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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for August 2015

8 Reasons to Get Excited About Fall in and Around Irvine

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Monday, Aug 31, 2015

The days may be getting shorter but there is still plenty of fun to be had in Irvine this autumn. From pumpkin patches to special events we've got you covered. Here are a few of our favorite fall happenings.  

8. Style Week OC

Style Week OC takes place September 10-19, 2015 and will include fashion shows and shopping parties at both Fashion Island and the Irvine Spectrum Center.  Everything from children's fashion to action sports to beauty will be covered.  For more details check out

7.  New Eats

It seems there is always somewhere new and fabulous to eat in Irvine.  Recently opened in The Square, Poke Dot is sure to be a hit with OC folks who can't seem to get enough fresh, healthy fish.  Diners choose salad, rice, chips, or a wrap as a base to build their poke bowl which will be filled with sushi-grade seafood such as yellowtail, shrimp, or scallops. Habana, already a staple in neighboring Costa Mesa, is opening a restaurant in the Irvine Spectrum Center. The restaurant will be serving up authentic Cuban cuisine in a romantic Latin atmosphere.

6. Autumn fun at Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms is a great reminder of Irvine's agricultural roots. This 30-acre organic farm in the heart of Irvine gives visitors the opportunity to experience farm fun no matter the season but fall is a favorite for many. In addition to the year-round wagon ride tour and u-pick vegetable fields, there is also a u-pick pumpkin patch, maze and petting zoo. Don't leave without a stop at the farm stand for some fresh produce and delicious baked goods. September 26- October 31, 2015.

5. The return of the Solar Decathlon to the OC Great Park

There are plenty of great reasons to get excited about the OC Great Park this fall. The Sunday Farmer's Market, Farm+Food Lab, and Allegria Fresh hydroponic garden are all great year-round destinations within the park. And kids always love the carousel, playground, and rides on the big orange balloon. But autumn also means it is Solar Decathlon time, when college teams from around the country come to compete to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and look great too! Expect to spend 3-5 hours touring the homes.  Admission is free but parking is $10. October 8-11 and October 15-18, 2015.

4. Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch

A visit to the Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch and Irvine Regional Park has become an annual pilgrimage for thousands of families around Southern California. Why? How about gold panning, face-painting, games, horse rides, bounce house, hay rides, pumpkins, and a ride around the park on the train? Make sure you leave time to visit the Orange County Zoo which is also in the park, and rent either a surrey bike or paddle boat.  September 19- October 31, 2015. Discount Coupon for the Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch here.

3. Bats and Tarantulas

It is the season for spooky critters after all! Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in nearby Santiago Canyon is hosting their annual Bat Night on October 17th. Families will learn about these nocturnal creatures and have some fun encounters with the a few of the animals living at the sanctuary.  Meanwhile, tarantulas can be found crawling around on Irvine Ranch Natural Landmark lands. These harmless yet fascinating spiders tend to be easiest to spot during the fall. I recommend taking a guided hike with an expert for the best tarantula-spotting opportunities.

2. Crowd-free beach days

Want to know a secret? Fall is absolutely the best time to enjoy Orange County's beautiful beaches. The summer crowds are long gone, the days are typically sunny, and the water is still warm, especially with this year's El Niño brewing off our coast. So plop down a beach chair on your own little stretch of OC paradise. Speaking of El Niño...

1. Rain!

As you might have heard, California is in the middle of an epic drought and we get mighty excited when water starts falling from the sky. Weather forecasters are reporting that a massive El Niño is building offshore which will hopefully bring us some well-needed precipitation. Don't worry, even during wet years, most of Irvine's days are still filled with sunshine.

‘Innovation Rocks!’ hits the streets for the first time

Posted by: Laura Berthold Monteros
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 26, 2015

It didn't have flowers or even painted-on colors yet, but the metal frame of Destination Irvine's "Innovation Rocks!" made quite a stir when it rolled out under the watchful eyes of Tournament of Roses volunteers on Aug. 15 at Phoenix Decorating Company.  As the float made a perfect three-point turn on Glenarm and Raymond in Pasadena, a couple taking their dog on an early-morning walk oohed and aahed at the surprise spectacle. 

It's not easy to do a three-point turn in a 55-foot long vehicle where the driver can't see the road and the observer who directs him often depends on orders given by the Tournament of Roses float liaison volunteer or a Phoenix Decorating Company employee.  And then, there's traffic to consider.  Buses chuff up Raymond, trains clack along the tracks, automobiles creep by or stop to give the float room.

Technical inspector examines

A Rose Parade float goes through several tests before it's cleared to sail along Colorado Boulevard on New Year's Day.  Before a float takes the road test, it undergoes a thorough mechanical check of the engine, brakes, and other mechanisms. This is done by a technical inspector clad in white coveralls, one of the 935 volunteers who make up the Tournament of Roses.  Then it goes on the road for the first technical (driving) test, referred to as T1.  "Innovation Rocks!" underwent those tests and will take the second technical test-T2, of course-in the near future.  The final exams come at the end of December when a team of three float judges determine the trophies that will be given to 24 of the 40-plus floats.  

Heidi and Joe Monaly and Rex TheobaldDriver Joe Monaly, Jr. (center) has piloted floats in 19 previous Rose Parades.  It isn't scary driving a vehicle that weighs several tons on a road you can't see, he said, but "It is an E-ticket ride."  His mother, Heidi (left) was there to keep an eye on Joe's toddler son, and caught a ride on another float that was being tested.  Observer Rex Theobald (right) has driven twice; this is his first time in the observer's seat.  When Joe drives past the camera locations, he said, "I try to get as much TV time as possible without getting yelled at." 

A network designer and engineer at Caltech, Joe was just filling in for a sick friend when he started in December of 1994.  "I said, sure!" he relates.  When the animation engine died during judging, he crawled under the float and got it up and running.  "When I came out, Chris Lofthouse (President and CEO of Phoenix Decorating Company) said, ‘You're hired!'"

Float observer Rex Theobald

It's a tight fit hidden away in a flower-covered chemical flask for Rex Theobald.  His job is to keep the float centered on the rose-colored line painted down the middle of the parade route, communicate with the float liaison and driver, and pull the pin on that fire extinguisher if it is needed.  He will peek out of a small rectangular screen that is less densely decorated than the rest of the float, though observers have been known to make the hole a little larger once judging is over. 

Rex works in Irvine at Unisys, so he's the perfect guy to make sure "Innovation Rocks!" has a smooth trip.  "I knew a guy at work who had been driving for years," he said.  His colleague had talked about the experience, and when there was a call for new drivers, Rex answered.

Checklist for float

 The thick sheaf of papers being examined by Tournament of Roses volunteers is the checklist for the Destination Irvine float.  Floats must not only run smoothly and be mechanically sound, they must be able to make the entire route without breaking down-5 ½ miles plus another half mile or so at each end of the parade route-and be safe for the personnel operating and riding the float.  They also make the trek from the float barns to the formation area, for some floats a distance of more than 20 miles. 

How to see the Rose Parade in person

Tickets are available online now at Sharp Seating Company, the official grandstand seating provider for the Rose Parade.  They are priced from $48 to $95 depending on the location, and may be purchased in person, over the phone at (626) 795-4171, or online.  Seats on the north and west, or "off-camera" sides of the route are generally less expensive but the view of the floats isn't as breathtaking.  Parking and programs can also be purchased from Sharp.

Grandstand seats and parking are also available from Pasadena Presbyterian Church beginning in the fall, and both  Easy Parking Service (626) 286-7576 and the City of Pasadena (626) 744-6470 sell reserved parking.

The Destination Irvine Sweepstakes

Of course, winning a Rose Parade prize package is even better than buying seats.  DI is offering people the opportunity to "Find Your Adventure" with a sweepstakes that will award 12 people and three guests each with a trip to Orange County that culminates in VIP treatment at the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2016.  Each prize is valued at $3,100 and includes round-trip airfare for four people to Orange County, a three-night stay at one of 11 Irvine hotels, ground transportation to the Rose Parade, grandstand seating, and a commemorative gift.  The sweepstakes runs through Oct. 31, 2015.  Winners will be randomly selected and notified the week of Nov. 1. To enter, visit

Cool Down with Scoops N Scoops in Irvine

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Monday, Aug 24, 2015

Scoops n Scoops an innovative and delightful ice cream shop in Irvine has been open for a few months and already making waves in the community. All the ice cream is made in front of you by rapidly freezing the ice cream base of your choice with liquid nitrogen. The result is an extremely tasty and creamy ice cream, and it's also fun to watch the process

Scoops n Scoops uses all natural ingredients, and allows you to customize your ice cream with their selection of bases and toppings. Don't want to customize your frozen treat? Try one of the Iconic Creations or Drinks

I came into Scoops n Scoops for a tasting curated by manager Adam. I was blown away by the menu selections with the multitude of options available; the service was very on point and Adam made sure to speak to everyone if possible within the dining area inside and outside. He explained that being connected to the customers and community has enabled Scoops n Scoops to improve upon their product and menu, allowing them to grow as a company and continue to serve unparalleled sweet creations. 

I tasted the Birthday Brownie Cake n Waffle Bowl (Festive birthday cake ice cream made from real white cake mix, tossed with rainbow sprinkles and freshly baked brownie bites, served in a freshly made waffle bowl); Pistachio Turkish Delight (Smooth and fragrant rose ice cream laced with real, chewy Turkish delight pieces and pistachios); Cotton Candy (which I ate with my ice cream, and it is spun in-house); Mango Ice Cream, and an Iced Fudgy Dream. 

It makes a big difference in taste when the ice cream is fresh and made of quality ingredients; with Scoops n Scoops you can taste the flavors that you ordered whether you're eating ice cream by itself, dripping in toppings, as a float or with Nespresso, or paired with a cookie, macaron, waffle cone, brownie, or cotton candy.

Stop into Scoops n Scoops today and share #HowDoYouScoop on social media!

14411 Culver Dr, Irvine CA 92606

Phone: 949-786-0170


Sun - Thurs: 12pm - 11pm
Fri - Sat: 12pm - 11pm

Take the Train to Del Mar

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Thursday, Aug 20, 2015

Daily Amtrak Service To "Where the Surf Meets the Turf"

You may know that Irvine is located in the heart of Orange County; centrally located between the beaches and the foothills, minutes from Disneyland in the north and the Capistrano Mission in the south.

But did you know that a day at the races is only a short train ride away?

California's historic thoroughbred racetrack, Del Mar, is only 66 miles south of Irvine. Sure, you can drive there on the 5 Freeway, but it's oh so much better to travel there by train.

Recently, I made my summer pilgrimage via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner, the sleek, double-decker train that stops at the Irvine Station. The jaunt south can be a traffic challenge, so we decided to park our car and let Amtrak do the driving for us.

There were already a few travelers at the station when we arrived. Since I purchased our Business Class tickets online through Amtrak's website and printed them at home, there was no need to go to the ticket counter.

Promptly at 10:58am, we boarded, found seats on the right side of the train, and settled in for the ride.

A trip on the Surfliner is the perfect example of the phrase; "the journey is just as important as the destination." As soon as the train passed San Juan Capistrano, it began a stretch that traced the coastline, offering spectacular, surfside views of the Pacific.


I sat back, watched surfers challenge the waves and sipped on a little something from the Club Car.

"I wonder how those stuck in traffic on the 5 freeway feel right about now...?"


After a relaxing, one-hour trip, we arrived at the Solana Beach station, where complimentary, double-decker shuttle buses were waiting to take us to the track. A few minutes later, we were walking through the Clubhouse Gate, ready to pick the winners. First post at 2pm was still an hour away.


From the moment you arrive, you realize that Del Mar is no ordinary racetrack.

Whether you love horse racing or not, it's a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. Stately, white buildings topped with clay-tiled roofs shine against the bright, blue sky. Flowers bloom everywhere. And even in the heat of summer, Del Mar's close proximity to the ocean means there's always a cool, sea breeze.


Standing in the Paddock, where the horses parade by before each race, I imagined what Del Mar must have been like on its first Opening Day, 78 years ago.  Back then it was the playground for Hollywood Stars like Dorothy Lamour, W.C. Fields and, the most famous Del Mar regular, Bing Crosby. Jimmy Durante came to Del Mar so often that they named the turf track after him.


Whenever I see these magnificent creatures up close, I am amazed at how stunning they are; these top-of-their-class,  shiny-coated beauties led by jockeys wearing brightly-colored silks. For a moment, I wondered what it must have been like to have been here in 1938, when a horse named Seabiscuit walk past. 


You don't have to know a lot about horses to have fun at Del Mar either.

A first-timer can get as lucky as a veteran handicapper. Single bets can be as low as $2, so the stakes don't need to be high. Betting based on the horse's name or your favorite color is perfectly acceptable, but if you want a little more guidance, there are inexpensive racing guides for sale.

When the races were over for the day, we boarded the shuttle that took us back to the 7:22pm train for the trip back to Irvine. The sun was setting in the west as I relaxed with a cup of coffee, some race winnings in my pocket, and a few more memories of another great day at De Mar.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Racetrack

2015 Season Continues until Monday, Sept 7th

Daily Races, except for most Mondays and all Tuesdays

2015 Bing Crosby Season

October 29th - November 29th

Admission Tickets : $4 - $10

Reserved Seats : $5 - $25

Some restrictions for children under 18.


Amtrak Service

Daily from Irvine Station to Solana Beach

Free Shuttle from station to racetrack

Regular Round-Trip Ticket : $40

Business Class Round-Trip Ticket : $60 








Rose Parade Excitement Building as Destination Irvine Launches Sweepstakes

Posted by: Laura Berthold Monteros
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015

Watching a Rose Parade float come together is exciting in itself, but Destination Irvine has upped the thrill factor.  DI is offering people the opportunity to "Find Your Adventure" with a sweepstakes that will award 12 people and their guests a trip to Orange County that culminates in VIP treatment at the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2016.

Each prize package for the winner plus three guests is valued at $3,100.  It includes round-trip airfare for four people to Orange County, a three-night stay at one of 11 Irvine hotels, ground transportation to the Rose Parade, grandstand seating, and a commemorative gift.  The sweepstakes runs through Oct. 31, 2015.  Winners will be randomly selected and notified the week of Nov. 1. To enter, visit

Meanwhile, over at the float barn, Phoenix Decorating Company artisans ae hard at work on the DI float "Innovation Rocks."  The photos in this column were taken a few days ago, and progress is continuing apace.  The helix and flask were constructed separately and welded to the deck the day before this photo was taken.  The float will roll along the parade route to the music of Oingo Boingo from the movie Weird Science while Peter the Anteater oversees the experiments. 

InnovationRocks getting the brakes installed.

Mike, a mechanic with Phoenix Decorating Company, hooks up the brakes. Next step will be "screening" the float with fine mesh.  The float will be ready for its first technical test this coming weekend. 

Linda DiMario, Vice President, Economic Development & Tourism, Irvine Chamber of Commerce gives an insight into the vision that's behind "Innovation Rocks."  She says, "Destination Irvine, along with our sponsoring hotel partners wanted to generate excitement for Irvine around this internationally re-known, world-class event.  An Irvine-themed Rose Parade float offered us an opportunity to create an ‘attraction' to draw visitors to the area."

As part of the attraction, volunteers can sign up to decorate the float.  DiMario says, "Volunteering to help decorate the Rose Parade float is a great opportunity for Irvine schools, organizations and social groups to show their civic pride."  

Books on float framing

Stacks of books on the front of the float remind folks to "book" a room at one of Irvine's great hotels.  The Irvine Chamber's Destination Irvine Rose Parade float is made possible by funding from the Irvine Hotel Improvement District and its 16 participating hotels: Atrium Hotel, Candlewood Suites, Courtyard by Marriot, Irvine Airport, Courtyard Irvine Spectrum, DoubleTree by Hilton Irvine Spectrum, Embassy Suites Irvine, Extended Stay America, Irvine Spectrum, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Irvine, Hotel Irvine, Irvine Marriott, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Irvine Spectrum, Residence Inn by Marriott, Irvine Airport, Residence Inn by Marriott, Irvine Spectrum, SpringHill Suites, Wyndham Irvine - Orange County Airport.   

 Float driver's seat on Innovation Rocks

 This is the driver's seat, mounted under the deck.  Not a very comfy ride, but the streets are smooth and the speed is slow-3 mph.  The driver can't see to steer, but there's a rose-colored line down the center of the route to guide him.

Observer's seat on Innovation Rocks

An observer will be hidden away in a flask in the photo to the right, but there will be a screen for him to see the street and the Tournament of Roses float liaison, who helps direct him.  The white plastic seat will be mounted on the pipe in the flask.

There's nothing quite like brushing glue on a Rose Parade float and sticking on "dry dec"-seeds, crushed flowers, spices-or putting on fresh blossoms in glorious colors.  To sign up, visit and choose a date.  "Innovation Rocks" is being built at the Rose Palace facility.



New Menu & Catering Now Available at Stax Cookie Bar

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Tuesday, Aug 11, 2015

Since I last visited on a friends & family day, Stax Cookie Bar located in Irvine across from UCI (University of California, Irvine) has released an exciting array of new menu items to their already impressive roster of cookies, ice cream, and beverages. From the new menu items, I got to taste the Sea Salt Iced Coffee, Stuffed Deep Dish Smookie, Waffle Puff, Mango Shaved Snow, Cream Bun Stax, and two Gluten-Free Vegan cookies. Read what I thought about each dish below and take advantage of Stax's August promotions:

  • BOGO FREE Shaved Snow (Regular Size)
  • Facebook Picture Promotion - Take a picture of your Stax treat and post with the hashtag #staxaddicted, the best picture will win a $25 gift card and a Stax t-shirt (the winner will be announced on September 1st)

Not only are there a variety of classic, seasonal, and specialty menu items, but Stax uses NON-GMO CERTIFIED ORGANIC FLOUR OR GLUTEN FREE FLOUR, and other premium natural ingredients. Cookies are baked every morning and VEGAN Cookies are also available daily and all the ice creams are NATURAL and GROWTH HORMONE-FREE (rBGH).

STAX NOW CATERS! Share the decliciousness of Stax cookies, ice cream, cookie ice cream sandwiches and smookies/stuffed smookies at your next event big or small! Visit the catering page for more information. 

Stax Cookie Bar

4187 Campus Drive M174
Irvine, California 92612

Open Daily 11am - Midnight

949.861.2055 |

949.812.2584 |

Delivery by Postmates

University Center | Located between Cha For Tea and Eureka! Restaurant. 

Sea Salt Iced Coffee

The sea salt iced coffee almost tastes like a Vietnamese Iced coffee which is usually a mixture of very sweet condensed milk flavors that are balanced by intense coffee flavors. I didn't particularly taste the sea salt, and if you're not too keen on sweeter tasting coffee than I would try a regular coffee. 

Stuffed Smookie The stuffed smookie is OUT OF THIS WORLD! I was thinking it would be too rich with the red velvet cookie stuffed with Nutella, but it was balanced by the caramel ice cream and drizzle. If there is one thing I would want to eat before leaving this earth, it would be this. And there are just so many flavors and ice cream combos to choose from. YUM!

Mango Shaved Snow with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Strawberry Drizzle This is THE and I mean THE ultimate summer treat, I could NEVER get tired of eating this. Because it is shaved 'snow' instead of just ice, the mango snow has a mixture of ice cream and Hawaiian ice which keeps the consistency creamy but not thick. It's beyond refreshing, and I almost ate the entire bowl. I need to try EVERY flavor combo possible!

Double Chocolate Almond and Chocolate Coconut Chip Gluten-Free Vegan Cookies I usually don't eat gluten-free cookies because they end up having a dry texture or consistency and or don't have much flavor to them. Stax's GFV cookies are elevating the moisture level and taste of the cookies. They did break very easily in my hand, but they tasted delicious nonetheless!

Waffle Puff Topped with Strawberries & Powdered Sugar I was quite intriqued with how the waffle puff looked and was even more intrugued as to how it would taste. I'm in love with it; the puffs add a light texture that is balanced by the crispy pieces of batter and sweet strawberries. They also have regular waffles available!

Cream Bun Stax with Maui Ice Cream The fresh baked bun is heated up and a scoop of ice cream is added inside. I like the ice cream flavor, but will probably try a less fruity flavor with the bun if I order it again. I enjoyed the warmness of the bun with the coolness of the ice cream, but the bun was quite a bit denser in texture so it made it harder for me to eat; although I had just eaten 4 other desserts, so you could see why I was pretty much at my limit. It's definitely worth a try if you are a donut and ice cream lover!

Happy Eating!

Amanda | Feast.Fashion.Faves

Filed In: Meetings

Kicking Around Town with Beth Santos

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015

By Demea Metcalf, Director of Sales, Destination Irvine 

Beth Santos & Demea Metcalf

I feel like I won the lottery to spend a weekend with a celebrity - Beth Santos, Founder of Wanderful, a women travel blogger community, came to Irvine to check out the scene before her Women in Travel Summit happens in March next year - WITS 2016. She was so totally adorable, I would make a suggestion on where to go next, and Beth would say, "Sounds good to me, I'm in" and off we would go to explore all that Destination Irvine has to offer.

Irvine is the perfect jumping off spot for all that a Southern California lifestyle can sport, so being at the center of Orange County has its perks. We hung out at the Irvine Spectrum Center and tried the new Cream store - to die for ice cream sandwiches - and a word of caution, take your own spoon because you're not going to be able to get your mouth around one of those bad boys to take a bite! Then we crossed over the freeway and into the OC Great Park for a peak at the Great Park Balloon and the Zine Library and local art gallery. We ran across food trucks galore with the soccer fields in full swing and Beth didn't even blink an eye as I took her hand to hand write a mustache on it to pose in front of Mustache Mike's to mimic a picture at the Hotel Irvine, her posh residence for the trip. What a good sport, and the perfect doll to party pic around town.

Beth's WITS attendees will get to come and enjoy the mountains to the sea just like you and I do every day. So until then, I can't wait to see my new best bud again to share all the great adventure options that Irvine can come up with between now and then!


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36 Executive Park, Suite 100 · Irvine, CA 92614
Phone: 949-660-9112
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