Popping the Irvine Bubble

Even though we only live an hour away from Tinseltown and two hours from the lively metropolis of San Diego, the city of Irvine is far from making a mark on any star maps. It is as synonymous to suburbia America as O.J. Simpson is to crooks. Aside from catching movies or giving in to late-night cravings for a deliciously heart-clogging burrito at Del Taco, life in Irvine sometimes ceases to remain interesting after 9 p.m.
In comparison to other UC campuses, UC Irvine may seem docile and dull but there are still many hidden treasures to explore as long as one knows where to look.
My first surprisingly wonderful discovery came from Orange County’s newest outdoor attraction, the Great Park. In 2003 the Irvine City Council unanimously agreed to fund for a 1,347-acre family park that features such attractions as botanical gardens, bike trails and a sport center.
Even though this park is still under construction, one of its main attractions, an enormous helium-powered balloon that carries its guest 250-400 feet up in the air, is now open to the public.
What’s even better is that visitors can ride for free before New Year’s, a deal rarely found around Orange County. As the balloon rose higher and higher, the freshness of the air seemed to enhance the vast beautiful landscape. From the sky, Irvine no longer looks like a mere assembly of shopping outlets but a terrain of hillsides and homes. The ride lasts for only 15 minutes but residents can go up as often as the weather permits
Another jewel is a series of classic movies projected onto an outdoor screen at the Orange County Performing Arts Plaza. The film series featured beloved oldies such as ‘Singing in the Rain,’ ‘Westside Story’ and ‘Moulin Rouge.’
Audiences ranging from college students to families gather with picnic blankets and chairs while vendors from the OCPA refreshments. Sound projects from every corner of the plaza as huge images flashed before our eyes, a feeling of nostalgia for the good old days. Nothing cools a summer night more than the singing of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Conner and Debbie Reynolds in the rain.
For every Orange County farmer, the annual OC fair is all about showing off its summer bounty. For the rest of us, it means sinful indulgences of fried Twinkies and pricey carnival games. From mid-July till early-August the OC fairground transforms itself into a gala of activities from Spanish Dancing and homemade beer competitions to weekly live concerts featuring guests like Queens of the Stone Age and Bob Dylan. This year’s theme was a marriage between the land and the sea titled ‘Cowabunga!