Located on the Pacific between San Diego and Los Angeles counties, Orange is a bedroom-business-tourist county of 3,098,121 residents, famous for its beaches, its weather and its amusements, foremost Disneyland.
Roughly rectangular in shape, Orange County covers 798 square miles, about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island, the smallest state in U.S.
The northeast side of the county rises into the Santa Ana Mountains. In the winter, Santiago, the county's highest peak, 5,687 feet, occasionally dons a mantle of snow. The southwest side descends to the Pacific and to about 42 miles of beaches used year-round but the water is often chilly. Wetsuits are favored attire.
In population, Orange County ranks among the top ten counties in the nation and within California, third, way behind Los Angeles and slightly behind San Diego. There are two "Oranges" - the county and the City of Orange, one of 34 cities in the county.
Before the freeways and suburbia, Orange County was famous for oranges. Orange and lemon trees are still plentiful but the days of the great groves are gone. Once there were 65,000 acres in commercial cultivation; now there are fewer than 100. Nonetheless, farming pops up in the oddest places. In some towns, tall office buildings sit side by side with strawberry fields.
What nourished the orange now delights the residents and the visitors - the weather. In many parts, the sun shines during the daylight hours over 75 percent of the year. In an average year, rain limits itself to 10-13 inches. Orange has its scorching days but they are few and often softened by breezes from the Pacific. Summer temperatures for most of the communities land generally in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Orange has its humid days but also few in number and not remotely as uncomfortable as the humidity of the East, South and Midwest.
In a good year, about 45 million people visit Orange County to delight not only in Disneyland (which was joined by a new theme park) but Knott's Berry Farm and to root for the county's professional teams, the Angels (baseball) and the Ducks (hockey). Or to attend a convention.
Or to visit the beaches, many easily accessible. Or to see the television Orange County, the setting for the soaps and docudramas; "The O.C," "Laguna Beach" and "The Real Housewives of Orange County."
In their travels throughout the county, tourists spend about $8 billion annually, an oh-so-pretty penny.
Many people come to visit - and then stay. Orange County is home to several universities and many high-tech businesses and is a key player in the California economy. In many cities, crime has dropped and air quality, thanks to controls imposed by the government, is cleaner than it has been in decades (but smog is still a problem.)