Help me escape Orange County. Just for a little while.
November 7, 2019 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I live in Orange County. I'm not from around here, originally, but I've been here for about 10 years now. I find that I've been in my office for the past few hours, listening to Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on repeat, and longing desperately to get away from the shiny, commercial, traffic-filled life and somehow, just for a little while, escape. For people who are in Orange County: Is there anywhere you like to go when you feel like this?

My husband and I have a date night scheduled for tomorrow, and I'd really like to take him somewhere and get away from the "feeling" of Orange County for a while. So, bonus points for anything that I can do during the evening. However, I'll take any and all suggestions (daytime, weekend activities) because this problem is an ongoing one.

Hiking is a welcome suggestion but we already do that a lot. I guess I'm looking for soulful, meaningful, less commercial things here in Orange County—something that can help me connect with my husband, who is also not from around here.

In short, help two people who are not native to southern CA feel like we're somewhere "beyond the yellow brick road" for a little while.
posted by centersage to Human Relations (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I understand what you mean, and I go home (I only go there to visit for a 1-2 months at a time). But to escape while I'm there, I really like the tidepools in Dana Point. That doesn't avoid traffic since you basically have to go down the PCH to get there, but it's a place that to me doesn't feel like the rest of Orange County, or 'generic beach community' in general, and if you hike back 100 or so yards to the north of the cliffs you can almost be by yourself.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:40 PM on November 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

If that isn't what you are going for, then I have no idea because southern CA has all the same 'feel' to me until you are like in Barstow, which I consider east of to be among the worst places in the entire US - dusty, dull and somehow EXPENSIVE - until you get to Flagstaff AZ, which feels like a college town.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:42 PM on November 7, 2019

I'm not sure what part of Orange County you're in, but Queen Califia's Magical Circle isn't too terribly far away from you, and it should be open this Saturday. If you make a day of it, you can also check the "near this place" things in the link.

Or Sanchez's Beer Bottle Chapel (a/k/a Tio's Tacos Dream Garden) in Riverside?
posted by queensissy at 2:43 PM on November 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Another day trip you might find interesting is Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and Salton Sea in general. A bit more of a drive than my previous recommendations but I find Salvation Mountain to be a lovely place that can't really be captured in photos. It was even better when Leonard was alive, but it is still magic. If you have any spare housepaint, bring it!
posted by queensissy at 2:48 PM on November 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

How about the Noguchi sculpture garden, "California Scenario", which is in the middle of a totally nondescript office park?
posted by exceptinsects at 3:09 PM on November 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Crystal Cove
posted by JonJacky at 3:17 PM on November 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

Weekend: rent a cabin in Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, or in between -- smaller communities like Running Springs, Green Valley Lake, Twin Peaks, etc. Depending on where exactly you are, this could easily be less than a two-hour drive.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Beach picnic is my go-to. In the daytime you can also park at a Metrolink station, take the train into downtown LA and access a lot of stuff via metro (or just walk to The Last Bookstore). I also usually find that being in a neighborhood you don't usually go to feels at least a little different: Viet food in Garden Grove, sangak bread at Wholesome Choice in Irvine then Caspian Restaurant on one of the nights they have a Persian singer... For my family going to eat Western food is a departure because our OC experience is so defined by Mitsuwa/kbbq/Haidilao for hotpot. It's still Orange County, but there are tons of awesome enclaves/spots that don't match the "orange county plastic" stereotype.
posted by storytam at 3:55 PM on November 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Catalina Island?
posted by clew at 4:03 PM on November 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I like to go to Old Town Orange and have brunch at the Cuban restaurant by main plaza, maybe poke around the antique stores or walk around the neighborhood. I like it because it's a view into what the area was like when it was mainly about almond and citrus growers, so it's not going to be "not Orange County" but more like "previous Orange County."

I also really like Crystal Cove as mentioned above for similar reasons. Another thought is the Pacific Surfliner train, which goes through San Clemente.
posted by vunder at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you can take a weekend, the Cambria/Hearst Castle/Harmony area, or take a few days and try Humboldt County. Ashland, OR is really nice in that same direction. These are all small towns with not a lot going on, but a lot of art and culture and gorgeous nature to enjoy. And you'll always find parking.

Catalina is also awesome, but try to get to the other side of the island-- it's a completely different feel from the Avalon side.

If you head out to Palm Springs, which is a lovely drive through a deserted Mars-scape of a desert, stop at the Cabazon Dinosaurs! There is a diner right by there that is excellent.

If you only have a day, Huntington Gardens, or Eaton Canyon, or the Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Ave in Pasadena. The Norton Simon and the Pacific Asia Museum are both worthy of a look. The Doo Dah Parade is coming up, by the way.

If you are not from California, you are probably not familiar with California's Gold. But it's a good place to learn to love California and be inspired to go out and see what's in your backyard.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:09 PM on November 7, 2019

Balboa Island/Ferry
posted by bq at 5:23 PM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a weekend? I'd drive to Death Valley, which is one of my favourite winter places ever.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:37 PM on November 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's not exactly cheap, but my "get out of LA but not too far" favorite destination is Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, which I think is Riverside county but that's close enough. They have something like 17 pools, my favorite of which is the covered epsom pool (get that good magnesium high), and you can have an excellent day there without adding on any services - Club Mud, where you coat yourself in red clay (don't wear your best bathing suit) and then bake in a dry sauna for a bit and then wash it all off, is included in the entry fee - but I advise everyone on their first trip to add on the Grotto, where staff paint you in red clay with big paintbrushes and then you slowly loiter through a series of underground fake caves and it's really hard to sell this but it's great, I promise.

I only go in the winter, because I am a thing who hates the sun and heat. All the pools are heated except a couple clearly marked ones, you can spend the entire mild-weathered day soaking yourself in various ways and lounging on chairs. They have a very decent restaurant with oven-fired pizzas and giant salads and pretty affordable wine. The grounds are beautiful - yes, SoCal beautiful in the desert with tons of palms and birds of paradise, but still lovely. And I go at least yearly with friends of very diverse body types (including my own fat one) and everyone is just there to do their thing, nobody's worried about covering up their tattoos or scars or whatever.

Bring a robe if the weather's looking especially cool, and bring a refillable water bottle (there's lemon and cucumber and plain ice water all over the grounds, along with fresh towels), and bring drugstore face masks and hair deep conditioner. If you're going on a weekend you want to get there just before opening, they only take so many people and it's a popular baby/wedding shower destination, and you get priority entry if you have Grotto sessions scheduled.

You're in OC so you have some access to Sonic, but for reference there is a Sonic in Corona.

My other go-to is San Diego, and you don't even have to go all the way to downtown, and you could take the train! I left 5 years ago, but there's a train station in Sorrento Valley and I think there's at least 4 breweries in Sorrento/Mira Mesa now. You could stay at the Marriott (I think) by the Karl Strauss and Lyft to the others. Also hit Opera Bakery while you're there, plus Mira Mesa's got great Asian food options.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:32 PM on November 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Another vote for head into downtown LA where there is a wide variety of neighborhoods and things to do. OC is famously boring for a reason, sorry.
posted by fshgrl at 9:47 PM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Everything is relative. If you grew up in a flat small city in the Midwest, Orange County is decidedly NOT boring at all. It's got a wide variety of geography, it's multi-ethnic, there are a wide variety of great restaurants, and the weather is good.

El Dorado Nature Center 1 mile and 2 mile hiking loops (Long Beach - next to large LA ASPCA animal shelter)

Shipley Nature Center (Huntington Beach)

Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center

The LAB (Costa Mesa)

The CAMP (Costa Mesa)

Main Street Garden Grove

Great Park Balloon (Irvine)

Belmont Shore (Long Beach)

Downtown Santa Ana

Anaheim Packing District

Huntington Dog Beach

Little India (Artesia)

posted by Dansaman at 11:48 PM on November 7, 2019

It may be obvious, but the Long Beach waterfront can be interesting and pretty easy to explore on foot.
posted by eotvos at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2019

I really like Bida Manda in Raleigh when I need to get out of Orange County. It’s right next to a bookstore/bar and across from the State House. (Edit: I realize now you are referring to CA and not NC! Ignore this.)
posted by melodykramer at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2019

Could you go for "hidden OC" and experience OC from a different angle so to speak?

Municipal infrastructure tours are sometimes amazing, and OC Sanitation District offers public tours. Unfortunately you just missed the groundwater adventure tour from the Water District. I see that the stormwater program for OC has beach clean-ups, which are not exactly hidden aspects, but is a different relationship to the place you live than drive, drive, go eat something, drive, drive.

Buddhist Temples sometimes have public programming. I believe Hsi Lai up in Hacienda Heights does, but given the concentration of Asian immigrants, esp Vietnamese, there's gotta be temples with public events close to you.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

OC Landfill Tour
posted by Dansaman at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older What's my website name - mentorship edition   |   Does anyone, anywhere, like their wired smoke... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.