The City of Orange (not to be confused with the County of Orange) is in the county of the same name, but it definitely has an identity of its own. Quaint and charming, Orange is a welcoming change of pace from the hustle & bustle of many parts of Southern California. If you’re looking for an escape from a bigger city like Los Angeles, or want to enjoy all the benefits of living in SoCal – sunny weather, chill vibes, gorgeous beaches – minus many of the negatives, this city is it!
Unlike other surrounding areas, Orange has preserved its vintage houses, many of which were built before 1920. Along with these delightful homes, the city is also unique in that it surrounds a small, tight-knit city called Villa Park. Those looking for an alternative to the grind of living in L.A. (with its overcrowding, hyper-competition, and so on) will find a more laidback suburban sprawl where they can stretch their legs and literally breathe in cleaner air. Ah, it’s refreshing to live in Orange! Here’s what to know before planning your move to Orange!
Living in Orange, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Orange
Orange, CA, approximately 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, is the 42nd most populous city in California with just under 140,000 residents. Offering a long list of appealing points – small-town charm, central location, many fun things to do, the list goes on – the SoCal city offers a pleasantly relaxed & welcoming alternative to L.A. and many other highly competitive, overcrowded cities.
Pros and Cons of Living in Orange
- Weather: Offering a Mediterranean climate, with year-round temperate conditions and nearly 280 days of sunshine, it’s easy to fall in love with Orange’s forever-summer weather!
- Stuff to do: Along with being close to everything, there’s the beaches, surfing, hiking, arts, and farmers’ market (as well as amazing Mexican food and historic Old Towne Orange).
- Prime location: The city offers easy access to everything, including Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Anaheim (and Disneyland Park), world-famous beach communities, and much more.
- Low Crime: Along with a low property crime rate, Orange has a violent crime rate of only 8.6. This rate is three times lower than both the United States and California average rates.
- Home of celebrities: Gwen Stefani, Will Ferrell, Ashley Benson, and Michelle Pfeiffer (plus several YouTubers) are among the famous individuals from the O.C.
- Laidback lifestyle: Whereas a place like Los Angeles is more career-driven, Orange is much more chill. People here take the time to enjoy life and not take everything so seriously.
- The high cost of living: With a cost of living index of nearly 164, the city is much more expensive than the U.S. average of 100. However, it’s still cheaper than L.A. (with an index of 173.3).
- Cookie-cutter development: Though Old Towne is home to amazingly preserved homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, there’s also a lot of newer, more lackluster development.
- Traffic: It’s not quite as bad as the City of Los Angeles, but it’s not great either. Congestion is especially bad during rush hour. It’s also pretty terrible on Tuesdays for some weird reason.
- Lower school funding: This is more of a nitpick than a major issue, but some public schools lack proper support and funding. However, there are several highly rated schools here.
- Property tax: According to the Overview of Property Taxes by SmartAsset, the average county tax rate is 0.684%. Average property tax is $4,788 (assessed home value of $700,000).
- Sales tax: The state of California has a base sales tax rate of 7.25%. Combined with local taxes, the 2020 minimum combined sales tax rate in Orange, CA, is currently 7.75%.
- State income tax: The state currently has ten separate tax brackets. Rates vary from 1% to 13.3%. A CA resident’s rate depends on income and filing status (single or married).
The median home value in Orange is currently $710,471. This value is lower compared to the median home value of $874,929 in the neighboring city of Santa Ana. Approximately 57% of Orange residents own their homes, and the average age of a home is 42 years. As for rentals, the median rent price is $1,805 per month for a 1BR apartment (or $21,660 annually) and $2,319 for a 2BR apartment (or $27,828 annually).
Here are the cheapest neighborhoods to live in Orange, CA:
- W Chapman Ave / S Main St
- The City Dr S / W Chapman Ave
- W Chapman Ave / N Main St
Cost of Living
According to the Cost of Living in Orange by BestPlaces, the City of Orange has a cost of living index of 163.9. This index is significantly higher than the U.S. average of 100.
Here are some examples of individual costs (relative to the average of 100): Groceries (103.4), Health (95.9), Housing (298.3), Utilities (96.5), and Transportation (112). The median household income in Orange is $77,086 per year. This income is higher than the U.S. median of approximately $62,000.
Average expenses in Orange (Orange County) for a family of four:
- Housing = $1,876
- Food = $845
- Childcare = $1,331
- Transportation = $1,277
- Health Care = $890
- Other necessities = $1,098
- Taxes = $1,282
- Total = $8,598 per month or $103,174 per year
For comparison, here are the monthly costs in LA (two adults + two children):
- Housing = $1,663
- Food = $830
- Childcare = $1,223
- Transportation = $1,159
- Health Care = $795
- Other necessities = $1,006
- Taxes = $1,016
- Total = $7,691 per month or $92,295 per year
Weather & Natural Disasters
Simply put, with its close proximity to the ocean and year-round temperate weather (with almost 280 sunny days), Orange is a beautiful place to live!
Orange, CA, has its hottest temperatures in July and August. August sees an average high of 85°F and a low of 62°F. The coolest months are December and January, with an average high of 68°F and low of 44°F in December. These moderate temps are great news if you’re coming from a super cold or hot area!
The one downside is that the city doesn’t have any major seasonal changes. It receives zero snowfall, and the city sees an average of about 14 inches of rain per year. But if you’re coming from a region with unforgiving winters, this is most likely a major plus for you.
As for natural disasters, the Top 5 potential disasters are earthquakes, wildfire, flooding, landslides, and tsunamis. For more info, check out Orange County’s emergency preparedness resource, ReadyOC.
Economy & Job Market
According to economic data by BestPlaces, the City of Orange currently has an unemployment rating of just 2.9% (compared to the national average of 3.9%). The local job market has increased by 0.6% year-over-year, with future job growth projected to by nearly 32%.
Major industries include healthcare & social assistance, manufacturing, retail trade, management of companies & enterprises, public administration, and information.
Here are the Top 10 major employers in Orange County:
- The Walt Disney Company
- University of California – Irvine
- County of Orange
- St. Joseph Health
- Kaiser Permanente
- Target Corp.
- Walmart Inc.
- Hog Memorial Hospital Presbyterian
- The Boeing Company
Traffic and Transportation
Looking for public transportation? There are a few options in and around the city. Orange County offers OCTA (O.C. Bus, Metrolink, and O.C. Flex), along with vanpool and taxi services. There’s also John Wayne Airport, Long Beach Airport, Ontario International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Ridesharing is popular, and you’ll find services like Uber and Lyft readily available.
In SoCal, driving is virtually a requirement. To prepare, you should familiarize yourself with the major routes. The 91 Express Lanes is a four-lane, east-west highway that provides reliable, predictable travel for work and more. State Route 55 is another major route that travels north-south through the city. It connects with State Route 91 in the north and Interstate 5 in the south.
According to Living in Orange scores by Walk Score, the city currently receives the following: 51 (Walk Score), 34 (Transit Score), and 55 (Bike Score). There’s major room for improvement, especially in public transportation, as well as overall walkability and bikeability.
Okay, so it might not be as hellish as traffic in the City of Los Angeles, but it isn’t exactly good. According to how LA-Orange County ranks among traffic congestion by Patch, Orange drivers lose an average of 119 hours, 35 gallons of fuel, and $2,400 in congestion costs per year. As mentioned in the pros & cons section, traffic congestion is particularly bad during rush hour and, oddly enough, on Tuesdays.
What to Do
The City of Orange, with its rich history in citrus production and centralized location, offers a plethora of fun things to do, outdoor activities, and more. It is part of iconic Orange County, or the O.C., which is home to breathtaking beaches, amazing surf, coastal hiking opportunities, cuisine, and prime shopping. Let’s take a look at the major attractions and destinations in and around Orange, CA.
Let’s start with parks. Offering a small-town feel, the city has several popular parks. Eisenhower Park & Lake provides nice trees for shade, an assortment of duck & geese, and of course, a lovely lake area. Santiago Oaks Regional Park is a big area that has awesome hiking, biking, horseback riding trails. Peters Canyon Regional Park offers jogging & hiking among gorgeous grassland and coastal sage scrub.
Next, the beaches! Huntington State Beach is less than 17 miles southwest of the city, which is super popular with surfers, swimmers, fishers, and tourists alike. Corona del Mar State Beach is also about 17 miles away, which is known for cliff diving, swimming, and surfing. Last but not least, Crystal Cove State Park is home to over three miles of Pacific coastline (among other natural attractions).
Want to check out the top destinations? The Outlets at Orange, the city’s premier outlet shopping center, is a huge draw with 120+ stores. Hilbert Museum of California Art, located at Chapman University, has a large collection dedicated to the “California Scene” painting movement. For animal lovers, Orange County Zoo is a beautiful, kid-friendly park situated on 477 acres.
Sports fan? Orange County is home to several sports teams, including the Los Angeles Angels (MLB) and the Anaheim Ducks (NHL). Are you looking for another type of pro team? Los Angeles isn’t too far away. It’s home to many professional organizations, from the Lakers (NBA) to the Chargers (NFL).
As for other popular tourist destinations and local activities, there’s always something fun happening somewhere in the city. Skateboarders should hit up Vans Skatepark. Into antiques? Check out Orange Circle Antique Mall. Arguably the best brewery in the area, Green Cheek Beer Company is a small, independently owned operation dedicated to tasty craft beer.
Schools and Universities
Orange Unified School District (OUSD), which provides education to more than 28,500 students, is the primary K–12 district in Orange. Overall, the city has an above-average rating for public education.
Highly-rated public schools include Arnold O. Beckman High School, Tustin Memorial Elementary School, Peters Canyon Elementary School, Pioneer Middle School, and Canyon High School. Top private schools are Orange Lutheran School, Eldorado Emerson Private School, and St. John’s Lutheran School.
As for higher education, the City of Orange is home to Chapman University (a Christian university), Intercoast College – Anaheim (for-profit), Santiago Canyon College (public institution), South Coast College (for-profit), and Career Networks Institute (for-profit institution).
According to Crime in Orange, CA by BestPlaces, the city has a property crime rate of 28.3. This rate is lower than the national average of 35.4 and the California average of 37.1. The violent crime rate – it includes four types of offenses: murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – is only 8.6, which is much less than the U.S. average of 22.7 and the state of California average of 25.2.
Before you move to the City of Orange, you should get new utilities up and running. Here’s a list of the major providers:
- Electric service: The main electricity provider in Orange is Southern California Edison. To get power, visit the electric company’s Turn Your Service On and Off page.
- Gas service: Southern California Gas Company provides natural gas service to the city. Begin gas service by going to SoCalGas’ Schedule Service page.
- Water service: The City of Orange’s Water Division Clean provides safe, potable water to residents. To start your service, new customers can visit the Water Division page.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: CR&R Inc handles trash, recyclables, and green waste. For more info, check out the Trash, Recycling, and Organics page.
- Internet/Cable service: Of course, don’t forget internet and cable services. The major providers include AT&T, DirecTV, Cox, Earthlink, Spectrum, and Verizon.
Best Neighborhoods in Orange, CA
Moving to Orange but not sure where you’ll land? Check out the city’s top neighborhoods:
El Modena, an Orange neighborhood home to fewer than 10,000 residents, is a good community for college students and families. E Walnut Ave (north), N Rancho Santiago Blvd (east), Palmyra Ave (south), and Santiago Creek Bike Trail (west) form its borders. El Modena less than three miles east of downtown Orange.
Annexed in the 1960s and 70s, it has a rich history in citrus and rose production. Now fully urbanized, the median rent is about $2,400 per month, while the median home value is $720,100. As for yearly income, most residents earn between $78,000 to $106,000. People in the community mainly have jobs in the sales, service, management, construction, and manufacturing industries.
Popular spots include Dragonfly Tea Bar (awesome Boba tea and more!), Stater Bros. Markets, Grijalva Park, El Modena Park, and El Modena Open Space on the eastern edge of Orange, CA. This open space offers amazing hiking and views of the northern region of Orange County.
Though it’s one of the least affluent areas in the O.C., it nonetheless has improved over the decades and is home to many middle-class families, with midsize-to-large houses and small apartment buildings.
Located in the downtown city center area, with a population of less than 8,600, Old Towne Historic District is the largest nationally registered historic district in California, home to vintage houses, antique & collectible dealers, art galleries, restaurants, cute shops, and more.
Speaking of vintage homes, you’ll find an amazing collection of well-preserved houses built as earlier as 1890 – the neighborhood was established in 1905. The median sale price is $749,000 (with a range of $300K to $1.7 million). Median rent is $1,689 for a studio and $2,225 for a 2BR place.
As a prime location for film & television production (with a median annual household income of approximately $105,400), the upper-middle-class neighborhood borders E Walnut Ave (north), North Cambridge St (east), W La Veta Ave (south), and N Batavia St (west). It’s home to Chapman University, Orange City Hall, and Orange Public Library & History Center.
Olive, less than four miles north of the downtown area of Orange, is just southeast of Disneyland Park. Bordered by the Santa Ana River to the northwest and California State Route 55 to the east, the neighborhood of 14,000 sits on an unincorporated area of about 25 acres.
Established back in 1887, and offering homes on a minimum of 1/4 acre, the community offers a more rural feel (especially compared to other Orange neighborhoods) with no through traffic. The median home value is over $644,500, while renters pay an average monthly rent of $2,400. As for yearly income, residents make a median amount of more than $95,000.
As for things to do, Olive is home to Olive Park, Steve Ambriz Park, and Eisenhower Park & Lake. For dining, check out Flappy Jack’s Pancake House and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. The neighborhood also provides proximity to Super Range Golf (south) and Olive Hills Dog Park (east).
Nestled in lovely foothills, about five miles northeast of downtown Orange, we arrive in Orange Hills. The eastern Orange neighborhood is between Villa Park and Anaheim, and it offers mainly midsize single-family homes in subdivisions like Belmont Estates, Parkridge Estates, and Serrano Heights.
Home to about 10,500, the small community covers an area of about three square miles. It was established in 1979 and continues to grow. The median income is over $130,000 annually. Renters pay an average of $2,400, while the median sale price is $539,000 (with a range of $450,000 to $2.5 million).
South of Orange Park Acres, the neighborhood is surrounded by some great parks, including El Modena Park (northwest), Peters Canyon Regional Park (southeast), and Irvine Regional Park (east).
The Orange County Unified School District and Santiago Canyon College (a public community college) both serve this community.
Orange Park Acres
Orange Park Acres is a well-established community dating back to 1946. Located about 5 miles east of the downtown area, the neighborhood is just east of El Modena and bordered by El Katella Ave (north), E Santiago Canyon Rad (east), E Chapman Ave (south), and N Cannon St (west).
With a median annual income of over $140,000, this is an affluent, family-friendly suburban neighborhood of less than 1,300. Aside from pleasant neighbors and beautiful homes, big draws to this neighborhood include easy access to El Modena Park to the west and Irvine Regional Park to the east, established as Orange County’s first regional park in 1897.
As for housing, the median monthly rent is $3,200+ for a 3BR place. This neighborhood is ideal for those in the market for large single-family homes. Median sale price is steep at nearly $1.6 million (and a median home value of $1.8 million), but there’s a nice range between $550K and $3.35 million.
Top schools serving Orange Park Acres include El Modena High School, Santiago Charter Middle School, and Linda Vista Elementary School. Another popular choice is Panorama Elementary School.
Panorama Heights, approximately 4.5 miles east of downtown, is home to about 13,800 residents. Bordered by E Chapman Ave (north), Newport Blvd (east), Foothill Blvd (south), and Hewes Ave (west), the highly desirable suburban neighborhood is just south of El Modena and Villa Park.
When it comes to the local housing market, it’s warm in 2020. Renters pay about $1,730 monthly for a studio and $2,210 per month for a 2BR apartment. The median home value is over $1.02 million (with an average sales price of $913,000). The median yearly income is approximately $134,500.
As for education, schools like Foothill High School and Panorama Elementary School serve Panorama Heights. The neighborhood is just east of El Modena Park and north of Barry Turner Field (Santa Ana). Currently, the County of Orange, O.C. Parks, and O.C. Public Works are planning a neighborhood park located in the northern corner of the neighborhood called Crawford Canyon Park, opening in late 2022.
The penultimate of our list is simply known as The Block. Bordered by the Santa Ana River (southeast), Santa Ana Freeway (northeast), Garden Grove Freeway (south), Lewis St (west), and W Chapman Ave (north), the smaller, urban neighborhood has a population of less than 3,300.
Home to The Outlets at Orange – this is a major draw for tourists and residents alike, offering more than 120 stores ranging from Polo Ralph Lauren to Timberland to Under Armour – The Block is just minutes southeast of Disneyland (and 3 miles west of downtown). It’s also home to UC Irvine Medical Center, ranked as one of the Top 10 hospitals in California and one of the best in the United States.
The median income is lower than the city average at under $60,000 per year. Median rent is about $1,700 for a studio and $2,225 for a 2BR apartment, while the median home value is over $600,000. As for schools, there’s Sycamore Elementary School and Portola Middle School to the east.
Of course, living in such a popular area does come with its drawbacks. These are namely tons of tourists and higher congestion. On the other hand, it does offer quick access to both CA-22 and the 5.
Villa Park, a popular L.A. suburb, is a small city that’s surrounded by Orange, CA. It’s home to a large retirement population and some of the most expensive real estate in California. Around 95% of residents own their homes, and public schools are highly rated.
As one of the Top 25 places to retire in California, Villa Park is approximately four miles northeast of the downtown area of Orange. It’s a safe, close-knit, and quiet area with unique homes on large lots. On the downside, diversity is a bit lacking. Public facilities also could use an update.
Along with everything that the City of Orange and Orange County offer, Villa Park has its assortment of things to do and attractions, including Rockwell’s Café & Bakery, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, and Villa Park Town Center (the city’s sole shopping area)
- Population – Under 6,000 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.07 million
- Household Income – Median yearly income over $142,600
- Rent Prices – $3,850 for a three-bedroom place
- Schools – Villa Park High School, Villa Park Elementary School, El Modena High School, McPherson Magnet School, Linda Vista Elementary School
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