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Little-known Orange County

This page contains miscellaneous information that I found out about while raising my son in Orange County. I thought might be useful to you. It will continue to grow as I think of - or gather more information. Email me, please, if you know any 'locals only' place I should add!

Orangewood Children's Foundation - is the nonprofit organization that our family has supported for years. JJ raises money to buy gift cards as recognition for the kids and we donate toys, games, clothes and electronics to help out. They do a great job for well deserving children who have been affected by abuse, neglect and abandonment. Why not contact them and get involved? You can give them a call at 714 619-0200 or go to their web site at www.orangewoodfoundation.org.

Wild Rivers - has carload night on summer Mondays from 4:00pm to 8:00pm where up to 8 people can be admitted for one carload price of $55.00 plus $5.00 for parking. Everyone must fit into the car and into a seat belt to qualify and no...you can't use an RV or bus! What a great, cool way to spend the evening! (Regular adult price is $31.98 per person)

Take a Walk (and often) - there are so many places to take a lovely walk in the OC. You can choose from parks, untamed wilderness, along the shore with waves crashing, the mall or right around your own neighborhood. Here is a video of a single minute of our recent walk at the Laguna Niguel Regional Park.....listen...and then click here to see the rest of the hour's walk around Sulphur Creek Reservoir.

Mommy and Me - this is the best way to get to know other women that you have so much in common with - a young child the same age. JJ and I attended playgroups together from the time he was six months old. We met great friends, learned so much and had a great time! This is really great if you normally have a career and are now home with a baby and all your friends work. Or….if you are new to the area or neighborhood….kids really bring people together. Just log on to mommyandme.com and enter your zip code to find a new network of friends. Update: I just got an email today 3/6/08 that Zoomars Petting Zoo is starting a Mommy and Me at the Zoo on Thursdays beginning March 20th!

MOPS (Mothers of Pre Schoolers) - is more a faith based organization and for kids a little older. What was great about MOPS is that the kids go into classrooms to learn and play while the Moms have a lecture and make a craft and get to share, network and make new friends. It is a natural progression for the kids to now spend time away from the Moms after Mommy and Me. After MOPS JJ was ready for preschool and had no problem with me dropping him off - even the first day.

The Very Best Father's Day Gift (EVER) - we gave Joe was when JJ was about 4 and we went down to the beach and drew "I (Heart) my Dad" in the sand and posed JJ between the message and the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. I framed the picture and JJ made a card for his Dad to go with it. We still have the picture hanging on the wall - JJ and I had a great day at the beach as a bonus!

Grunion Running -could not be more fun! During June, July and August the grunion come on shore late at night to spawn. Note: next best opportunity for Laguna Main Beach is Saturday 8/16 about 9:30pm. The females let the waves bring them onto the beach and they deposit their eggs in the sand. Next, the males ride the waves in to fertilize the eggs. The small silver fish are quick and slippery and soon cover the beach. You can pick up the fish and collect them in buckets and they are 'supposedly' delicious to eat! You do need a California fishing license if you are over age 16 to "fish" for grunion. The runs are 4 nights in length and the best nights are the second and third nights during the second hour of the two hour runs. You can take as many as you want….but make sure you don't take more than you will actually use. We have had great success at Laguna Main beach and parking is close by. We got even more at Surfside but you have to park just past the Tower house and walk in….walking back is the hard part! Take extra clothes for the ride home as everyone will be soaking wet and freezing. Hot chocolate is a great add and also work on how to explain what that "stuff" is the kids get on their hands as they grab the slippery silver fish! We have never laughed so hard or had a better time. We took some home the first time and they were such a hassle to prepare that we now 'catch and release'. Handy hint: be patient, take buckets, wear headlamps (if you have them) and teach the kids 'Marco - Polo' as a location technique because it is a chore to keep track of the little ones in the dark! Log on to beachcalifornia.com for a list of this summer's runs.

national archives ziggerat building aliso viejo Ziggurat Building (the big yellow pyramid) in Aliso Viejo - houses, among other federal departments, a branch of the National Archives and is open to the public. One of the many resources available is genealogy assistance in tracing your roots. JJ attended 'after school care' at the facility for awhile (open to non-government local families too) and the kids got to see the National Archives behind the scenes.

Irvine Fine Arts Center - is a place devoted to seeing, learning about and creating art offering many classes for kids! It is located in Heritage Park and offers classes for adults and kids from beginner to advanced in painting, jewelry making, ceramics, photography, culinary arts and much, much more. Check the City of Irvine website and see what they offer that you and your family might enjoy.

adventure playground entrance adventure playground irvine Adventure Playground - located at 1 Beech Tree Lane, University Park is a fabulous place to have a party for kids….especially boys! It is so cool…go to their website and check it out. They have drop in safety sessions where kids (over six) learn about using tools and building safety. This course is required before kids can attend other sessions offered. The place is amazing…with mud pits, water slides and obstacle courses. It is dirty, wet and requires throw away clothes but the kids will talk about it for years.

emu llama zoomars petting zoo Zoomars - petting zoo and birthday party place is located in the Los Rios District across the train tracks from the San Juan Capistrano train station. We used to go down there a couple of times a month….as JJ loved trains and you can really get close as they come into the station. Then we could go across to the petting zoo and hold guinea pigs and rabbits and pet pigs and goats. They have pony rides, llamas and some rickety rides but little kids just love the place. Kids are about $3 and adults $5 and animal feed is extra.

jj snowboarding snow valley Snow Valley Beginner's Package - a couple of years ago I found a wonderful way for JJ to learn how to snowboard and not spend a fortune. Snow Valley, located in Running Springs and about an hour or so from here, has a beginner's package that includes equipment, 90 minute lesson and lift ticket for $59.00 ($79.00 on weekends and holidays). We used the package for two years until he got good enough to skip lessons.

Check your local Community Center - last summer mine had a surfing group for teenage kids. They took the kids and their boards to the beach (different ones each week) every Wednesday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Kids brought their own equipment and lunch and the total cost was $70.00. It is perfect for kids of working parents to spend the day at the beach (supervised) and learn how to surf or if they already know…JUST DO IT!

amtrack train Take the Amtrak train to Union Station in Los Angeles - from the station most convenient for you. My son was crazy for traveling on the train and it is just long enough even for the little ones. Once you are there, Olvera Street is just across the way with its brightly colored stalls and fabulous food. The old town area is interesting for older kids - especially the first fire house with the stalls for the horses that pulled the fire engines. There is often singing and dancing in the square and then back home….all in about 4 hours. Or...you can take the train south to Old Del Mar racetrack during it's summer meet (7/16 - 9/3 for 2008), have a wonderful day and maybe even WIN BIG! Be sure to reserve seats in advance - it is a LONG day without one!!

anneliese school Anneliese's School - JJ attended this wonderful school during summers and after school from first through 5th grade. The setting is remarkable, along Laguna creek, surrounded by animals, plants and flowers. I loved that JJ was able to learn to speak Japanese, German and French and play in the dirt! It was also fabulous that they had a dog, cats, llamas, rabbits, even a swan so we didn't have to!!! They have 3 locations (we attended the one in Laguna Canyon) and offer preschool through 8th grade school, after care and summer activities. Log on to www.anneliesseschool.com and take the tour but you really should stop by and walk around - it is amazing. Note: they will pick up your child and take them to school- first come, first served.

Baby Boot Camp -is a premier stroller fitness class offered at various parks throughout S. Orange County and is designed to help new Moms get fit. The best part is connecting with other Moms in your area and being able to take the baby while you get in shape. Check with your local parks and rec folks and sign up!

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