In the west side of Orange, premier shopping and entertainment is along City Blvd at the Outlets at Orange, which is more commonly referred to as the Block (formerly, the mall was called The Block at Orange but corporate meddling has, alas, ruined a perfectly good name once again.)
The mall stretches out about a square mile, providing more than adequate space to spend your paycheck, eat and kill time. I have witnessed it flourishing and declining over the years, with new stores coming and going. Yet, the place is always a big draw on the weekends with local and a good share of tourists visiting the area for primarily Disneyland and Angel games.
If you want to hang out here on the weekend, come early! I cannot stress that enough. The parking lot is huge but not enough from Fri-mid Sun At least it is free to park, unlike at many popular West LA county and Hollywood areas. Well, if you want to show off, there is valet service here as well.
Here is a lowdown of some favorite places at the Block:
Dave and Busters- typical sports bar/arcade but the life of the Block party is here
Van's Skate Park- see the world's largest skate park.
Lucky Strikes- bowling and socializing
Market Broiler- probably the best quality restaurant in the Block area. It serves mostly seafood but other options are available.
Off 5th (Saks)- an outlet style version of Saks 5th Avenue, still the high-end apparel place to go here for woman and men.
Neiman Marcus outlet - the most luxurious store of all here !!
Nordstrom Rack- grand opening in Feb 2012.
Find deals online for featured Block stores here :
Like many malls in America, The Block is experiencing some economic lows, forcing the close of some major stores and leaving empty real estate.
Virgin Megastore is closed forevermore :-( I helped to "christian" the store back, in 1998 :-) It was cool working there. Oh, my Virginity is really gone now!
Also closed :Borders Books- blame it on modern technology, the E-Book craze and overdevelopment of brick and mortar store. Steve and Barry and Richie's Neighborhood Pizzeria. No more cheap, casual clothes and fabulous but expensive pizza pies :-(
Great music, company and food with a wonderful evening breeze blowing in a beautiful park setting. That is my kind of an outing in So Cal. Rock out especially to alternative rock and reggae in Orange County during the "summers in the park" series put on by OC Parks, the official county park system. Irvine Regional Park, in the city of Orange, is one of the biggest concert locales.
The best thing of the series is of course the FREE- ness of it all. Just save money for the food (Food trucks will tempt you if you don't brown bag it) and por favor, pack some patience with the parking. Arrive early. When an event says it starts at 6:00 PM, arrive at 4:00PM for the best chance of parking spot and stage viewing and chat away with folks and walk before hand.
*2013 - Concerts in the Park summer series is relaunched w/ rock and blues specialists Jeramiah Red & Mia and the Moonlight headlining festivities at Irvine Regional Park (Aug 15).
Shame on me (and many other O.C.'ers)! Only until recently did I discover that there is an official O.C. Zoo! I had known of the tiny Santa Ana Zoo within the city, however further east is the regional zoological dome of animals especially of southwest USA. Located within Irvine Regional Park is the 477 acre zoo which features the popular California beast, the black bear and the mountain lion. If not much of a wildlife enthusiasts, come here just to take in a rustic, rural atmosphere while still being in a big city. No personal pics yet, but check out website.
Watson's Drug Store and Soda Fountain (including diner/café) is a town treasure over 100 years old and still going strong. It makes for a must-do food restaurant tip, but just focusing on the atmosphere here, the establishment is congenial and cozy, especially for a daytrip. For you American history buffs, Watson's is a must see in Orange, as the oldest running business in all of Orange county. Notably, President George W. Bush has stopped by and there have been some film taping within and outside, including the Tom Hanks flick, That Thing You Do! and Burt Reynolds', Cannonball Run.
Go back in time inside, where there are vintage candies, sodas, merchandise and old fashioned from which to choose and create your own nostalgic shopping goodie mix. Oh, and if you have some pain, over-the-counter Tylenols and Aleves are available.
Tustin Street Fair and Chili Cook Off
Come June, there is no gloom in Tustin- no matter how the weather is - for there is glee with the Tustin Street Fair, featuring the popular chili cook-off. Mix in with all of the neighborhood folk and city officials during the event in Old Towne area off Main St and Newport Ave.
Have a taste of Americana- for your mouth, ears and eyes. Besides chili of the mild, medium, and dang hot variety, grub on American fair food delights- hot dogs, cotton candy, fresh salted corn on the cob and BBQ meat. Fair activities include watermelon eating contests, live music (mostly rock and country/folk style from local professional and school bands) and antique car show.
Be sure to have cash available for the event. It is free to attend, however, you'll want to have about $5-$10 for chili sampling tickets (one sample cost 1 ticket). Also, if you want to have a favorite beer or wine spirit, it will cost 6-8 tickets each. Other food and drink purchases are cash only. ATMs are available nearby and a few markets and drug stores can give cash back after purchase are within a 5-10 min walking distance.
Reminder: Come early to have a chance to sample a variety of chili. Don't be like me, arrive 2-3 hours into the festivities and get only three tiny cups full! Ugh!
Chapman University is a well regarded private university located in the heart of the city of Orange. The institution has become a major factor in the town's city activity and structure, particularly by creating venues for arts and entertainment.
Well noted for having a premiere film school, Dodge College, Chapman honors the craft of film by presenting special screenings throughout the year and, since 2010, the Busan West Film Festival, which attracted movie superstar and ex-CA governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Busan West honors acheivements from the Asian movie industry, particularly full-length films and shorts from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. Screenings prices start $10+, $25 for opening reception.
Pictures from Busan west: Busanwest.com
See calendar of events schedule for film screening (filter for film events):
Check out student film work online:
Catch the OCTA 59 bus to get to film related events and others at Chapman University.
Tết, the Vietnam New Year (Hội Chợ Tết Sinh Viên), is well recognized faraway from the south Asian country. A popular festivity for the holiday take place early February in O.C: in the heavily Vietnamese populated Garden Grove.
In 2013, The Garden Grove festival honored the" Year of the Cat" on its milestone 30th run. Lead solely by volunteers, the culturally rich event attracts tens of thousands. Attendees enjoy a variety of activity, including traditional dance performances, carnival rides, choosing delectable meals from many food booths, and viewing the Miss Vietnam of Southern California pageant.
Admission is just $5
Catch the festivities at Garden Grove Park.
Excellent pictures on website!
Religious or not, one who fancies viewing and admiring churches should come in Old Towne Orange. There are several charming churches of distinct architecture within the relatively small zone- and all can be reached by foot during a nice, easy stroll.
Main picture is of St. John's, the biggest church in Orange
Second church is First United Methodist Church
The green building pictured used to be an active church but is now an Avila's Mexican restaurant.
If you are like me, often indecisive on which restaurant to try in an area where there are so many tempting eateries, you may desire to do a food sampling tour. Old Towne Orange has a regular and popular "Walking Food Tour" attraction. Head to OTO from the train or take a roadtrip here for this weekend event of good grubbing.
There are 3 types of tour offered: Orange Sampler, Vintage Tour and Art Walk Tour. Orange Sampler, occurring weekly, Saturday and Sunday mornings, is least expensive and less time consuming. If you would like a little history and cooking demo with your food sampling, go for the Vintage Tour, occurring every Saturday morning (meet at Chapman College where there is a film school tour). Art Walk Tour, which is scheduled least frequent and is the longest tour (ample time for artist discussion and presentation) , is geared for art gallery and food enthusiasts.
Regular tour costs is $54-$65. Check website for updated info, contact numbers and schedule.
Look out for a Groupon for these tours for a 20%-50% discount and get it fast because they will sell out!
I give a nod to the Stadium promenade. Just a few minutes drive from Angels Stadium and Honda Center in Anaheim, this small town center is a very good option for tourists and locals alike who are in town to catch a game or concert. Although it expands for a block, SP is packed with a nice selction of restaurants from which to choose, as well as offering Century 25, a huge cineplex for your Hollywood entertainment.
Favorite restaurants are Chilis (Variety-watch for the high sodium entrees here!), King's Fish House, Lazy Dog Cafe (Variety) and Acapulco (Mexican-Amer.). Also, check out Auld Irisher (Irish bar), Pint house (gastro pub) and Tilted Kilt (Scottish influenced American).
It's all about location, location, location with Stadium Promenade. Besides The Block, SP is the commercial place to dine for your after dining/entertainment. If you like more of a local, quaint flair, don't come here and make you way east to Old Town Orange.
Mix in with real locals, try international delights and possibly get stone drunk in the heart of this town come Labor Day weekend for the Orange International Street Fair (OSIF). All these are for a good cause- fundraising for Orange community groups, including several youth-centered ones. The somewhat sleepy streets of Old Orange become unmistakably alive during the first weekend of September.
As for food and drink, there are different streets serving up foods from various cusines. Go for a Mexican chimichanga, Greek souvlaki, sushi, Danish ableskiver (a kind of donut served with jelly). Spirits are a plenty and great variety with the beverage of choice being a lager or good ol'American beer.
There are also some craft and vendor booths here selling jewelry household items and various trinkets or souvenirs.
It's better to come here in the evening or night because the breeze is very nice to feel after the usual Labor Day heat during the afternoon hours. For laughs, the crowd is more animated with the alcohol consumption. It's just funny to see people getting wasted! But then again, Friday and Saturday evening gets so sardine-packed that being an early bird is quite desireable.
OISF began in 1973 to celebrate the city of Orange's centennial mark.
Old Towne Orange is a charming little getaway from the very busy city area. There are many antique stores and shabby chic boutiques here for a great, enriched shopping experience. Most stores are open until 5 or 6 PM. After hours, one can still enjoy the cafes, restaurants and a few bars. I actually recommend to come here at night to experience a more calm evening out. So, if you look to go clubbing, avoid this spot! However, if you enjoy a less quiet and local experience, don't hesitate to come and take a stroll around.
The Orange International Street Fair is held every year during the Labor Day Weekend in the Plaza Square of Orange. The fair has a history dating back to 1910 and celebrates the rich ethnic diversity of the citizens in Orange. Nearly 100 non-profit organizations participate in this annual event providing various ethnic food, drink, and entertainment for the 600,000 county-wide visitors who come each year.
Each street going away from the Plaza Square (Orange Circle) is dedicated to a country with their representative food and entertainment. Examples include Mexican Street, Irish Street, Denmark Street, Greek Street, Polynesian Street, Swiss Street, and several others.
Be sure to bring sunscreen, hat, good walking shoes, and money to enjoy the food. It will be hot, humid, and crowded each day the fair is open.
The fair is at the intersection of Chapman Ave. and Glassell St. There are a number of city parking lots, local organizations, and churches making parking available in the immediate area for a nominal fee. Your best bet is to park on one of the quaint tree-lined residental streets surrounding the fair area.
This year (2004), the fair is open from Friday (9/2) through Sunday (9/4) and closed on Labor Day.
Every Labor Day weekend, we block off traffic from the Plaza's traffic circle to make way for the Orange International Street Fair. Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September so the fair is on that Friday evening through Sunday.
Our street fair is tradition since 1910 but the International theme, celebrating the diversity of our community, started in 1973. This annual event draws around 800,000 visitors to our historical Plaza.
Here you can taste international foods, buy crafts, watch folk dancing and listen to ethnic music. Many different ethnic groups participate every year at the Street Fair.
It's a fun event and is always very crowded. The weather is normally really hot at this time of year so wear something cool, bring a hat, sunglasses and sun-block. As the sun goes down, you may need a light sweater.
As the evening progresses, some of the people get a bit rowdy after a long day of drinking. There are lots of cops roaming around but I still prefer to leave before the drunkards get too annoying.
Old Town Orange , or "the circle" is one of the best places to find or check out american antiques from the 1800's up through modern day. It has a good crowd and many shops and restaurants worth checking out. It represents the historic California most will never see again.
Come experience the charm of Old Towne Orange... Over 700 dealers of antiques and collectibles, art, dining, history and more.
Enjoy an afternoon tea, visit the art galleries or a Victorian Bridal Museum.
Old Towne is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Don't forget about the Street Fair if you are around for Labor Day Weekend. There is a fair of international countries where they represent their nation with food and entertainment all through the weekend.