Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Imagine the world is still. There are no automobile engines to overshadow the sound of nature's breeze. Buildings are nowhere in sight. Instead, there's only the occasional brush sound of the grass and singing of the birds. This is what life looks like at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, a hiking trail that preserves a person's sanity as much as it does the county's disappearing coastal sage scrub community. The home of several rare and endangered species (Plantae and Animalia alike), it's easy to develop greater altruism when you walk across the hilltops and slopes here. The untouched coastal canyon's oak and sycamore woodlands decorate the landscape as if a painting. Its rocky bluff towers stand proudly like a Rodin sculpture. Though the hike here might be tough for beginners, the inspiration that comes with the finish line is worth tomorrow's sore thighs.
It's not often you use the words bullets and Brea in the same sentence. But within this relatively sleepy suburb is the most bangin' firing range around. Orange County Indoor Shooting Range is a fully renovated and top-of-the-line establishment for all your firing needs, whether you're a beginner or Dirty Harry. Carrying a full stock of 62 types of gun rentals (ammo, too!), as well as various stages of training classes and group discounts (two people can shoot for two hours for just $50), this place is all about giving you more bang for your buck (you know we had to use that, right?).
Its mystique, ungodly smells and tiny Asian waitresses with boobs so inflated they should be falling into their drink trays make Hawaiian Gardens Casino special—in all the best ways. Also, there's pai gow poker, which yields greater odds of winning than traditional poker. Just keep an eye on your rearview mirror while driving home. Just sayin'.
Though it's not quite considered the boonies, this beloved patch of nature in the northern hills of Fullerton feels far away from the rush of cars, traffic and people—enough to plop down for lunch with the aid of a blanket. As the sun shines onto the shimmering lake, watch as wildlife chirps, scampers and swims all around you as you chomp down on some sandwiches and potato salad. Just don't feed the ducks; they'll never leave you alone.
This is about as close as you can get to the way surfing started—and in a less bro-tastic world—in OC. Located in a parking lot just to the north of the Seal Beach pier, M&M Surfing School isn't much more than a trailer parked in front of the sand, with boards on the side and a heap of wetsuits in all sizes. Run by Michael Pless and his son, Michael Jr., the school is licensed by the city and provides group and individual lessons for adults and kids. And the variety of breaks at the beach means that no matter what your skill level, there will be a wave with your name on it.
Get up early and devote a little more than an hour to walk from Hart Park to Grijalva Park. Round trip, it's 4.6 miles—the path is longer than that, but this is our favorite section—and you'll work up a sweat, get your daily exercise, and start your day amid the trail's peaceful, natural splendor. Well-maintained throughout the year, there are trees and greenery (when there's enough water), friendly squirrels and ducks (when there's enough water), and only a handful of joggers. During rainy season (when there's enough water), taking a walk before dusk with an umbrella, holding the hand of the one you love, the creek rushing beside you . . . there's little more romantic than this.
In Orange County, there are basically two choices for miniature golf: Boomers (in Irvine and Fountain Valley) or Camelot Golfland. But Camelot has won more accolades from the Weekly and others simply because it is more awesome. The largest miniature course in the country offers three different themed courses, with no overlap. A round could easily take two hours, just long enough for the kids to forget how bored they were before you got there.
Analyze this: The Orange County Board of Supervisors decided in June to spend nearly $780,000 to educate religious leaders in various ethnic communities "about behavioral health." The government program's goal is to hold seminars for 60 different leaders each year for three years, with a windfall of about $4,330 per person.
Split into two areas for dogs big and small, unleash your furry babies to run around at will in this wide expanse of grass at the corner of Yorba Street and Chapman Avenue. There are community toys and water bowls, with plenty of shaded areas to sit and watch, as well as enough baggie dispensers so you have no excuse to not clean up after them.
You started playing as a kid, and during that stretch early in your career when you worked days and weekends, you were able to have golf courses all to yourself as you got your handicap down to the 80s. Then your work shift changed, family obligations piled up, and, late in your career, your annual salary was slashed. Nowadays, you have to save up for weeks before your yearly golf outing with Uncle Mark. Meanwhile, your out-of-date bag, clubs and deteriorating shoes mostly collect dust and occupy valuable garage space better suited for your stack of vintage Spy magazines. But before chucking them and haggling with yard-sale cheap asses—really, you talked me down to 12 bucks for a set of Wilsons and now want me to break a hundred?—give golf one last chance at beautiful Strawberry Farms in Irvine. Filled with blind tee shots, magnetic water hazards and tip-seeking attendants who clean your clubs without asking, Strawberry Farms makes disillusioned golfers right in the head when they finally decide to quit the silly game.
This 3-mile stretch of beach is not Orange County's most scenic or natural, but what Sunset and Surfside have going for them is everything you want for a day at the beach—all within walking distance. There's free parking, unoccupied sand (it's among the widest SoCal beaches), and generally clean water for wading, swimming and, especially on the north end, body and board surfing. Lifeguard services are provided seasonally. It's quieter, the waves are more mellow, and the sands are covered with more shells than at OC's more popular tourist beaches, making it a great place for young'uns. Meanwhile, it's so dark there at night that you can tick sex on the beach off your bucket list without anyone knowing—or even having to have a partner! Need to get out of your home for a while (damn mold!)? Sunset has a row of clean rentals that are more reasonably priced than those at our snootier ZIP codes. Best of all, you are within stumbling distance of watering holes including Brix, Turcs, Mother's, King Neptune's and Nadine's Irish Mist. Sláinte!
In the fighting world, OC is known much more as a hotbed for jiu-jitsu than mixed martial arts (MMA). Not only are two of the biggest grappling tournaments in the world located in the area, but there are also world-class jiu-jitsu academies sprinkled throughout the county. That's only part of what makes Muay Thai coach (and general MMA game-planner) Master Rafael Cordeiro's success so impressive. The Brazilian is not only responsible for the success of multiple UFC champions and several other male UFC fighters, but he has also worked with some of the most feared women on the planet, such as Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino and Gabi Garcia. The leader of Kings MMA in Huntington Beach is known for getting the best out of his fighters, both physically and mentally, and with the near-flawless record of his fighters, his success in 2015 really can't be denied—isso!