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Irvine: The Gem of the OC

- Cristina

I will admit that Irvine, California is not the most exciting place to live. Sure, it’s big and beautiful and clean and safe, but what I have learned from living here since I started college last September is that none of those factors necessarily equals a good time. However, over the past ten months I have come to appreciate the fact that, while much of what this city has to offer is not immediately apparent, it is worth discovering.

One of the most popular spots for locals and visitors alike is the Irvine Spectrum Center, located near the Transportation Center. It’s essentially an outdoor shopping complex, but it also has many restaurants, a gym, movie theater, comedy club, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and, in the winter, a small ice-skating rink. It’s a great way to spend the day if you want to shop, eat, catch a movie, or simply relax by the fountain and enjoy some free, live entertainment.

For a list of shops and restaurants at the Spectrum, you can visit their website: http://www.shopirvinespectrumcenter.com/Search.aspx

If a day of shopping and casual dining doesn’t entice you, then you might be interested in Boomers! Family Entertainment Center. I will admit—when I first went to Boomers! I definitely felt out of place. I went there with my Big Sister from my fraternity and the two of us felt like giants among the younger children that surrounded us. However, as we ventured the park, I began to see people of all different ages, including teenagers. Boomers! offers go-karting, mini golf, an arcade, a rock climbing wall, and a few other fun activities and rides that everyone in your family can enjoy.

Another thing that I like about Irvine is that, for such a well-manicured and carefully maintained city, it does offer access to a bit of wilderness for those who crave an oasis from the city. Crystal Cove State Park and the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary are two well-known parks that are open to the public. Crystal Cove has a network of scenic hiking trails that sprawl across 2,400 acres of pristine wilderness as well as 3.5 miles of coastline where visitors are free to surf, swim, dive, or explore the coves. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some dolphins just off the shore!

The Wildlife Sanctuary is not quite as impressive in size, but its hiking trails do offer some peace and tranquility and an opportunity for birdwatchers and nature-lovers to see a variety of birds and wildlife.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had the chance to visit either of these parks, but I am looking forward to exploring both of them while the weather is still warm (good thing I’ve got another three months).

Of course, I would be doing my university a disservice if I ended this article without shamelessly promoting extending an invitation to UC Irvine. If you’re an incoming high school junior or senior who’s interested in going to college on the West Coast, I highly recommend that you pay UCI a visit—after completing adequate college research, obviously. Even if you find that it’s not your perfect fit, you can still enjoy Aldrich Park, which sits in the middle of campus, or cross the bridge to University Town Center where my fellow anteaters and I like to have lunch and hang out.

(P.S. Our men’s volleyball team is the best in the nation. Just putting that out there.)

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