With a spotless reputation and neighborhoods to match, Irvine isn’t exactly the most exciting place to be. I mean, most everything around here closes by 10 p.m. In this sheltered little suburb, there’s nothing to do but get wasted at the nearest dorm or open pad, right?
Wrong. Although UC Irvine lacks the late-night venues that other college cities have to offer, there are plenty of things to do that fulfill every need, from shopping sprees to nice beach locations. Although it sounds too good to be true, there are tight spots to kick it in this bubble of a town for a pretty cheap price and even for free. Yes, for free.
When coming to a new college town, the first thing every student looks for is a place for cheap eats. Sure, University Town Center has all the glorious fast-food franchises from In-N-Out to Taco Bell, but there are other healthier places to eat that won’t break the bank or your arteries.
Right down the street from campus and next to Albertsons is Aomatsu, a little taste of the East that satisfies everything from the sushi-lovers’ cravings to basic teriyaki bowls. Other than the peaceful ambiance and good food, what attracts many students here is its happy hour. Any time before 2 p.m., all the rolls and sushi are half off, meaning twice the grub for half the price. A couple of rolls will satisfy the hunger for something other than Pippin or Brandywine Commons, while breaking no more than $10 out of the beloved savings our parents so graciously gave us.
While food is an important factor in life, another thing a new student has to worry about is how he or she looks and what he or she is wearing. Not speaking of the fake, clone-like dressings of high school, but finding a style that says, “Why yes. I am in college, thank you.” The perfect place to find clothing that says just that is not South Coast Plaza, but just south from there in Costa Mesa at the LAB Anti-Mall. Being exactly what the name implies, the Lab is a quaint little place that embodies what little urban swagger the OC has to offer. The Lab carries very few well-known lines like Urban Outfitters; instead it plays host to more personalized-type boutiques and grunge-style stores like Buffalo Exchange and Great Laundry. More than just clothes and awesome kicks for those shoe junkies, the Lab also offers the Gypsy Den, an eclectic café with antique rugs and photographs hanging on the cluttered walls, perfect for anyone who wants to live out their bohemian desires in this white-collar city.
To further live against the picture-perfect image of Irvine, there is a spot that can be reached by parking in a lot of an elementary school, climbing up stairs near “Beware of Mountain Lion” signs, and making your way to the top of Suicide Hill. Although to some it’s known as Turtle Rock Hill, I think Suicide Hill fits better due to the fact that if you fell from there, that’d be a short ending for you. But on a brighter note, once on top of the hill, there is a beautiful scenic view of Irvine and Orange Country during both the day and night. Plus, since it’s quite empty during the late hours, it’s a perfect place to relax and reminisce by oneself or take advantage of the perfect photo-op for you and your friends in what’s left of Irvine’s “wild” life. The dark hours of the night are usually the best time for you to not get caught. And just a warning, don’t play on the playground after hours. Trust me, there can be consequences.
If going on adventures and shopping isn’t what you’re looking for, there are plenty of picture-perfect beaches around here. Surrounded by everything from Newport to Huntington to Laguna, there are many beaches to hit up for surf and sand time. For a beach that has clean sand, clean waves (by SoCal standards), tide pools and the comfort of security, there is the beach below the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach. When first arriving, it may seem as if you’re going to the ritzy five-star resort, but once on the beach you’ll see how laid-back and beautiful the OC is. Perfect for time with friends, significant others or for yourself.
So don’t despair. Just because you live in a bubble now, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time.
Welcome to Irvine!