Out & About Orange County

Tired of the daily grind of studying and sitting in class and wanting to get away, but don’t want to spend gas money? Here are four day trips in the area that won’t gouge your wallet.

Day Trip #1: Fashion Island
If you want to go to the mall but can’t drive, Fashion Island is a mere 15-minute bus trip away. Take Route 79 (which you can catch at stop #3254 under the University Center side of the Watson Bridge) both ways. Get off the bus after the intersection of Santa Cruz and Newport Center Drive (#5047). To get back, take the bus stop by Santa Barbara and Newport Center Drive (#5051). Don’t make the mistake I made by taking the wrong bus back. I had to walk two miles to get home. Check the bus schedule ahead of time on Orange County Transit’s Web site http://www.octa.net. Buses are free for UC Irvine students with an activated student ID.
Fashion Island has a wide variety of department stores (Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Robinsons-May) and is divided with the children’s stores in one area and the women’s and men’s stores in another. Be careful where you go, though, since some of the smaller apparel shops can be pricey.
To avoid the mall’s overpriced restaurants, head to the Atrium, which has Italian and Chinese food, as well as wraps and barbeque.

Day Trip #2: William R. Mason Park
William R. Mason Park is a 345-acre park with tons of space to run around or play soccer, football and volleyball. With plenty of benches, it’s ideal for a picnic lunch. A man-made lake with ducks and other waterfowl provides a tranquil place to relax or read a book. To get there, it’s easiest to walk or ride your bike. Head toward the intersection of Campus and Berkeley and make a left. At Harvard and Berkeley, turn right. Cross the street at California and Harvard. The entrance to the park, a pathway that juts out from the sidewalk, is on the left side of Harvard. You could take the bus (route 175 or 79 from the UC Irvine side of the Watson Bridge), but it’s so close to campus that it’s quicker just to walk.

Day Trip #3: Woodbridge Village Center
If you’ve been too busy to see the latest blockbuster films, the theater at Woodbridge Village Center gives you one last chance. To get to the Woodbridge Center take bus route 175 for about 20 minutes from the UCI side of the bridge. Get off at the bus stop right next to the shopping center. To get back, take the bus stop that is across the street from where you got off.
Once you arrive, check out the movie times. The box office opens after noon. Matinees are $1 and evening shows are $1.50. I saw ‘Dreamer,’ which was a cute, uplifting movie. Don’t worry, guys, there are plenty of action flicks. After your film, walk around the shopping area since it has some interesting shops: Stein Mart, which is like a Ross or T.J. Maxx, a toy store, RadioShack, a Barnes & Noble and other novelty shops. They also have a few food shops: Champagne Bakery, Tully’s Coffee and an ice cream shop. If you have some time before you catch the bus back, there’s another man-made lake across the street from the Woodbridge Village Center.

Day Trip #4: Bike Ride to Balboa
The bike ride to Balboa lasts a little over an hour and can be tiresome, but the scenery makes it well worth the effort. From University Center, head down Campus Drive toward University. Cross University and take the bike path that runs along the creek. The bike trail goes under Jamboree and ends at the intersection of University and Jamboree. At that point, make a right and go up the hill. You’ll see a nature kiosk at the top of the hill. To the right is the start of the bike trail. Follow the Back Bay bike trail until it ends. At the end of the trail, continue down the street and go through the boating club on your right. Cross the wooden bridge next to the giant white tent. Continue down the street until you hit the intersection on PCH. You’ll see a Chevron station. Go straight until you see Balboa on your right. You have arrived