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OC ain't the box Disneyland came in

It's August, and the umpteen zillion tourists chugging through the turnstiles at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, dotting our beaches, and clogging up our freeways have got vacation on the brain.I, like most of you, shepherded throngs of visiting relatives and friends through Disneyland before I finally took a pledge of abstinence. It's as if, for them, OC only exists as a support mechanism for the Magic Kingdom. Don't they realize there's life outside those overpriced gates?But I'm being too hard on the poor dears. The rah-rah contingent that lures tourists here every year does its best to mislead them. Take a look at some of the county's touristy sites online, and you'll see how. F'r instance, did you know we're not actually named Orange County? No, we're called "Anaheim Orange County," as befits that burb's No. 1 Son status among the touristas. The Anaheim Orange County site (www.anaheimoc.org) has all sorts of lures for visitors: entertainment, beaches, shopping, restaurants and, of course, theme parks.Despite what the boosterish sites say, however, there are alternatives to the typical dreary sightseeing round. I present the following online guide to Orange County for the benefit of any tourists who may have stumbled upon our paper and for those of you natives faced with a dozen assorted relatives with that Disneyland gleam in their eyes.A COUNTY OVERVIEWFor a general guide to our fair county, I recommend An Alphabetical Guide to Orange County (www.geocities.com/Athens/5379/oc.html). Especially helpful for visitors from the U.K., this site presents an A to Z (pronounced "zed" in the U.K.) list of all the little native quirks tourists may expect to encounter in the wilds of OC. Get the lowdown on everything from "cannabis" ("OC is apparently the cannabis capital of America. It also has lots of Republicans. Since the Democrats are supposed to be the ones who smoke it-even if they don't inhale-this is odd") to "sarcasm" ("Use it, but carefully, and not with people you don't know very well. Not common, probably due to the climate. Sarcasm in America is like good beer; it's hard to find good stuff, and it's not generally appreciated by the locals").BEACHESAfter the big D, these are probably our biggest draw. The sun; the sand; the surf; the babes in tiny bikinis; the godlike surfers, bronzed to a crisp golden brown with nary a thought of melanoma in their blond heads . . .Pardon me; I must mop my brow. Where was I? Ah, yes-the beach. My favorite has always been Laguna (although I know HB has its adherents) because only at Laguna Beach can you acquire a sunburn, purchase art, browse through secondhand clothes and get drunk, all in a single afternoon. The Laguna Beach Visitors Guide (www.lagunabeachinfo.org) gives a thorough rundown on the standard Laguna stuff: the Pageant of the Masters, the galleries, the beaches. But given Laguna's status as a gay mecca, I suggest queer visitors check out Laguna Gay (www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/1285/lg_index.html). Laguna Gay also makes the obligatory hometown pitch for the Pageant, but most of the site is geared toward gay and gay-friendly spots: gay lodging, dining (including the Boom Boom Room and Woody's, a.k.a. Viktor Viktoria's, a.k.a. the Little Shrimp), community services such as Laguna Shanti, weather, and more.OUTDOORSIt may surprise tourists (and even some residents), but there is wilderness in OC-outside the manicured, lifeguarded beaches and air-conditioned malls. Try giving those visiting relatives a look at OC's wild side. Canyonlife (www.canyonlife.com) is a good guide to life in Trabuco, Modjeska, Williams and Silverado canyons, offering historical information, maps, a calendar of events, and photos of life in the canyons-including, unfortunately, fire and flood.If you're the more aggressive type, check out OC's myriad mountain-biking trails on Orange County's Hottest Mountain Bike Trails (www.apc.net/maross/ocmtb.htm). The site gives descriptions of and directions to a number of trails, as does Mountain Biking in Orange County (home.earthlink.net/~fourgood/trails.html).There are far too many other outdoor sports sites to list. If you're interested in further research, check out Yahoo!'s Orange County, California Recreation and Sports listings (www.yahoo.com).SHOPPINGOh, sure, you could hang with the rich at Fashion Island (which, in an egalitarian stroke, does have the coolest public fountains on Earth) or South Coast Plaza (www.south-coast-plaza.com). But The Lab's Web site (www.antimall.com) has the same sort of effortless, ragtag earthiness as its real-world counterpart. The Gypsy Den Cafe & Reading Room, Urban Outfitters, Habana, the Theatre District and other tenants each get their own pages to promote their coolness to the world.ROADSThe mainstream tourist sites don't put a lot of emphasis on our freeways, but visitors should get used to them-they'll be spending a lot of time there. The California Highways Home Page (www.pacificnet.net/~faigin/CA-HWYS) is a fabulous resource for those interested in doing more on our freeways than sitting in a traffic jam, breathing exhaust fumes. History, numbering systems, maps, links to other sites-this has it all.Of course, no road tour in Orange County would be complete without a nod to our beloved San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor. The Transportation Corridor Agencies site (www.tcagencies.com), with typical environmental sensitivity, offers a display about all the fossils it unearthed while laying the road, as well as a virtual photo tour of the toll road as it slices through our ecology today.DISNEYLANDOh, all right. If, after all this, your guests still want to go dance around with 6-foot-tall rodents in Anaheim, may I suggest introducing them to a very important resource before you hurl yourselves into the fray? The Happiest Potties on Earth (members.aol.com/DLPotties/index.html) rates all the restrooms in Disneyland. Use it in good health.Dump on Wyn at whilty@sprynet.com

 
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