Start your beachcombing by walking south on Balboa Peninsula to the Wedge, which, according to McG, is "home to the largest, scariest waves or beautiful, tranquil waters, depending on the day."
Summer and Marissa frequent 32nd Street Beach. Tearful over her status-hungry mom, Marissa steals away here at night to a lifeguard tower -- one of the few spots actually filmed on location. The gang would also likely hit such strands as Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar State Beach or any of the beaches along the numbered streets on the Balboa Peninsula, said McG.
(Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau)
Catch a wave at the 56th Street Beach, among the area's top surfing spots. Rent from Westend Board Shop (6480 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, 949-548-7873; $15 half-day rentals, $25 full-day) and take lessons at the Newport Surf School (26th Street Beach, 949-760-1430, www.newportsurfschool.com; $60 for a two-hour class with board and wet suit).
TAKE A DRIVE: Who cares about gas prices? On "The OC," characters merrily zip along in SUVs in well-to-do enclaves like Pelican Hill, the gated community where Seth's family lives. Cruise Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to San Juan Capistrano, said McG.This is a main road that carves through the county and will take you to all of the characters' fave hangouts -- and the ocean is in view nearly the whole time.
Traveling south on Pacific Coast Highway, watch for the massive white arches on the left on Newport Coast Drive. Then you'll know you're at Pelican Hill, across the street from Crystal Cove State Park. Sadly, a close-up look isn't allowed -- private access only.
Drive a few miles north and inland a bit: You'll see Fashion Island (401 Newport Center Dr.), one of Marissa and Summer's favorite shopping locales, and Newport Harbor High School (600 Irvine Ave.), where the show's Harbor High School got its name. Off Pacific Coast Highway going north, turn left on Balboa Boulevard and make your way to Balboa Pier (Balboa Boulevard and Main Street). Skate it like Seth, bike it like Ryan -- and take it all in like a true fan. Stop to ride the Ferris wheel ($2.50) at the Balboa Fun Zone (600 E. Bay Ave., www.thebalboafunzone.com) and you'll see why the view from this romantic loop was the backdrop for Ryan and Marissa's first kiss.
EAT IT ALL UP: Restaurants -- from cheap eats to deluxe dining -- frequently take center stage on "The OC," and the bathos arrives on heaping platters.
Save room for Ruby's (1 Balboa Pier), an old-style eatery that McG said was the model for "The OC" diner. Fans know it as the spot where Ryan hit water-polo-playing jerk (turned nice guy) Luke in Season 1 and where Summer made amends with rosy-cheeked boyfriend Zach over a milkshake in Season 2. No such drama on the menu at Ruby's, where the Rubyburgers are slathered in Ruby Sauce (Thousand Island dressing and mayo) and the shoestring fries are a must. Burgers start at $6, but, as Luke discovered, the knuckle sandwiches are priceless.
Not on a shoestring-fries budget? Nosh at the Arches (3334 W. Pacific Coast Hwy.), where Sandy Cohen, Seth's dad, took his wife for the anniversary he unforgivably forgot. Indulge in the rack of lamb or other meaty dishes, carved tableside. Or for a taste of East Coast cooking, order the Maryland soft shell crabs. Dinner for two, with wine, is about $80.
ROCK OUT: "The OC" gang grooves at the Bait Shop, which McG said was created in honor of the now-defunct Cuckoo's Nest, an '80s punk-rock destination in nearby Costa Mesa. Though fictitious, the Bait Shop has launched more than a few careers after performers appeared on the show, including Death Cab for Cutie, Finley Quaye, the Black Eyed Peas, Bright Eyes, and Jet and Spoon. Fox's "OC" Web site reports each got more radio airplay after their Bait Shop gigs.
Unfortunately, Newport Beach has "nothing rocking that the kids on the show would be into," said McG. But Ryan and Seth still might hit Malarky's Irish Pub (3011 Newport Blvd.) on the Balboa Peninsula to join in the loud chatter of the pint-loving crowd over whatever's playing on CD.
In the mid-Atlantic, you can catch a band featured on the show when Phantom Planet (www.phantomplanet.com) plays with Sting April 27 at the Patriot Center, and the Perishers (www.perishers.nu) appear May 11 with Sarah McLachlan at the Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk. For tickets, see www.ticketmaster.com.
CATCH SOME ZZZZS: Folks with Seth's money might lavishly resort to the Balboa Bay Club & Resort (1221 W. Coast Hwy., 888-445-7153, www.balboabayclub.com; doubles from $275 a night). With 132 rooms and 10 suites, the Bay Club features a spa, a restaurant, a lounge with live entertainment and an outdoor pool -- but no beach access.
For a longer, homier stay, check with Villa Rentals (427 31st St., 800-241-4912, www.villarentalsinc.com). Don't let the name fool you, though: Owner Pat Chamberlain warns that "they're definitely not villas." The 35 furnished condos, town houses and single-family homes are sprinkled along or very near the beach. Rates start at $850 a week in the off-season (mid-September through mid-June).
On Ryan's budget? Try the Best Western Newport Beach Inn (6208 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., 949-642-8252, www.bwnewportbeachinn.com; doubles from $119) or the Newport Channel Inn (6030 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., 800-255-8614, www.newportchannelinn.com; doubles from $59).
INFORMATION: Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau, 800-942-6278, www.newportbeach-cvb.com. Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, 714-765-8888, www.anaheimoc.org. For more on "The OC": www.fox.com/oc.