Nearest big cities: Anaheim, Los Angeles
Things are pretty picture-perfect in sunny Mission Viejo — a town of 97,000 just outside of Anaheim. The master-planned community has pristine beaches, top-rated schools and more than four dozen parks across its 18 miles. Even its bathrooms are a wonder. (Seriously — a town park is currently up for best restroom in America thanks to its 540-uses-per-hour capacity, barn-style doors and “modern, classy look.”)
The city’s also home to the sparkling Lake Mission Viejo, which boasts several beaches, volleyball courts, fishing and a yacht club. Nearby roads were even used in the 1984 Olympics (U.S. cyclist Alexi Grewal won the men’s individual road race on them). Speaking of, the Mission Viejo Nadadores swimming and diving clubs have had their fair share of Olympic stardom, too. The squad has churned out at least nine Olympians over the years, including four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis.
Mission Viejo’s school districts — Saddleback and Capistrano Unified — have some accolades as well. Dozens of campuses are either National Blue Ribbon or California Distinguished schools (often both), and Tesoro High was named a Grammy Signature School for its stellar music program. Tesoro’s choir teacher Keith Hancock also won the Grammy Music Educator of the Year award a few years ago.
There’s no shortage of entertainment in the town, either. Mission Viejo regularly hosts performances by the Pacific Symphony, and its July 4th Street Faire and annual triathlon are community favorites. — Aly J. Yale
Mission Viejo, California