Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
These courts are so popular that the city of Huntington Beach has a 10-point rulebook dedicated to them. Home to some of the biggest pro tournaments in the nation, all 20 courts are free, open to any level and, unlike many other sand courts, come outfitted with quality nets. At least two players must be present to claim a highly coveted court, so grab a team and arrive early. Don't have a ball? Rent one from a beach concession or, better yet, jump in on an ongoing game.
The picturesque Thousand Steps Beach is not just a place to work out at until your legs feel like Jell-O, but it's also a great place to be stoned, especially at night. Next time you're feeling like being one with nature and herb, head down to the gorgeous shores of Thousand Steps Beach to witness a clear night sky spotted with a sea of sparkling-white stars. If you're faded enough and stare deeply up above, the tiny beacons of light will start to blur into vivid white streaks across the pitch-black sky to the soothing soundtrack of ocean waves crashing onto the shore. Pair this beautiful setting with some indica, and you've got one of the most relaxing places in Orange County. And with the city of Laguna Beach inching closer to passing a medical-marijuana initiative this November, Thousand Steps Beach may become South County's first stoners' paradise.
First, drive to Fifth and Grand streets in the Financial District, find cheap parking, and rise in an elevator 1,000 feet in the air to take in a 360-degree view of Los Angeles via the OUE Skyspace LA, the tallest open-air observation deck in California. For $8 more than the usual $19-to-$25 entry fee, you can ride the enclosed slide affixed to the 70th to 69th floors of the U.S. Bank Tower. Calm your nerves across the street at LA's Central Library, where four large murals depict different points in Golden State history. Ying your yang in the outdoor Maguire Gardens before walking half a block on South Flower Street to Public School 213, a mellow gastropub that serves pleasing appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads, wine, cocktails, craft beers and dinner fare, all in the $$ range.
OUE Skyspace LA, U.S. Bank Tower, 633 W. Fifth St., Ste. 840, Los Angeles, (213) 800-5659; www.skyspace-la.com.
Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles, (213) 228-7000.
Public School 213, 612 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-4500; www.psontap.com.
Readers’ Choice: Mutt Lynch’s
This isn't your average PC café, but rather America's first facility dedicated to e-sports. Whether your competitive game of choice is League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Hearthstone, Halo, Smash or Call of Duty, Esports Arena holds events and tournaments for every premier title. Add in special meet-and-greets and signings with pro-gamers and elite teams and gaming organizations such as Team Solomid, and you have a modern-day gamers' paradise.
Self-described as "a family training center," the Dragon House Gym lives up to the billing; many who took classes as children under Sensei Daniel Higgins now bring their own children here to learn boxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu and other forms of self-defense. The Dragon House Gym also specializes in getting you in shape—fighting or otherwise—through personal-training sessions. After transforming your rocking bod, you can cover it up with Dragon House clothing, available for sale in the front.
Readers’ Choice: Gracie Barra Garden Grove
After arriving at UC Irvine in 2010, Mark Deppe has specialized in out-of-the-box thinking that has led to more outside attention on the school. Having coordinated six consecutive Guinness World Records, Deppe generated even more international buzz by helping to establish an e-sports program that actively recruits the best gamers to major in computer game science and/or participate in live gaming competitions at the Bren Events Center. Deppe is acting director of an e-sports program that was mocked in some corners when it was announced in 2015. But the offering of e-sports scholarships, the opening of a state-of-the-art arena and the enrollment of the brightest gaming minds at Irvine have shot naysayers down as if they were Soap MacTavishes.
The retinas in both of Christopher Swieca's eyes becoming detached was likely caused by his severe nearsightedness, not his career as a water-polo player. But surgeries to repair the damage prevented the 6-foot-4 business-economics major from attending UC Irvine's June 10 graduation with his fellow students and teammates. A date was set a month later for Swieca to swing by the UCI Chancellor's office to pick up his diploma, but he was told to wear his cap and gown so he could pose for a photograph. Little did he know he was walking into a commencement ceremony for one, with his family, friends and teammates in attendance to cheer him on.
After 22 years away from the Southland, the Los Angeles Rams returned to the cheers of more than 90,000 fans at the LA Coliseum for an Aug. 13 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Though the Rams no longer play at the Big A, they had already re-established their Orange County fan base by maintaining UC Irvine as their preseason training headquarters. But the exhibition opener started ugly when Cowboys returner Bucky Whitehead took the opening kickoff 101 yards for a score. The Rams went on to trail 14-7 after the first quarter, 24-7 at halftime and 24-14 after three. But third-string quarterback Sean Mannion threw three touchdown passes that led to a 28-24 win. A preseason-opener victory and home-opener win do not a season make, but they were a good re-introduction to our NFL-starved market.
Famous for its world-renowned pies and hard apple cider, Julian transports visitors to a simpler time. Or at least that's how it feels upon arriving in the Gold Rush town of 1,500 people after driving on winding Highway 78 for 60 miles east of San Diego and through the Cuyamaca Mountains. Though it's a laid-back town, there is plenty to do, including hiking, shopping, mining for gold, viewing arts and crafts, and touring historical sites and underground tunnels. And yes, you can cap off the day by eating pie that must be washed down with hard apple cider.
Readers’ Choice: Catalina Island
Located within Vista Hermosa Sports Park, this park was conceived for the unbound delight of all children. The high-backed swing seats that accommodate any wheelchair-bound kids are really the only clues to this charming park's universality. As you approach the entrance gates, a peppery smell fills the air from enormous hedges. A loud clanging may bring to mind a train pulling into the station, but it's just a child whacking a mallet on the resonant objects situated along a musical pathway in the Sensory Garden. The jungle gyms are two spectacular structures, a ship and a castle, on which sliding, hanging and zooming of all sorts can be done. An abundance of busy boxes and shady crannies can be explored before heading off to a stunning, all-hands-in tidepool, elevated a few feet for easy access. This amazing space was designed by Richard Fisher Associates of Santa Ana, who've been creating parks in Orange County for three decades.
Readers’ Choice: Mile Square Park
A bigger draw than the gourmet Mexican food at Las Brisas is the winding path that passes the Laguna Beach restaurant. Filled with great ocean and sunset views, the salty smell of the sea, and even the occasional tingle from sea spray, the path is also used by pleasant people in nice clothing who greet you with a wink, smile and friendly "hello." Many of these encounters lead to full-blown conversations that can be continued a few steps away on the Las Brisas patio bar.
A better pickup point than Las Brisas' outdoor bar is the winding path outside the restaurant. There, you will find singles, the newly separated and looming divorcees filling up on great ocean and sunset views, the salty smell of the sea, and even the occasional tingle from sea spray. Just shoot them a wink, smile and friendly "hello," then keep the conversation going by shuffling them a few steps to Las Brisas patio bar to juice them up. Who knows where the night will end?