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There's No Place Like Home

We love Orange County, and this is why.

The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove

If you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, you’re lucky enough – or so the saying, seen on many Orange County cottages, goes. And it’s true. Those of us privileged to live in OC have at least 100 reasons to be grateful.

From being alive on the planet to finding a great parking space, from the mega gifts of family, friends and good health to the more micro moments that make us pause to appreciate our good fortune, each day finds us thankful for gifts large and small. Here are some of ours.

The coast, from Seal Beach to San Onofre: we’re thankful for every grain of sand and rocky cove. It's a place to play, to pray and to appreciate all the wonders of the world.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Trains! We love all the OC trains, from the mini railway at Irvine Park, to Amtrak and Metrolink monsters, and of course the Disneyland classics, including Casey Junior, the Monorail and the Disneyland Railroad.

Sitting by the windows at Splashes bar during a storm as the waves wash right up to the wall of the Surf & Sand Hotel.

The new Whole Foods in Fashion Island. With Bristol Farms and Gelson’s a few blocks away, are there finer food finds anywhere? We love the golf carts that deliver us, and our groceries, from Whole Foods to our cars.

Organic food at local farmers markets.

Serra Chapel and the Old Stone Church in Mission San Juan Capistrano evoke a sense of reverence for their beauty and historical significance. But we also owe an ultimate debt of gratitude to those who built the place long before this was called OC. We’re thankful for the indigenous people who lived and worshipped in San Juan Capistrano, those who died beneath the stones of the church during the 1812 earthquake, and the many more who succumbed to disease and other causes related to the collision of cultures and the power of conversion and conquest.

Even though Ken Smith’s stunning Great Park master plan won’t be completed in its entirety, the vision, ambition and attention to detail of the design Smith and his team created is inspiring.

Surf music, especially OC’s own Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar. How can you hear the classic chords of "Miserlou" without a little jolt of joy?

Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario sculpture garden is one of SoCal’s most sublime spaces, a Zen-ful touch of genius tucked between Costa Mesa office towers.

Alan Greeley, chef/owner of the Golden Truffle. He’s on a very short list of the most innovative chefs in SoCal. And the restaurant has a new bar!

Those who keep us safe: Lifeguards, soldiers, Coast Guards, firefighters, and police officers.

Those who police the police: muckracking journalists, watchdogs, community groups, gadflies, parents, lawyers, and the vast majority of good cops in our community.

The minor thrill of driving up or down Laguna’s 3rd St. Hill.

Everything about Crystal Cove: the restored cottages on the sand, the coves, the Beachcomber Café, the dolphins, the Shake Shack, and the bike paths. We’re even appreciative of Javier’s in the Promenade across PCH. It’s not our scene, but we’ll defend the right to nightlife for all those who enjoy it.

Orange County’s first family of art, culture, fashion, real estate, and style: the Segerstroms.

One of the most important works of architecture of the 20th century, Rudolf Schindler’s Lovell Beach House is admired by many but ignored by most as they cruise by on their way to the beach.

The lovely little Goldenrod Footbridge in Corona del Mar. Built in 1928, it’s one of the finest ways to reach the beach anywhere.

Peter Blake, Fetneh Blake, Trey Russell, Heather and Bobby Lee, Jeff Peters, Jorg Dubin, Louis Longi, and the rest of Laguna's aesthetic and artistic elite.

The smell of sage and scrub oak in the Laguna Canyon air after a storm.

The fact that UCI is led by a cool cadre of African-American educators, artists and administrators, and that the above has evolved with little notice asked or given.

Chapman University and its fearless leader, Jim Doti, who has grown the school from an educational afterthought to a powerhouse perched on the edge of greatness thanks to the support of passionate philanthropists from A (Argyros and Aitken) to Z (Zee Allred), and hundreds in between.

The Balboa Auto Ferry, still the top public transit in OC.

Joan Brandt, Thelma Chastain, Em Crary, Dorothe Curtis, Kay Farwell, Allene Hays, Judy Hurndall, Gloria Irvine, Jane Lawson, Betty Mickle, Flo Stoddard, Dottie Sullivan, and Betty Winckler. Fifty years ago these 13 founded what we now know as the Orange County Museum of Art. All those who appreciate art and culture in OC should be grateful for their vision.

The stunning harbor view from the maternity floor at Hoag, and all the doctors and nurses who work there and help bring our babies into the world.

The Pacific Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonic Society, bringing the best of classical music to OC.

We are grateful for the eclectic mix of architecture, shops and services in Cannery Village, and we hope a few of the surviving old sail loft structures remain as the neighborhood evolves.

The Los Rios Historic District in San Juan Capistrano, including the upgraded parking and park that provide easier access to what's known as the oldest neighborhood in California.

Stealing a kiss in a back booth at A Restaurant, walking arm in arm to the end of a pier, sunsets on the beach, and all the other romantic moments we love.

When the Jacarandas bloom, they cast a purple carpet onto the streets of Santa Ana, Fullerton and other OC neighborhoods (and OK, onto the carpets of the homes nearby).

Bookstores, each and every one of them.

UCI’s MFA program in creative writing is the literary gift that keeps on giving as illustrious alums like Alice Sebold, Michael Chabon and Richard Ford continue to produce stellar work. Chabon’s newest is Telegraph Avenue. Check it out.

Thankfully, we still have plenty of libraries where we can check out these and other books. The central library in Newport Beach is one of our favorites, and as the new civic center and park are completed, we predict we’ll be thankful to have a fine new public space worthy of Newport, despite cost controversies.

We’ll be thankful if the NB City Council sees fit to replace the old city hall with a community amenity that will serve to link Cannery Village with the pier. Apartments? Not so much, but the boutique hotel idea has some merit.
Free valet parking at The Resort at Pelican Hill. We have secret free parking spots all over OC (we loathe long valet lines after events), but the fine folks at Pelican Hill welcome all to complimentary valet. A nice touch for locals at one of the world’s most successful new luxury resorts, and the international resort and golf set who appreciate generous gestures too.

The koi pond at Fashion Island. Through every remodel and upgrade of the gorgeous shopping center we hold our breath, lest this oasis of kid culture in OC be lost. But it remains, to the squealing delight of toddlers and tweens, and the relief of their parents, who can relax while their progeny are preoccupied.

Al fresco eateries and bars along the coast, like Laguna’s Rooftop Lounge and The Deck. We’d be even happier if the cities would allow more.

Marie Gray. She's OC style, personified.

Shaheen Sadhegi’s The Lab and The Camp, and his most recent triumph: making over downtown Anaheim's error of '80s-era urban renewal.

SOCO, especially Portola Coffee and Rolling Greens. It's the most radical makeover of a retail space in OC since The Lab rose from the ruins of a night vision goggle factory.

Nonprofits that care for the sick, hungry, homeless, abused, and other desperately deserving members of our very fortunate community.

We appreciate public art in our parks and plazas - the collection in Costa Mesa's South Coast Metro is perhaps the most impressive artistically. But our favorite sculpture is Cheryl Ekstrom's deer warrior that stands guard in little Jahraus Park in North Laguna. It's an impressive seven-foot bronze that's intended to feel protective, and we feel calm in its presence.

Trestles Beach, with no toll road running to it or through one of the world's iconic surf spots, and trails through the San Mateo Campground nearby for school kids on field trips to enjoy.

The Center for Living Peace Speaker Series with UCI has brought inspiring voices including Richard Branson, Charlize Theron, the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, her Majesty Queen Noor, Abigail Disney, and Geena Davis.

Greg MacGillivray’s IMAX films and One World One Ocean project, and everyone else working to save our seas.

Wahoo's Fish Taco and the founding Lam brothers who bring so much more than killer grinds to OC.

Our evolving urban centers, including the Orange Circle, Santa Ana and Downtown Anaheim.

Little Saigon. What started as a haven for refugees fleeing the war in Vietnam is now one of the cultural and culinary jewels of California. Exploring its cafés and byways is one of the privileges of living in this corner of  California.

Ungated upscale communities like Cowan Heights, Anaheim Hills, Cameo Shores and Dover Shores. We get the gates – privacy, exclusivity and all that – but appreciate the openness and sense of confidence of those who live life in the open.

Driving down the dip in PCH between Laguna Beach and Newport Coast by El Moro. If this short stretch of paradise is part of your daily commute, count yourself among the luckiest drivers on the planet.

The Ritz Egg. The Ritz Restaurant is an Orange County classic, and though it's in a struggle to survive, either in its existing location or another, while it's still here we'll take time to appreciate it all, from the stiff pours at the bar to the kitschy bas-relief sculptures on the wall of the wine cellar. But mostly, we'll savor every bite of one of OC's iconic dishes, the Ritz Egg, and we'll toss down the chilled vodka that comes with it while we're at it.

Cold, windy days that blow the haze away so we can see the snow-capped mountains in one direction, and in the other, Catalina looks close enough to reach out and touch.

Expanded coverage and critiques of the arts in The Orange County Register, featuring Tim Mangan on classical music and Paul Hodgins on dance. If this is a sign of the future of print in OC, we're all in.

Irvine: The ranch, the park, the university, the terrace, the conservancy, the cove, the company, the museum, and the city (the diverse wonders of which are still being revealed), we’re grateful for aspects of it all. And be sure to include Joan Irvine Smith and the James Irvine Foundation on any thankful list worth compiling.

The Wedge. A private-public collaboration between the jetty and the sea, this epic swell is only for the experts. But we like to watch.

The natural wonder that is the Back Bay.

Jim Otto's Sound Spectrum, one of the last honest to goodness record stores in OC – and it's one of the oldest stores of any kind in Laguna Beach. Otto is an OC icon, though he still won't dish on all the details of the wild days during the '60s.

The Marine Room and longtime owner Kelly Boyd, who recently sold the classic bar to the well-regarded Chris Keller and the team behind La Casa del Camino, Big Fish and Cold Beer and other venues. The 78-year-old Marine Room will remain, but we'll miss seeing Boyd nursing a glass of red wine at his designated bar stool.  

The surf industry. It's OC's entertainment, fashion and sports world, all in one. The industry is stocked with brilliant, creative and business minds; that most happen to look pretty good in boardshorts and swimsuits is a plus.

Sunsets. We're only allotted so many in this lifetime, and we live in one of the best settings in which to see them. So take time and appreciate as many stunners as you can.

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