How to find hygge in California
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is an idea I developed a fondness for while I was living in Scandinavia. Hygge is a word to describe a sense of coziness and well being gained from a variety of relaxing activities: gathering with friends for a candle-lit potluck, lingering in a coffee shop with a hot drink as snow falls outside, or reading a book while lounging by a roaring fire.
As a native southern Californian accustomed to nearly perfect year-round weather (sorry everybody), I'm not sure I could have survived the darkness of Denmark's winter days without hygge. It was only natural to bake comforting homemade cinnamon rolls and light candles while existing on only a few hours of sunlight each day.
So is the idea of hygge exportable to a place like sunny southern California? Even with the absence of winter, I would argue that we have our own brand of California hygge, shaped around the places we call our own. For me, I often find hygge at the beach: cooking food over a bonfire with good company, walking along the beach barefoot with a cup of tea, or going for a run on the sand with the reward of good local Mexican food at the end of my workout. These habits are a calming escape for me.
I admit, I do get excited for the rare rainy California day, particularly if I have the day off and can spend it in whatever cozy way I desire. But take it from this Californian who lived among Danes: I don't think that one needs winter, cold weather, or darkness to capture the essence of hygge. Whether you create hygge in your home or seek it out, possibilities are everywhere. With that in mind, put on your sunglasses and consider visiting these local spots that are some of my favorite places to experience southern California hygge.
(Note: this list focuses on Orange County. More favorite California spots to come in future posts!)
The Lost Bean (Tustin): I will admit here that I am obsessed with coffee shops. The Lost Bean is perhaps my favorite independent coffee shop in southern California for its excellent coffee, communal vibe, and overall hygge. For an ideal hygge experience, get your coffee and then go on a hike at nearby Peter's Canyon. Or, wait until the evening when the coffee shop partially transforms into a wine bar. What I order: the eye opener and a side of their house-made granola
Alta Coffee (Newport Beach): Alta Coffee is a gem of a little coffee spot. They get extra hygge points for allowing customers to bring in their own mugs and store them on the mug shelf for future visits. For a hygge bonus, the beach path is just a few minutes away so you can go on a coffee-fueled beach walk. What I order: the tangerine ginger herbal tea
Haute Cakes (Newport Beach): Haute Cakes is an all-time favorite brunch spot. Up the hygge effect with a post-brunch walk or paddle along the nearby Back Bay. If you want to rent a paddleboard for the day, I recommend Pirate Coast Paddle. For extra hygge, try one of their night stand up paddle boarding tours around the bay. What I order: the orange ricotta pancakes
Pizza Port (San Clemente): With the explosion of the southern California craft beer scene, we now have a lot of little spots to enjoy the hygge of a cold beer with friends. One of my favorites is Pizza Port, a local brewery and pizza place that has perfected the good beer, good food, and good vibe combination. It even has a family-friendly arcade area. Up the hygge effect by taking a long post-pizza walk down to the San Clemente Pier via Avenida Del Mar. What I order: A create your own pizza with extra veggies, baked chicken wings, and an IPA
Ruby's Shake Shack (Newport Beach): Ruby's Shake Shack combines views of the Pacific Ocean with milkshakes. Up the hygge factor by taking a walk at Crystal Cove State Park and consider a sunset Bloody Mary at the Beachcomber Bar. What I order: the salted caramel milkshake
Bear Flag Fish Company, Wild Taco (Newport Beach + other locations): Bear Flag Fish Company and Wild Taco are two of my favorite seafood spots. Bear Flag's ahi poke may be one of my favorite lunches to splurge on (and it's a great snack for a beach picnic.) Up your hygge factor by visiting the patio at Wild Taco and ordering a couple of their giant Micheladas. What I order: Poke and a Michelada
Urth Caffe (Laguna Beach + other locations) I have been to many of Urth Caffe's locations throughout the years, but their Laguna Beach spot is a favorite. Urth has the type of menu southern California loves: lots of salads and healthy options, a few indulgences in the bakery case, and good coffee. Urth gets bonus hygge points for their cozy outdoor seating and their late business hours, which are especially rare in Orange County. Up the hygge factor with a Saturday visit to the Laguna Beach Farmer's Market, or visit at night and take an evening stroll through Laguna. What I order: a salad and a blueberry pie from the bakery case
Carbon Canyon Regional Park (Brea) There is nothing more hygge than an outdoor picnic, and Carbon Canyon in Brea is definitely a hidden gem. The park has 3 acres of beautiful redwoods to discover, and they are a short and easy walk away from the picnic areas. It's the only redwood grove in Southern California! What I order: There's nothing like a homemade picnic, but if you're running short on time you can pick up to-go food at nearby Mendocino Farms or Whole Foods, which are both less than 10 minutes away.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are a few of my go-to local spots when I need a dose of hygge in my life. How do you find hygge in California?