20 Quintessential “Oh-So-O.C.” Experiences That You’ll Only Get Here

Why certain local experiences are shorthand for Orange County
20 Quintessential “Oh-So-O.C.” Experiences That You’ll Only Get Here

Having a frozen chocolate-covered banana on Balboa. The snacks are so culturally specific they made it to TV …
➽ The iconic snack is so tied to Balboa Island that it had a starring role on  “Arrested Development,” as well as its own Wikipedia entry. Dad’s Donuts and Sugar ’n Spice are prime purveyors of this old-time delight. Dad’s Donuts, 318 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, 949-673-8686, $2.75 to $4.25; Sugar ’n Spice, 310 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, 949-673-8907, $2.75 to $3.75

Playing Skee Ball at the Fun Zone …
➽ Arcade games, a Ferris wheel, bicycle rentals, saltwater taffy—these are the stuff of the Fun Zone, nearly 80 years old. Yes, it’s a little worn. But it connects Orange County’s past to the present with amusements that even today’s digital generation can enjoy. 600 E. Bay Ave., Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach, thebalboafunzone.com

Boysenberry Pie at Knott’s Berry Farm – They essentially invented it …
➽ With family friend Rudolph Boysen, Walter Knott in the 1930s crossed a raspberry, loganberry, and blackberry to create—ta dah!—the boysenberry. Wife Cordelia Knott made boysenberry pies a regular part of the tea-room menu, and they’re still loved today. $13 for a whole pie; $8 or $13 for preserves. Berry Market and Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714-220-5200, knotts.com

Learning how to surf at Doheny Beach …
➽ Beginners love this place, and no wonder. The waves are small but have enough heft to push you to shore. Nearly everyone’s a novice, from
little kids to older folks. The bottom is sandy. And no one expects you to be seasoned, so the vibe is chill. Doheny State Beach, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, 949-496-6172, dohenystatebeach.org

Finding sunset viewing spots just for the locals. They are practically a birthright …
➽ End-of-day rambles overlooking the Pacific aren’t just for tourists, though you’ll find visitors from around the globe along Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar. Time your walk to start 45 minutes before sunset and stroll the half mile from Poppy Avenue on the south to Lookout Point, just north of Heliotrope Avenue. Pack a picnic and stake out a spot in the grass to watch the sun dive behind the ocean as the last beachgoers haul their gear back to their cars.

Being close enough to get a same-day reservation at Crystal Cove Beach Cottages …
➽ Show up at the registration office for these historical beach cottages after 11 a.m. and you just might get lucky. The cottages are booked six months in advance, but when reservations are canceled they become available to walk-in customers, first-come, first-served. Mid-week in the winter is your best bet. From $42 (for dorm style accommodations) to $249 a night. 949-376-6200, crystalcovealliance.org

Exploring Laguna Beach’s teeny ocean coves are hidden treasures …
➽ We’d all like to have a house on the beach. But anyone can hang out in one of Laguna’s gorgeous tiny coves, which are generally less crowded because they’re harder to find. It’s like having a private beach. In North Laguna we like Crescent Bay and Shaw’s Cove, and in the southern parts, we hit Wood’s Cove at the end of Diamond Street and the tiny speck of sand at the end of Moss Street.

Eating burgers and fries at the end of a pier …
➽ We love the experience of chowing down in a diner, surrounded by waves. There are still two piers, Huntington Beach and Balboa, where you can do that. Ruby’s Diner,  Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, 949-675-7829; Ruby’s Diner, Main Street, Huntington Beach, 714-969-7829, rubys.com

How Mayberry by the Sea still has a shell shop …
➽ Seal Beach’s Main Street is charming, a little homespun, and a little old-fashioned. Thank goodness! Even as we celebrate the newer, hipper stores, we enjoy picking up ships in a bottle, mermaid decor, fish net decorations, and of course plenty of shells at the California Seashell Company. 125 Main St., Seal Beach, 562-493-6653, caseashells.com 

Cruising our harbors which are perfectly suited for Duffy Boats …
➽ Bring a picnic, wine, and seven of your closest friends and spend an afternoon or evening cruising in and about the harbors. Calm water and great scenery make for a mellow trip. $99 an hour, Duffy Boat Rentals, 2001 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 949-645-6812, duffyofnewportbeach.com; $75 an hour, Huntington Harbor Boat Rentals, 16732 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 562-592-7877

Taking a unique kind of ride in a three-car ferry …
➽ It’s a mere 800 feet from Agate Avenue on Balboa Island to Palm Street next to the Fun Zone on Balboa Peninsula. The Balboa Island Ferry turns the crossing into a mini-adventure. There aren’t many 96-year-old traditions in Orange County. We especially love this one. $1 adults, $2 per car and driver

How our outlaw biker gangs get along just fine …
➽ Weekends at Cook’s Corner roadhouse in Trabuco Canyon are an amiable mix of leather-clad motorcycle club riders from all over Southern California (and
the leather-clad women who love them), mud-speckled mountain bikers of all ages, and wealthy swells hoping their Harleys will brand them as Rugged Individualists—all grooving to burgers, beer, and bands that favor ZZ Top and Led Zep. 19152 Santiago Canyon Road, 949-858-0266, cookscorners.com

Surf-company-sponsored hotel rooms …
➽ Immerse yourself in the culture by staying in a hotel room with decor by designers from Roxy, Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl, and other surf companies. La Casa del Camino, 1289 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2446, lacasadelcamino.com

The intoxicating mix of wood smoke and salt air …
➽ What’s more Oh-So-O.C. than having bonfires at the beach? Or smelling them as you motor along PCH? We favor Bolsa Chica State Beach because it’s a wide-open strip of sand and folks are friendly—you might even be able to share a fire ring if you share your wood. parks.ca.gov

Nabbing a selfie with Winston Churchill …
➽ Richard Nixon met each of the 10 people depicted in the World Leaders Gallery at Yorba Linda’s Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. Statues of Mao Tse-tung, Leonid Brezhnev, Golda Meir, Konrad Adenauer, and five others are there for your picture-taking pleasure. Just don’t touch. $12 adult admission. 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, 714-983-9120, nixonlibrary.gov

How we also appreciate random Nixonia …
➽ If museums aren’t your thing, skip the library and head for San Juan Capistrano. Order “The President’s Choice” at El Adobe (surely the only Mexican combo platter in America designated on the menu with the presidential seal) and savor the same chile relleno, chicken enchilada, and shredded beef taco ($16) often enjoyed by the late commander in chief. 31891 Camino Capistrano, 949‑493‑1163, eladobedecapistrano.com

How Wahoo’s brought street food north from Mexico …
➽ The O.C.-based restaurant chain didn’t invent fish tacos, but it brought them from Baja—lucky us. We’re addicted to the battered or blackened fish, shredded cabbage, salsa, and soft corn tortillas. wahoos.com

Seeing the largest Vietnamese film festival outside of Vietnam …
➽ Viet Film Fest screened 31 features and shorts from filmmakers of Vietnamese descent at this year’s festival. More than 3,000 attended during four days at Anaheim theaters. vietfilmfest.com

How dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome at Fashion Island …
➽ Fashion Island has an elegant Mediterranean seaside vibe, but it does have one thing in common with the land-locked City of Lights: You’ll find dogs in the stores, at meals, and on the plaza. Enjoy the scene, but watch your step.

Seeing that big orange helium balloon in the sky …
➽ The Great Park Balloon has become Orange County’s iconic beacon in the sky. With the ability to hold up to 25 to 30 passengers, and soar 400 feet above the surrounding landscape, it serves as a public observation deck for the Great Park’s development and offers an unmatched 360° view that spans 40 miles on a clear day.

 

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