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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for August 2012

5 Easy Orange County Daytrips from Irvine

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012

Location, location, location! If you are looking for a jumping off point to explore all that Orange County has to offer, there is no better place to call home base than Irvine.  At the center of OC, Irvine offers easy access to the best that Orange County has to offer with a travel time of 30 minutes or less! Here are 5 fun and easy daytrips from Irvine.

1.       Enjoy the Laguna Beach art scene

Laguna Pageant of the Master

Photo via Flckr user Neil Kremer

If you dream of a cultural hot spot in a beautiful seaside setting, look no further than Laguna Beach. This beach town borders Irvine to the west and has had a thriving art scene since the 1920s. With over 100 art galleries and artists' studios as well as a cute downtown area made for strolling, Laguna Beach is the perfect place to find the next masterpiece to hang on your wall or just window shop.  During the summer months The Pageant of the Masters, a live interpretation of famous works of art put on by over 500 volunteers, is a definite must-see.  The city is also home to several art festivals including the Festival of Arts and Sawdust Art Festival. Before you leave this artful city be sure to spend time at one Laguna Beach's beaches. They are amongst the most beautiful in the state.

2.       Explore the vibrant history of San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Every March the swallows return to Capistrano from Argentina via air but those visiting San Juan Capistrano from Irvine should consider arriving via rail. The ride from the Irvine station to San Juan via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner may take just 13 minutes but when you step off the train and cross the tracks into the Los Rios District, you have entered a neighborhood that is centuries in the making . Los Rios is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in all of California, occupied since the original adobes were built in the 1790s to house mission workers.  These days Los Rios is home to three original adobes as well as charming restaurants, unique shops, a cute tea house, and a fun petting zoo. On the other side of the tracks, Mission San Juan Capistrano is open daily for tours of its gardens and structures. Living history demonstrations and various festivals take place on select weekends.

3.       Take to the water in Newport Beach

Newport Beach

Photo via Flickr user Mastery of Maps

Directly west of Irvine lies Newport Beach, brimming with diverse opportunities for water based fun. Newport Bay is very popular with wealthy yacht owners but if you don't have a boat of your own don't fret- you can still take to the waters on one of the many boat cruises offered by various local operators.  If you prefer to operate the watercraft yourself, everything from yachts to paddleboards is available for charter. Those looking to stretch their surfing muscles (or just want to watch the experts at play) should check out "The Wedge", a popular surf spot capable of producing 30 foot waves during storms. If you prefer more placid waters, consider a guided kayak tour of Upper Newport Bay. This ecological reserve is one of the largest in Southern California and serves as home to up to 35,000 birds during the winter months.

4.       Bike your way to a  classic beach day in Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

The "Surf City" that Jan and Dean sang about back in 1963 is none other than Huntington Beach, a classic Southern California beach town.  The best way to explore the city's main beachfront drag is via bicycle. Several outfitters will rent you everything from beach cruisers to surreys which are perfect for riding the 12 mile sand front trail. Be sure to hop off your ride to join in on a game of beach volleyball, walk the length of the pier (and grab a shake at Ruby's), play with the pups at the Huntington Beach Dog Beach, or play in the surf at one of the cleanest beaches in the USA.

5.       Spend time at the Happiest Place on Earth

Radiator Springs Racers

The center of Irvine is just 15 miles south of the Disneyland Resort, meaning an entire day's worth of fun with Mickey and his friends is just a quick jaunt up Interstate 5.  2012 has been a banner year for the Disney California Adventure which just completed a billion dollar renovation.  The biggest highlights of this transformation are Cars Land, a 12-acre land based on Pixar's Cars movie franchise, and Buena Vista Street which is themed to look the 1920's version of Los Angeles that Walt Disney encountered when he first came to California. The original Disney theme park, Disneyland, has plenty to offer guests as well including a newly revamped Matterhorn and the new version of Star Tours which features 54 different 3D adventures.

Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor in Chief of Trekaroo, a website dedicated to travel with kids.

Day Trip to Sawdust Festival and Laguna Playhouse

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Saturday, Aug 25, 2012

Irvine is smack dab in the center of Orange County, making it easy to set up day trips on a moment's notice.  Last weekend we squeezed the last drops out of summer by spending the day in Laguna Beach.  A quick 20 minute drive and we were in the heart of Laguna Canyon, home of the Sawdust Festival.

Nestled under a canopy of fragrant eucalyptus trees, the Sawdust Festival is a tradition going back over 40 years featuring local artists every summer. We meandered through the artists' stalls, each of us having our personal favorites (paintings, pottery, glasswork, photography...candy!).  We even became artists ourselves, with the help of some patient ceramic teachers.  I love how we each made a cereal bowl, each as unique as its creator.  This is the joy of the Sawdust Festival.

  Laguna Day Trip Collage

We took a walk over to Main Beach to get our toes wet and cool down from the summer heat before heading over to the Laguna Playhouse to catch The Marvelous Wonderettes: Gaps and Gowns, the jukebox musical journey of four high school friends as they graduate, then reunite ten years later.  The musical showcased songs from the 50's and 60's amidst quaint and quirky comedy - a perfect family theater experience.  My 10 year old wasn't too sure about the coolness factor as he waited for the show to start, but he was quickly won over with the goofy humor and amazing talent of the four stars, nudging me every time he recognized a song. 




 The Laguna Playhouse has a rich history of bringing an eclectic mix of theater, concerts and live performances to Orange County since 1920.   Karen Wood, Executive Director says, "There's an invigorating connection between what's happening on stage, the spirit of the community and our many visitors which creates a resonance felt up and down the coast of Southern California; we're united in cultural celebration. "

Come join in the celebration at the upcoming shows at Laguna Playhouse!


Lagunda Day Trip Playhouse

Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps: Sept 25 -Oct 21

Plaid Tidings - Forever Plaid Holiday Edition:   Nov 27-Dec 23

Chapter Two: Jan 8-Feb 3

Having It All:  March 5 - 3

Steel Magnolias:  April 30 - May 26 (which I just may have to audition for!)

Filed In: Events

Calling all Fashionistas...

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012

I have always looked at Los Angeles as being the mecca for all things fashion on the West Coast, therefore I jump on any chance to experience 'fashion' in Orange County. For the past  5 years, Style Week Orange County has graced the Irvine Spectrum and more recently, the Fashion Island Shopping Center with a week full of fashion shows, style and in-store events, and designer panels and interviews to name a few.
This year, Style Week OC has kicked off the fall season with 'Saturday Style', a 6-week series of style events held each Saturday that showcase various stores throughout both shopping centers. Festivities include clothing displays, live models, a DJ, refreshments, photobooths, and special promotions! You can read about the past two Saturday Style events on Style Week OC's blog, and look forward to upcoming events at the Irvine Spectrum & Fashion Island Shopping Centers this Saturday, August 25th!
 actual runway
Looking forward to the official Style Week OC line up? Here are some details, take advantage of the fashion world coming to you because you don't want to have to wait until next September!

Wednesday, Sept. 5

Restaurant Rave at Irvine Spectrum Center - Celebrity chef and radio host Jamie Gwen will again host Restaurant Rave, showcasing the latest dining trends from top restaurants Paul Martin's American Grill, Capital Seafood and others at Irvine Spectrum Center. Held in Giant Wheel Court at  7 p.m. guests will enjoy food sampling, cooking demonstrations and live entertainment.

* Thursday, Sept. 6

Fashion's Night Out at Fashion Island - Jillian Barberie Reynolds, co-host of Good Day LA on FOX Channel 11, and top American designer David Meister will host the festivities at 5 pm in the Neiman Marcus - Bloomingdale's Courtyard. A fall trend fashion presentation commentated by Style File host Barberie Reynolds will be followed by a dazzling runway show presented by renowned LA-based designer David Meister, featuring his fall collection of sophisticated modern day dresses, cocktail dresses and gowns. From 6 to 8 pm, visitors can stop by three FNO vignettes throughout Fashion Island to see Jillian's TopPicks and receive trend and style advice. Dozens of Fashion Island stores will host in-store fashion and beauty events, giveaways, sweet treats, DJs and more from 5 to 9 pm.

* Friday, Sept. 7

Surf-Sport Runway Show at Irvine Spectrum Center - An evening saluting Orange County's popular surf and action sports brands, with a runway show in Giant Wheel Court at 7 pm and numerous in-store events and promotions.
Retrospective Fashion Show and Riviera Magazine Anniversary Party at Fashion Island - Fashion Island will celebrate 45 years of fashion prominence in Southern California with a runway show highlighting looks from exclusive stores including C. Wonder, Joie, Ella Moss and more in the Neiman Marcus-Bloomingdale's Courtyard at 7 pm. While seating is complimentary on a first-come first-served basis, RSVPs are required and will also admit guests into Riviera's 11th Anniversary party. Guests must be 21 years of age and RSVPs will be accepted mid-August. For more information, please visit

* Saturday, Sept. 8

Fashion Finale & FIDM Museum Council Fundraiser at Fashion Island - A runway show featuring cocktail and special occasion apparel from top stores including Neiman Marcus, Rebecca Taylor, Vince and more will begin at 7 pm. This event will benefit FIDM Museum Fashion Council at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and their planned acquisition of the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. The evening will also include Cadillac Couture, with designers competing for the most innovative evening  wear look that incorporates Cadillac car parts. Tickets for this event are $50 and guests must be 21 years of age. For tickets and more information, please visit
Spectrum Collection & Cadillac: Contemporary Design at Irvine Spectrum Center - Spectrum Collection is a 7 pm runway show spotlighting a variety of retailers at Irvine Spectrum Center, complete with a traditional bridal look for the finale from Demetrios Bride. Spectrum Collection will be preceded by Cadillac: Contemporary Design, with designers competing with original looks using denim and Cadillac car parts. In addition to the array of in-store events and promotions, shoppers who spend $250 from Sept. 5 - 8 at Irvine Spectrum Center, can present their specialty store receipts at Guest Services to receive a $50 Irvine Spectrum Center gift card, while supplies last. Shoppers who spend $500 at Fashion Island from Sept. 6 - 8 can present their specialty store receipts at Guest Services to receive a $100 gift card, while supplies last.

"The fifth annual Style Week Orange County continues the tradition that Irvine Spectrum Center created, showcasing emerging designers, notable style makers and fashion brands from Orange County"

Photos c/o FFF & Info from Style Week OC/Press Release

Filed In: Dining, Events

6ix Mixer | Wine Tasting @ The Hyatt Regency Irvine

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Thursday, Aug 02, 2012

6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine

Once a month, during the summer, 6ix Park Grill at the Hyatt Regency Irvine hosts a Wine Tasting event. For the month of July, Murphy-Goode wine graced us with their Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. I for one am not well-versed in wine, so this was a great way to  be introduced to good wine in a casual and fun, but intimate setting. 

6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine

Vangie Walker (above right) facilitated the wine tasting, she informed us of what cheeses and such (below) would pair well with each wine.

6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine 6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine
6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine
6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine

We also ordered small appetizers, the Heirloom Tomato & Sweet Corn Bruschetta and Crispy Mushroom Ravioli are shown above.

6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine

YUM....Truffle Fries (Above) and Speciality Cocktails (Below). My fave was the Fiery Red Eye (Below RIght) and the Blueberry Lemon Drop (Bottom).

6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine
6ix Mixer Wine Tasting - The Hyatt Regency Irvine

Join me for this great event next month, on Thursday  August 23, 5-7pm featuring MatchBook! You don't want to miss out on this complimentary wine tasting, for it will be the last 6ix Mixer for the summer!
Complimentary Valet is available, and check out other 6ix Park Grill events!
6ix Park Grill
17900 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine Ca, 92614

On the corner of Jamboree and the 405 freeway

Serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner from 6:30 am daily

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry,
P.S.- You can check out more photos from the 6ix Mixer here!

iTRYathlon: Race Day

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012

It had finally arrived. After 12 weeks of staring at this date circled on my calendar, it was go time. 


Katie and I got up early, packed our bikes into the car, and drove to Irvine's Northwood High School to face the challenge. Even though it was 6:30am. the parking lot was full of similar souls who were unloading their gear. Women of all shapes and sizes were gathering to give this sprint triathlon a try. 


We headed to the transition area, where we would store our bikes and belongings during the race. I glanced around at my fellow race mates; all women, some had brought their kids along for the run. I smiled as I saw them slather sunscreen on their little ones and make sure they used the bathroom before the race. I doubt many Ironman Triathletes ever worry about such things. ITRYathlon

But this race was different. Instead of being a competition, it was more like a communion of friends, many who have never done anything like this before.

"I just thought I'd give it a try," said the woman next to me at the bike rack. "I haven't ridden a bike since I was a teenager. I'm curious to see what I can still do."


It was refreshing to be in their company, these women with no makeup, up early on a Saturday morning wearing various sizes of spandex shorts. Even though our ages were written on our calves, we stood as one group at the starting line. I realized that this was exactly the type of experience I wanted to share with my teenage daughter: an example of women at their best. ITRYathlon

Then the race began. The Hollywood Version of the day would go something like this:

Middle-aged Mom breezes through the iTRYathlon..due to her 12 week training program, she runs up hills easily, laughing as she passes those offering water and rest. Her 9 mile bike ride feels more like an afternoon trip through the park..She casually chats with her daughter as they pass rider after rider...The real triumph comes in the pool, where she glides through the water and....cue Chariots of Fire soundtrack music...she is victorious!... jumping out of the pool to receive her medal as a cheering crowd looks on...

The Real Version of the race was more like this:

It is hard. Very hard. Our heroine commits the classic rookie mistake and starts out too fast...after the first mile she is gassed.


She finds that there's a reason they named the area around Northwood High "Orchard Hills," since most of mile two is an incline.

She tries to enjoy the impressive view, but finds herself staring at the water stand at the top of the hill like an oasis in the desert...  


The bike is a relief at first, but the same hill greets her again...this time she asks them to shower her with water as she passes by...In fact so many people pass her that she wonders if there's a sign on her back that reads, "On Your Left!"


By the time she reaches the pool, she's not sure how much energy is left..fortunately, the pool is nearly empty since most competitors have already finished..


Slowly, with a stroke that no Olympian would envy, she touches the wall and accomplishes her goal. 

It wasn't pretty, but it was very, very cool.

I wasn't last and I was certainly a long way from first, but after 12 weeks of trying, I know I did my personal best.

The iTRYAthlon was the perfect solution for a perpetual quitter like me. The decision to complete the race kept me going on days when training was difficult and even slightly painful. At the end of the journey, I can say something that I never thought was possible with regards to fitness: I didn't give up.

Of course there were many people who helped me achieve this goal. There were the folks at Blue Buoy Swim School who supported my goal and didn't think it was strange that a 48 year old would want to start taking swimming lessons. There was my coach and friend Cheryl Evans who magically appeared on the iTRYathlon route just as I felt like I would stop. But probably the best helper of all was my daughter and fellow racer Katie, who kept me going with her precious words:

"You can do it Momma. You've got this." 


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