Best of OC

Best Of 2012


  • + Aliso Viejo
  • + Anaheim
  • + Arcadia
  • + Avalon
  • + Azuza
  • + Bakersfield
  • + Balboa
  • + Bellflower
  • + Beverly Hills
  • + Brea
  • + Buena Park
  • + Burbank
  • + Cabazon
  • + Capistrano Beach
  • + Carlsbad
  • + Carson
  • + Cerritos
  • + Chatsworth
  • + Chino Hills
  • + Claremont
  • + Colton
  • + Corona
  • + Corona Del Mar
  • + Costa Mesa
  • + Coto de Caza
  • + Covina
  • + Culver City
  • + Cypress
  • + Dana Point
  • + Diamond Bar
  • + Downey
  • + El Segundo
  • + Encino
  • + Escondido
  • + Fallbrook
  • + Fontana
  • + Foothill Ranch
  • + Fountain Valley
  • + Fresno
  • + Fullerton
  • + Garden Grove
  • + Gardena
  • + Glendale
  • + Granada Hills
  • + Hawaiian Gardens
  • + Hermosa Beach
  • + Highland
  • + Huntington Beach
  • + Indio
  • + Irvine
  • + Julian
  • + La Canada Flintridge
  • + La Habra
  • + La Jolla
  • + La Mirada
  • + La Palma
  • + Ladera Ranch
  • + Laguna Beach
  • + Laguna Hills
  • + Laguna Niguel
  • + Lake Forest
  • + Lakewood
  • + Las Vegas
  • + Lawndale
  • + Lomita
  • + Long Beach
  • + Los Alamitos
  • + Los Angeles
  • + Malibu
  • + Manhattan Beach
  • + Marina Del Rey
  • + Maywood
  • + Midway City
  • + Mission Viejo
  • + Montclair
  • + Mountain Center
  • + Mt Baldy
  • + Newport Beach
  • + North Hollywood
  • + Northridge
  • + Norwalk
  • + Oceanside
  • + Orange
  • + Out of Town
  • + Palos Verdes Peninsula
  • + Panorama City
  • + Paramount
  • + Pasadena
  • + Pioneertown
  • + Placentia
  • + Pomona
  • + Portola Hills
  • + Rancho Cucamonga
  • + Rancho Palos Verdes
  • + Rancho Santa Margarita
  • + Redlands
  • + Redondo Beach
  • + Riverside
  • + Rossmoor
  • + Rowland Heights
  • + San Bernardino
  • + San Clemente
  • + San Diego
  • + San Francisco
  • + San Juan Capistrano
  • + San Marino
  • + San Pedro
  • + Santa Ana
  • + Santa Monica
  • + Seal Beach
  • + Sherman Oaks
  • + Sierra Madre
  • + Signal Hill
  • + Silverado
  • + Solana Beach
  • + South El Monte
  • + South Gate
  • + South Pasadena
  • + Stanton
  • + Studio City
  • + Sunset Beach
  • + Temecula
  • + Torrance
  • + Trabuco Canyon
  • + Tustin
  • + Twentynine Palms
  • + Universal City
  • + Unknown
  • + Venice
  • + Villa Park
  • + Westminster
  • + Whittier
  • + Wilmington
  • + Woodland Hills
  • + Yorba Linda
Map It

Bars & Clubs

Food & Drink

Arts & Entertainment

Shopping & Services

People & Places

Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Park

When one thinks of a park in Orange County, it usually brings up images of finely manicured grass, perfectly placed shade trees and a nice man-made pond with some intrusive ducks. These types of green spaces have their place of course, especially when it comes to family outings, but they are a dime a dozen. Yet parks that can offer a real natural setting are few and far between, especially when you consider how many of those places are being hoarded by the darling Irvine Co. Ironically enough, Irvine Regional Park offers both sides. Do you like ponds and swing sets? It has those. Do you enjoy riding bikes? It has paved sidewalks and a bike trail along the riverbed. Or do you enjoy meandering along dusty trails where critters scurry about? Half of the park is composed of such wilderness-esque areas. This is all before we even talk about the railroad, the horses, the lake, the zoo and the ridiculous amount of peacocks pecking around. With 477 acres, you can have the quintessential American picnic, or you can try to get lost, if even for a little while.


1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange, 92869
Best Day Trip

Whether you're coming from as far south as San Clemente or as north as Yorba Linda, it will usually take between two and three hours to get to Big Bear. You can be snowboarding, hiking or boating in the same amount of time it can take to get to downtown Los Angeles on a weekday. It's far away enough and has such a drastically different setting that it can truly feel like a vacation. Plus, one-third of the drive is through scenic mountain roads. If you leave early enough, you'll bypass traffic, and if you stay late enough, you can see the incredible night sky with much less light pollution than you'll find down here. In winter, the lake is breathtakingly crisp and beautiful, and it's easy to find deals on lift tickets; in summer, it's less crowded, and you can explore the wilderness with no one else in sight. Stay for a while, and leave in the dark: The drive home will be quick—a relaxing end to your day.

Best Place to Take an Out-of-Town Visitor

Let's face it: Though Orange County has an international reputation for glamour thanks to cable-TV shows, huge chunks of our region are grotesquely ugly. But the most invigorating spot in Southern California is also within our boundaries: Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. With incredible views of the hillside coastal town, as well as of the Pacific Ocean and beach, the palm tree-loaded park might be the cheapest cure for the blues on the planet—well, if you don't count those greedy city parking meters. On a sunny weekend, go early so you can find parking and enjoy paradise.


375 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, 92651
Best Place to Escape North County Hell

We'll have to double-check with Webster, but we're pretty sure feeding a flock of ducks by a lake is pretty much the definition of leisure. It's one of the many activities you can get in on at Yorba Regional Park. Situated at the mouth of Santa Ana Canyon, this mile-long expanse of lush grass, serene lakes, softball diamonds, modern playgrounds and bike trails is one of the few things about the eastern end of Anaheim that helps cultivate the identity of one of the most delightfully slow-paced areas of OC. Among its biggest draws are its diverse stable of rental bikes, paddle boats (yes, you can actually get out on the water!) and Big Wheels for the kids. Local school troops and party planners get plenty of use out of this local haven for daytime diversions, and the huge shade trees, gazebos and barbecue pits make this an easy place to bring people together.


7600 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 92807
Best Place to Get High

Unfortunately, we cannot give you the address to our friend's house, but we can tell you about a lovely place to light up that you may have never been to—or even heard of. Many factors go into choosing the best place to get high, but atmosphere and stealthiness are at the top of the list. So, go down by the river at the northern end of the Santa Ana River trail in Yorba Linda, and you will find exactly that. It takes a little bit of effort because you will have to park in a neighborhood or at Yorba Regional Park, then take a bit of a walk. You will find the entrance to this peculiar place at the end of the paved trail, underneath the Weir Canyon overpass on La Palma Avenue. Follow a sandy path into a swampy-looking forest; you will wander along lightly treaded paths and, if you're lucky, stumble upon the walls of bamboo, but ultimately, you can make your way to several sandbars along the river. It feels like being in a different state, literally and figuratively. Just watch out for spiders, snakes and perhaps even rodents of unusual size.


Best Thing to Do In the Dark
Full Moon Stand-Up Paddleboarding

In Orange County, the best thing to do in the dark involves getting wet. Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! We're talking about stand-up paddleboarding, better known as SUP. During the day, it's a fun fitness activity, but when the sun goes down, it's a truly magical experience. In the summer, Pirate Coast Paddle Co. hosts Full Moon SUP Parties, in which paddlers of all skill levels can grab equipment and some glow sticks, then glide alongside trained professionals onto the calm, glistening waters of Newport's Back Bay. You never know what you might see along the way—sea life down below, Orion's Belt up above, a hottie straight ahead. After the night's voyage, the party continues with snacks and chatter. Aside from the fact that you may get a little muddy, the event proves that you can have good, clean fun with the lights off.



1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, 92660
Best Dog Park
Bellis Park Dog Park

In the land of Snoopy lies a hidden haven for his barking brethren to play: a fenced-in, grassy area behind the tennis courts at Bellis Park. Opened four years ago by the Buena Park City Council and the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Bellis Park Dog Park is leash-free in its libertine ways. There are also no sections separating big dogs from small ones—it's all one pooch house here! Owners will find park benches and shady trees from which to watch over their four-legged friends rollicking in the lush grass. When tongues start wagging loosely, pooches can quench their thirst at the centrally located water fountain. The park is open every day from early morning hours until dusk, and despite being on the smaller side, it's never too crowded for comfort.

7171 8th St., Buena Park, 90621
Best Park for Kids

Most kids want to be a pirate or a princess at one point in their lives, and Box Canyon Park grants that wish. Where most parks lack in creativity, this place makes up for it with a pirate ship and castle playground. Staying true to an authentic ship, the play area features sails, a helm and a spot dedicated to seeing where the vessel is headed. Next to the ship is a castle that has stone-like walls, two swirly slides and gears for spinning. While the two play areas cater to older kids, there are ramps providing easy access for everyone, especially toddlers who feel the baby swings aren't enough. Besides the two recreations spots, there are benches and a vast enough area for kids to just run around.


22400 Foxtail Dr., Yorba Linda, 92887
Best Ride At Disneyland
Indiana Jones

It isn't every day you can travel to Bengal and go on a thrilling adventure in search of Indiana Jones. Once you get in line, the park's setting is completely changed. It's an adventure in itself to reach the loading area, as you go through different caves, avoiding diamond-shaped steps, and watch the mini instructional film. The Disneyland ride's illusions and projections vary depending on which door you go through, and the Jeep is bumpy, as though you're actually driving through the rough terrain of an ancient temple in the Amazon. You pass snakes, fire, savages with blow darts and a mummy chamber—but it isn't until the giant boulder threatens to crash into the Jeep that you finally encounter Indy and save him. There isn't any other ride that offers the fun, adrenalin-rush satisfaction of saving the charismatic archeologist.


1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, 92802
Best Historical Landmark Everyone Takes for Granted
Mission San Juan Capistrano

Yeah, so you visited the mission while in elementary school—but have you returned since? It's actually quite enjoyable. Whether you're journeying through a rustic, religious time warp during one of its many historical tours (both audio-guided and with a live docent), meandering through sacred gardens or marveling at the gilded altar of the Historic Serra Chapel, this will indeed be one of those times you were glad you woke up early to hit the road on a weekend. If driving is not your thing, take the train! If you can, try to time your trip to coincide with one of the mission's special events, such as a concert under the stars, a crafts workshop or even a historic bell-ringing ceremony. And if your stomach starts rumbling, head to El Adobe for a pair of impeccable blackened-fish tacos before grabbing an icy brew at storied South County dive bar the Swallows Inn.


26801 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, 92675
Best Coach

Coaching the Lakers in the championship-banner shadows of Phil Jackson is no easy task—just ask Rudy Tomjanovich, who bailed on the team mid-season in the aftermath of the Shaq-Kobe explosion in 2004. Add to that pressure a lockout-shortened season, no training camp, a trade for Chris Paul swatted down by Commissioner David Stern, a laughable bench and, of course, whiny Laker fans who don't know how to take a few losses, and that's the tall order former NBA Coach of the Year and current Anaheim Hills resident Mike Brown signed up for last season, taking it all the way to the playoffs. A tougher-than-usual, but no less surprising, first-round, seven-game series win saw Magic Johnson turning up the heat on Brown, pondering his firing had the team failed to prevail. Surviving, the coach avoided a repeat of the embarrassing second-round sweep last year, pulling out a win against the Oklahoma Thunder that could have been more if only this, that and everything else had happened. Now with this summer's offseason acquisitions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, there's no excuse for the defensive-minded coach to not accomplish here what eluded him in Cleveland with LeBron James: an NBA Championship.



Best View
Black Gold Golf Club's
    12th-Hole Tee Box

It's going to cost more than a few ducats to marvel at this view, but if you're a golfer, there's no better panoramic vista than the highest tee in Orange County. You're staring southwest, directly at Huntington Beach, and nearly all of Orange County northwest of Newport Beach sprawls before you, along with Catalina Island and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. At some 725 feet above sea level, the vista is a midget compared to Saddleback Mountain's 5,689 feet, but last time we checked, Saddleback Mountain's hiking trail couldn't be traversed with a golf cart. Black Gold's green fees top out around $100, but if you tee up later in the day, the rates drop by nearly half.

1 Black Gold Dr., Yorba Linda, 92886

Best Park: Irvine Regional Park


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >