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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for October 2016

Interim Amphitheater Proposed for Great Park

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Friday, Oct 28, 2016

This weekend, Orange County native Gwen Stefani will close out 35 years of live music at Irvine’s beloved Irvine Meadows The venue has been a cultural fixture in the area,  featuring legendary acts such as Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince and Bob Dylan. But thanks to a timely intervention by a local developer and the support of area music lovers, it looks like the music will keep on playing in Irvine. 

FivePoint Communities has partnered with Live Nation Entertainment to create a 12,000 seat outdoor music amphitheater adjacent to the Orange County Great Park that is slated to open in time for the 2017 summer season.

FivePoint has applied for a conditional use permit with the City of Irvine to allow Live Nation to design and build an interim venue on approximately 45 acres located less than two miles from the current Irvine Meadows site. 

“Since the early 1980’s, music lovers in Orange County and beyond have made Irvine their summer home, coming to see some of the greatest musical talents of all time, said Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO, FivePoint, “We’re determined to keep this tradition alive by working with Live Nation to develop the next-generation, live music venue in Irvine. Music plays a major role in building community. It brings people together and breaks down barriers. Live, outdoor music is part of Orange County’s heritage and it is essential to its future.”

An outdoor amphitheater and a "cultural terrace"  are part of the Great Park master plan. This temporary venue will fill the three-year gap until the permanent venue can be built. The interim site will be located at the ends of the southern runways at the former El Toro Marine Base and will be walking distance from the Irvine Transportation Center, a major mass transit hub for Metrolink passengers.


“Orange County has become a major concert stop for touring musical acts and Live Nation is committed to keeping the long tradition of live summer concerts alive and growing in this region,” said Bret Gallagher, president of Southern California Live Nation. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with FivePoint and build the highest quality interim amphitheater venue with all of the comforts and conveniences today’s guests are seeking.”

This is good news to more than 30,000 fans of "Save Live Music Irvine," a grass roots movement formed to build momentum for a new venue in the city. 

Outdoor music venues are a rarity in Orange County’s rapidly-developing landscape.

If all goes as planned, music lovers will still be able to hear music under the stars in the summers ahead.  

Irvine's Bistango Restaurant Unveils its Fall Art Exhibit

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016

A fixture in Irvine for nearly thirty years, Bistango has long been known as a destination for power lunches and elegant dinners punctuated with nightly live entertainment, charming gardens perfect for al fresco dining,  and a hopping dance floor.  Located inside the award-winning Atrium Building, the restaurant features new American cuisine and is led by former Wolfgang Puck protégé Executive chef Tim Doolittle. Charred octopus salad, corn ravioli, and pizza di mare are amongst the highlights of the lunch menu while dinner choices include a variety of steak, seafood, and pasta options.  Bistango's 400-bottle wine list has been heralded by Wine Spectator and the drink menu includes 15 craft beers as well as a diverse list of classic and specialty cocktails.


What many might not realize is that Bistango is also one of the best places to buy original art in Orange County. Owner John Ghoukassian works alongside art curator Antoinette Sullivan to bring the artwork of varied artists, both local and international, to the restaurant. In many ways, dining at Bistango is like dining in an art gallery. Installations are generally featured for 3-4 months at a time. This season's artists include painter Hugo Rivera, a fixture of the Laguna Beach art festival scene and gallery owner. Mexican neo-figurative painter and sculptor Vladimir Cora, self-taught expressionist Marcel Schreur who work is reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh, and Orange County artist Becca Fox.


Bistango serves lunch and dinner weekdays and dinner only Saturdays. Bistango is located at The Atrium (19100 Von Karman Avenue, ? Irvine). For more information or call (949) 752-5222.

Filed In: History

A Look Back at Lion Country Safari

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Thursday, Oct 13, 2016

If you drive south on the 405 near Irvine Center Drive and the Irvine Spectrum, you’ll see Los Olivos Village on your right. This luxury, resort-style apartment community is the largest in Orange County and was recently voted Best Complex by The Orange County Register. But these hills were once home to the Lion Country Safari, one of one of Irvine’s most unique historical landmarks. 

The 140-acre attraction was the brainchild of South African developer Harry Shuster, who opened the park in 1970 as a way to bring the exotic sights and sounds of an African safari to the tourists of Orange County. The concept was simple: a drive-thru zoo for the car-loving public. Visitors paid to drive their car through a four-mile, African wildlife preserve trail as the animals roamed nearby, providing an up-close and personal zoological experience. Convertibles were prohibited for obvious reasons, but their owners were not excluded from the park. Air-conditioned safari jeeps were available for rent at the front entrance.


After the car safari, visitors could explore the other themed attractions in the park. There was an African Express Train, Hippo Pedal Boats and the Zambezi River. Unlike the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland a few miles north, Lion Country Safari advertised that “if your boat should run into a hippopotamus while cruising along, it will be a real hippo!”

The most famous resident of Lion Country Safari was an aging circus lion from Mexico named Frasier. The old lion became quite popular with the lionesses and a population boom of cubs soon followed. Frasier’s amorous accomplishments inspired the 1972 PG-rated movie, Frasier, the Sensuous Lion, even though the aging lothario wasn’t much to look at. According to the LA Times, “he hobbled about on weakened legs, his tongue sagged from his toothless mouth.”

In 1978, a wayward hippo named Bubbles managed to escape and ended up in a drainage ditch behind the park. She was loose for nineteen days and the fumbled attempts to recapture her made national news. Unfortunately, Bubbles fell awkwardly after receiving a tranquilizer shot and died.

An Asian elephant named Misty broke free after a 1983 concert at nearby Irvine Meadows Amphitheater,  Park warden Lee Keaton tried to rechain the animal but was killed when Misty stepped on and crushed his skull. The elephant escaped and was on the loose for three hours, causing a traffic jam on the 405 freeway.

Even though the park was a success, drawing more than 1 million visitors during its first year of operation, the challenging economy of the mid-1970s began to affect attendance. Bad publicity from escape attempts and rising insurance claims brought an end to the park in 1984.  A portion of Lion Country Safari was converted into the Wild Rivers Water Park in 1986. 

Animals, Pumpkins and Fun at the OC Zoo's Halloween Zoo-Tacular

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, Oct 07, 2016

If you are a lover of animals and looking for Halloween festivities for the entire family to take part in and enjoy, you'll want to spend the day at the OC Zoo inside the Irvine Regional Park on Saturday, October 29th for their Halloween Zoo-tacular.


The County of Orange and OC Parks is delighted to present the annual Halloween Zoo-tacular at the OC Zoo where families will experience a fun-filled day of festive activities with the animals of the OC Zoo in celebration of Halloween. 


Dress the kids up and take them trick-or-treating through the zoo, as well as participate in a spooky scavenger hunt, and also create Halloween and fall-themed crafts. But what about the zoo animals? The OC Zoo animals will participate in the fun by receiving pumpkins filled with their favorite treats, and you'll catch the animals snacking out of the pumpkins (or even sitting in them)! Some of the smaller critters may even be dressed for the festive occasion and ready for their photo op!


For an extra special treat, the first 100 children ages 12 and under that visit the OC Zoo in costume on Saturday, October 29th will receive a special free holiday treat.

Halloween Zoo-tacular is a free event with paid zoo admission and open to children of all ages.

Zoo admission is $2 per person (ages 2 and under are free).

Parking at Irvine Regional Park is $5 per vehicle.


Come join in the Halloween fun at the OC Zoo in Irvine Regional Park on Saturday, October 29; a great way to support our local OC community and OC Parks, learn more about wildlife and celebrate a fun occasion. 

The Details

October 29 – Halloween Zoo-tacular

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cost: Free with zoo admission of $2 per person ages 2 & under are free)

Parking: $5 weekends
Location: OC Zoo

Address: 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869


Contact: (714) 973-6847,

If you're looking for more Halloween-related fun and activities for the family, check out our last post on the 5 Places to Experience Halloween-Themed Fun in Irvine!


Photos: OC Parks 

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