Corona del Mar

Photo by Keith MayA sleepy beach town with a bustling nightlife. With the opening of fancy-schmancy strip mall Corona del Mar Plaza (featuring a store selling gourmet dog biscuits) as well as swanky restaurant/bars Cowboy, the Quiet Woman and Tommy Bahamas, Corona del Mar came into its own as a nighttime hot spot for surgically enhanced beautiful people.

But Corona del Mar is not without natural beauty! To the west of PCH lie its two beaches, affectionately called Big and Little Corona. Many movies and TV shows, such as Gilligan's Island and Satisfaction (starring Justine Bateman!) have allegedly been filmed there. What's more, my brother swears he found human poo in a cave at Big Corona. But don't worry, that was a long time ago. It might have been pirate poo.


Roger's Gardens. An expansive seven-acre nursery filled with all sorts of little landscaped walkways to explore, Roger's Gardens is a fun place to spend an afternoon even if you have no natural inclination toward gardening whatsoever. I can't even keep a plant alive, but I still enjoy Roger's Gardens, particularly around the holidays, when it's strung with lights and the entire place seems to twinkle. Go for the seedlings; stay for the tubers. 2301 San Joaquin Hill Rd., (949) 640-5800. Sherman Library and Gardens. A self-described "horticultural retreat," Sherman Library and Gardens links a museum of living plants, gardens, patios, conservatories, a tea room and more, set around wide brick walkways and trickling fountains. They host classes for the community, too, covering such scintillating topics as "Bulbs to Know and Grow" and "Natural Pest Control." 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 673-2261.


The Quiet Woman. Know why she's quiet? Because she has no head! Really! The old-fashioned wood sign features a decapitated peasant woman. But don't worry, they don't really decapitate women at the Quiet Woman! That's just for show! They want you to have a head! Without one, you would be unable to enjoy their hearty ales and full bar and flavorful pub-style food. Of course, without one, you wouldn't have to listen to their cheese-o-riffic live music. But people who frequent the Quiet Woman like cheese-o-riffic live music. 3224 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 640-7440.Carmelo's Ristorante Italiano. After the last upscale Italian dinner is served, Carmelo's turns into a bustling dance club/bar/meat market for the 30-and-ups filled with teeming hordes of beautiful people looking to hook up or maybe just talk about their investments. Actual loathsome conversation overheard at the bar:

Guy 1: Dude, check out that fat, ugly chick.

Guy 2: Dude, I hate fat, ugly chicks.

Guy 1: Yeah, but I'd still do her.

3520 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 675-1922.Mistral's. A European-style piano bar and restaurant, Mistral's is trendy and upscale without making you want to punch someone (see Carmelo's, above). Lautrec and Van Gogh are re-created (agreeably so) on the walls of the charming outdoor patio. Caters to a fairly young crowd. 440 Heliotrope Ave., (949) 723-9685.


Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat. The opposite of a big chain like Toys R Us,this toy store is small, personal and not lit with scary-ass fluorescent lights. Owner Diane Naumann originally worked at Corona del Mar toy institution Toy Shop, which stayed open for nearly 50 years. When Toy Shop's owner retired, Naumann took over the operation. Kids can put their names in the Birthday Book and, on their birthday, come in and get a small gift. 3331 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 673-3791.


The Port Theater. We remember the good times.


Peet's Coffee & Tea. We once went into this aromatic coffee bar and asked if they had flavored coffee. They said they could flavor the coffee with flavoring syrup. That's not what we meant, though, and when we told them so, they got all snooty. Apparently their coffee is of such high quality that they would not dream of contaminating it with artificial flavors. While we found their attitude a bit irksome, we had to admit they were right. Their coffee stands on its own. Take that, Starbucks! 894 Avocado Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 640-6377.


Harbor Day School's Kindergarten Playground. Kids lucky enough to get into this elite K-8 private school get to play in a well-appointed schoolyard overlooking . . . a cemetery! Pacific View Mortuary! It's like something out of a horror movie: "What's that? We shouldn't build a school on Ancient Indian Burial Grounds? Hogwash! Fellows, grab your shovels!" 3443 Pacific View Dr., (949) 640-1410.


The Tide Pools at Little Corona. These tide pools are filled with all manner of little critters, such as starfish and other things we learned about in high school that we no longer remember. Taking marine life from the tide pools is strictly verboten, though, and really, what were you going to do with that anemone anyway? They make horrible pets.


Gelato Classico. Indistinguishable from the gelato shops you find in Italy. Go there now. 2756 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 721-1160.


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