By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
STUDYING ALISOAliso Viejo Public Library. A 40-foot granite clock tower marks the corner of this slick, almost brand-spankin'-new library. In fact, at two years old, it's the newest one in OC. Yep, that's right—no yucky, circa 1970 shag carpet or paperback novels. We're talking new, new, new! 1 Journey, (949) 360-1730.Soka University of America. Just opened for students this fall, the four-year school is the first private liberal-arts college to be built in California in 25 years. Founded by the mainstream Japanese organization Soka Gakkai, SUA is open to students of all beliefs and is based on advancing peace through education. Built on a hillside, the campus looks more like a fortress. Kind of makes you wonder which tower houses the academic disciplinary dungeon. 1 University, (949) 480-4000; www.soka.edu.
FREEZING ALISOAliso Viejo Ice Chalet. Originally named the Ice Palace, this is one of only five remaining ice rinks in OC. In a temperate area like ours, it's nice to have somewhere that you can pretend, just for a few hours, that it's really winter and not the extended fall/spring-like weather that we Californians call winter. 9 Journey, (949) 643-9648; www.avicepalace.com.The Gelato Factory. This marks the first retail location of the Garden Grove-based company, which was dubbed "Best Gelato Factory" in last year's Best of OC issue. It offers such Euro-iffic flavors as tiramisý and donatella, a creamy hazelnut/chocolate mix reminiscent of Nutella, the marvelous Italian spread of the gods. 23411 Laguna Hills Dr., Ste. J, (949) 831-0600; www.thegelatofactory.com.
WALKING ALISOCrestview Park. One of many scattered throughout Aliso Viejo, this park doesn't impress in size but in location. From the top, you get a fine 360-degree view looking out over the sprawling hillsides. The main path leading to the top is so steep that someone has even scrawled "Lombardo Street" at the top in chalk, albeit slightly misguided and misspelled. On the off chance that someone might not realize it's a hill and wind up suing the city, there's a no-wheelchair sign posted. (For those in wheelchairs, there is a winding, less steep path to the top.) Cedarbrook and Laguna Hills Drive, (949) 362-5890.
READER'S CHOICEFossils. There's a dirt service road just off Aliso Creek Road and Westwing (by El Toro) where one can find hundreds of sea fossils just lying on the ground. They're almost all the same variety of corkscrew-shaped shells: some as small as fingernails, others as large as dog turds (and very similar in appearance, so be careful). Special bonus: numerous rabbits dine on the adjacent grassy area. Woodpeckers swarming a dead tree, Whiting Ranch State Park. About half a mile up the main trail at Whiting Ranch, one of the oak trees is near death. However, the termites that have infested this tree attract numerous woodpeckers who come to feast. In other parts of the country, woodpeckers are common, but not out here—especially not these guys, who really look and sound like Woody Woodpecker. (John Stephens, Aliso Viejo)