Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.