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Summer Guide

Here's Your go-to guide for fun all season long.

Willie Nelson plays at the OC Fair
photography by Joshua Sudock


Willie Nelson & Family - July 19
Alison Krauss and Union Station will join Willie Nelson at the Pacific Ampitheatre as he performs classic hits like “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind” and recent favorites such as “It’s a Long Story,” released in May.

Steve Miller Band - July 24
Vocalist and rock guitarist Steve Miller will have crowds “Fly Like an Eagle” as they listen to his trademark San Francisco sound.   

Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo - August 6
Pat Benatar will hit you with her best shot when she rocks the Pacific Ampitheatre stage with performer Neil Giraldo. Eighties rock fans should be stoked to hear Dennis DeYoung as he performs the music of Styx.

B-52s - August 14
Still regarded as one of the world’s greatest party bands, the B-52s are sure to bring down the house with “Love Shack.” Joining the upbeat trio for this performance is the UK ska-revival band The English Beat.
:: pacamp.com

Tasty fair fare
The OC Fair brings out the crazy in the food world. We’ve been introduced to such gems as the beer-battered pickle. Who could forget the gluttonously good Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe? Fair time is when locals like to let loose (of our diets) and indulge. No carb counting on the OC fairgrounds.  

Sweet: Chicken Charlie’s specializes in outrageous fair food. Owner Charles Boghosian has seemingly deep-fried everything edible, from cookie dough to cheesecake, not to mention White Castle cheeseburgers. Boghosian prides himself on serving over-the-top foods at fairs across the country.

Another fried vendor to taste is Texas Donuts, which returns this year with its cavity-inducing Cherry Pop Rocks confection (pictured).

Sinful: Bacon-A-Fair’s Jack Daniel’s-injected churro wrapped in bacon. Enough said.

Sample: Every Friday from noon to 4 p.m. try all the fair fare for $2 per taste.

Seminar: Every weekend during the fair, the Orange County Wine Society hosts oenophile-focused seminars with an array of award-winning wines.

Mastering the Pageant

The 82nd annual Pageant of the Masters takes the stage at Laguna Canyon’s festival grounds July 8-August 31. For 90 minutes each evening, the audience will watch works of art, both classical and contemporary, faithfully re-created using people posed to imitate the paintings’ original sitters. The most impressive part of this process is the physical transformation. Pictured here is one local performer’s journey to the stage.

:: foapom.co

'The Pursuit of Happiness'

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point aims to bring to life this year’s pageant theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” with its Behind the Velvet Ropes package. From July 6 through August 31, you can luxuriate in the Ritz-Carlton’s tony club-level ocean-view rooms before being whisked off to the Festival of Arts, where you’ll enjoy special access. An informative art docent will guide you through the festival’s collection and introduce you to participating artists.

As the sun fades behind the canyon, a Pageant of the Masters expert will give you a peek at the backstage action to get a feel for the harmonious chaos that takes place behind the curtain. The package is $1,699 per couple, per night.

:: ritzcarlton.com

Summer in the oc brings a feast of choices

Huntington Beach Concours d’Elegance
June 6-7
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the HB Concours d’Elegance features hot rods, classic cars and modified motors. This event is for auto aficionados with a love for the coast.

:: hbconcours.org

Wags N Wine
June 14
Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort hosts a charitable culinary event where man’s best friend is the guest of honor. Don’t forget to BYOD (bring your own dog).

:: wagsnwine.com

Sawdust Festival
June 26-August 30
Considered by some the ultimate arts and crafts gathering, this nine-week summer
event floods Laguna Canyon with artisans and art lovers. Stroll the sawdust-covered pathways as you purchase original works from local artists.

:: sawdustfestival.org

A Taste of Greece  
June 26-28
Learn a little Greek and eat a lot of traditional delicacies, including spanakopita, while dancing at the 36th annual Irvine Greek fest. This year, more than 10,000 guests are expected to gather for three days of Grecian glory.

:: irvinegreekfest.com

Dana Point Food, Wine & Music Festival
June 27
Returning for its third year, the food-focused music fest graces Dana Point’s Sea Terrace Park. Sounds ranging from acoustic to the rocking Delgado Brothers will fill the air.

:: foodwineandmusicfestival.com

Surf City Chili at the Beach
June 27
The chili cook-off contest returns to downtown Huntington Beach for its eighth annual celebration. Sample spicy chili and sweet sides while savoring the coastal vibe.  

:: hbdowntown.com

Capistrano Shakespeare Festival
July 7-August 2
Enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets performed under the stars. Set in San Juan Capistrano’s Playhouse stage, the experience is a true midsummer night’s dream.

:: caminorealplayhouse.org

Ribs, Pigs & Watermelons Pro BBQ Competition and Beer Festival
August 7-9
The point of this event is to stuff your face. Whether it’s ribs or watermelon, there’s an eating competition intended for the Joey “Jaws” Chestnut in us all.

:: afusa.org/rpwbbq

Dana Point Lobster Beach Festival
August 15
While the lobsters served at this gathering may hail from the East, the party heats up with some West Coast style at picturesque Doheny State Beach.  

:: danapointlobsterfest.org

St. Regis food & wine Festival
August 27-30
The resort kicks off its first-ever food and wine festival with a VIP event hosted by chef Michael Mina of Stonehill Tavern. The weekend culminates in an outdoor jazz brunch hosted by Motif.

:: stregis.com

Into the Great Wide Open
From Sunset Beach to San Clemente, Orange County boasts 42 miles of sprawling beaches. Coastal beauty is built into our lives, so it’s easy to take it all for granted. Reinvigorate your relationship with the Pacific by trying a new water sport or by enjoying the world surfing championships, historic hideaways and whale watching. Whether you want to get wet in the waves or just enjoy the views from the dock, here are a few things that might float your boat.

Some of the best views of Newport are from above. But unless you’re a drone, it’s difficult to get an aerial perspective. That’s where Jetpack America comes in, letting you blast out of the harbor with a water-propelled jetpack.

After a quick training session with a certified instructor, most “pilots” can hover above the water or skyrocket across the sky like the Rocketeer. Each flight helmet comes equipped with walkie-talkies – just in case you lose control – and a remote control throttle to help new pilots to stay on course.

For first timers, the thrill of take-off and landing without wiping out is fun enough. The best thing: You can literally walk on water.

:: jetpackamerica.com

While a yacht is a tad more luxurious, the Duffy boat is a classic OC nautical experience. Class it up with a cruise menu crafted by the chefs at The Cannery, who will plan a seasonal meal to enjoy as you and your guests bob around the harbor. Or, grab take-out, delivered to your Duffy from Woody’s Wharf, an old-school spot on the Balboa Peninsula.
If you prefer to dock and dine,     The Winery, a newcomer to the harbor, offers a taste of Italy seasoned with California panache. The restaurant requires reservations for your Duffy to dock, plus an additional $6 valet fee. Those who’ve cruised around the harbor for decades, know and love Harborside Restaurant, a classic seafood eatery in the historic Balboa Pavilion building. It’s how locals spend an afternoon out on the Newport Beach waterfront.

:: duffyofnewportbeach.com

Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari takes passengers down into the briny blue with catamarans equipped with underwater viewing pods. The fish, dolphins and whales swimming just off our shores make for an eye-catching spectacle. Plus, who better to teach you about whales and ocean conservation than Capt. Dave Anderson? Anderson helped organize OC’s first whale disentanglement group in 2010. Capt. Dave (as he prefers to be called) made national headlines when he attempted to rescue a gray whale named Lily. Over the years, he raised awareness by authoring “Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey.” The book is a photographic journey of a gray whale’s migration.
He has been featured on “The Ellen Show” and on “CBS Morning News” for his conservation efforts. He also produced an award-winning film, “Wild Dolphins & Whales of Southern California.”

:: dolphinsafari.com

Crystal Cove offers a taste of the past. Its historic residences are preserved to look exactly as they did nearly a century ago. Twenty-one restored cottages dot a stretch of the coastline nestled between Newport and Laguna Beach. Since it’s one of the few places where you can stay on an OC beach, space fills up fast.

If an overnight visit doesn’t work out, simply bask in Crystal Cove’s scenery at the Great Plein Air Art      Experience that takes place through August 20. Workshops are taught by resident local artists and mark a 100-year tradition of capturing Crystal Cove on canvas.
Another way to enjoy Crystal Cove is the     summer movie nights on the beach. This year, the Crystal Cove Alliance hosts two screenings on July 16 and August 13. Watch an old family-friendly flick on the sand as the waves crash in the background.

:: crystalcovebeachcottages.org

Go Pro
Vans U.S. Open of Surfing hits Huntington Beach July 25-August 2. The competition crests out of the water with skate and BMX tournaments.
The best athletes from the action sports world will be in Orange County for these annual competitions. The boardwalk and beaches will be packed, and traffic is guaranteed to be bad. But you might get to see a few celebrities in the surf.

:: vansusopenofsurf.com

The St. Regis Monarch Beach offers one of the few private, crowd-free beaches in Southern California. For landlubbers, there’s a rolling green seaside golf course. But for those looking for the finest upscale recreation on the sea, The St. Regis has you covered. Resident surf butlers will fit you with the right-sized wetsuit, carry your board and provide extensive surf and paddleboard lessons.

For locals looking for a staycation, the Seaside Splendor package is a good bet. It includes two nights lodging in a renovated suite complete with butler service, a three-hour private yacht charter, private pool cabana and a $500 dining credit to the resort’s award-winning restaurant, Stonehill Tavern.

Resident chef Raj Dixit has launched a new tasting menu called Tastes of the Ocean Discovery, available through July. Diners embark on a tasting journey from the Pacific Northwest down to California’s Central Coast and the Baja peninsula. That means Dungeness crab sourced from Oregon to white sea bass cooked en vapeur with infused jasmine tea.

:: stregis.com

Ocean Institute’s 4th of July Cruise
Watch the sky light up offshore     as you and your family climb aboard the R/V Sea Explorer for a sunset cruise hosted by the Ocean Institute.
Sets sail from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost:  $50/ adult and $40/child

:: ocean-institute.org

San Clemente Pier
At dusk on July 4, the city
of San Clemente will celebrate America’s independence with a fireworks show on the municipal pier.

:: san-clemente.org

Huntington Beach
This year marks Huntington Beach’s 111th annual Fourth of July celebration. The fireworks spectacular is scheduled to run for 23 minutes with 1,300 rounds of fireworks.

:: hb4thofjuly.org

OC is home to big amusement parks: Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. This summer, these destinations offer new attractions and spectaculars intended to make a boom.

Knott's Berry Farm
   In 1920, Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to Buena Park when it was just a sleepy farming community. The couple put their farm and Orange County on the map popularizing a new agricultural hybrid: the boysenberry. Ninety-five years later, Knott’s still serves its signature boysenberry delicacies, including pie, soda and, of course, jam. Cordelia’s contribution to the Knott’s empire still stands. Her signature fried chicken is sometimes dubbed the KFC of the West. While the food satisfies nostalgia cravings, the rides will keep thrill seekers happy. The theme park unveiled Knott’s Voyage to the Iron Reef 4-D spectacular in May. The new ride allows visitors to – actually and virtually – take to the water. The Iron Reef vessel submerges its passengers beneath the Knott’s boardwalk as they experience an interactive battling voyage.

:: knotts.com  

When the Fahrenheit rises, Anaheim’s streets swell with crowds flocking to Disneyland. Since this year marks the theme park’s 60th anniversary, the projected visitor count is guaranteed to skyrocket this summer.

To celebrate, the Happiest Place on Earth modernized its nighttime entertainment with innovative animations projected onto buildings on Main Street and throughout the park. A new “Paint the Night” parade features beloved characters illuminated by sparkling pyrotechnics and booming fireworks.

Other highlights include surprise giveaways handed out to random guests by cast members. The prizes range from 1 carat white diamonds to in-park VIP experiences (maybe a private party in Fantasyland?). Disneyland intends to make this a dazzling anniversary.

:: disney.go.com

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