Though not an official designation, the area known as South Orange County in California, is what locals refer to as the southern portion of the county. The area is generally considered to begin around Costa Mesa and Irvine and includes all communities south of there: Newport Beach, Lake Forest, Laguna Hills, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. County residents often differentiate the county into North and South Orange County, though the designations are actually made geographically of the northwest and southeast halves. South Orange County is generally seen as being more affluent and more heavily populated than the north. Many of its developments are newer whereas those in the north are closer to Los Angeles and can be older.
The north part of the county is more flat and grid-like, while the south has more hills and valleys, and the South County has a more sparse population density. The South Orange County area stretches from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, bordered to the south by San Diego County and the U.S. Marine Corp.'s Camp Pendleton. The area has its own community college district, with three campuses, one in Mission Viejo, one in Irvine and one in Tustin.
South County is home to a slew of festivals and celebrations throughout the year across the cities. The Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Art Festival and the Laguna Dance Festival are all held in Laguna Beach. Dana Point offers the Festival of the Whales and Doheny Blues Festival. San Juan Capistrano's major draws are the Fiesta de las Golondrinas and the Return of the Swallows Festivities. Mission Viejo's offers its Street Painting Festival and the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo is a fun time for all.
Attractions in the South County include Laguna Beach's Laguna Playhouse, the oldest playhouse on the West Coast, and the Laguna Art Museum. Dana Point is home to a harbor where the historic Spirit of Dana Point is docked, and the Ocean Institute. The Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano and the Irvine Barclay Theatre on the UC-Irvine campus offer a number of performances and events. Irvine's Wild Rivers Waterpark is a great way to enjoy the sun and the warm weather. Mission San Juan Capistrano celebrates its designation as the birthplace of Orange County.