Orange County: Unplugged

These days, kids can’t get enough of Instagram, Facebook, and the internet. Generation Z  aka The Milennials are any whiz kid born from 1998-2000.  They’ve grown up  instantaneously, expecting everything: internet, cell phones, iPad, iTouch, GPS, apps, and games all at a single touch.  Gone are the days of problem solving to find an answer. Just Google it, Bing it, or there’s an app for it. I still remember my mom teaching me how to use the Thomas Guide and searching for every page and tab to make sure they matched up. And I’d still end up in the wrong county. Now Siri can guide you and even remind you to bring snacks to your kids’ next practice.

The overdependence on technology is frightening and yet necessary. We have to live currently not only to be more efficient but so we can spy on our kids’ Instagram and text messages.  Yet, my innate need to get everyone to unplug overpowers me.  Especially living in the OC, we are privileged to have options that we must engage in, naysay the east coasters  stuck in their gloomy and chilly days. Here are some local hidden gems to explore as you venture into the “unplugged.”

Drive down the scenic PCH toward Newport Coast and encounter a niche where time stopped, historic cottages line the coast, and kids can grab a shake and see artists paint the comings and goings of the sea. Crystal Cove State Park is a beautiful space for naturalists and family fun alike. Park across the street at Los Trancos Parking Lot and take the shuttle across, or be adventurous and walk through the trail and underground tunnel to the other side. Either way, you step into what you think could be a Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello teen beach movie.  To the left, there’s a quaint shop and mini museum with steps that lead to the top of PCH. There you can find the Ruby Shake Shack and grab a shake and burger as you enjoy the breeze.  Walk back down to the beach and enjoy the sun where the waters are indeed crystal blue, perfecting the namesake.

Still hungry after a day of ocean lounging? Turn back to the entrance and enjoy the Beachcomber Cafe right on the beach. Its best to make reservations early as it quickly gets crowded with hungry patrons.

Make sure you enjoy the many trails that the park has to offer. Facing the beach entrance toward the right, there are steps which lead to beautiful trails each with the landscape of the ocean waves and expansive sky. There are many stops with benches and places for opportune photo moments.

Drive north on PCH and head over to Huntington Beach’s Central Park for some tranquility and fresh air. With lush greenery around, enjoy the view of Huntington Lake as you sit leisurely on a bench or picnic on the lawn. Animal lovers can delight in walking your dog at the dog park, and bike around the lake as you bird watch and see the multitude of ducks and geese frolicking everywhere. Surrounding the lake are many activities for the family to enjoy. For young ones, enjoy the library and story time which is locally televised and air conditioned on those hot days. Walk around to the Equestrian Center which offers tours or sign up for a guide and horse ride toward Edwards Hill for an hour long excursion. If you wish to move and groove some more, there’s an exercise course all along the park which guides you in strength and cardio training. For the less fitness disciplined, enjoy the sounds of summer as you walk a little farther to the park amphitheater that plays live music and holds summer concerts. Check local schedules for the series.

My favorite part of the whole place? Food! Enjoy dining al fresco at the Park Bench Cafe located in Central Park East. Many comfort foods to choose from for you and your pooch! There’s even a walk up water dishes for man’s best friend for those just strolling around.

If you’re in need of more lake time, head inland toward Silverado off Santiago Canyon into Irvine Lake. There’s a campground for your RV or simply take a day trip and go fishin’! You can rent a small boat and fish on the lake or fish off the shore. If you have a big crowd, go ahead and take over with the big pontoon boats and just hover over the lake for the afternoon. If you have kids in tow, head over to the lagoon where they make sure to stock plenty of trout so each kid is guaranteed to reel in a fish. Hello? Instant birthday party favors! Get ready to kickoff the summer with the Catfish Opener on June 7th. Think you’re as good as your fish tales? Sign up for the tournaments and get your bait ready to go on the record holder wall.

So now that you know a few places to explore, there’s a whole list of treasures to be found. Put your sunscreen on, go into the wild, and discover the outdoors. And hey, if you get lost, just Google it.


Tasha Chang Poblete is a local contributing writer for our blog.

Leave a Reply