Irvine Bests “Old” College Towns

The stereotype of boring, old Irvine is just too moldy to stick.  I admit that at first glance this city may seem uneventful but more than a short visit and quick browse is needed to experience the true intrigue of Irvine lifestyle. And be warned, to experience Irvine to the fullest you will have to step out of your comfort bubble and get out more!

From diverse, quality dining options, classy venues and great shopping to renowned beaches, nature parks and fine arts, there isn’t much that UCI students don’t have within their reach in this prototypical college town.

The University Town Center connects to the UCI campus and has not only day-to-day services, but an independent movie theater, 24 Hour Fitness (although who needs it with the ARC!), dance studio and much more.

A short bus or bike ride will get one to the highly-reviewed Diamond Jamboree where a karaoke lounge and various Asian dining await. A little further down is the District where all local shopping needs, food fetishes and mainstream movie watching can be fulfilled.

But enough with the travel brochure lingo. The important aspect about the “Irvine college town” is that it is unlike any other. It is not centered in a prime downtown location and it is not that small-town school with nothing but pretty scenery. Though some may argue UCI is smothered by suburban living, a closer look would prove them wrong.

It is true that Irvine caters to suburbia but the interesting point to note is that it caters to corporate and small businesses as well as arts and leisure. Irvine is a special mix of mini-downtown and suburban life, coastal convenience, business districts, ethnic plazas and classy, fun nightlife.

Sure, if you want to get technical, most venues aren’t strictly in Irvine but in bordering Tustin or the greater Orange County. Nearby beaches and parks technically reside in Newport, Corona Del Mar and Huntington.  But that’s the beauty of living as a UCI student Ń the university’s prime location allows easy access to any activity and place in the area on a daily basis.

On any given day you could decide to spend the day at Fashion Island, Crystal Cove and spend the evening with a bonfire or Newport party.  You can even become a little cultured at the local Irvine Museum.

The one thing I personally could not get over was the high quality and diversity of food choices. Yes, I’m now eternally addicted to Cha for Tea, have developed a taste for vegetarian dishes thanks to The Veggie Grill and like to buy my fruits and veggies at the Wholesome Choice food market, but what’s wrong with that? They are all awesome sources of the healthier options I’ve grown to love.

I also have a movie fetish and was extremely excited to learn that the movie theater in UTC played options besides the mainstream, right there in front of my school! Movies tend to come out in theaters in this area earlier than other locations so I couldn’t be more content.

And then there were the awesome kickbacks and parties that I wasn’t hesitant to go to since I felt safe around Irvine and its surrounding areas.

Last year I was a freshman who, sadly, wasn’t excited to come to UC Irvine since it was my fallback school. And oh how naive and ungrateful I was.

As a freshman I had a great experience filled with savory eats, the best in stock for retail shopping, social extravaganzas, random yet much needed beach trips and so much more.

I even got a taste of different cultures and religion by diving into the political trends of this campus through the New U.  I like to think my experience mirrors that of Elizabeth Gilbert’s in Eat, Pray, Love. And that’s exactly how it happened: I ate the wonderful food, welcomed myself to the unique environment of strong and various beliefs on this campus and slowly but surely fell in love.

So if you still believe Irvine doesn’t have much to offer, look again. Besides finding yourself completely spoiled by the beach weather when you visit home, you may begin to see Irvine for what it truly isŃa hidden treasure masked by mundane stereotypes. But that is precisely why I love and appreciate it so much.

Annum Kahn is a second year literary journalism major. She can be reached at khanaf@uci.edu.