habana, a trendy Cuban restaurant located at The LAB-Anti Mall. It’s known to be one of the best places to eat in Costa Mesa.
Let me just say, I think it’s the closest to Cuba I’ve come so far!
The restaurant is so immersive and you’ll feel like you are sitting in a cafe in the heart of Havana. There are so many details and little Cuban touches. It’s incredible! And there are delicious food items for the whole family.
When we were there, they had a brunch buffet going on with all kinds of traditional Cuban dishes, fresh fruit, baked goods, and an array of the most Pinterest-worthy desserts!
And they even had live music and guest spontaneously got up to dance! It was so cool!
Habana was one of the first tenants at The LAB (more than 25 years ago!) and they recently expanded to Irvine, CA.
While I didn’t have the chance to try it, they are known for their craft cocktails and they have a full bar.
As soon as I left the restaurant, I texted my husband to say we need to do a romantic getaway to Costa Mesa specifically to come eat here!
3. GET YOUR SPA ON
When I’m in charge of planning a Momcation with friends, I always make sure there’s some sort of self-care time.
Spa days are my favorite type of days!
We spent time at the Nordstrom Spa getting massages and it was fantastic.
There are only a few Nordstrom locations in the country that offer massages in their spas.
I added the Himalayan Salt option to my massage and I’m so glad I did! I could feel the achiness leave my body. And after 2 days of walking around Disneyland, everything hurt!
They also offer facials, body wraps, manicures, pedicures, lash extensions are more!
4. ENJOY GREAT SHOPPING AT A MEGA MALL
While you are at South Coast Plaza, you might as well check out all the 250 amazing stores and restaurants.
I’ve been hearing about South Coast Plaza all year long from my So Cal friends because it’s the largest shopping mall in the country.
It’s similar to Bellevue Square here in the Seattle area, but there are just so many more high-end designer stores with luxury brands.
I mean, I hadn’t even heard of a few and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada many times!
And they have several high-end children’s clothing stores with the most adorable outfits!
Not to worry, they also have a few stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters, and Zara if you want to shop at a lower price point. Plus, there are tons of dining options.
If you are able to score a pass to their VIP ACCESS Suite, you’ll get to enjoy a little slice of heaven inside the mall.
It’s available for guests who stay in Costa Mesa hotels, along with other visitors who carry Platinum AMEX, etc.
Basically, it’s like an airport lounge tucked away from the crowds. You can get freshly made lattes, champagne, and snacks and just relax after shopping.
5. TASTE SOME WINE
I don’t know about you, but most of my Momcations with friends usually involve a wine tasting of some sort.
I’m not a huge wine drinker, but I appreciate why it’s so popular.
My favorite type of wine is dessert wines because they are super sweet and usually have a bold, fruity flavor.
We stopped by Wine Lab and they had one of the best ice wines I’ve ever tried!
It’s the Kiona Ice Wine Chenin Blanc 2016 Red Mt, WA. The tasting notes say “candied pineapple, lemon curd, and honey” and it was so smooth!
Small world, one of the servers actually went to Seattle University!
6. CHECK OUT PUBLIC ART
Costa Mesa is known as the city of the arts. So, it’s fitting that they have lots of public art.
They actually have a whole Art Walk set up where you can see 20 pieces of public art installations all within a few square blocks.
Find out more about the Costa Mesa Art Walks here.
Noguchi Garden is a 16-acre park area designed with indigenous plants and materials to highlight California’s natural resources.
Noguchi Gardens is a quick walk from the Avenue of the Arts Hotel and is one of the most popular artsy gardens in downtown Costa Mesa.
Additionally, Costa Mesa is working hard on creating more street murals across the city.
7. SUPPORT COSTA MESA LOCAL BOUTIQUES
THE LAB ANTI-MALL
If you are looking for a cool, Insta-worthy spot in Costa Mesa, you have to head to The LAB Anti-Mall.
Once a night-vision goggle factory, The LAB is more than 25 years old. THE LAB stands for “Little American Business.”
And it definitely still has that vibe. Here, you’ll find small and unique businesses featuring cool coffee bars, vegan food, hidden bars, and boutiques in trendy Airstream trailers.
There are also tons of Instagram walls both indoors and outdoors and we heard from locals that they change them from time to time.
Yes, as bloggers, we always keep our eyes out for Instagrammable spots!
Right across the street within walking distance from the LAB Anti-Mall is The Camp. It has the same sort of feel, but a little more modern.
It’s another outdoor mixed-use space with independent boutiques and restaurants.
They really highlight the “green” lifestyle with native vegetation. They are actually the first-known environmentally sensitive retail campus in the United States!
It’s a great place to “hang out” in the afternoon. They have some amazing sit-down restaurants like Vitaly Cafe, Old Vine Kitchen and Bar, and Mesa Lounge. Plus a wine bar, juice bar, and places to get all kinds of drinks.
And they have stores featuring hand-made and ethically produced items.
Another amazing store we found was AntHill. It’s located right next door to Eat Chow.
Head up the stairs and you’ll find an unbelievable boutique!
I was drooling over some of the gorgeous jumpsuits and dresses. Plus there were walls of funky jewelry and accessories.
Even if you don’t like to shop, if you love art, you’ll want to check out AntHill.
They have so many artsy touches all over the place including some of the coolest wallpaper I’ve ever seen!
8. TREAT YOURSELF TO A MACARON (OR TWO OR THREE!)
While we were at The LAB Anti-Mall, we came across this adorable macaron shop inside an Airstream trailer.
It’s called Honey & Butter and you have to stop by!
They have several locations, but their shop at The LAB is just too cute to pass up.
I spotted a French toast macaron made with little French toast cereal and it was OMG delicious! And adorable!
They also had cute macarons that looked like cows and other animals!
They partner up with companies like Disney and Tokidoki, so be prepared for a whole lot of cuteness!
9. GET CUSTOMIZED COFFEE
Coming from Seattle, I’m a huge coffee drinker. Grabbing an afternoon coffee is not uncommon.
I’ve been hearing about Philz Coffee for the past year and I’ve been so excited to check it out.
It’s a place where you can get fully customized coffee. Yes, I know you can always customize an order at almost any coffee shop, but the process here is different.
Basically, you talk directly with the barista and they will help you come up with your ultimate drink.
So, instead of saying you’d like a soy vanilla latte, you’d tell them what type of coffee bean you’d like (they have a whole wall of coffee bean descriptions/tasting notes.)
Your barista will grind the coffee beans fresh specifically for your cup of coffee.
Then, the barista will ask you about creaminess, how much sugar you like, if you’d like spices added, etc.
Your barista can also give you suggestions if you tell them the type of coffee you usually like.
After your coffee is made, you can taste it and have them adjust it if there’s something you don’t like.
10. TAKE SELFIES IN COSTA MESA CA
I know it sounds super cliche to suggest taking selfies on vacation. But, Costa Mesa has so many incredible photo backdrops!
There are tons of Instagram walls you’ll find just walking around Costa Mesa.
I think one of the coolest things about Momcations is that the focus on not on the kids but on ourselves.
So, while my camera roll is stuffed with thousands of photos of my cute kids looking adorable, I rarely have a photo of myself.
Well, unless I’m doing a silly selfie with my kids to keep them occupied!
That’s why I urge moms to take advantage of the kid-free time and do selfies with their friends.
Or better yet, ask your friends to take photos of you so you’ll have nice photos to commemorate this much-needed break from mom life!
Where to Stay in Costa Mesa CA
There are quite a few options of awesome places to stay in Costa Mesa near the South Coast Plaza Mall.
AVENUE OF THE ARTS HOTEL
We stayed at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel and it’s supposedly one of the most Instagrammable hotels in Costa Mesa!
The beds were luxurious and I was actually able to sleep in and enjoy them! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
Once you enter the lobby, you’ll totally get it. They have a ton of cute places to snap a few pics, like in front of the fireplace or on one of the eclectic seats. Check the latest rates and availability.
The grounds are really beautiful, too. We saw people getting married in a little garden oasis!
Plus, they have a little “lake” with cute water features and a path to walk around.
Of course, when you are staying at a hotel, it’s all about the rooms. Our room was super bright and cheery. And it had a nice little patio overlooking the lake.
The location is super convenient. It’s just a quick walk or Uber ride from South Coast Plaza Mall and steps from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
And they have a fantastic on-site restaurant called the Silver Trumpet!
Avenue of the Arts was also named Hotel of the Year by Marriott International and has been rated at a AAA Four-Diamond Property five years running.
COSTA MESA MARRIOTT
Right next door to the Avenue of the Arts Hotel is the Costa Mesa Marriott. In fact, they even share the same little lake!
It’s a modern hotel that would be a great place to stay for a girls’ weekend.
It’s also steps from Costa Mesa’s mall and near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Check the latest rates and availability.
THE WESTIN SOUTH COAST PLAZA
If the main objective of your trip to Costa Mesa is shopping, you might consider staying at the Westin South Coast Plaza.
As the name implies, it’s located right at the popular Orange County mall where you can walk to tons of restaurants and stores.
The hotel was renovated in 2015 and has updated hotel amenities. Check the latest rates and availability.
Where to Eat in Costa Mesa California
Costa Mesa, CA is known for their incredible food scene and we didn’t have a single bad meal! In addition to Habana, here are the places I suggest:
Located at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel, Silver Trumpet is an awesome place for outdoor dining in Costa Mesa.
They just updated their outdoor patio which features custom fire pits, lounge seating, traditional table setups, and flat-screen TVs.
I recommend the bacon-wrapped dates and their roasted chicken.
ANQI GOURMET BISTRO AND NOODLE HOUSE
If you love Asian food as much as I do, you’ll definitely want to hit up AnQi Gourmet Bistro and Noodle House at the South Coast Plaza.
They focus on California Asian cuisine with an emphasis on Vietnamese spices and herbs.
What’s extra cool is that they have a runway down the middle of the restaurant so they can hold fashion shows and special events!
Be sure to save room for dessert! They do an incredibly table-side service with their warm chocolate chip cookie and ice cream. It’s sensational!
I highly recommend their garlic noodles, potstickers, and their show-stopping dessert.
TERRACE BY MIX MIX
Also located at South Coast Plaza, Terrace by Mix Mix opened in 2018 and was named one of the Hottest Restaurants in 2019 by Eater LA and Best New Restaurant in 2019 from Orange Coast Magazine.
After eating there, I totally get the hype!
First of all, I have to mention how gorgeous their outdoor dining space is! You seriously won’t believe you are at a mall. It’s beautiful!
I recommend their goat cheese toast and bone marrow pizza. Both were drool-worthy!
If you are looking for an awesome breakfast or brunch spot, head to Eat Chow. It’s totally worth the 10-minute Uber drive!
They have a unique menu that blends American and Mexican food, including Fried Green Tomatoes and Short Rib Tostadas.
Plus, you’ll find craft coffees.
I recommend their fried green tomatoes! So crispy and flavorful with a slightly spicy sauce!
Other Cool Things to do in Costa Mesa CA
HEAD TO THE BEACH
Costa Mesa is only 1 mile from the Pacific Ocean! So, if you have some time, plan for a beach day.
The closest beach areas to Costa Mesa are Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Crystal Cove Tidepools, and Corona Del Mar Beach.
These are great spots to go body surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and a bunch of other outdoor activities.
However, they are also gorgeous spots to read a book on the beach or have ocean-front dining.
GO ON A BOAT
Since it’s so close to the water, another fun Costa Mesa activity is to go on a boat ride.
Hornblower Cruises is a good option for moms wanting to do a brunch or dinner cruise where they can see whales or enjoy a gorgeous summer sunset.
There are also Newport Fun Tours for those who want a little more adventure. They have electric-powered kayaks and you can paddle past moored yachts and multi-million dollar homes.
Yes, I know Disneyland isn’t in Costa Mesa, but it’s only a 17-minute drive. We timed it.
We actually spent our first few days in California at Disneyland and then took an Uber over to Costa Mesa.
If you are staying in Costa Mesa, it would be really easy to do a kid-free day in Disneyland or Disney California Adventure.
And if you haven’t done Disneyland without kids, it’s SO MUCH FUN!!!
I hope this has inspired you to plan a Momcation trip to Costa Mesa, California! Be prepared for incredible food and wine, a vivacious arts scene, and lots of fun shopping!
Places to go in Costa Mesa FAQs
What is Costa Mesa known for?
Costa Mesa is home to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which hosts a variety of performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, and dance recitals. This Orange County city is also home to South Coast Plaza, one of the largest shopping malls in the country.
Is Costa Mesa worth a visit?
Absolutely! From the great food and green spaces to musical events and world-class theater, this vibrant community is a gem in Orange County!
Does Costa Mesa have a beach?
Costa Mesa does not have its own beach, but it is located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. The closest beaches to Costa Mesa are Corona del Mar State Beach and Newport Beach.
What are some things to do with kids in Costa Mesa?
Some of the top things to do in Costa Mesa with kids include doing carnival rides at the OC Fair, shopping at South Coast Plaza, visiting the OC Zoo, and checking out Discovery Cube Orange County.
What are some things to do in Costa Mesa for free?
The Segerstrom Center for the Arts offers a variety of free events throughout the year, including concerts, dance performances, and family-friendly shows.
The Sherman Library & Gardens is a beautiful park with a variety of gardens, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and a children’s garden.
Costa Mesa has a number of parks, including Fairview Park, Estancia Park, Tewinkle Park, and Sherman Park.
Costa Mesa Things To Do Wrap Up
The vibrant city of Costa Mesa, nestled in the heart of Orange County, offers a unique blend of the quintessential California scenario and its own distinct charm.
It’s a gem on the West Coast that provides a diverse array of things to do and places to visit.
From world-class shopping experiences at South Coast Plaza to the exquisite culinary delights dotted around the city, the local food scene to the rich cultural offerings at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa tourist attractions are bound to captivate visitors of all ages and interests.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a local resident, exploring Costa Mesa will reveal its character as a city where the arts, shopping, and outdoor activities come together in a delightful fusion.
The city’s commitment to the arts, its love for tantalizing flavors, and its embrace of natural beauty make it a standout destination in Orange County.
So whether you’re planning a short visit or a longer stay, you’ll find a multitude of things to do in Costa Mesa, California, that will make your visit memorable.
After all, Costa Mesa is where the good vibes of the Golden State come to life. Enjoy your exploration!
Thanks Travel Costa Mesa for hosting us on the press trip. All opinions are my own. Costa Mesa is so much fun!