See history at the century-old Balboa Pavilion, one of California's original, Victorian-era "recreational facilities" overlooking the Pacific, or stop by the Orange County Museum of Art. Of course, Orange County is more famous for its mall culture, and iconic Fashion Island truly is an impressive shopping center.
About 1,000 feet offshore is even more opulent Balboa Island, a beautiful place to spend a lazy afternoon. The bohemian-chic city-within-a-city has even more gorgeous beaches, one-of-a-kind shops, and a range of restaurants serving excellent food for almost any budget.
In addition to a handful of hotels and B&Bs, there are dozens of vacation homes for rent, which can be a much better deal.