The LAB: OC's "Anti-Mall"

The LAB: OC's "Anti-Mall"


In case you didn’t know, Orange County is full of really cool places to visit. The region has a ton of fun eateries, cute cafés, and interesting places to roam around; and The Lab is one of them. The Lab is an “anti-mall” located in Costa Mesa. What makes it an anti-mall? I’m going to be honest and let you know that I don’t really know! It’s been a consistent question that often plagues me and my friends when we visit. Regardless, let me tell you a little bit about the place.

I want to point out that the food there is pretty great. I especially love their poké store, Calipoke.

It’s also home to the original Honey and Butter -- an adorable macaron store known for their character creations.

If you want to indulge in some retail therapy, The Lab also has a Buffalo Exchange, or a more upscale thrift store with curated pieces, as well as an Urban Outfitters. Bored of The Lab? Good news -- right across the street is The Camp, a “retail campus” that is thematically mindful to environmentalism.

Here are some places that I particularly love at The Camp.

  1. Milk and Honey is an adorable little café. I love their lavender lattes. I love coming here with my friends and getting some work done in their cute patio. Heads Up -- it’s a small space, so it might be hard to get a seat!

  2. Here’s a very random pick: Outer Limits. I have really fond memories of this place because my friends and I often flock here for various ear piercings. I got my conch done here and it was an amazing experience.

  3. Black Market Bakery. This bakery has some delicious breakfast sandwiches and some really, really nice staff.

Also, keep an eye out for the parking spaces! There’s very sweet little blurbs in each one.

There’s also the Anaheim Packing District, The District in Tustin, and 4th Street in Santa Ana. My personal favorite is Santa Ana, where there is the Frida Cinema -- a nonprofit movie theater that shows a ton of really cool movies everyday. My friends and I often come here to watch The Room, or the best worst movie. I also saw Amelie here for the first time and it was magical. If you want food, you can go to the 4th Street Market; I recommend Dos Chinos, known for their Mexican-Asian fusion food. There’s also Portola, an award winning coffee shop.

It’s always nice to escape to these spots for a little bit. All these spaces make use of quirky public space through art and architecture; it’s an immersive space that helps alleviate the stress of college life.

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