One of my favorite things about being the Orange County Guide is most certainly learning so much about the county. Sure, I thought I knew the O.C. -- and I did. But writing this site has forced me to explore and appreciate Orange County even more than I already did. Each city has its own unique story and community, the diversity of which is emblematic of why Orange County has developed into a largeÂ metropolitan area.
On the surface, Orange County seems like a suburban mecca. This may well be true across many cities. But the true beauty of the O.C. lies in the rich arts and culture, the luxury of beach living, the urban grit and the family friendly suburban living. You can make your home in some idyllic enclave, a sea-side arts community, or a town steeped in history. All of this without the frenetic pace of L.A. living.
I hope that as you read this guide, you too, are reminded of what makes the O.C. such a great place to live, play and work.
St Patrick's Day is just around the corner and there are plenty of Irish pubs throughout the O.C. for those so inclined to indulge in the festivities. But if you're looking for a little warm-up, you might want to check out the O.C. Weekly Super Hero Pub Crawl. Who could resist the chance to dress up like your favorite super hero and crawl the pubs along Main St. in Huntington Beach?
As with any pub crawl, you should plan to take a cab, public transportation or assign a designated driver. The crawl starts Saturday March 10 at 1:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m.
As an O.C. resident, I think I sometimes take for granted how many awesome things there are to do -- not just in my little beach community, but throughout the county.
So when I began writing a neighborhood profile for the city of Anaheim, it gave me such delight to realize that it isn't just some land-locked city in North O.C., it's one of the biggest cities in Southern California and has a large, dedicated and thriving tourist industry. The convention center, Angel Stadium, the Honda Center -- not to mention all of the hotels, and a host of other attractions -- Anaheim is a wonderland for locals and visitors alike.
And if you're an O.C. resident, it's pretty standard fair to buy season passes to Disneyland and visit the Happiest Place on Earth at your leisure. It doesn't get much better than that.
One of my favorite things about living in Southern California is the temperate climate. Sure temperate could be cold, but we have a lovely average of 75° F.
A bit of trivia: All of the beautiful Southern California weather is thanks to its Mediterranean climate. While the largest area of similar climate surrounds the Mediterranean sea, Southern California is the only Mediterranean climate within the U.S.
There is precious little of the perfection that is the Mediterranean climate and this is one of many things that make SoCal so special. But we shouldn't get too excited about signs of Spring in January. We are in the thick of what is considered the rainy season, which runs from November through April.
That's ok though, because today there are clear blue skies and 70° F highs.
The O.C. isn't exactly known for it's grandiose celebrations of the Chinese New Year. However, if you're looking to experience this cultural event Dragon Institute in Dana Point is hosting a martial arts demonstration and Chinese medicine exhibit. Disneyland is also hosting an event, featuring live music by Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean performers, and special character appearances.
If you're up for the ride, the Orange County Transit and Metro Link are offering free rides from the Irvine Metro Link station to the Dragon Parade and Chinese New Year celebration in China Town.
As I made my way home last night with my son, we had several near misses with cars going in and out of drive ways. I don't own a car and quite frankly, I'm OK with that. I live in a bike friendly city, and have no problem catching the bus when necessary.
What I do have a problem with is the car culture and how it so pervades the O.C. psyche that people don't even bother to watch out for people on the sidewalk. They pull out of the driveway, look one way, block the walk and don't even look for pedestrians. Which is why I teach the kid to be careful...especially at driveways. We wait to make sure one driver sees us, and another making a left almost hits us. We continue on only to deal with the same issue two driveways down. It's really ridiculous.
Some of you might think the obvious solution is for me to get a car. But that's hardly the right attitude to take. Why should I incur an expense I don't need, just to avoid being hit -- or almost hit -- when I'm walking home from the store? This carelessness on the part of drivers is dangerous, not just for me, but for kids, teenagers and anyone else walking down the street.
People without cars DO exist. And guess where they walk? On the sidewalk, because sidewalks are for people walking. All you have to do is remember to look both ways before pulling out of the driveway and check for pedestrians before making that left. Two simple things that make walking down the street safe for all involved.
Please don't be alarmed, tsunami season is long over; this is just O.C. trivia.
Despite the relatively low threat to coastal SoCal, the city of Huntington Beach is so committed to preparedness, that there is a tsunami warning system. This system is tested on the first Friday of each month.
Most locals have heard this sound so many times they tune it out. But every once in a while, I hear someone say something about an alarm...Is it an air raid siren?
If I'm ever in earshot, I simply share the information about the tsunami warning system testing schedule, and they have a bit of trivia they can pass along.
New Year's Eve is probably one of the biggest days for partying the night away. And if you're young and single in the O.C. there are plenty of options for doing just that. For all you last minute party planners, the O.C. Fair Block Party might be the best option, with tickets on sale at the box office until 6:30 p.m. New Year's Eve. And if what you're looking for is an inexpensive and family friendly way to ring in the New Year sans the booze, I recommend First Night Fullerton.
Me? I'm having dinner with the kid, including greens and black eyed peas as, the New Year's tradition in many African American households.
What's your plan for New Year's Eve?
My family had very few traditions. But there was one thing I could count on without fail: Tamales for dinner on Christmas. Back then we lived on the other side of the Orange Curtain, and my mom would get up at 4:00 a.m. to travel to downtown LA for hand made tamales from her favorite Hispanic patisserie. In fact, tamales for Christmas is a California-adopted tradition from its Latin heritage. And since my grandfather was of Latin descent, my mom adopted the tamale tradition in his honor.
As my siblings and I have gotten older, we've begun establishing our own holiday rituals, one of my favorites being the Christmas brunch. For the last 10 years, my mother-in-law has hosted the brunch, but she recently passed the brunch baton on to my sister and I. Best of all, everyone invited usually makes it because there's no one else hosting a Christmas Brunch. And then everyone goes off to their Christmas dinners full of holiday cheer and a morning of flowing mimosas.
Do you have any unique holiday traditions?
One of my absolute favorite things to do is attend a culture festival. While Summer and Spring tend to be peek season for festivals of all kinds, there are several culture specific holiday festivals through the O.C. -- including an Irish Holiday Festival at the Bowers Museum on Saturday, December 11.
From singing and dancing, to traditional Celtic legends and mythology, this event is bound to be a cultural experience the entire family can enjoy.
If you're interested in a more all-American beach city holiday pursuit, boat parades and tours start soon in both Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.