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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for December 2012

Filed In: Family Friendly

6 Ways to Warm your Heart in the OC in Honor of Ben Wheeler

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012

 Terry heart handsThe guests have gone home, torn wrapping and tissue paper litter the floor, opened presents are scattered about. We look around and ask ourselves, "Now what?"   Are the gifts still giving us a warm fuzzy feeling or is there something more we're looking for? Orange County and Irvine have worthy charitable organizations where we can help others in need, and begin to fill that spot in our hearts not satisfied by electronic gadgets, designer shoes or gift cards.

Here are six ways to make our OC community a better place, so take a look to see if you'd like to spend some time helping out in the new year.  

6.  CHOC Children's Hospital  CHOC was voted "The Best Place to Volunteer" by the Orange County Register in 2011.  Over 700 volunteers give over 6,000 hours per month. There are many unique opportunities for enthusiastic, compassionate, energetic, qualified and committed individuals of all ages and backgrounds to join CHOC volunteer team. Whether you are motivated by a desire to help out in your community, are looking for exposure to careers in the health care field, or simply want to "give back", you will find your volunteer experience a rewarding and exciting one. 714-997-3000

5.  Second Harvest Food Bank in Irvine solicits and coordinates funding efforts and volunteers to supply food, education and advocacy for the hungry through nonprofit partners and direct feeding programs.  949-653-2900.

4.  StandUp For Kids targets homeless and at-risk youths age 21 and younger in the Irvine area. In addition to helping homeless and at-risk youth with immediate necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and personal hygiene, StandUp For Kids offers assistance in finding housing; education assistance; vocational development; counseling; health services; transportation to self-help meetings; and legal assistance. Volunteers also conduct life-skills training, covering such areas as budgeting, banking, apartment cleanliness and safety, shopping and cooking, nutrition, and hygiene. Laundry services and lunch and snack facilities are made available, as well as mail and message services. 714-356-KIDS (5437)

3. Families Forward is an Irvine-based nonprofit organization that assists homeless and low-income families. Our mission is to help families in need achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, counseling, education and other support services. Families Forward began with only five apartment units and one part-time counselor. Since then, we have grown to include fourteen homes, a food pantry, program and career counseling, and life skills training.  9221 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, CA 92618   949-552-2727 

2.  Catholic Charities of Orange County   Catholic Charities of Orange County provides social service programs to reduce poverty, strengthen families and build healthy communities.  CCOC provides food distribution, professional individual, family and group counseling services and parent education programs, limited employment services, accredited resettlement, immigration and citizenship services, and a camping program for developmentally disabled individuals. 1820 East 16th St., Santa Ana, CA 92701   714-347-9600

And the number one way to warm your heart is...

Continually do little acts of kindness each day.  Graciously let a car cut in front of you on your freeway commute.  Hold back that snarky comment and think of a kinder response.  Smile at the person who is slowing you down at the grocery store. Hold the door open for someone, and thank the person who holds open the door for you. Offer to put away someone's grocery cart when you're walking past them into the get the idea.

 Why did I rank this  #1?

I do it for 6 year old Ben Wheeler, who lost his life this December in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.  The horrific event hit home like a ton of bricks when I learned my college Drama Department friend lost his son, Ben, in that first grade classroom massacre. As fellow classmates gathered to grieve and rally in support, I silenlty vowed to do little acts of kindness every day in honor of Ben. 

 Here's Ben's Obituary:

Terry Ben WinklerBenjamin Andrew Wheeler, 6, departed this life on Friday, December 14, 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Benjamin was born in New York City on September 12, 2006, a son of David Cole and Francine (Lobis) Wheeler. Ben was an irrepressibly bright and spirited boy whose love of fun and excitement at the wonders of life and the world could rarely be contained. His rush to experience life was headlong, creative and immediate. He was a devoted fan of his older brother, Nate, and the two of them together filled the house with the noise of four children. He loved the local soccer program, often running across the field long after it was actually necessary, but always smiling and laughing as he moved the ball nearly always at full tilt. He was becoming a strong swimmer and loved his lessons. Eager to learn, he couldn't wait to get to school to see his teacher and his growing group of new first grade friends. Ben was also a member of Tiger Scout Den 6 which met at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse. Earlier in December, Ben performed at his piano recital and sitting still long enough to play one piece was an accomplishment he reveled in. He loved The Beatles, lighthouses, and the number 7 train to Sunnyside, Queens. In a conversation with Francine before school on Friday, he said, "I still want to be an architect, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that's what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does."

Terry Ben Wheeler Lighthouse

The image of the lighthouse has become a symbol for Ben's life. Be the lighthouse in your community.

If you would like to help his family (David, Francine and 9 year old Nate) with funeral costs and bereavement care you may donate to the Benjamin Wheeler Fund via PayPal to 

Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers and help.

Terry Winkler  is the founder of Enter Stage Write, an Orange County theater, entertainment and lifestyle website.

OC Fair's NYE Block Party Giveaway WINNER!

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Saturday, Dec 22, 2012


Everyone here at Destination Irvine would like to wish you all a happy and safe holiday season! See you in 2013!

Speaking of 2013, we would like to announce that Kristin O'Dell is the winner of the 2 Tickets to the OC FAIR's New Year's Eve Block Party! We want to thank you to everyone that entered and shared the giveaway!

Check out Holiday Happenings in and around Irvine, and we are excited to announce Diamond Jamboree's giveaway for 2 tickets to the Oslen's Dance and Illusions (from Canada's Got Talent) AGUA CALIENTE CASINO, RESORT & SPA!

All you have to do is:

1. 'LIKE' Diamond Jamboree's FB Page

2. Join the event page!

Don't miss your opportunity to see this extraordinary show, which blends magic, dance, music and audience interaction!

-Amanda Nguyen

Filed In: Events

Enter to WIN 2 OC Fair's New Year's Eve Block Party Tickets!

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012

If you've driven on the 55 south toward downtown Costa Mesa/Newport, you may have noticed the large banners displaying big block letters that read 'New Year's Eve Block Party' at the OC Fairgrounds. This is third year that the block party will ring in the new year and you have a chance to win TWO tickets (worth $42.50 each, increases to $47.50 on 12/31) to this extravaganza! Check out how to enter and event details & highlights from last year's bash below!


Monday, December 31
7:30 pm - 1:30 am

Unlike other New Year's Eve celebrations, the New Year's Eve Block Party is offering great fun in a casual setting. No black ties here!

The OC Fair New Year's Eve Block Party will offer live tribute bands and DJ entertainment playing today's most popular music, carnival rides, Vegas-style games, demolition derby, AND grub via gourmet food trucks! And it's not a New Year's Eve party without a countdown and big BANG; last year the new year was celebrated with a fireworks presentation!




Can't wait for the results of the giveaway? Buy your tickets now! All ages welcome (but no youth activities are scheduled)! Read FAQs for the event here.

How to ENTER: (Mandatory)

1. Leave a comment on this blog post which includes what you would enjoy most at the New Year's Eve Block Party, who you would bring, and your email address to contact you in the case that you win!

Want more chances to win? (Optional) (Please leave a separate blog comment for each entry, status updates/tweet can be done once/day)

1.'Like' the OC Fair on Facebook

2. 'Like' Destination Irvine on Facebook

3. Share the giveaway on your FB status "I just entered the @OC Fair & @Destination Irvine's New Year's Eve Block Party tickets giveaway!"

4.Follow OC Fair on Twitter

5.Follow Destination Irvine on Twitter

6. Tweet about the giveaway "I just entered the @OCFair & @IrvineCVB's New Year's Eve Block Party tickets giveaway! #giveaway #ocfair #NYE #OC #ocevent"

One winner will be picked at random from the blog comments, entry must be complete to be valid. Giveaway ends 12:00am PST Saturday December 22nd 2012, and winner will be contacted via email within 24 hours of the giveaway concluding. Tickets will be available via will call at the OC Fair & Event center box office under the winner's name.  


Photos Courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center

Celebrate early with a taste of the NYE Block Party by attending the Pre-Party below! Hope to see you there...

Happy Holidays,

Amanda Nguyen

Santa's Wonderland, Irvine's new Christmas-themed attraction

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012

This year, Santa has set up shop in Irvine. He has brought reindeer, snow, and plenty of elves to Santa's Wonderland, a new Christmas-themed attraction geared towards kids ages 8 and under. This converted office building takes guests on a room to room tour of the inner workings of Christmas, led by an elf tour guide.

Elf guide

My kids were amazed that our tour was going to be led by a genuine elf from the North Pole. When the elf reached out to shake their hand, my son hesitated. His Elf on the Shelf  training told him that elves lose their magic when humans touch them. Luckily, this elf could receive handshakes, hugs, and even high fives without ill effect.  The elf gave us the inside scoop into Santa's world of Christmas preparation as you took us into Santa's Control Room as well as Santa's Toy Workshop. The kids seemed unphased by the homemade atmosphere inside what was obviously an office building. They were just excited to be a part of Santa's world.

We went through a room set up to look like a cityscape decked out in holiday lights and wander through a small forest of artificial Christmas trees before reaching the mail room. Here, the kids were able to write their own letters to Santa, with spelling help from our friendly elf guide. They stuffed their Christmas wishes inside an envelope and stamped their letter with a special stamp notifying the postal service this message was destined to the North Pole.

 Santas Wonderland

From the mail room, we headed upstairs to meet the reindeer. While at first glance the reindeer looked like giant stuffed animals, we were assured that once they were sprinkled with magic reindeer dust on Christmas Eve, they would come to life. Magic! I was skeptical that they would buy it but my six-year-olds were thrilled to pet the magic reindeer and sit on one while posing for pictures.  The reindeer fun continued in the next room where kids could make special reindeer food to sprinkle on their yards this Christmas Eve and enjoy some reindeer games in the form of mini golf, bowling, and a mini-obstacle course.

Reindeer fun

Snow isn't easy to come by in Orange County but Santa's Wonderland manages to bring snow to our flip flop wearing kids. The synthetic snow inside the snow room is lots of fun and perfect for making snow angels or tossing at one another. I had to drag my snow deprived kids out of there!

During Elf Academy the kids experienced firsthand what it took to become an elf. They sang Christmas songs, wrapped presents, and helped dress teddy bears. Their reward for getting the elf stamp of approval- a certificate of elf academy completion and a chance to decorate some gingerbread goodies to take home. Give any kid a cookie, a tub full of frosting, and a bunch of candy and you are sure to see smiles!

Gingerbread fun

Of course no trip to Santa's Wonderland is complete without a visit to Santa himself. Time for the kids to tell Mr. Kringle what they want for Christmas a picture capturing the moment is included with the cost of admission.


If I were Santa Wonderland's target demographic, I would have been underwhelmed. The facility felt like a work in progress and the space's former office identity is still quite evident.  Luckily, none of the aesthetics seemed detract from the fun and magic that all the visiting children were experiencing. On a scale of "sorta good" to "very good", my kids gave it a "very, very, very good". My hope is that Santa's Wonderland will up the ante next year and become a fixture in Irvine for years to come.

Good to know: If your GPS is like mine (cough, cough Siri), it will lead you in the wrong direction. Here are the correct directions to Santa's Wonderland: Take Interstate 405 and exit Jamboree, heading east. Make a left on Main St. Take another left on Cartwright Road. Cartwright will turn to the left and become White Road. Just before White Road dead ends, turn left into an office complex housing Santa's Wonderland .  Santa's Wonderland is located at 2719 White Road.

For more information, check out the Santa's Workshop website.

Disclosure: My kids and I received complimentary entry into Santa's Workshop in order to highlight the business on Destination Irvine. All opinions are my own.

Holiday Stress Reducers

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 04, 2012

Does this sound familiar?

Every holiday season, you find yourself buried under an avalanche of To-Do Lists and schedules. Celebrations meant to be festive occasions become overwhelming obligations.  Holiday Stress Reducers

Somewhere, around the middle of December, you find that you have turned into the most dreaded of seasonal creatures:

holiday Stress Reducers

The Holiday Martyr.

Don't let this happen to you!

Do what I do and schedule an all-important day off.

A Holiday from the Holidays, if you will. 

It may seem that personal time is an impossible luxury at this time of year. But intentionally taking a break in the action may allow you to actually enjoy the holiday celebrations that you've worked so hard to create.

Here are my Top Stress Reducers for the Holiday Season.

Try one or two; you'll be glad you did.

Enjoy a Spa Day.

Holiday Stress Reducers 

It's OK to give yourself a gift during the holidays and The Spa at The Island Hotel in Fashion Island is the perfect place to escape for an afternoon of seasonal bliss. Try a Hoiday Aromatherapy massage with hazelnut, clove and macadamia oils. Maybe a Peppermint Reflexology Treatment for your aching feet. A few hours of relaxation can refresh and recharge you for more holiday fun.

Get Some Fresh Air

Holiday Stress Reducers

If there's one thing that the City of Irvine has in abundance, it's open space trails. This collection of pathways and parks meander throughout each community. Exploring one of these trails is a healthy and economical way to battle holiday stress.  

Give to Others

holiday Stress Reducers

It's true. There's no better way to change your mood from sour to sweet than to give to others. Families Forward is a local Irvine charitable organization that supports families in crisis throughout the year. At the holidays, they sponsor the Adopt a Family Program, where you can make the holidays brighter with donated presents, gas or gift cards.  

Deep, Cleansing Breaths
Holiday Stress Reducers

Exercise is important all year long, but an hour long, stress-busting yoga class can be a lifesaver during the holidays. Try a class at L.A. Fitness. Not a member? You can try a guest pass for the day and check it out.


holiday Stress Reducers

Go ahead. You can do it. Power down your cell phone for an afternoon. Abandon your IPad. Take a few hours and escape the online madness and do something revolutionary; like read a book. The world will survive without you while you push your own personal reset button.  

Be A Tourist in Your Own Town

Holiday Stress Reducers 

Irvine is located smack-dab in the middle of one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. Orange County boasts a wealth of delightful day trips that would tempt any freezing East Coaster to jump on a plane. Avoid some of the busier spots and enjoy a quiet walk on the beach at Crystal Cove, or visit Santa himself at Irvine Regional Park.

Practice Gratitude 

 holiday Stress Reducers

It may seem like the simplest of things, yet it's easy to forget. In the middle of holiday bustle, take intentional time to remember your blessings. The season is full of reminders of how lucky we are, we only have to choose to see them. A stack of Christmas cards to mail means lots of good friends. Boxes of decorations mean a home to make beautiful. Piles of presents to wrap mean loved ones around for the holidays. 

May your holiday season be joyously peaceful and happily stress free! 
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