Best of OC

Best Of 2014


  • + 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

Sports & Recreation

Food & Drink

Arts & Entertainment

Shopping & Services


Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Free Date Spot

Orange County is a consumer's dream, inundated with food and shopping options for nights out. But instead of gorging yourself and emptying your wallet for date night, take advantage of the beautiful scenery that makes OC so damn expensive to begin with. South County is home to some of the prettiest beaches, as exemplified by Calafia Beach in San Clemente. There is ample (free) street parking at the top of Avenida Calafia, then take the windy road leading down to the beach, so long as you don't mind ambling with your special so-and-so. Join countless other sappy couples and carve your initials into the sand cliffs, or venture into the private nooks formed by the imposing slabs of sand. The beach is deserted during off-season, when the gray skies manage to make the views even more beautiful.

275 Avenida Calafia, San Clemente, 92672
Best New Fitness Trend

Pole dancing has left behind its seedy nightclub taboo to be embraced by Orange County suburbanites as legitimate exercise, and it's awesome. The crepuscular interior of Smoke and Mirrors Pole Fitness, adorned with twinkling lights and chandeliers, has exactly the kind of mood lighting needed for budding pole dancers to learn the trade. The instructors are chipper, encouraging and impossibly flexible. They guide OC soccer moms and young people alike through lithe, sexy versions of classic warm-up exercises, and then impart their pole knowledge by demonstrating a bevy of spins and flips. The classes are fun, racy and an exhaustingly good workout. Be prepared for soreness and bruises: You are worming your body around a hard, metal pole after all.

2710 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, 92705
Best Bowling

This family-owned bowling alley is downright retro in these hipster, lounge-obsessed times. The bar offers a simple list of classics: beer, wine, shooters and cocktails that your Aunt Bess would order. There is no gastropub, just a snack bar stocked with pizza, nachos, pretzels and popcorn. You can hear the arcade room's beeps and bloops, as well as the occasional clink of billiards. The sign advertising laser tag reminds you of your misspent youth. And, lest we forget, there are 32 lanes down which you can hurl a green-and-orange-swirled ball. Leagues take over some of those glimmering aisles daily, and there are Rock-N-Bowl nights for kids and adults on weekends. It all comes together to remind you what drew you to Tustin Lanes in the first place: a fun night out with friends. Simple and classic and perfect.

1091 Old Irvine Blvd., Tustin, 92780
20 City Blvd., Orange, 92868
Best Yoga

What started as just a few friends of Elsa Stephen doing yoga in a park once a week in 2008 has grown through word-of-mouth at a tremendous speed. I Heart Yoga In the Park now meets every morning of the week and two evenings at Lantern Bay Park in Dana Point. Although you really can't beat the sweeping coastal views from the classes at Lantern Bay Park, there are also I Heart Yoga In the Park classes taking place three days a week at Historic Town Center Park in San Juan Capistrano. Stephen and four other expert instructors rotate leading the classes. Each of the women teach at brick-and-mortar studios as well as private classes. Dropping in at the park on different days is an excellent way to find your ideal teacher, if that's what you seek. Whatever motivates you to show up, know that newcomers are always welcome. And who knows what good might come just because you got up off your butt one day and decided to go to donation-based outdoor yoga.

25111 Park Lantern, Dana Point, 92629
31852 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, 92675
3077 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 92626
Best Dog Park

What could be more hilarious than seeing dogs running full-tilt into the ocean to navigate the shorebreak with agility or total goofiness? Their impetus may be chasing down a thrown ball, or they may just be plain out of their minds with joy. Even if you have no pet, it's just so much fun to loll about and watch the show, especially the dogs who are first-timers on the scene. Technically, it's against Huntington Beach ordinance 13.08.070 for dogs to be off leash, but for quite a while, only out-of-control or aggressive pets have been given citations or kicked off the beach. By the way, how's your dog's balance and coordination? Do you think you could teach it to surf? If you start now, you'll have about 11 months to train your pet for the next Surf City Surf Dog contest, which usually takes place on Dog Beach the last weekend in September.

100 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, 92615
Best Surf Spot

Salt Creek Point gets the nod this year because, back in June, a sandwich-board sign was seen on the beach that read, "This area is for SURFING ONLY: No Stand-up Paddleboarding. Go North of Lifeguard Tower for Swimming, Wading and Bodyboarding." 'Nuff said. This is a point break with mostly lefts that gets consistent waves in most swell directions. Salt Creek is excellent for watching surfers up close while in total safety. Because of the deep curve of the shore, spectators standing on the point are very close to the lineup. You'll see lots of photographers there when the surf is big. No big surprise, but there are third- and fourth-generation surfers who've paddled out here since toddlerhood. So don't be a douchebag: Stay out of waves beyond your capability, respect the lineup and never drop in on anyone. If you're not into lefts, you can paddle out farther north at Middles or Gravels, but you'll have to contend with bodyboarders and the occasional international tourist from the Ritz in over their heads. If you don't mind a hike, there's free street parking to be had on Stonehill Drive.

33333 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, 92629
2172 E. Ocean Front, Newport Beach, 92661
Best Martial-Arts Studio

Students commute several times per week from as far as Pasadena and Oceanside to study with Sifu Adam Williss, who is an inductee into the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame. His teachers' lineage traces back to grandmaster Ip Man, Bruce Lee's teacher. Known for its real-world, close-quarters self-defense application, the Wing Chun form is especially effective in its defense against larger, stronger attackers—so any age, strength, size or gender have the potential to excel. One thing is certain about today's Wing Chun: It is not a competitive sport. Sifu Adam teaches the self-defense principles in a way that, as you progress, allow you to apply those principles to all aspects of life's challenges—not just the physical ones.


Dana Point location,
Irvine location,

34241 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, 92629
Best Boot Camp
Hit the Mark Fitness

Bored with the gym? Hit the Mark Fitness takes to the streets of Old Towne Orange, with encouraging coaches telling young and old(-ish), strong and weak(-ish) they can do this! They can reach that next stop sign, then go beyond. Owner Mark Gonzalez, a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, believes in pushing his boot campers toward not only better bodies, but better health, too. And don't we all want that?

121 S. Center St., Orange, 92866
23461 Ridge Route Dr., Laguna Hills, 92653
Best Nature Trail
All of Crystal Cove State Park

Because hiking from the hills to the beach is like going to God's personal heaven.

8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 92651
35 Crystal Cove, Newport Beach, 92657
Best Streaking
Chapman University

Chapman University was designed for two purposes: higher education and the adrenalin rush that comes with taking off all of your clothes and running as fast as you can. Look no further than the face of the university, the group of buildings that sits behind the Chapman sign. The walkway forms a perfect U shape opening up to Chapman Avenue: easy access, prime visibility and, most important, a way out. Have a friend pull the car up to the start of the U, then burst out like a nervous, sweating, naked banshee and complete the path—by which point your friend will have inched the car forward to the end of the loop. You'll be out of sight and down Glassell before the "tackle and ban" instinct strikes any onlooking authorities.

1 University Dr., Orange, 92866
Best Rock Climbing

In terms of sheer intimidation, your first day at a bouldering gym is on par with starting a new job or meeting a significant other's parents. It may actually be a bit worse—for starters, it's the only one in which the thought "Everyone can see my balls right now" is not completely irrational. Add to that the overwhelming sensation that everyone else seems to know exactly what they're doing, and you've got a nearly infallible recipe for sweaty palms. We say nearly infallible specifically because of the Aesthetic Climbing Gym, where veterans happily assist newbies in both top roping and bouldering. For the uninitiated, top roping includes a harness. It's comparable to long-distance running—strategy and endurance—whereas bouldering is a sprint. There are no harnesses, and the paths are much shorter. The color-coded levels range from V-B (basic) to V-14, and the top-out section—the area you reach at the top of the wall—is spacious and expansive.

26794 Vista Terrace, Lake Forest, 92630
Best Whale Watching

Whale watching is a bit of a misnomer—a more accurate title would be "people watching at sea." You'll spot mullets and wife-beaters, cargo shorts of every variety. While you may sight a few sea lions, it's more likely you'll spot a guy with a permanent sunglasses tan who calls himself "the sea lion." The $15 ticket is a portal to a strange world, in which faded Hawaiian shirts hang loosely off bodies that (maybe) have seen better days, where shorts fall well below the knee. And where spirits are consistently high. Each occasion takes attendees with the sheer joy, the unrestrained optimism of everyone on board, devoid of any irony or self-consciousness. It's refreshing, and the curving California coastline is mesmerizing in every rolling hill, every tract home with the lights left on. If you time it right, you'll get a wonderful view of the orange-pink OC sunset. So crack a cheap beer, get a good seat, and don't expect to see any whales.

34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, 92629

Best Free Date Spot: Calafia Beach


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