Forever Young Information
Canada's Adult Lifestyle Publication
Sat. Spotlight: Irvine SoCal. for grand shopping and attractions
By Sandy Katz
Shop like you're in Spain at the Spectrum Center, Irvine's outdoor mall built with architecture based on the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain
Irvine California.: You're as likely to hear Korean, Mandarin and Farsi spoken here as you are English among the quarter-million people in this Orange County city.
Many cultures have mixed with Irvine's rich agricultural heritage to create a vibrant cosmopolitan centre with its own attractions - many with a family-friendly focus -- that include championship golf courses, festivals, award-winning restaurants, free concerts and world-renowned shopping.
Orange County Great Park is busy in late summer with, among other activities, movies shown on the lawn, but you can get above it all any time by catching a ride on a tethered balloon that can carry up to 30 passengers as high as 125 metres.
Disneyland, Hollywood and other storied Southern California venues are an hour's drive to the north and the San Diego Zoo and Mexico an hour to the south.
A regular reminder of the community's history and heritage is the farmer's market held there every Sunday.
Just across the freeway is Pretend City Children's Museum, a magical 15,000-square-foot interactive child-size city where youngsters can play grown-up by going to work, buying groceries, collecting their pay from an automated teller machine, donating money to a worthy cause and visiting the doctor.
For more mature tastes, the Irvine Museum houses turn-of-the-20th-century California masterpieces. Featured are the works of artists who moved to California from 1890 to 1930 and popularized a painting style called California Impressionism, or Plein-Air (fresh air), painting that captured the beauty and temperament of California's wild landscapes before urbanization.
All the while, there are dozens of major leisure attractions such as Knott's Berry Farm, Angel Stadium, Mission San Juan Capistrano and surfing and whale watching within 40 kilometres of the 14 hotels in Irvine, which local tub-thumpers like to remind visitors has been named "America's Safest Big City" for the last six years by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
There is also outstanding shopping at the nearby open-air Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
Or you can shop like you're in Spain at the Spectrum Center, Irvine's own outdoor mall built over a 10-year period with architecture based on the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. The intricate tile work, massive archways, quaint canopy-covered walkways and many fountains inspired by those found in Spain, Italy and Morocco make this mall experience esthetically appealing.
But South Coast Plaza in neighbouring Costa Mesa is the crown jewel of shopping in coastal California, recognized internationally for its unparalleled collection of more than 250 boutiques and department stores, award-winning restaurants and spas adjacent to the renowned Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
This complex has been called "adventure-land for the credit-card set" and Sunset Magazine concludes that "for the theatre, visual arts and shopping, South Coast Plaza is like New York's Rockefeller Center - surrounded by world-class theatres, formal gardens and first-class hotels and restaurants."
For more details and information destinationirvine.com and visitcalifornia.com.