Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
This picturesque den of modern relaxation and nature is a treat to visit, whether as a late-morning stroll, educational tour on plants and plant life, or for serious historical research. Founded in 1950 by businessman Arnold Haskell, who named it after his mentor, the Sherman Library & Gardens contine to draw visitors to its beauty, offering an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of PCH traffic. The Tropical Conservatory is a humid greenhouse that holds numerous flowers and plants usually native to islands below the equator (as well as some turtles and koi fish). The Tea, Rose, Succulent, Central and Specimen Shade gardens are all true to their names. Then there's the pleasing-to-the-eye fountains, unique sculptures, Cafe Jardin restaurant and in-house archival facility, which is possibly the best place to find information and history on the Pacific Southwest.
2647 E. Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, (949) 673-2261; www.slgardens.org.
One of the biggest detriments to playing golf, besides cost, is the length of play. Rounds at heavily impacted courses—such as the ones most of us can afford—can take four hours, and if you're stuck behind some slow fuckers, it can stretch way longer. Add time driving to the course, warming up and getting pickled at the 19 hole, and half a day is gone. So why not cut it in half? Instead of playing 18 holes, stick with nine. You can do that at many courses, playing nine holes at a reduced rate, or you can take advantage of one of OC's last stand-alone nine-hole courses (which opened in 1950 and was called Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course for years). The longest hole is 318 yards, so you won't need your driver—or the extra time searching for errant balls. But it will test your iron and short games, and located in Wood and Aliso canyons, it offers killer views and elevation changes. Green fees top out at $44 on weekend mornings, and you can play for as low as $25 during the week.
31006 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (800) 223-3309; www.theranchlb.com.
Readers' Choice: The Ranch at Laguna Beach
Ideal for curmudgeonly dogs and/or owners, this double dog compound has no amenities except poop bags. It's two side-by-side fenced-in runs, so you can isolate your lunatic canine if you need to. One of the pens is so long you can use a ball-throwing device. Once your animal has run off its manic energy, take a long stroll in the grassy park or through the tunnel and down onto Salt Creek Bluff for a rest. Parking is a problem only in summer or if the surf is up. Socializing is always possible once owners come to an agreement on safety, but if you are looking to do some human hooking up or gold-digging, go to the Laguna Beach Dog Park.
33501 Niguel Rd., Dana Point.
The fat-burning know-how here is scientifically based and will have you eating up calories long after the sweat from your class has been washed off. Offering a free first class and ocean views from both the Dana Point and San Clemente locations, your fitness goals will get all the help you need—and none of it from a drill sergeant screaming in your face. (Unless you ask for that from your personal trainer, of course, but don't let that be your first question.) Get cardio and metabolically healthy, strong and kinda badass.
32932 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 276-7650; also at 1030 Calle Sombra, San Clemente, (949) 218-2267; socalbc.com.
Readers' Choice: Axioms Fitness
Mission Bar offers an unbeatable happy hour: $4 pints seven days a week. Top it off with the exceptional 36-line rotating tap list (as well as wines), a knowledgeable and approachable staff, a kickback atmosphere, and affordable prices—but don't forget the pool, especially on Free Pool Mondays.
303 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (657) 266-0699; missionbarsa.com.
Readers' Choice: Danny K's Billiards & Sports Bar
There's no shortage of gorgeous beaches in Orange County, but the biggest problem with many of them is the crowd. Then you have San Clemente's T-Street Beach: less packed than its Huntington and Newport counterparts, with visitors far less bro-y (though you may have to watch out for sharks). Sure, it doesn't have the same level of restaurants, bars and shops that surround some of the more popular spots, but we'll take the serenity of actually being able to spread out on the sand (most of the time) over that any day.
339 W. Paseo De Cristobal, San Clemente, (949) 361-8219; san-clemente.org.
Readers' Choice: Laguna Beach
Depending on who you ask, strength training and cardio are head-to-head for the preferred way to lose weight. The good thing about Orangetheory Fitness is that every workout incorporates both. A heart-rate monitor tracks your calories, and personalized data is emailed to you afterward. Memberships can travel, meaning folks have little excuse when there's a location in the vicinity. Orangetheory realizes that your energy varies (hangover, anyone?), offering alternatives to adjust movements and intensity and still get a solid workout. Win-win!
Readers' Choice: CKO Kickboxing
Perennial favorite Space Mountain thrills with its combination of perceived speed and danger as you zoom through the dark, unsure of your location or exactly where those support beams are. Just how close are your hands from being removed from your body? Only few know (there is video of the ride on YouTube with the lights on right before it goes into unplanned maintenance, and it doesn't put your mind any more at ease).
1313 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim; disneyland.com.
Take the tablets out of your kids' hands, and watch them improve their muscle strength, coordination and cognitive-reasoning skills. This Cypress greenspace boasts three slides, a rope ladder and semifunctional chimes. Tucked into a neighborhood off Knott Avenue, you barely hear the sounds of traffic through the fence. There's no bathroom, and weirdos are a rare sight. There are plenty of grassy fields for frolicking, if you're into that. And if you're not, there's also a full-size basketball court, with a bench in the far corner for spectators and the socially awkward.
11666 Luau Lane, Cypress.
Readers' Choice: Irvine Regional Park
We all know most yoga studios in OC are for those who can easily achieve the "wallet stretch" pose. But who would've guessed the most accessible and awesome yoga classes are in the middle of master-planned Irvine? Be the Change Yoga is all that its name implies, offering everything from beginner to advanced classes with gentle and therapeutic options in between. There's no rigid fee structure here, either. Be the Change displays true flexibility with a donation-based system. And the studio's name isn't all talk. It's linking up with UC Irvine and Kaiser Permanente to promote the benefits of therapeutic yoga, and instructors deliver weekly bilingual classes to underserved residents at the Melissa Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living in Newport Beach.
3943 Portola Pkwy., Irvine, (714) 417-9834; bethechangeyoga.com
Readers' Choice: Spectra Yoga
The Huntington Beach native was the youngest surfer to win the U.S. National Championships for under-18s (at 14) and the youngest rookie in the World Surf League's Men's Championship Tour in 2016. This year, he won the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, receiving a hometown hero's welcome for winning in the waves he has surfed since he was 3 and for being the first American to win the title since HB's Brett Simpson did it in 2010. Did we mention Igarashi's only 19?
Readers' Choice: Kanoa Igarashi
Although Colin Oyama made a name for himself training some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts—including Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Ian "Uncle Creepy" McCall—his Irvine dojo reinvented itself over the past year or so to focus more on both young prospects and everyday members. Rather than putting an emphasis on the champions and former champions that still train at Team Oyama, the academy stands by a strict policy of treating everyone as equals. That mentality has created a vigorous rebirth among not only Oyama's pro fighters, but also the amateur and casual classes offered every day.
16632 Hale Ave., Irvine, (949) 250-3117; www.teamoyama.com.
Readers' Choice: West Coast TaeKwonDo