For a few years in the early noughties, the OC was synonymous with the popular teen television drama starring Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson. Of course, the show was named after where it was set, in Orange County, California.
Now, the real OC could be witnessing a resurgence in the region following the news that its tourism board has launched new initiatives to attract more visitors from the Middle East.
“We are extremely glad to know that the majority of GCC and Middle East carriers have started to fly and are adding flights to [Los Angeles International Airport], which only means easy accessibility and more connectivity from the Middle East region to the U.S.,” Ed Fuller, president and CEO of the Orange County Visitor’s Association (OCVA) told Al Arabiya English. His comment follows the recent launch of a Qatar Airways route from Doha to LAX, while Emirates is set to introduce a second daily flight from Dubai starting July 1.
But with various incidents affecting Muslims and Middle Easterners recently – examples including the BBC reporter and British national who was stopped from boarding a plane from London to the U.S. because of her dual British-Iranian nationality; then there was the incident of a family of 11 from London who were barred from travelling to Disneyland in California without explanation – many would be forgiven for thinking that the U.S. is no longer a top tourist choice for travellers based in this region. It hasn’t helped that these incidences happened around the same time U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump announced he is pro a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Muslims are welcome
However, OCVA’s Fuller seems unfazed by Trumps comments.
“Donald Trump is one of the 12 presidential candidates and his recent comments against Muslims will not change our perception and strategy in promoting Orange County California as a family-friendly destination for Muslims, Arabs and Middle Eastern guests,” he said. “In fact, we have recently launched a new and exclusive package to attract Middle Eastern and Arab guests that includes complimentary VIP shopping experiences and buying a luxury apartment or villa in Orange County.
“We not only want guests from the Middle East to visit us, we want them to stay and call the OC home.”
Things to see and do
If you’re planning a trip to California soon, there are plenty of hotspots to add to your must-see list. Here are five of the top things to do in Orange County.
Disneyland Park + Disneyland Adventure Park
It needs no introduction really, but one of the many homes of Mickey Mouse and friends offers hours of fun for the little ones and big kids too. After you’re done meeting and snapping selfies with your favourite Disney characters, make your way to the numerous rides in the park, including Pirates of the Caribbean – which actually was the inspiration for the Johnny Depp movies – Star Wars Launch Bay, Radiator Spring Racers, and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Where? Newport Beach
This area looks something out of a romantic comedy movie set. The homes are picturesque, it’s full of cute little shops and you can even hire a Duffy boat to explore the Marina (if you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a few seals).
Balboa Island is considered one of the most expensive markets in North America for property. According to Zillow.com, a two-bedroom house with a water view can average at $3 million.
Montage Laguna Beach Resort
Where? Laguna Beach
For those looking for a taste of the VIP lifestyle needn’t look further than Laguna Beach and the Montage Resort offers prime location of the beach, as well as nearby attractions. Here, every room offers a sea view, which is ideal for those looking to relax while on holiday. Meanwhile, there are plenty of restaurants and surf shops nearby to explore.
Huntingdon Beach Pier
Where? Huntingdon Beach
Popularly known as ‘Surf City,’ Huntington Beach is somewhat of a west coast surf haven for 8 million visitors every year. Not only does it offer surf and other sporting activities, there are also plenty of attractions and nightlife options. In fact, Huntingdon Beach is a great spot for date night.
Where? Various locations
Okay, so it’s not a specific tourist attraction, but considering its popularity, it might as well be one. In fact, one of the must-dos while in California is to pay a visit to the famous In-N-Out burger restaurant. This fast food concept was founded in California and only operates in a few states in the US. Its menu is fuss-free; you have the choice of three burgers, two types of fries and three milkshakes. And the food is delicious.