Picturesque vistas that span out over the vast ocean, community kitchens that lead the way for small businesses, and mesmerizing glass blowing; it’s not LA, not San Diego—it’s Orange County.
Often thought of as “that place between LA and San Diego,” perhaps to go to a beautiful beach or Disneyland, Orange County has over 3.1 million residents and is the 6th most populated county in the US.
Within Orange County sits the city of Santa Ana. The city advocates for entrepreneurs, and it’s the only city in Orange County where recreational cannabis can be sold. So we head to our first stop, Bud and Bloom.
BUD AND BLOOM
Designed with a keen eye on creating a phenomenal cannabis experience, Bud and Bloom is a welcoming space with high ceilings, wooden fixtures, and brick walls. As you walk through the glass doors, a neon sign sits directly in front of you, almost drawing you through the space to the back of the store.
We meet up with Emily, who tells us they opened up in 2016 when Prop 64 was passed and are proud to be a part of the local community. In fact, they have a monthly shuttle for retirement communities to bring senior citizens in for cannabis education, and of course, to snag some goods.
With sites to see, we grab a Spark pen, thank Emily for showing us around, and head out.
4TH STREET MARKET
We meet up with Danika Brysha at a food hall (not to be mistaken with a food court filled with fast-food chains). This food hall is a space filled with local, artisanal food vendors and 4th Street Market goes above and beyond to cultivate these local businesses.
Danika points out a saying written on the wall above the communal kitchen, which reads “in-cu-bate: a unique infrastructure designed to nurture small food businesses by helping them thrive and grow.”
Danika owns of one of those small food businesses called Model Meals, a Whole30 and paleo delivery kit company. She tells us she started in 2014 with the simple notion that she wanted to change how she was eating in order to feel good.
After chatting, we look for something to eat that may be a bit less on the healthy side, so we hit up Supernatural Sandwiches for an Aphrodite. This must-try sandwich monster is a grilled cheese with shrimp and bacon.
With such a masterful sandwich, one must pair it with a side. Loaded fries, perhaps? We go to Dos Chinos, who call their mountain of fries + pork + cheese + avocado cream + a fried egg…stoner papas.
After we’re filled to the brim, it’s time to check out one of the best views in Orange County.
Yes, it’s a hotel, but damn, the Laguna Beach view from The Montage just takes your breath away. You walk in and to the left is a roaring fireplace, adding the perfect touch of heat to the cool ocean breeze wafting in through the open-air patio ahead. To the right, a pianist softly playing “If It Ain’t You” by Alicia Keys.
Straight in front of you is a deck that overlooks the rectangular pool leading your eyes to the ocean. As the pool and lawns open out onto the water, you see rocks that slightly jet out of the sea, keeping a constant light splash to the waves, in a peaceful and serene movement.
Now, one couldn’t properly take in this breathtaking view without a beverage. We go for the Ginger Mint Cooler. The spice from the ginger immediately overwhelms the palate and the freshness of mint and lime combine in a melody, almost dancing together.
With that, we’re off to see some local musicians and artists. We tear ourselves away from the view and head out as the tunes of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” are stroked skillfully on the grand piano.
A space built by the community for the community. Since its inception, the Sawdust “has celebrated and supported the work of its hometown artists.” Walking in, we come upon numerous stands housing the work of local artists. A band plays next to a small waterfall as people enjoy tacos and beer from the various food vendors.
As we explore, we stumble upon on a large cage with an enclosed fire at its center. Bruce Freund, one of the craftsmen of the space, enters the cage and gets to work.
This…is glass blowing. The age-old art of taking pieces of glass, melting them down, shaping them and transforming them into works of art.
Bruce has been doing this for 40 years and says he still loses about 20% of all the work he does…it’s that difficult. We grab a taco, listen to some of the local bands and call it a day.
While this may be one of the larger populated counties in the US, it’s shown to be a community of locals, happy to share how they live. Until next time, Orange County.