People & Places

  • Best Building

    Taco Bell Discovery Science Center

    Admit it: The first time you drove past that giant, angled black cube beside Insterstate 5, you thought the actual kids' museum it belongs to was inside. Later, maybe you caught the light shining through it, realized it was hollow, and wondered what the point was. Did the designer of the Discovery Center just really, really like Pink Floyd and… More >>
  • Best Evidence of a Town In Need of a Proofreader

    Golden West, or Goldenwest?

    Come on, people. Even Google Maps chokes on this. Pick one and stick with it. Our copy desk will back you up 100 percent.… More >>
  • Best Use of Stucco

    The Irvine Co.

    You really shouldn't be a stranger to that 140-year-old real-estate development giant. Based in Newport Beach and owned by squillionaire Donald Bren, the Irvine Co. is responsible for implanting all those suburban master-planned communities you and the rest Orange County are so very fond of. Looking out the window of your basic Irvine Co.-owned apartment in the city that bears… More >>
  • Best Example of Gentrification

    Floral Park, Santa Ana

    Santa Ana stands as one of Orange County's least upscale cities—and is, as a result, its most soulful. While the lack of general affluence has resulted in some run-down neighborhoods, "Orange County" has reared its wealthy head even here. Located off Broadway, just off Interstate 5, Floral Park is a neighborhood of wide, peaceful streets, huge lawns and beautiful architecture… More >>
  • Best Local Legend

    The Poker Game That Named OC

    It's not nearly as creepy as it sounds. Promise. You've passed it dozens of times on the way to the beach—a faded, sky-blue sign in curlicue script, amongst commercial buildings, fast-food joints and plazas, announcing a . . . pet cemetery? Rest assured: It's nothing like Stephen King's pet cemetery ( . . . or, er, Sematary) of 1989. In fact,… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Lashed

    The Brig Pilgrim

    The Ocean Institute in Dana Point currently houses the Pilgrim, a full-sized replica of the ship from Richard Henry Dana's novel Two Years Before the Mast. Staffed by knowledgeable tour guides in period costume, the Pilgrim offers guests the opportunity to get a taste of 19th-century life at sea without the pesky scurvy and pirate attacks. For the sea-chantey enthusiast,… More >>
  • Best Gondola Ride

    Gondola Getaway

    Romance rises from its watery grave at Naples, where the lovely folks at Gondola Getaway ferry visitors under bridges and through canals over the still waters of Alamitos Bay. The group owns 10 gondolas—the smallest of which can carry two, the largest 14. Gondoliers wear the traditional striped shirts and provide their fares with a basket of French bread, cheese… More >>
  • Best Place to Catch a Titillating Glimpse of a Woman's Ankle

    Heritage House

    This preserved Victorian-era home was originally built for and occupied by Fullerton physician Dr. George C. Clark and stood at the corner of Amerige and Harvard (now Lemon). In 1972, the house was moved to its current location in the Fullerton Arboretum and now hosts tours and workshops that present the lifestyle and culture of Victorian America to guests. It's… More >>
  • Best Altarpiece

    Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano's Grand Retablo

    If you're going to fall to your knees in front of something representing the highest power, it better be something pretty darn bitchen. The folks at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano must have had this in mind when they commissioned 85 craftsmen in Spain to create the Grand Retablo, the massive golden altarpiece that adorns the mission chapel today. A… More >>
  • Best Way of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa

    Trinity Christian City International

    Many churches line their pillars with crosses to signify each segment of Jesus Christ's painful journey to Calvary. Come Easter time, the faithful make the trek from station to station, reading passages to re-create his ordeal. At the Trinity Broadcasting Network's Costa Mesa headquarters, they pull out all the stops to make the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) experience… More >>
  • Best Coach

    Mike Scioscia

    Yes, it's baseball, and technically, he's a manager, but we're going with the Soshon this one. He's won two division titles and a World Series, has a winning record, and is fluent in Spanish. If there's one thing Orange County likes more than a winner, it's one that is fluent in Spanish—except maybe Walt, but he's dead now, at least… More >>
  • Best Angels Player

    Reggie Willits

    Vladimir Guerrero gets the big money, Francisco Rodriguez sports the cool goggles, and Orlando Cabrera deserves all your love after that All-Star Game snub. But the man who embodies why your Anaheim Angels are no longer a pendejada is Reggie Willits. He's homegrown, not brought in as a free agent; a scrapper, not naturally gifted; humble, a sleeper prospect and… More >>
  • Best Ducks Player

    Teemu Selanne

    When the Anaheim Ducks acquired Teemu Selanne for a second stint in 2005, many fans figured it was just a sympathy signing, allowing one of the most popular players in franchise history to retire a Duck. But Selanne proved doubters wrong last year, winning the National Hockey League's Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy (for comeback player of the year) and helping… More >>
  • Best Mixed-Martial-Arts Fighter

    Tito Ortiz

    Ultimate Fighting Championship icon Tito Ortiz, a.k.a. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, has not only helped to elevate the "fastest-growing sport in the world," but also brought a tough-guy, kick-ass notoriety to Orange County. Ortiz hasn't been winning much of late, most recently taking a beating at the hands of Chuck Liddell, followed by a draw with Rashad Evans, but… More >>
  • Best Girl Gang

    OC Roller Girls

    There's a certain segment of our society that seems fascinated with the idea of watching women fight one another. What seems sleazy and exploitative in front of a bar is elevated to high art, though, when transferred to the roller rink. Roller derby is a sport that thrives on rough, high-speed physical contact. Heather Shelton, a Tucson transplant, founded the… More >>
  • Best Batting Cages


    Ahh, the batting cages. The underachieving brother of the driving range, the redneck cousin of the racquetball court, the Okie-in-law of the lap pool. When it comes to solitary versions of large-scale sports, it doesn't get much better than the batting cages, does it? And batting cages don't get much better than Boomers. Whether you need a few brush-up swings,… More >>
  • Best Golf Course for the Common Man

    Costa Mesa Country Club

    Where is my gopher? Where is my possibly drug-addled assistant groundskeeper and his stories of hitting the links with the Dalai Lama? Where is my polyester-pants-wearing foul-mouthed friend with a killer golf bag and fuck-you money? Ah, Caddyshack: the sole connection for many of us commoners to the greatest game ever played. But it ain't gotta be that way. The Costa… More >>
  • Best Place to Mountain Bike

    San Juan Trail, Cleveland National Forest

    Take the I-5, and exit at Highway 74. Drive east about 12.5 miles. Just before the ranger station, turn left down a dirt road. Head through the canyon about one mile and park. Trailhead is to the right. This winding, twisting spin through the wilderness is widely known as one of the most beautiful and frustrating trails imaginable. Long hours of… More >>
  • Best Place to Run

    The Beach

    Any beach in our lovely, beach-rich county will do. Here are the advantages to beach running: You don't need fancy shoes—or any shoes at all; you get a better workout per minute while running in sand, which provides natural resistance, building more endurance/burning more calories per stride; the Pacific Ocean is seconds away from you when the heat gets unbearable;… More >>
  • Second-Best Place to Run

    Tewinkle Memorial Park

    If you absolutely hate running on beaches, try this lovely Costa Mesa green space. It has lots of soft grass, drinking fountains, restrooms and all sorts of people engaging in relatively interesting activities for visual stimuli. And there's the natural beauty, too, if you're into that sort of thing.… More >>
  • Best Place to Kayak

    Fisherman's and Diver's Coves

    These well-hidden coves look like private property from afar, but the pristine mounds of sandy beach found at the end of a trail of stairs offer serene waters for the adventurous kayaker. The coves are also great snorkeling sites and are usually quiet and unpopulated. There are no facilities here, so you'll need to bring your own kayak. Bring quarters… More >>
  • Best Sports Mascot

    Peter the Anteater

    Enter "black star canyon" into Google, and the first hit that comes up is a site called, which tells a first-person story of rabbits that won't die—even when shot at close range—and shadowy figures who may be the specters of Spanish conquistadors believed to have slaughtered the indigenous inhabitants back in 1832 (it used to be called Cañada de… More >>
  • Best Flamenco Dance Classes

    Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute

    At Tierrita Flamenca, a flamenco-dance company populated by little girls with slick black hair, long colorful skirts and hand fans, the girls are encouraged to have attitude. The baby troupe is the brainchild of Claudia de la Cruz, who runs the Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute at her "underground," lower-level studio at Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center… More >>
  • Best Samba School


    Few places invite people in to learn the art of Afro-Brazilian percussion and dance the way SambaLá does. Their weekly classes, plus their once-a-month Saturday Samba night at Blue Cafe, are nearly enough to transport you to the stomping, euphoric street throb that is Brazil's yearly Carnaval. SambaLá's Thursday-evening bateria (percussion) class teaches the caixa, pandeiro, surdo, tam-tam and a… More >>
  • Best Lunchtime Yoga

    Yoga Works

    The noontime crowd at Yoga Works in Costa Mesa, as with its other OC locations, is a mixed hungry bag. What this group gets is an hour of vigorous asanasguaranteed to change the course of the rest of their day. You'll be surprised by how much happens—and how good you feel—in one hour.… More >>
  • Best Nature Trail

    Trabuco Canyon Trail

    You'll be handsomely rewarded, after driving through the unsightly OC suburban sprawl that clutters what were once acres of rolling hills, the moment you hit the tip of Cleveland National Forest. Once there, head toward our favorite trail, Trabuco Canyon, for one of the county's most serene hikes. Getting there is a little tricky, but worth it once you get… More >>
  • Best Gym

    Orange Coast College

    If you're not ready to sign a virtually unbreakable three-year contract with the nearest chain gym, which is probably an unsanitary sweat pool brimming with strippers and trolling dudes on 'roids, try going back to school. Enroll in a physical-education class at Orange Coast College, and you'll get access to one of the nicest, most recently remodeled gyms in the… More >>
  • Best Day Trip

    Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve

    It may technically be Newport Beach, but a day spent at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve won't feel like it. Tucked behind Highway 73, the 1,000-acre preserve includes rolling bluffs that surround 752 acres of wetlands—which are home to 200 species of birds. Pack a lunch; bird-watch (best in the winter), hike or kayak; and forget you're as close… More >>
  • Best Weekend Getaway

    Crystal Cove Beach Cottages

    Admittedly, Crystal Cove isn't the best spontaneous getaway—you might have to reserve up to seven months in advance, and be on the ball at 8 a.m. on the first of the month in order to do so. But there's a reason for the insane popularity these beach houses have attained over the years. Beaches don't get much more unspoiled than… More >>
  • Best Free Family Activity

    Centennial Farms Tour

    The Orange County Fair doesn't operate year-round, but the adjacent Centennial Farm fills the gap when the larger agricultural expo isn't around. Four acres and fully functional, Centennial is primarily a venue for school tours, but families can just show up, too, for self-guided tours (the official website doesn't mention this, but you can just stop by on a whim… More >>
  • Best Leisure Activity Other Than Reading or Watching a Movie

    Tidepool Trip

    While shark attacks in Orange County waters are rare, it's hard not to worry about some great leviathan rearing its head and swallowing you whole while you wait for the next wave. On days when you're feeling too unlucky to surf, it's good to know the county's coastline is peppered with tidepools, those fertile rocky refuges for some of the… More >>
  • Best Otter-Watching

    Aquarium of the Pacific

    Top three cutest animals ever? Cats, sea otters and ducks. In that order. (No arguing.) Luckily for us, while you once had to journey a few hundred miles north to Monterey Bay to otter-watch, we've got our very own aquarium not too far away in Long Beach. Opened in 1998, the nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific boasts a more-than-humble collection… More >>
  • Best place to Hang Out With a Feral Pig That Isn't Your Brother

    Santa Ana Zoo

    Feral pigs, giant turkeys and lemurs, oh my! Santa Ana Zoo is a virtual haven for people who love staring at animals in cages. And for those of you out there who really like to pet these creatures of the wilderness, The Crean Family Farm is on the premises, complete with petting zoo and fun animal facts. You can feed… More >>
  • Dave Serranos' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    Dave Serrano accomplished great things as head coach of the remarkable 2007 UC Irvine baseball team. The Anteaters made their first College World Series appearance, and against the odds, they dug in, even in extra-, extra- (seriously, extra-) inning games to make their mark on a national scale. Even amid rumors of defection to division rival Cal State Fullerton, the… More >>
  • Anh Dos' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    Anh Do has no qualms about referring to her late father, Yen Do, in the present tense. "My father values people over profit," she says. " And he values the community over the individual. I have those sentiments. I think that's what he teaches me all the time." Despite his death last year, theirs is an ongoing conversation that began… More >>
  • Dave Martins' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    After years of running a recruiting firm in Newport Beach, Dave Martin decided to change direction. His choice of a new path was obvious: "My life really does revolve around food," he says. "Good food and good times. But hey, isn't that what life is about?" Now, his life revolves around both even more than before, thanks to Bravo's Emmy-nominated… More >>
  • Donna Buonos' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    Think a moment about the last piece of fruit or vegetable you ate. Do you know where it came from? Do you know who grew it? If your answer to both is "no," consider this: If you were part of Morning Song Farm's Community Supported Agriculture, you'd know that it came from Rainbow, a burg in northern San Diego County.… More >>
  • Mike Conleys' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    Mike Conley cut his teeth on the OC punk scene of the late '70s and early '80s as a member of M.I.A., a band whose lasting legacy is probably the song "Boredom Is the Reason" (available on iTunes!). Conley witnessed a lot of crazy shit back in the day, as did anyone who hung out at iconic Costa Mesa punk… More >>
  • Rudy & Jackie Cordovas' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    Rudy and Jackie Cordova are proof that the Reconquista will not only be okay, but it'll also come with cute kids. The husband-and-wife team (Rudy is the Mexican; Jackie's the most Mexican gabacha since Gwen Stefani) run Calacas, a Santa Ana shop that ostensibly sells clever T-shirts ("Powered by Frijoles," anyone?) and other mexcelente merchandise. But since its 2005 opening,… More >>
  • Tom Dumonts' Best

    7 Favorite Things

    No Doubt may just be the most triumphant success story Orange County has to offer. Yeah, yeah, Donald Bren this, UC Irvine that—don't even. No Doubt is one of the biggest bands in the world. It's no secret that the band has its roots firmly planted in Orange County's soil. But unlike many other bands that have made it, some… More >>