100 Reasons to Be Ecstatic About Summer In OC!

100 Reasons to Be Ecstatic About Summer In OC!

* This article was modified on June 24, 2011.

In a county grouped by fundamental divisions—North County vs. South County, Republican vs. Democrat, Stanton vs. everyone else—there is one thing nearly all of us can agree on: that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido is a sell-out. Oh, and that summer here is bliss, better than anyplace else in the States.

This season is our communion, a time when we all, unburdened by social definition, come together for shared experiences at the same places—the Orange County Fair, the cliffs of Laguna, the blistering heat of Hootenanny—we've patronized for decades. Muslim, evangelical, La Habran, San Clementean—we all gather for about three months of celebrations, chilled treats, festivals, or acts of kindness and camaraderie we wouldn't think of at any other time. But our communities are so diverse that some activities have yet to become an Orange County (and Long Beach) summer tradition along the lines of the U.S. Open of Surfing or decrying the Irvine Co.'s continuing development of our agrarian past. The following is a list of the 100 greatest things about summer in la naranja: some are familiar, some not, all necessary to enjoy the summer at its fullest. Now excuse us while we drink away another middling Angels' season.


Photography and post-production: Star Foreman
Hair and makeup: Autumn Sanders
Styling: Devon Nuzer
On-set stylist: Sunshine Harding
Models courtesy of Models International: Haley Bartlett, Thor Knai, Samantha Summers


VIDEO: Click here to go behind the scenes of our cover photo shoot.

INFOGRAPHIC: Click here to see the last orange groves in Orange County.


It's only during summer that table settings become cool, and it only happens at the Orange County Fair, which offers county residents the opportunity to create tablescapes (curse you, Sandra Lee, for that term's popularity) to be judged by etiquette mavens with levels and rulers. The nearly lost art of which glasses belong on which side of the plate and which forks are which get revived and interpreted through a breathtaking array of colors. The decorations are as creative—there was once a "Second Breakfast" table setting meant as an homage to the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—as the menus that accompany them are horrifying. The Orange County Fair at the Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa; www.ocfair.com. July 14-Aug. 15. Remember this information: We're only repeating it this once—and right at the top.


When the mercury heads into the upper 90s and Garden Grove Boulevard gets so hot the pavement shimmers, when the only sound in the afternoon is the humming of air-conditioning units, that's when it's naengmyeon time. Naengmyeon is a Korean dish made of cold buckwheat noodles with various toppings—slices of beef, a slice of Korean pear, half a hardboiled egg, vegetables—and it comes in two varieties, both of which beat the heat. Bibim naengmyeon (literally, "mixed buckwheat noodles") is mixed with a spicy sauce made of chile-spiked bean paste, which belies the cold temperature at which the dish is served; the resulting sweats could make anyone forget the heat of the day outside. If sweatin' to the chiles doesn't sound appealing, mul naengmyeon ("water buckwheat noodles") is offered as a huge, stainless-steel bowl of the chewy noodles served in broth so cold it should have ice chips floating in it. There's no meal more refreshing in the summer. Try the version at Morangak. The bizarre thing for a dish so perfectly suited for a blazing-hot summer is that it's traditionally a wintertime dish in North Korea, where it was invented. 9651 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-1177.


The Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade is famous (and famously long) and full of American flags. But in a subtle reminder that California's history doesn't only include the Stars and Stripes, the Colegio de Bachilleres Plantel Baja California in Mexicali come down Main Street every year in black uniforms with a giant Mexican flag. They're a great band and draw a lot of cheers, but in the years it hits 80 degrees before 10 a.m., those black uniforms must be punishing. Along Pacific Coast Highway from Eighth to Main streets, then up Main to Yorktown, Huntington Beach; www.hb4thofjuly.org. July 4, 10 a.m.


Summertime means fruit—and tons of it, from strawberries to plums, apricots to figs. It's hard to not splurge when the heady scent of fresh peaches invades the nostrils, but the penalty for overbuying is the heartbreak of moldy fruit a few days later. Learn to can your own fruit, and enjoy the taste of summer in bleak February. Canning is very popular in a down economy; nearly every grocery store and hardware store in Orange County carries a wide selection of supplies, including glass jars. Don't know how to get started? The Internet is a treasure trove, but several groups offer canning classes on an occasional basis—Google 'em! And if your local searching brings you to classes by Delilah Snell, significant other of our own Gustavo Arellano, well, tell her we said hi!


What do you get when you put tens of thousands of people in the Orange Circle? The unofficial end of summer in Orange County, the Orange International Street Fair. While the decorations are cheesy (imagine that, someone using a capital sigma for the Es in "GREEK") and the parking absolutely hellacious, the music is good, and the food from the organizations in the middle of the street are a cut above the usual festival food. Where else can you get Norwegian pastries and Swiss cervelas in OC? There's beer in plastic cups throughout, sit-down beer at three ends (at the brick-and-motor Bruery Provisions, Haven Gastropub and the District—you're on your own for the east side of Chapman), and more crafts and things to buy than any person ever needs. Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, Orange; orangestreetfair.org. Sept. 2-4.


Summer! Outdoor activities! And for those who aren't lucky enough to have an olive complexion, sunburn! Fortunately for the melanin-deficient, aloe vera grows wild just about everywhere in Orange County. Cut off a branch, split it in half, then rub it on the sunburn—ahhhh, sweet relief.


It seems like tourists and visitors to Laguna Beach in the summer follow a defined route. First, they head slowly down Coast Highway, necks craned, praying for a meter spot to open. Then, they pull hopefully into the lots that line Forest Avenue, only to be met by stern-faced security guards or unambiguous no-parking signs. Next, they cruise through the residential neighborhoods, long since lined with cars, and end up heading inland on Laguna Canyon Road before giving up altogether. Laguna Beach has done a good job in recent years of providing inland parking and free shuttles, but even that fills up on the more popular days at Pageant of the Masters and Art-A-Fair. Free tip: Bicycle parking is everywhere, and there are enough people biking Laguna Canyon and PCH that there's strength in numbers.


Orange County's august Bowers Museum always trots out the fascinating and odd during the summer months, and it has a beaut this time around. Anyone who had the misfortune of wading through Herman Melville's yarn Moby-Dick knows there are about 50 pages of profundity and about 50,000 more detailing the intricate details of life aboard a whaling vessel. A far-more-engaging exposure to at least one aspect of the whaler's life should be had in "Scrimshaw: The Art and Craft of the American Whaler." Scrimshaw is American folk art consisting of artifacts and implements created through the carving of whale teeth. Some 100 objects are included in this exhibit, ranging from tools fashioned from whale teeth used for mending clothes and ship sails to amazingly rendered images of pirates, ladies and whalers at work. There is also a selection of carved bone and ivory art produced by French prisoners of war confined to prison ships in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of these small wonders actually includes a working guillotine used to lop the heads from miniature figures. 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Through Sept. 30.


Vietnam's a famously hot and humid place, so they've adapted their caffeine intake to allow for a refreshing pause. Ca phe sua da, Vietnamese iced coffee with milk, is strong coffee (sometimes espresso) mixed in nearly equal parts with condensed milk, then poured over ice. Drink one, and the king-hell rush of sugar and caffeine will give you enough pep for hours. Drink two, and sit and jitter uncontrollably for an hour. The best places serve this cold concoction over chipped ice, which prolongs the consumption—and the caffeine high. Absolutely any Vietnamese café, sandwich shop or restaurant will serve it, and the going rate in Little Saigon is about two bucks a glass, with or without the near-naked flesh that gives the city fathers of Garden Grove such pause.


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Fullerton has a year-round farmers' market, renowned for its variety of Asian produce, near the DMV every Wednesday. But every Thursday night in summer, there's a smaller market downtown with a festival. Surf bands set the musical scene, street food pops up in tents in the plaza, and families wander through to buy strawberries, cherries and dinner. While there are fewer produce stalls, this is also OC's only farmers' market with a beer garden, located on the patio of the Fullerton Museum Center. Wilshire Avenue between Harbor Boulevard and Pomona Avenue, Fullerton. Every Thurs., 4-8:30 p.m. Through Oct. 27.


Want to meet the real Real Housewives? Head for Pavilions (22451 Antonio Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, 949-858-0164), where the trophy wives from tony Coto like to shop in their workout gear. Still not enough orange flesh? Head for the jogging track around Lago Santa Margarita and watch the silicone jiggle and broil in the sun.


OC has plenty of deep-sea fishing boats for hire, but fresh water for fishing is in short supply, which is why anglers who don't fancy trying for tuna head far, far inland to Irvine Lake. Because it's a private body of water, a California fishing license isn't needed, though there's a $22 admission fee and catch limits. Boats (motor and pontoon) and fishing equipment are available for rent, and kids get special prices. The water of the reservoir is clean enough for you to consider eating the catch, particularly if it's the prized extra-large sturgeons or catfish. (If you catch a fish larger than 20 pounds and get it verified, you get a free entry the next time.) Didn't catch anything? Drown those sorrows at the café—which you'd think would serve fish—in a pitcher of beer and a double cheeseburger. 4621 Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado, (714) 649-9111.


Where there are mountains, there are mountain bikers. While OC has a lot of single-track trails, none is as full of lore as those of Black Star Canyon, up in the mountains above Silverado. La Llorona, the Spanish-speaking (Spanish-screaming?) banshee with the head of a horse, is said to live in a well. Sadly, the well in question has been capped by the landowner, though there's an alarm that rings when hikers approach too closely. Farther into the canyon is an abandoned school bus that supposedly emits the screams of children by night, there's a squatter camp near the top that's occasionally occupied, and tales of Native American ghosts float around after the sudden bursts of wind to which the canyon is prone. During the day, hikers and bikers are most likely to encounter some of the canyon's famously ornery residents. Stay on the path, and you won't piss them off—and you don't want to piss them off. Parking and entrance are on Black Star Canyon Road, past the bridge over the wash, about a mile north of Silverado Canyon Road.


It's getting harder and harder to get back to the land in Orange County, but there are still patches of land planted with an array of fruits and vegetables, and nothing says summer like a little hard work followed by some great produce. Villa Romano Green Farms is an organic Italian farm on a hillside at the Bella Colina Golf Course above San Clemente. Fava beans, lettuces, chard, tomatoes and more spill down to the parking lot for the golf club, and every Thursday morning, owner Nic Romano seeks volunteers to help him work the land. Volunteers are put to work planting, transplanting, watering or—yes—weeding. Romano is the grandson of Italian immigrants and dreamed of trying to replicate the quality of the ingredients his grandparents remembered from Italy. He got his chance when the owners of the Bella Colina Golf Course invited him to use some unimproved land; the farm has expanded ever since, with fruit trees and the importation of San Marzano-type tomato plants. If volunteering at the farm is not a possibility for you, Romano runs an opt-in community-supported agriculture program on Saturday mornings. Buy a set of six ornate wooden discs for $150, then reserve a basket by Thursday for pickup on Saturday. Whatever's freshest goes into the basket, along with a big loaf of artisanal bread and maybe some honey or jam if they're available. Customers are sometimes handed a knife and told to harvest their own greens. Leftovers from the harvest are available at the Sweredoski Farms booth Saturday mornings at the Irvine farmers' market. 200 Avenida La Pata, San Clemente, (949) 697-0032; vrgreenfarms.com.


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OC has plenty of officially sanctioned fireworks displays on the Fourth of July—Huntington Beach's annual display on the pier is one of the largest—and five cities allow the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks (Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Stanton). But that doesn't stop people from bringing more powerful pyrotechnics back from Mexico—and then, in a fit of stunningly poor judgment, getting completely hammered before attempting to set them off. Seeing the inebriated attempt to figure out which of the three wiggling wicks to light is like watching a train wreck. Be a pal, and be someone's designated fireworks lighter. Or better yet, leave it to the pros.


It's 110 degrees in the shade and the recipient of all the smog the rest of Southern California generates—hello, Riverside! There's a reason the westbound 91 freeway remains a stifling, choking bottleneck on summer weekends, ya know. . . .


Hiking in backwoods Orange County is beautiful, but starting and ending in civilization is even better. The Tijeras Canyon Trail is a beautiful, easy, clear, well-marked trail that is the antidote to the crowded beach. It starts near the north gate of Coto de Caza, just off Antonio Parkway, and ascends gently along the west side of the community. Signs lead to the Westridge Trail, which runs along a fairly flat ridge. Hawks sail in the air, deer occasionally dart across your path, and the weather is moderated by the sea breezes that waft up the canyon. Bring a basket (shh, we won't tell about that bottle of wine or Thermos of cocktails) and use one of the clearings for a picnic lunch. Break the trail at Tesoro High School before it wanders too far inland.


Orange County's dozens of medicinal-marijuana dispensaries and the beautiful summer weather means you're never too far from a secondary high in the summer. Stock up on chips.


June through August in Anaheim, Buena Park and the beach cities means hordes of tourists cruising slowly and confusedly along Harbor, Beach or PCH. While it's tempting to give wrong directions ("Knott's Berry Farm? Oh, that's way up in LA"), it's better karma to rescue them from the horrors of the tourist traps that surround OC's signature attractions. After all, what did they do to deserve Captain Kidd's?


Is there anything they won't fry at the Orange County Fair? The Heart Attack Café booth is a place of pilgrimage for the young and high of metabolism. Deep-fried White Castle hamburgers are old hat, and deep-fried artichokes, though delicious, contain far too much vegetable matter to really be unhealthy. Last year, the café deep-fried butter by injecting it into churros, which it then fried. (Paula Deen's Seal of Buttery Approval was nowhere to be seen—the churros were a distraction.) It was paired with chocolate-covered bacon to make up the "Coronary Combo." And Chicken Charlie deep-fried Klondike Bars. This year's theme is "Let's Eat"—so yes, let's eat our year's allotment of saturated fat in one go.


Every commuter in Orange County knows exactly when school has let out. There's that halcyon moment when, upon entering the 5 or the 405 or the 55 for the slog to work with all the other white-collar drones, the hapless worker notices that things are much faster than usual. It takes a few moments for it to sink in—could it be? Is it true? Yes, school is out! People are on vacation, and this beatific state lasts just long enough for it to become the new normal. Unfortunately, 'tis but a transient state—people return in late August, and that first drive after Labor Day is soul-crushing. Enjoy the bliss while it lasts.


It's home-improvement time, and the lines at Home Depot stretching back to the window-and-door department pay testament to it. OC has two alternative home-improvement stores run by Habitat for Humanity Orange County. A special "Deconstruction" team gets invited to homes under renovation to remove the old equipment and refurbish it for sale. At Habitat ReStore, everything from kitchen cabinets to couches, garden furniture to French doors is for sale, with the profits going to fund the homes Habitat OC builds. 2200 Ritchey St., Santa Ana, (714) 434-6202; 12827 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 590-8729; restoreoc.org.


Is there a scene more stereotypically Orange County than surfers in the deep-blue waves, paddling out from a curved, sagebrush-lined beach? Park the car and hike over the railroad tracks, and even if the closest you get to a surfboard is the décor at Duke's, you can still soak up the sunshine and the atmosphere. Yes, technically, Trestles is in San Diego County, but it's as quintessentially OC as Newport Beach or Disneyland. The Transportation Corridor Agencies—better known as the toll-road pendejos—wants to put the south end of the 241 pretty much right at the famous surfing spot so badly it has resorted to scare tactics about traffic jams following a hypothetical incident at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (the giant concrete boobs south of San Clemente). In the meantime, though, dress warmly, go early and catch—or watch—some of the best waves in adopted OC.


Most Filipino festivals tend to skew nostalgic, with long masses asking for blessings on the folks back home, followed by a very long, very calorically dense feast. They're beautiful in their own way, but "rollicking good time" is not a phrase most people would use to describe them. Then there's the Kababayan Fest, for which 20,000 young Filipinos descend on Knott's Berry Farm for a day of concerts and Pinoy heritage interspersed with water rides and craziness. As the festival has grown, it has attracted bigger-name bands and sponsorship by GMA, the largest television network in the Philippines. Arriving by jeepney? Optional. Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. For festival info, visit kababayanfest.com. July 16.


Surfing outgrew its counterculture reputation some years ago, and nowhere is the mainstream appeal of the sport more evident than when the U.S. Open of Surfing descends on Huntington Beach Pier. Just as when the circus came to town in our parents' day, the skeleton scaffolding of the event rises early, alerting beachgoers and passersby that the week-long festival is coming, bringing with it some of the world's best surfers, vert-ramp skateboarding, daredevil motocross stunts and more free energy drinks than any mass of sun-drenched people should consume. We have more reason to attend and be heard this year: Local surf star (and onetime Weekly cover boy) Brett Simpson is the two-time defending champion. If you're willing to overlook the increased parking prices and lack of picturesque waves (little-known secret for non-surfers: summer isn't the best time for swells), you won't be alone—come the weekend, the beach will be blanketed with nearly 100,000 of your fellow surf-centric spectators. Huntington Beach Pier, at the end of Main Street, Huntington Beach; usopenofsurfing.com. July 30-Aug. 7.


If you're into somewhat-perplexing sports that resemble mainstream ones and don't mind spending a few hours under the sun with your eyes focused on the aquamarine waves breaking on the shore, we know where you need to be mid-July: Aliso Beach, on the south end of Laguna Beach, for the World Championships of Skimboarding. You should know the sport originated here, and the world's best skimmer, Bill Bryan, is a local. It essentially looks like surfing in reverse: Instead of paddling toward the shore to catch a wave, competitors begin on the shore and run toward the waterline. They'll drop a flat apparatus, hop on and skim across a thin layer of water toward the oncoming wave. What happens next depends on talent and improvisation—maybe a swooping turn or an aerial or maybe a little barrel. Aliso Beach Park, 31131 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach. For info on the World Championships of Skimboarding, visit wcs.victoriaskimboards.com. July 16-17.


Looking for a way to enhance your time on or near the beach? Here's an idea: booze. Whether that means sharing a bottle of wine with your significant other while watching the sunset, or nursing a couple of cold beers with your buddies while playing bocce ball on the sand, or throwing back a few shots of liquid courage just before braving heavy surf, booze has a wonderful array of uses. If you prefer to take the legal approach, you can always pull up a stool near the window at Mutt Lynch's (2300 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, 949-675-1556) or grab an oceanfront table at The Fisherman's Restaurant bar (611 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, 949-498-6390). Otherwise, stock up on paper bags, red cups or wine bladders, and go stealth.


On Saturday nights, as you near the OC Fairgrounds, there's no mistaking the location of the Costa Mesa Speedway nor the sight of mud-splattered clothes smelling of oil and nachos. With the 500cc motorcycles looping the oval track and the crowd reaching fever pitch, the conglomeration of sound carries far and wide. But the races are better seen than heard. When Charlie "The Edge" Venegas' No. 43 comes sliding around the final turn, with Josh Larsen on his outside and Shawn "Mad Dog" McConnell trying to slip inside for the late-race win, your gut can't decide whether it wants the close finish or a collision into the white walls. The best seats in the house are available to whoever gets there first, but be willing to endure what comes with getting up close and personal with motorcycles and the track. Leave the Derby hats and designer togs at home. www.costamesaspeedway.net.


Just picture it: You're slightly swaying with the rhythms of the train as it travels up the California coast. Minutes prior, you passed through Camp Pendleton, with miles of open land to the east and a view of the Pacific Ocean to the west. You're passing through the mostly residential Orange County suburbs, daydreaming about the memories to be made at your destination, when, out of the corner of your eye, you see one—and then another and another and another and another. It's a line of people, and they're bare-assed. The skin tones vary, as do the size and hair factor. Yes, it's the legendary Mooning of the Amtrak hosted by Mugs Away Saloon, going strong for more than 30 years and perhaps the only thing Laguna Niguel can boast of besides Break of Dawn for breakfast (and that's actually in Laguna Hills). People come from across the county, wanting and willing to share their backend (and only the backend! Show your private parts, and a kindly sheriff's deputy will cart you off) with knowing and unknowing Amtrak passengers. Yes, pictures are encouraged. Across from Mugs Away Saloon, 27324 Camino Capistrano, Ste. 102, Laguna Niguel. July 15.


No Orange County member of the Loyal Order of Moose is nominated for a national award this year (Pasadena's John Schacherl is on the Moose of the Year shortlist), but for seven glorious days, Anaheim will be the center of the Moose world. It's the first time in 32 years the fraternal brotherhood and sisterhood (which counts roughly 1.2 million members across the globe) of OC has hosted the International Moose Convention. What does it mean for most of us to have hundreds of Moose loose in Anaheim? Probably nothing, unless you work in a hotel or bar near the convention center. But consider for a moment the prestige: It's easy to mock those who would willingly call themselves a Moose in seriousness, but some big-time names have over the years, including both Roosevelt presidents, Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin and even Manute Bol. Plus, the fact this organization raises some $75 million for charity each year is high praise. Been meaning to join a fraternal organization, and those damn Masons won't accept you? This is the summer you learn their secrets. Anaheim Convention Center, 800 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 765-8950. For info on the 2011 International Moose Convention, visit www.moose2011anaheim.org. June 30-July 6.


You're not going to see rough-hewn punk or indie bands at Fullerton's series of Wednesday-evening concerts this year; instead, expect tribute bands including the Beatles-inspired HELP! and the Johnny Cash-infused the Mighty Cash Cats, country and classic-rock outfits, as well as the venerable blues stylings of the James Harman Band. It's a chill way to relax midweek: You can bring a picnic and watch other people's kids cavort. And unlike downtown Fullerton, where you can't swing a mace without hitting a cop on most nights, the po-po presence is very low-key at these mellow affairs. 560 E. Silver Pine, Fullerton. Every Wed., July 13-Aug. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.


Orange County's sole troupe devoted to classical works only mounts two shows each summer, but the combination of artistic director Tom Bradac's no-nonsense, no-frills approach toward Shakespeare and its impeccable outdoor venue, the Festival Amphitheater, make it one of the highlights of the balmy season. This year, Shakespeare Orange County stages The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and The Comedy of Errors. The first is awash in intrigue, blood, murder and suicide; the second is filled with mistaken identities, verbal repartee and enough cross-dressing to bring a smile to the face of Bugs Bunny. 12852 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 590-1575; www.shakespeareoc.org. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, July 7-23; The Comedy of Errors, Aug. 4-20.


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It has a title sponsor in Toshiba, but the behind-the-scenes work of this annual salute to old-time nautical vessels is at the Ocean Institute, an Orange County nonprofit that has carved a national reputation for its ecological and educational programs ranging from marine science to maritime history. File this one under the latter, as the kind of vessels you'll be gazing at during the Tall Ships Festival are the kind that traversed the oceans well more than a century ago. The ships sail into port Sept. 9 and take a collective cruise at sundown followed by mock cannon-battles the next two days. Saturday and Sunday also feature a nautical-themed festival, complete with a pirate encampment, a living-history demonstration, tours of the tall ships, and an arts-and-crafts show. Seven ships are expected to participate, including Dana Point's Pilgrim, a full-size replica of the hide brig that carried Richard Henry Dana on his landmark journey spelled out in OC's first reality show, Two Years Before the Mast. 24200 Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point, (949) 496-2274; www.ocean-institute.org. Sept. 9-11.


The July 1-3 series against that other Los Angeles team, the Dodgers, will obviously generate the most buzz—but it's no more important than a series against another mediocre-to-awful squad such as the Seattle Mariners, which wraps up the Angels' 10-game home stand before the All-Star Break. So save your ducats and attend one of the series that, more than likely, will determine which team from the limping American League West Division advances into the postseason. Those are against the Rangers, who, unless they've bolted out to a huge lead by the All-Star Break, should be the Halos' only serious in-house division competition. Oh, there's also a team from New York called the Yankees coming to Anaheim Sept. 9-11, but no one really follows the Yankees outside NYC, right? Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 2000 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, (714) 940-2000; www.losangelsangels.mlb.com. Angels vs. the Rangers, July 19-21, Aug. 15-18, Sept. 26-28.


Let's face it: St. Patrick's Day may be the biggest non-Cinco de Drinko boozing holiday of the year, but outside of puking up your corned beef and cabbage, it's hard to get a real feel for Irish culture. Far more culturally inclusive is the massive Irish Fair, which organizers claim is the largest in the western United States. It's filled with music, dance, food and wares from or greatly inspired by the Emerald Isle, including sets from the Young Dubliners and the Fenians, harp and bagpipe concerts, Irish football and hurling demonstrations, an Irish Grand Parade, an Irish dog show, and even a sheepherding demonstration. And here's something really interesting: On Sunday, church services are held at 10 a.m. The Roman Catholics do their thing in the Shamrock Bowl, while the Protestants get theirs on an island in the middle of a lake. Hmm . . . Irvine Meadows, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine; www.irishfair.org. June 18-19. $12-$18.


It's easy to confuse the three festivals that clog up Laguna Beach's insanely packed roads in the summer, but here's the skinny. The Pageant of the Masters, while well-known for its rather insane live re-creations of classical art pieces, actually began 75 years ago as a juried art show, which it remains; this year, some 160 pieces will be judged. Right across the street is the Sawdust Festival, founded in 1965 in large part as a protest against the aforementioned juried system. Only Laguna Beach residents exhibit in this show, and you can stroll the grounds and see them actually creating their works, which range in media from blown glass and wooden sculpture to jewelry and surfboard design. It also features three stages and strolling entertainers. Finally, Art-A-Fair, which also started 45 years ago, is a scaled-down combination of the first two. It's a juried art show that allows non-residents to exhibit, and you can also watch the artists at work. Pageant of the Masters, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-1145; www.foepa.com. July 7-Aug. 31. Sawdust Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3030; www.sawdustartfestival.org. June 24-Aug. 28. Art-a-Fair, 77 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-4514; www.art-a-fair.com. June 24-Aug. 28.


Summer in OC means never having to check the weather forecast—sunny and warm for months at a time. In other words, perfect bicycling weather. OC has dozens of off-road bicycle paths, but the king of all of them is the Santa Ana River Trail, a 32-mile path that runs from the Green River exit on the 91 in Corona to the beach at the Huntington Beach/Newport Beach border, completely separated from traffic for all but half a mile and recently resealed and re-striped for much of its length. The path passes under the roads that cross it, which is enough to give new riders a little workout. Just be careful out there—it's popular with runners, walkers and families teaching children to ride bicycles in a safe environment. And for advanced riders, the Riverside Bicycle Club sponsors the annual Riverside to Surfside bike ride (formerly—and more funnily—known as the Smog to Surf) from the La Sierra Metrolink station to Huntington Beach. riversidebicycleclub.com.


It hasn't exactly put La Habra on the cultural map, and it's not as if the city is renowned for its maize, but since its start in 1949, the La Habra Corn Festival has evolved into the city's largest community event. (Hell, it might be the city's only community event other than watching La Habra High slay whichever poor saps face off against them on the football field—but that's fall.) Founded and sponsored by the Lions Club, the idea was to lure transplanted Midwesterners who flocked to Long Beach and OC in the 1930s and 1940s by offering butter-rich corn on the cob. Apparently, corn is like crack to Midwesterners. The one-day event has turned into a weekend fest with carnival rides, food and drink vendors, a raffle drawing for a new car, and a Saturday-morning parade. And, of course, there's the official mascot, Corney the Lion. El Centro Lions Park, between Orange and Cypress streets, La Habra, (562) 691-3482; www.lahabracornfestival.com. Aug. 5-7.


This is a San Clemente Chamber of Commerce-sponsored affair, so it might not be the best bang for your buck, especially if the sole idea is to drum up business at authentic street-fair cost. It's been going on for 58 years, however, and organizers anticipate 25,000 attendees this year, so something must be going on. On the surface, the San Clemente Fiesta Street Festival doesn't seem that different from most street fairs: live entertainment, an arts-and-crafts show, stuff for kids, and a classic car and Harley-Davidson motorcycle show. But this one catches the eye: a "salsa challenge," in which individuals and restaurants create flavorful concoctions to be judged. Teams are encouraged to dress up in sombreros, ponchos and huaraches, which is either a well-thought nod to culture south of the border or impossibly bad taste. Avenida del Mar, San Clemente; www.scchamber.com. Aug. 14, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Free.


If you're looking for a place to really let loose, Catalina Island's usually not on the top of the list. Lodging is ridiculously expensive for what you get (but hey, you're a captive audience, so how can you complain?), you can see the entire town of Avalon in about 20 minutes, and worst of all, you have to take a boat or ship to get there—unless you want to brave the frighteningly small landing strip on top of a mountain. But Catalina always beckons, whether to impress a new squeeze or wow the folks from Iowa. There are some 25 spots on the main strip to eat or get your drink on. There's also snorkeling, scuba diving, a zip line, glass-bottom boats, parasailing, jet-skiing and guided Jeep tours of the back country (non-tour cars are not allowed on the island). And the island has been in the news the past couple of months: Endangered bald eagles are slowly making a comeback to the island, and 1,500 pounds of pot was found on a small boat listing in an island cove. Two Orange County locations transport passengers to the island: the Catalina Express (www.catalinaexpress.com) from Dana Point, and the Catalina Flyer (www.catalinainfo.com) from Newport Beach.


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Every summer, there wasn't a bigger or better outdoor party in Southern California than the Long Beach Blues Festival. Organized by one of the country's premier jazz-and-blues stations, KKJZ-FM 88.1 (formerly KLON), and housed on a massive field at Cal State Long Beach, it was two, sometimes three days of sweaty, sticky, utterly unpretentious Labor Day weekend-carnival fun. Just beer, booze and blues, with more than a few cases of heat stroke and dehydration tossed in. In 2007, the fest left the university after 27 years for the more high-profile Rainbow Lagoon. And then the economy bit the festival's ass. Last year, it was scaled back to one night with four acts and rechristened Blues Bash. That's what it looks like this year, too, although prices and acts are yet to be determined. It's a far cry from years when B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Etta James headlined, but it should still be a good one-night party—even if it is indoors. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Cal State Long Beach, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, (562) 985-7000; www.jazzandblues.org. Sept. 3.


For an up-close and somewhat personal look at the blue whale, the largest animal ever known to exist, take advantage of one of the four whale-cruise operators that leave from Orange County ports. Summer is when blue whales like to chow, and it's not uncommon to see one off the Southern California coast en route to its feeding grounds in colder waters up north. Summer is also a great time to see common, bottlenose and Risso's dolphins, as well as minke and fin whales. What's the best cruise to take? Scan them on the Internet, and they all seem stellar. But Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari is the only operator exclusively mammal-oriented. Its high-tech catamaran comes equipped with underwater-viewing equipment, as well as an X-pod that allows passengers to communicate with dolphins and whales. (Those mammals must have an awesome cell-phone provider.) 24440 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, (949) 488-2628; www.dolphinsafari.com. Every Sat. Call for departure times. June-August. $55-$89.


It's the best season to bring out the sails and motor, and there are several places along Orange County's coastline that'll teach you the ropes. But the United States Sailing Center in Long Beach deserves special mention. It not only teaches adults how to sail, but it also offers a boatload of summer sailing camps for inner-city kids, as well as classes for disabled and blind people. The end goal for the center's high-school and kid sailing programs is to groom the next generation of U.S. Olympians, but the goal of the center's Disabled Sailing Association is more heartfelt: to give physically disabled people the chance to experience the ocean just like anyone else. A club in Long Beach, Access to Sailing (accesstosailing.org), and another in Newport Beach, Sailing Fascination (www.sailingfascination.org), offer similar programs for the disabled. 5689 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 433-7939; www.ussclb.org.


You wouldn't know it from driving down Interstate 5, but the whole southern half of Orange County was unspoiled ranch land as recently as the 1950s. But there's a 23,000-acre chunk of land owned by one branch or other of the O'Neills, Moisos or Averys since 1882 that has kept alive the old cattle tradition. It's also the site of the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, a two-day extravaganza sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that features everything from bareback and saddled bronc riding to steer wrestling and tie-down roping. Though it may drive PETA's true believers into a conniption, it's a real live, professional rodeo with a $200,000 purse, which, organizers claim, makes it the most lucrative two-day rodeo in the country. Oaks Blenheim Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, corner of Ortega Highway and Antonio Parkway/La Pata, San Juan Capistrano; www.rmvrodeo.com. Aug. 27-28. $20.


Got a hankering to get a closer look at a pinniped? How about a cetacean? You can do so at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), a Laguna Beach institution that rescues, rehabilitates and releases stranded mammals. Depending on which animals are being housed at any given time, you might see northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals and California sea lions. And on a rare occasion, you might even see a small whale or dolphin, since the PMMC is the only temporary holding facility for those wounded or beached mammals between Santa Barbara and San Diego. The nonprofit organization is open to the public every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and even though saving injured and sick animals is its main cause, educating the public about the fragile interface between earth and sea is also a critical function. 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3050; www.pacificmmc.org. Free.


There are many artwalks across Orange County, and even though it's a little whitewashed and the artwork features lots of palm trees and fruit bowls, you can't beat the setting and the vibrations that come with Laguna Beach's summer version. PCH-adjacent, the First Thursdays at Laguna Artwalk features more than 40 member galleries, some of which serve wine and finger foods while patrons ponder the meaning of early Impressionist landscapes of California and the mixed-media paintings of Vladimir Sokolov. Hey, the air is salty, the sun is warm, and the beachgoers are scantily clad. For more info, visit www.firstthursdaysartwalk.com.


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Orange County beaches often have one of two things going for them: good breaks for surfing (think Newport's 56th Street) or beautiful scenery (Laguna, Corona del Mar). Compared to these, Seal Beach can be a little outclassed. But what it does have going for it is its downtown bar scene, which, thanks to spots such as 320 Main, is a far cry from the bro-heavy watering holes of Huntington Beach. Located within walking distance of the blue Pacific, 320 Main takes mixology to new heights with delightfully sweet gin concoctions such as the Yuzu Blossom or the refreshing lime-meets-vodka goodness of the Moscow Mule. Sipping one of these tasty concoctions is the perfect method for washing sand from your teeth or taking the edge off a morning spent digging stingray barbs from your feet. 320 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 799-6246; www.320mainsealbeach.com.


If you live in North County, we're sorry, but there are going to be some hot days ahead. Luckily, there is plenty of alcohol available to help one cope with boredom and dread thanks to downtown Fullerton. For an optimal sipping experience, check out Matador Cantina in the daytime, when bartenders can put a little more love into their mixology for one of their lovingly crafted cocktails. Matador is one of those rare watering holes that takes a little pride in what it makes—as opposed to dumping a bunch of tequila over a pile of sugar. We recommend an Old Fashioned made with rye whiskey, focusing on flavor, with aromatic bitters added to muddled sugar along with a cherry. And for the pièce de résistance, they'll use a match to gently roast the peel of an orange, releasing its citrusy essence. Sip slowly. Taste the love. 111 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 871-8226; www.thematador.com.


Shut down for nearly 20 years due to NIMBYers, the Pacific Amphitheater now roars every summer with concerts that range from retreads to intriguing, and the happy medium this year is Sublime With Rome. Even if you're a Sublime purist and feel no one, no matter how talented, can fill the shoes of the late, great Bradley Nowell, you can't beat Sublime With Rome after a day at the fair. Take it from us: We were at their show last summer, and the young front man got as close as anyone on this planet can to (probably) channeling the late axeman, who died of a heroin overdose in a San Francisco hotel room 15 years ago—and is it just us or total circle-of-life that Rome is from the Bay Area? It's heartening to see throngs of people, many of whom were in diapers at the time of Nowell's death, enjoying the spot-on vocals and note-for-note guitar work. The Pacific Amphitheater comes to life with the sight of people dancing in the rows, blowing bubbles and pungent smoke, a reminder of what might have been, as well as what we've got.


Maybe you've had an encounter with stingrays somewhere around Orange County—perhaps the Seal Beach Pier area? It probably wasn't a pleasant meeting; perhaps it even spawned a grudge toward these graceful cartilaginous critters. But don't hold onto resentments; they're as poisonous as the ray's barb. Sidle up to the shark lagoon petting tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific for some therapeutic touching and tender forgiveness. Here, under the kiss of the summer sun and sweet embrace of cool ocean breezes, you can interact with zebra, bamboo and epaulette sharks in addition to the dreaded stingrays. Just remember to use two fingers at all times—we don't want to incur any more resentments. 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 590-3100; www.aquariumofpacific.org.


It's odd to think there were times when ferries were common, but the fact that we have a small fleet of ferries operating continuously since 1919 that is capable of hauling cargo from the tiniest child to a 5,000-pound SUV is remarkable. Sadly, with all the roads in the area, the Balboa Island Ferry is more novelty than necessity, but don't miss an opportunity during this season to grab a loved one just before dusk to make the jaunt. Enjoy the blue-tipped steeple of the Balboa Pavilion bathed in the orange glow of the setting sun as the smell of salty air mixes with wafting corn dogs from the Fun Zone and diesel fuel from the watercraft. 410 S. Bay Front, Newport Beach.


If you're the type of person who gives credence to bloggers and other trend watchers, it seems we may be at a tipping point for the independent status of mobile cuisine. With hordes of imitators getting in on the action—even Jack In the Box now has a luxe lonchera—the culinary gene pool is primed to be diluted, and requisite police crackdowns are sure to ensue. But like the sunset at day's end, summer is a magic hour for the hipster food armada. Go hunt down your favorite bacon-topped delight when it tweets an upcoming visit to a saloon in HB, or take advantage of the ever-expanding bubble and spend a warm Friday evening in the parking lot of the Best Buy at Imperial Highway and Harbor Boulevard in La Habra, where dozens of trucks gather in the evening. Do it now, as this won't last forever.


Those who grew up in the pre-CSI era of late 1970s and '80s know there was only one forensic specialist qualified to fight crime: Quincy, M.E., as played by Jack Klugman. He was a science nerd, older than Marg Helgenberger, and when he wasn't cutting up corpses, he was living the life of a swinging bachelor on his boat in Marina del Rey. Sad to say, most of us won't ever make the kind of money necessary to throw away on the maintenance and purchase of a seafaring vessel, let alone adopt a lifestyle anchorless enough to facilitate life on the deep. Luckily, Dockside Boat & Bed offers the opportunity to spend a night in the salt air. Located in Rainbow Harbor, its yachts feature views of the lighthouse, the smokestacks of the Queen Mary and the occasional bark of a sea lion. Wanna get laid with minimal effort? Take your date aboard "your" yacht, and see what happens. 316 E. Shoreline Dr., Long Beach, (562) 436-3111; www.boatandbed.com.


Typically, when one hears of a facility being run by the county, it conjures images of utilitarian architecture and bleak thrills, if any. This imagery doesn't apply to the Orange County Zoo, which is simply, inconceivably wonderful. Though it's much smaller than its Los Angeles-run counterpart, it has a few distinct advantages. Its smaller size and reduced notoriety means both lighter crowds and intimate views of the animals, and there are some good ones here. There are two large black bears and a puma among a respectable menagerie of owls, hawks, beavers and raccoons. And these last critters have figured out how to direct streams of water at nearby patrons from the jets flowing in their enclosures, so watch yourself. Irvine Regional Park, 1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange, (714) 973-6847; www.ocparks.org/oczoo.


Remember the scene in Pee-wee's Big Adventure in which he walks into the biker bar and does that wacky dance to the song "Tequila"? Okay, so Cook's Corner didn't serve as the locale for that scene, but it might as well have. It's one of the largest bike-enthusiast enclaves in Southern California, located in the heart of an area offering mountain biking, hiking and camping, which guarantees a crowd of ruffians and weirdos. In 1946, owner E.J. Cook bought a mess hall from the Santa Ana Army Air Base, and the spot has changed little since. Enjoy nature and do some people-watching while hoisting a PBR or Fat Tire Ale, and be sure to check out the live music on its large dining patio. But be careful when walking around: There are rows and rows of expensive-looking hogs outside, and you wouldn't want to bump into one and set off a cinematic, domino-style reaction. There are lots of secluded spots nearby to dump a body. . . . 19152 Santiago Canyon Rd., Trabuco Canyon, (949) 858-0266; www.cookscorner.com.


Be forewarned that mountain biking in the Santiago wilderness carries inherent dangers, including encounters with vicious wild life, the miscalculation of trail size in relation to precipitous drop-offs, as well as the threat of dehydration. Of course, it's easiest to control the last of these perils by going on a night ride. And fewer trails in Orange County so perfectly offer you the combined thrill of isolation, connection with nature and glittering vistas as The Luge. Drive up to the base of the Santa Ana Mountains, hitch your gas guzzler to a post near Cook's Corner and make your way up Santiago Canyon Road. Steep asphalt streets give way to a dusty, rocky single track surrounded by sagebrush, yucca, California lilacs and buckwheat. Because of climate conditions, some wildflowers will still be present as late as July. Metropolises from Los Angeles to South County glitter below, while the massive, imposing silhouette of Santiago Peak lurks behind in the inky blackness. Planted at the top of the trail is a large American flag maintained by a few dedicated volunteers; this landmark signals the final stretch of the journey—a gnarly, downhill single track flanked by some steep cliffs. Of course, since it's at night, all you'll see is the encroaching darkness looming beyond the reach of your puny bike light.


If John Wayne remains our idol, then all of us must learn how to ride a horse. Don't know how to mount a steed, city slicker? Head over to Country Trails and Riding School at Irvine Regional Park, where a young-but-intuitive group of guides is ready to meet you at your skill level. There's a menagerie of well-behaved horses to take you through stands of oak trees surrounded by rolling hillsides. Go early enough in the summer, and you can trot through an idyllic meadow brimming with fennel, a component of black licorice and an alluring equine treat. For more info, visit ctriding.com.


The Bruery
has only been around for a couple of years, and there's a plug for it elsewhere in this issue, and there was that recent cover story—but still, we can't resist it. In the same vein as the Kogi BBQ truck, the Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel is a first-rate example of the wonders that happen when East meets West, with rice and Thai basil giving the Belgian-style brew a great twist. After the thick head settles, this summer-brewed ale serves as an addictively sippable ale and packs an 8 percent alcohol-per-volume punch. The Placentia-based brewery says this tripel is "made for a lazy summer evening," but we wish the brewmasters would add it to the year-round arsenal of fine craft beers. 715 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 996-6258; www.thebruery.com.


Oh, to be a grunion. First, the poor fish are subject to voyeuristic humans watching them have sex on the beach. As if the privacy invasion wasn't bad enough, the female totally gets the short end of the stick in the mating department; after she swims up to the shore and releases her eggs into the sand, the guy fish swims up and releases his milt all over her. And up to eight guy fish will do this before bailing back into the ocean: RUDE! After it's all over, people will catch them and eat them. If this sounds like something you'd like to see for yourself, mating season stretches from March to early August. It's an OC summer tradition as hallowed as Hootenany. The best beach varies each season, but Huntington and Doheny are two of the most popular locations. Check out www.dfa.ca.gov to see a list of expected dates for the grunion runs.


The soundtrack to any park in the more-urban parts of OC (read: Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove) is children playing, soccer games and the incessant honking of bicycle horns announcing the arrival of roving snack peddlers. Ever wonder what's in those wooden carts? Some of them have duritos (fried wheat crisps) and the chips-and-hot-sauce concoction called tostilocos; some have raspados (snowcone-like flavored ices) and the fermented-masa drink called tejuino. And the best ones of all have elotes—corn on the cob, either grilled or boiled. Americans eat elotes (also called ezquites) with butter and salt; Mexicans usually prefer them slathered with crema or mayonnaise, then sprinkled with chile powder. If you prefer your street food to come in a more transparent vehicle, just about every corner in downtown Santa Ana hosts a fruit cart, from which you can buy a big container of pineapple, mango, melon, cucumber and jicama for less than $5. Don't forget the lime, chile and salt.


Bolsa Chica
, the wetlands north of Huntington Beach, almost didn't exist. The habitat for endangered fish and birds was slated for oil drilling, then tract homes, but in a move that would make the California Coastal Commission proud, conservationists in the area banded together and sued to stop any development. After a lengthy restoration that ended just five years ago, tidal waters started to flow into the lagoon for the first time in a century. Take one of the free tours by the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy or the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, or just wander the footbridge and the Mesa Trail, then marvel at the forces of NIMBYism used for good.


Though it used to be a temporary stop for sailors taking leave of the rigors of war, The Pike now shares more in common with such super-malls as the Block at Orange than the midway at Coney Island. Wooden coasters such as the Cyclone Racer and the Romanesque splendor of the Plunge bathhouse gave way to the big-box bawdiness of Hooters and Borders Books. Sometimes, you need to find a way to rise above the gentrification, and luckily, the Pike has a top-shelf Ferris wheel to help. In its semi-enclosed gondolas, the wheel offers dizzying views of the bustling city and harbor below. Enjoy a smooch from the ocean's breeze while making out with your significant other, but be sure to glance to the south for a sweeping panorama of the Queen Mary, Grand Romance riverboat and Rainbow Harbor Lighthouse set against the industrialized splendor of rows of towering cranes. 95 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 432-8325; www.thepikeatlongbeach.com.


While Orange County no longer has any drive-in movie theaters, Dana Point sponsors free, outdoor, kid-friendly screenings at Lantern Bay Park every Friday in June at 8 p.m. This year's selections: How to Train Your Dragon, Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Shrek Forever After and Despicable Me. Let's hope enough people attend them to make it a longer-lasting summer pastime. The movies are free, so you don't need to sneak the kids in by shutting them in the trunk like you used to sneak your little brother into the Orange Drive-In. . . . 25111 Park Lantern Rd., Dana Point; danapoint.org/recreation.


Yes, there's an amphitheater in Anaheim, and no, it isn't called the City National Grove. Anaheim's Pearson Park hosts local and imported talent all season for its "Summer Nights Under the Stars" series at its 1930s-era edifice. The Hollywood Bowl it's not, but it's a good place to picnic and listen to music or watch a dance troupe. The performances are split into family events, programs aimed at "young adults" and special-guest artists. While the Anaheim Ballet, the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest and the Fenian Irish troupe will draw crowds, the most popular event this season will undoubtedly be the outstanding Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. 401 N. Lemon St., Anaheim, (714)-765-5274; anaheim.net/pearsontheatre.


Italians invented the expression la dolce far niente and perfected the art of pleasant downtime during their hot summers with the idea of sitting in a cool wine cellar while chatting and tasting wine. Though languid Tuscan olive groves and ancient stone terraces are in short supply in the county, wine tasting is not, and our very own wine cellar is at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa. The ground floor holds all the liquor (including an aisle of tequilas and mezcales unrivaled for 40 miles in any direction), and the upper floor is overflow; there's a huge wine cellar underground, with a tasting room and wine bar right up front. Organized tastings of eight to 10 wines, often from a single distributor, are typically $20 to $25, or there's a self-service vacuum system operated by purchasing a card at the wine bar. If you're hungry, cheese and charcuterie are sold upstairs; just buy what you want at the registers and take them downstairs. 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; hitimewine.net.


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Like a drunk dude smashing full-speed through a sliding glass door, each August, the Earth slams through shards of what once was the comet Swift-Tuttle. Unlike the result of a drunken encounter with a wall of glass, the debris of the defunct comet is actually no bigger than a piece of sand. Small but mighty, these remnants put on a fantastic light show in the sky as they burn through our planet's atmosphere; you've probably heard of it under its more-popular name: the Perseid meteor shower. Many skygazers trek out to the desert to escape the light pollution of our county, but if you want to stay local, head up to Silverado Canyon. Or if you are feeling daring, travel a little farther into the infamous Black Star Canyon. Peak viewing this year of the most vivid meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere is on Aug. 12 and 13. The show begins at 9:30 p.m., but the activity increases between midnight and dawn.


From rickety carnival rides to winning giant stuffed SpongeBobs by shooting water into a small hole, the OC Fair makes you feel like a kid again. Perhaps what brings one back the most are the animals of Centennial Farms and the petting zoo. Bask in your newfound immaturity by giggling at mating or defecating farm animals. Or warm your heart by cradling newly hatched, ridiculously soft chicks. Observe the pigs that seemingly never move throughout the two months of the fair, as well as the piglets that step all over one another and their mom to get milk. Call the runt Wilbur. Go into the goat corral cautiously—any loose clothing may get chewed on.


While families have a gay old time at Surf City's Fourth of July parade, the rest of the city transforms into Moe's Tavern, a mass of stumbling, bumbling yokels that thinks the best way to celebrate our country's independence is by barfing on other people's lawns. Unfortunately, that provokes the Huntington Beach Police Department—which, on a normal day, is already one of the most baton-friendly batches of boys in blue in OC—to arrest or detain anyone even standing next to a can of Bud. Really, there's no reason to head down to HB that day—but the allure of the beach, the revelry, the babes and the bros makes Huntington Beach our collective charging station for the summer, the alcoholic jolt that pushes us through the rest of the season. That's not a bottle of beer in my hand, officer; it's a container of FUN!


Cars were never meant for the narrow alleys and streets of the already-narrow Balboa Peninsula, which makes it an ideal place to ride a bike to get from Point A to the beach. But Balboa demands a specific bicycle: not the fixed-gear ones favored by hipsters or mountain bikes, but the classic beach cruiser, the sleek machine with curves like the kind Detroit used to make. It doesn't go fast—the better to take in the sand and scents of the Peninsula. And in case you forgot yours or stupidly sold it as a teen, thinking you'd never need a bike again after buying that old Honda from your cousin, Newport Cruisers rents and sells the jewels at reasonable prices. 2233 W. Balboa Blvd., Ste. 105, Newport Beach, (949) 675-5010; www.newportcruisers.com.


Sure, it's a cliché—but what a cliché! Whether driving a VW Bus or Camry, a convertible Cadillac or Jeep, our stretch of Pacific Coast Highway takes us from the small-town feel of San Clemente to the cliffs of Laguna, the ritziness of Corona del Mar to the new resorts of Huntington Beach, and back to the small-town feel in Seal Beach. And guiding you is the ocean, the gleaming beacon of the season. Now, if only all those damn tourists would leave so we could find someplace to park. . . .


Summer brings out the amateur architect in everyone with sand castles: the careful sculpting of granules, the slow mixing of water to create a hard base upon which to build a single, puny tower that collapses onto itself after about five minutes. When you're ready to be a bit more of a pro, contact Ray Karch. The lawyer by day is an award-winning sandcastle builder who can create anything from a sandman to Shrek, from the Capitol building to Star Wars palaces. And better yet: Karch is a magician who's a member of the world-famous Magic Castle. Ask him to make the sun disappear, and you'll be surprised at what he can do. For more info on Ray Karch, visit castlesbykarch.com.


You don't have to be Christian or even believe in Jesus to be awed by the tens of thousands of people who flock every August to Angel Stadium to get some old-time religion via testimonials, bands, skateboarding and salvation. The Harvest Crusade's stickers are as ubiquitous in Orange County as Fox Head decals and begin sprouting in early June like poppies did for a previous generation of Californians. Sure, Pastor Greg Laurie (disciple of Calvary Chapel honcho Chuck Smith) has politics a tad more conservative than ours, and the events inevitably turn into political rallies for whatever's in the crosshairs of the culture wars that particular year (yesterday, abortion; today, gay marriage; tomorrow . . . Hollyweird?), but there's a certain power in seeing masses sway in unison and accepting a Palestinian as their savior on balmy August nights. And the Harvest protestors—never liberals, always conservative Christians who find Laurie heretical for reasons only the most avid students of antinomianism can explain—are always a hoot. For more info on the 2011 Harvest Crusade, visit harvest.org. Aug. 12-14.


While Orange County's 1.2 million Catholics usually spend Sunday summer mornings in the pews, sweating while accepting without question the sermons of possible pedophile-protecting priests, some of the truest Papists spend the Lord's Day with the secular saints at Isaiah House, the base for the Orange County Catholic Worker. There's no air conditioning in the historic home that houses it, and the back yard is all concrete, radiating the sun's rays, but the atmosphere is relaxing, even holy. Those in need stop by for some breakfast, sing along to musicians who donate their time, or sit down in the Catholic Worker's makeshift library to read everything from the Good Book to comics. There's always a steady stream of volunteers who make food or drop off clothes or supplies—but it's never enough. Summer fun is OC's religion, but don't forget the least among ustedes—good karma, you know? 316 S. Cypress Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 835-6304; www.occatholicworker.org.


The California Coastal Act guarantees that all of us have access to the state's beaches, but that hasn't stopped the rich and mighty from doing their damnedest to keep us away from the coves that pertain to their cliffs of paradise. And while it's nigh-impossible to slip into Emerald Bay without earning seven figures, it's still a summer rite of passage to park somewhere in Laguna Beach, head toward the houses on the shoreline, find the staircase these houses must provide to the public to guarantee access—but which they hide behind doors and brushes—and traipse down to enjoy the crowd-free surf and sand. Of course, the homeowners will scream at you and threaten to call the police, but remind them of the Coastal Act and offer them some beer. And if that doesn't work? Call your friends over—it is our coast, after all.


For decades, Latino Orange County has spent its verano in downtown Santa Ana, strolling down Fourth Street and its dozens of restaurants, quinceañera shops and beauty salons and finding relief with the mango ladies who sell snacks, aguas frescas and other cooling treats. But it's a bucolic scene whose days are numbered. The landlords who own the historic buildings on la Cuatro are actively trying to push out Latino tenants in favor of hipsters, and the Santa Ana City Council is proposing pushing through a trolley that would eliminate nearly all foot traffic in the area. Enjoy this slice of la naranja while it lasts, as this just might be the last summer it's around.


Wild Rivers
was always the Lenny to Raging Waters' George, the slow-witted, always-lagging, lesser of Southern California's water parks, but it was our water park, damn it. Its days were always numbered, given that it sat on prime land owned by the ever-developing Irvine Co., but we always took it for granted, assuming it would last forever, its many slides always filled with shrieking kids, its benches sat upon by bored adults and flirting teens, its pools forever heavily chlorinated and chilled just a bit south of comfort. Unfortunately, this summer is the last, folks: Wild Rivers announced it's closing in the fall, and the Irvine Co. will replace it with nearly 2,000 apartments—because we don't nearly have enough of them here. There are no current plans for Wild Rivers to reopen anywhere in Orange County, so slip 'n' slide here until the bitter end on Oct. 2. 8770 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 788-0808; www.wildrivers.com.


Don't believe the doom and gloom coming from Mexico—it's only Juarez that has become a nightmare scenario. Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada—our birthright weekend spots when the Huntington Beach crowds prove too much and we get the urge to have bottomless cocktails for the price of a $6 burger? As safe as they've ever been, if not more so considering the Baja California and Mexican governments are desperate to restart the tourism industry after years of precipitous decline. Do yourself a favor and get reacquainted with an old amigo—and bring a couple of extra bucks to bribe the federales, though not as much as before! They're friendly now, you know?


The beach opens at 6 a.m., so assuming it's a bright, sunny weekend, you probably want to show up early, pay the $15 entrance fee and drive all the way down to the southern edge of Doheny State Beach, past the camping, over the bridge, to a parking spot that allows you to open your car's rear hatch and dump that firewood right into the pit. Marshmallows not included. 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point.


Orange County has more than its share of prime surfing breaks, but most are too saturated with haoles for comfort. All true locals have their secret spot, but we'll share ours without giving it away too easily: It's near a large cliff south of Corona del Mar. The sands here used to serve as the foundation for an enclave of mobile homes. It rarely breaks. The fickle nature of this spot is due to its need for a south swell, something that occurs most frequently in the summer. But when the planets align, things get gnarly. An online article written last year for Surfer Magazine described the spot as producing "epic, gaping barrels." We've seen photos provided by Weekly employees of folks dropping down massive left-peeling faces chased by raging walls of foam. But the waves themselves may not be the most dangerous thing here; this is a point break, and a pecking order is enforced.


Look, Ma—that surfboard snapped in half! Entertaining your kids is easy when you bring them to Newport Beach's famous Wedge for a fun day of surf spectatorship. Check the swell forecast, and choose a day when your patience is likely to be rewarded with spectacular wipeouts, as surfers of both the board and body varieties risk life and limb for your amusement and their adrenalin needs. On Channel Road and East Ocean Front, Newport Beach.


There's something about the air just east of the Belmont Veterans' Pier in Long Beach . . . oh yeah—it blows. For that reason, it's the best spot in the region to watch kite surfers ride the whitecaps just offshore. The wind picks up in the early afternoon—bring binoculars to check out the daredevils near the breakwater. Most important, bring a kid with a kite. 15 39th Place, Long Beach.

Drive down Pacific Coast Highway from Newport Beach until you see the sign for Crystal Cove parking. Take the shuttle bus, or hike down to the beach, and spend the day playing in the sand. After nightfall, turn on your flashlight and head to the right of the Beachcomber Restaurant, walking down the beach and looking up at all the abandoned historic beach cottages on the hillside. Shine your light onto the empty structures. Then turn off the light. It's as spooky as Scooby-Doo! 8471 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach.


If you like your fish fresh, and by fresh, we mean fresh-off-the-hook-and-straight-onto-your-lunch-plate fresh, drive across the Vincent Thomas and Gerald Desmond bridges from Long Beach into San Pedro, then hang a left down Harbor Boulevard to Nagoya Way. At the end of the road is the San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant. Buy a pescado, take it to the outdoor frying station, and then rip that sucker apart with your fingers. Good luck eating the whole thing, though; a better bet is to take the carcass home and use the leftovers for a few days' worth of fish tacos. 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro.


You need not fear Southern California summers if you have vampiric tendencies. Those who don't fare well in the signature Orange County rays can stroll into the powerhouse of air conditioning, the ice-skating rink. Take up hockey, figure skating or curling, or just rent a pair of moldy skates and putter around the rink while you count down the days to the cool relief of autumn. One of the best places to do it is The Rinks' Anaheim ICE (which Anaheimers will always call Disney ICE, just like they call the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim you-know-what). Anaheim Ducks fans who are pining for the return of hockey season can relish in knowing they are falling on the same block of ice on which Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry hone their craft. 300 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-7465; www.anaheimice.com.


If you've yet to experience Hootenanny in the flesh, then you're as OC as the Dodgers. The county's greaser culture has a long, brawling history, and this music festival is as formal a reunion as it'll ever have: pretty girls with inked sleeves and form-fitting 1950s dresses rocking stilettos till Tuesday; guys with DAs and ciggies snugly held in the rolled-up sleeves of white tees; and the legendary chili billies, the Latinos who saved the lifestyle from oblivion just as they did Morrissey, almost all wearing perfectly coifed, high, tight pompadours. We could also rave on about the cool cars that'll be in attendance, but let's not forget the music, which this year features festival staple the Reverend Horton Heat. There's a reason why organizers keep asking this guy back—you'll figure it out after you witness him mount an upright bass while delivering a face-melting solo. It might even make you feel bad about cracking all those derisive Fonzie jokes at the front gate. Oak Canyon Ranch, 4700 Santiago Canyon Rd., Siverado Canyon; www.thehootenanney.com. July 2.


Though roller derby can be enjoyed year-round, there's something about drinking a cold beer from a can while sitting in a folding chair at an old roller rink that goes well with summer. Though the OC Roller Girls' bouts often involve fishnet-clad ladies pounding one another in the face or doing their damnedest to see opponents crash to the floor, you'll find a lot of family camaraderie at matches, with moms, dads and kids on hand to cheer on their favorite team members. Better—and cheaper—than a night at the old ballpark, folks. For more info on the OC Roller Girls bouts, visit ocrollergirls.com.


Here's a seemingly antagonistic combination: vinyl record shopping under the medium's mortal enemy, the summer sun. Local bluesman-turned-entrepreneur Parker Macy recently decided to sell his platters not in the typical enclosed storefront, but rather from a small Kenskill camper trailer, with open-air record bins, parked near the Urban Outfitters in Costa Mesa's Lab anti-mall. Not to worry: There's plenty of shade courtesy of the surrounding, aesthetically chic buildings, whose layout funnels a pleasant ocean breeze while shoppers at Creme Tangerine flick through titles from Harry Nilsson and Miles Davis. 2930 Bristol St., Kiosk 2, Costa Mesa, (714) 932-0552.


It's hard to find much to complain about life in Orange County—or about life in general, for that matter—when you're overlooking the Pacific Ocean under a cloudless blue sky, margarita in hand. Perched atop a cliff on Laguna Beach's Cliff Drive, Las Brisas has a breathtaking view of the sea. The venue, originally the Victor Hugo Inn before El Torito founder Larry Cano transformed it into Las Brisas in 1979 to match Mexican coastal resorts, has become a Southern California landmark for its prime location. Chill out on the patio one of these gorgeous days and indulge in any of the restaurant's fine margaritas; our favorite is the Crystal Cove Margarita, its tart citrus smoothed out by just a touch of Amaretto, a perfect way to let worries melt away like the ice in your glass. 361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5434; www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com.


A recent addition to our summers, one said to outsiders who think that's how we refer to ourselves due to too many bad television shows. It's easy to ridicule said newcomers à la Michael Bluth, but be kind: They didn't watch Arrested Development.


And seeing gabachos look on in bemusement, while said Mexicans don't give a damn. Rock that wet panza, son!


Because sometimes, all summer needs to make it perfect is a stroll through a strawberry patch, with a batch of red, juicy beauties ready to spill across your chin. 5380 3/4 University Dr., Irvine, (949) 653-2100; tanakafarms.com.


No explanation needed—just shake your fist while driving up PCH and passing that eyesore of avarice and silicone.


Among the midcentury architecture and bicycle-riding hipsters of Long Beach's Fourth Street is a stretch known as Retro Row, which is home to a plethora of stores specializing in vintage clothing, accessories and furniture. We advise you start your trek at Portfolio Coffeehouse, where you can grab an iced beverage before heading west toward the Art Theatre. It's only about a fifth of a mile, but you'll pass the adorable Meow vintage-clothing store, an eccentric little gem that specializes in pristine-quality "dead stock," original threads from the '40s to the '80s; the Sneakytiki Boutique, where you can find retro Hawaiian shirts, cowboy boots and kitschy tiki items; Deja Vu, a furniture store that features Art Deco and Eames-style objects; and many more quaint storefronts straight out of a time warp. Fourth Street between Junipero and Cherry avenues, Long Beach; www.4thstreetlongbeach.com.


'Nuff said.

100 Reasons to Be Ecstatic About Summer In OC!
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