For Those Who Think Life at UCI is Boring, This is for You

“UC Irvine is so boring! There is nothing to do! It is dead on the weekends! Everything closes early!” Insert a whiny voice when all those things are said and this probably sounds like most of you. I have news for you. Stop being a Debbie Downer and couch potato and open your eyes. UCI, and Orange County in general, has more to offer than you may know — way more.

I remember coming in freshman year and discovering that it seemed as if everything did close in Irvine at 10 p.m. The only places that we could reach by long board or scooter (yeah, I rode a scooter) from our Middle Earth dorm after that hour were Cha for Tea, In-N-Out and Jack in the Box. We began buying into everyone’s thoughts about how lame life in Irvine was. Most of our fun was confined in the University Town Center (UTC) and by staying up late and becoming delusional, both of which were amusing in their own right; at least we didn’t go to UC Riverside or Merced.

Then we did what everyone should do. We decided to take matters into our own hands. Instead of listening to all the haters, we made some friends who had cars and did some research. Unfortunately, you do need a car to tap into the world that I discovered, the same world I am about to reveal to you.

Since I mentioned late night eating, here are a few places I have come across and what I love about them. By the way, all you need to do to find these places is a little Internet research and some exploration. The New University is one place to find coupons and good budget eating.

The first place I found was Alejandro’s Mexican food. Alejandro’s is money. It’s located in Costa Mesa and is about a 10 minute drive from UCI after 10 p.m. This 19th Street joint is open 24 hours and has an amazing California burrito. More than half of the reviews on Yelp.com, a user review Web site, rave about its Carne Asada fries, which have been compared to those of Albatro’s in nearby Lake Forest. I haven’t had either yet, but anything that is slated to be better than the California burrito is an automatic point of intrigue in my book.

My next choice might sound egregious and nasty, but hear me out. The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) on MacArthur, the one right across from the airport, is legit. Now I find all Denny’s and IHOP, and any other chains of that sort, disgusting and a last resort. However, this IHOP has a special aura. All of its dishes seem to come out with care all day and night. Coupled with great service, this establishment should not be tainted with its franchise name. My favorite item on the menu is the mozzarella sticks.

If you are craving a more ethnic feel and don’t want to drive over to Westminster for the Pho, check out the new Diamond Jamboree Plaza on Jamboree and Alton. The Guppy House is in this complex and it is probably the only place in Irvine with a mean shaved ice. Mean because you get such large portions that all you can do is be intimidated – but satisfied. The $19.99 Guppy Special can get you a small ordering of shaved ice (good for four people even though the menu says two), popcorn chicken and a unique butter caramel toast. This place is open until 1 a.m. If you just want a drink, walk over to the 85°C Bakery Café and order its Sea Salt coffee, which tastes better than it sounds. If not, just get one of the many assortments of pastries or cakes.

If you head there and decide that you aren’t feeling any of those options, just walk to shops adjacent to Jamboree in the same complex and you will discover Original Buffalo Wings. This place is open until 1 a.m. every night and until 3 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday. There is even a crepe place (Crepe de Paris). The Diamond Plaza truly is a multicultural eating experience.

If you aren’t hungry and are just aching for some thrill and adventure, there are plenty of places here to get your fix. Unlike me, if you like to get your pants wet out of fear go to the Doll House. I refuse to learn the location or even the legend, so just ask someone how to get there. Or just take a stroll through Campus Drive between University and Jamboree. The mist that takes over at 3 a.m. will send chills down your spine.

If you are a normal human being, make your way to the Avenue of the Arts. Even though we don’t have the budget to attend the shows and exhibits there, just being there at midnight when no one is around is truly a spectacle. The Avenue of the Arts is home to some of the best architecture in Orange County. A big part of the effect is its lighting, and when you go at midnight, when it is illuminated and vacant, you feel as if you have left suburbia and entered fantasia. It is about a 10-minute drive from campus. To get there, take the 405 north, exit Avenue of the Arts and park in the parking lot on the left (it’s free after 10 p.m.). Cross the street from the TGIFs and voila!

In case you didn’t notice, some of the best beaches in the world are also a short drive away. The easiest and most convenient are Corona Del Mar and Newport. Getting to Newport, easy? Yeah, just take advantage of the ASUCI shuttle system. The shuttle drops you off at the heart of Newport and even Fashion Island. It even runs on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 7:40 p.m. All you need are your flip flops, sun screen and your UCI identification card to make the short 30-minute round trip that leaves from UTC and other various locations on campus. If you want to ditch class and go during the week, the shuttles run all day. Check the ASUCI Web site for more details.

Finally, I will of course pitch attending UCI sporting events. For one, they are free. You may think we suck, but it’s either because you don’t attend or don’t pick up this paper. Both our men’s volleyball and baseball team are number one in the nation currently, and women’s water polo is in the top 10. Volleyball is the most underrated spectator sport. Your perceptions are probably tainted from your weak and slow teams from high school. And you all have heard that attending baseball games is more fun than watching them on TV. Here at UCI, we have one of the best ballparks in college baseball with the best food and, oh yeah, with the best team in the nation. I think its success speaks for itself.

I could really just go on, but I would just be taking the fun out of your own discovery. Do some research, catch some word of mouth and get off your butt. UCI is not that bad, and if you really can’t stand it, Los Angeles and San Diego are only an hour drive away.