Until the city finally realizes its longtime marina dreams by digging out the gully at the far west end of 19th Street and filling it with water (removing the wildlife and homeless first, of course), Costa Mesa will have to make do with those few, upper-elevation spots (relatively speaking) with ocean views. Among the best are afforded while taking early-morning jogs/strolls/hikes through Fairview Park (2501 Placentia Ave.), which is along twisty Placentia Avenue near Estancia High School. Cobbled together from former state and county land, the 210 acres have been deemed by the city to remain “natural” because of archaeological and paleontological resources found within the park. Miniature-train ride enthusiasts have long coveted the sliver of the park on the east end (or the other side of Placentia), next to a stretch of the city's public golf course. The much larger, rolling hills-filled west side of Fairview Park was mostly ignored for decades, save for some grass near the entrance, a gazebo and a few trails throughout. Wetlands and habitat restorations have been completed in recent years, and more improvements are on the way to protect and enhance a natural, recreational and aesthetic resource.
Now that you've burned all those calories hiking through preserved nature, it's time to get back more calories than you burned (as well as get out of the sun, Sir Extra Crispy). Rance's Chicago Pizza (1420 Baker St., 714-708-2143; rancespizza.com). has only been in town a few years, tucked between pretty solid Chinese and Japanese joints in the Target center at Harbor Boulevard and Baker Street. But the pizzeria has already built a solid reputation for being one of the best places around for real-deal Chicago-style pie. Owner Rance Ruiz fell in love with stuffed pizzas while visiting his sister, who was away at college in the Windy City. He craved them so much once he returned home he found the only way to cure his hankering was to open his own Chicago pizza joint in Orange County. It's been our (and our waistline's) gain ever since. Head over at lunchtime and order the slice-and-draft-beer special.
Good thing you had something bubbly with that pie because your stomach will need to be tamed for the bottle of wine you are going to pick up at the nearby Target or Sprouts (where, true story, you can find better wine cheaper than at the big-box place). You will enjoy that bottle (hopefully with someone else) while watching the sun drop into the Pacific from Talbert Park (1298 Victoria Ave.). You get a super-wide view of the west from that perch, and thanks to whatever the hell has collected in our atmosphere, you see an array of beautiful oranges, yellows and purples in the sky. It should be mentioned for Talbert Park, as it should have been for Fairview Park, that part of your view of the sea is marred by those ugly stacks at the AES Huntington Beach power plant. Just look around 'em or blur your eyes (kick in, pinot noir!) because this is the best it's going to get in terms of ocean views in the home of Goat Hill. Until that damn marina is dug out, that is.