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
Best Batting Cages
3405 Michelson Dr., Irvine
Ahh, the batting cages. The underachieving brother of the driving range, the redneck cousin of the racquetball court, the Okie-in-law of the lap pool. When it comes to solitary versions of large-scale sports, it doesn't get much better than the batting cages, does it? And batting cages don't get much better than Boomers. Whether you need a few brush-up swings, or you're working on your comeback, à la The Natural, Boomers' cages have everything you'll need. Grab Wonderboy, or one of the battered aluminum sticks they've got behind the counter, and go rope a few: 70-mph stingers, fast pitch, slow pitch, softball—even bumper boats! Ahem, not that that has anything to do with batting cages; they're just fun, okay? Buy 30 pitches for 2 bucks, or have your own personal home-run derby with an hour's worth. Sure, you'll have a monster blister, but that's what all those skeeball tickets are for: the free batting gloves! Do yourself a favor: Get in good with the staff, and when that time comes along in your life that leaves you at your most desperate, you'll be able to get a job working the cages. It's a step up from the ball-shagger on the driving range, and you'll get the respect of a carny—but with more permanence.
Best Golf Course for the Common Man
Costa Mesa Country Club
1701 Golf Course Dr., Costa Mesa
Where is my gopher? Where is my possibly drug-addled assistant groundskeeper and his stories of hitting the links with the Dalai Lama? Where is my polyester-pants-wearing foul-mouthed friend with a killer golf bag and fuck-you money?
Ah, Caddyshack: the sole connection for many of us commoners to the greatest game ever played. But it ain't gotta be that way. The Costa Mesa Country Club provides a great experience, with just about everything you'll need to eat up the weekend. Two full courses, the Mesa Linda and the Los Lagos, have weekday rates from 20 bucks (weekends from $30), plus discounts for fogies and kiddies. There's a driving range, hunky golf pros, daily tournament play and, of course, a full bar for that little drinkie-poo at the 19th hole. So even if you're a terrible golfer with hand-me-down clubs who couldn't get on a top-notch course even if you could afford it, you can still find total enlightenment on the links of Costa Mesa.
Best Place to Mountain Bike
San Juan Trail, Cleveland National Forest
Take the I-5, and exit at Highway 74. Drive east about 12.5 miles. Just before the ranger station, turn left down a dirt road. Head through the canyon about one mile and park. Trailhead is to the right.
This winding, twisting spin through the wilderness is widely known as one of the most beautiful and frustrating trails imaginable. Long hours of furious uphill pumping can earn you an unmatched panoramic view, but going too fast and paying too much attention to the rewards could land you in a body cast. Experts say, if something looks too difficult for your skill level, get off the bike and walk. The walking portions shouldn't be so long as to ruin your trip—and you'll live to talk about it. The journey is rigorous, so do not attempt if you are out of shape. The trail cuts through some 20 miles of wilderness so uninterrupted you might forget that a monolithic concrete slab swallowed the rest of the county.
Readers' Choice: Aliso Woods
Best Place to Run
Any beach in our lovely, beach-rich county will do. Here are the advantages to beach running: You don't need fancy shoes—or any shoes at all; you get a better workout per minute while running in sand, which provides natural resistance, building more endurance/burning more calories per stride; the Pacific Ocean is seconds away from you when the heat gets unbearable; no !@#$%^&* cars; near-nude sunbathing humans everywhere you look (okay, this is often a mixed blessing); and if you're really cruising impressively, your odds of hooking up increase exponentially.
The disadvantages? No shade; you may have to weave around several of your fellow beach bums; unpleasant aquatic aromas may waft into your nostrils; and whales have been known to wash ashore, which could really slow your pace. But overall, beach running rules, and we've got miles of the sandy stuff.
Second-Best Place to Run
Tewinkle Memorial Park
849 Junipero Dr., Costa Mesa
If you absolutely hate running on beaches, try this lovely Costa Mesa green space. It has lots of soft grass, drinking fountains, restrooms and all sorts of people engaging in relatively interesting activities for visual stimuli. And there's the natural beauty, too, if you're into that sort of thing.
Best Place to Kayak
Fisherman's and Diver's Coves
600 block of Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach
These well-hidden coves look like private property from afar, but the pristine mounds of sandy beach found at the end of a trail of stairs offer serene waters for the adventurous kayaker. The coves are also great snorkeling sites and are usually quiet and unpopulated. There are no facilities here, so you'll need to bring your own kayak. Bring quarters for the metered parking along Pacific Coast Highway and Cliff Drive.