You can’t wait for your guests to arrive … or maybe you can. Here’s a list of great Orange County spots that will have them J for Jealous and longing to live here, as well as one place that may sending them packing—just in time before anyone overstays their welcome.
The Deck on Laguna Beach
627 Sleepy Hollow LaneLaguna Beach, CA 92651
The Deck on Laguna Beach is a total OC insider’s spot that just opened last summer. You’d never just stumble upon it while out on the town—and all out-of-towners love those secret places. The Deck is south of Main Beach, down a few side streets, up a hill, then you follow the signs to a sleepy Sleepy Hollow Lane; the in-the-know ride there will impress your guests alone. After you park, nonchalantly tell ‘em it’s the only restaurant on the sand in Laguna, and they’ll be pulling out their iPhones and uploading Facebook pics before the appetizers arrive. Dining at sunset is like a postcard, seriously—so time it right. The food is great and affordable. Start with a Laguna Mojito or Purple Bikini, order some Paprika Hummus and pita bread. Sit back and savor your entrée (the Pasta Pomodoro is delicious, Deck Burgers are a favorite, there’s even Lobster Tail & Filet Mignon). Then wrap the meal with dessert (the Crème Brulee and Banana Bread Pudding are ridiculously good). The atmosphere is very SoCal kick-back, so bring your good friends for good times. Oh and The Deck is part of the boutique hotel Pacific Edge, so if you really want to wow your guests, reserve one of five Surf Cabanas just off The Deck for the day. They are outrageously appointed, have A/C, flat screen TVs, private baths and showers and come with a Beach Sherpa and Cabana Girl to cater to your every whim. Also, check out The Green Room off The Deck too—very swanky, same Deck menu, totally different scene
27741 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 211Mission Viejo, CA 92691
One visit to Burke Williams spa and your out-of-towners will forget all about that kid kicking their seatback cross-country. And the great thing about Burke Williams is the accessibility; there are so many locations (two in OC: in Mission Viejo and also Orange, as well as a handful in L.A.). Each location has a different mood-evoking motif too, which adds a unique charm to the outing. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t reserved your appointment way in advance either; they seem to be peacefully able to accommodate most much-need treatments. So what to choose? Perhaps a Pure Relaxation Massage or a Nourishing Facial—or whatever spa wonder you want. Burke Williams has got all the European-inspired ahh from body wraps to baths. Did you know that the founder, Bill Armour who started Burke Williams in Brentwood in the ‘80s actually coined the phrase “day spa”? So, rest assured, the company knows a thing or two about overall relaxation. And don’t just arrive 30 minutes before your treatment, go ahead and spend the day there with your tired travelers—with use of the spa Jacuzzi, steam, sauna and rain bar showers. It really is quite a hospitable way to toast your guests and also a great way to catch up on everything since you’ve last seen one other. The scents, the oils, the lavender tranquility … you’ll definitely be the host/hostess with the most/mostess.
Duffy Boat Rentals of Newport Beach
2001 W. Coast HwyNewport Beach, CA 92663
Your out-of-towners may have no clue what a Duffy is, and get a little white-knuckled when you tell them you’re captaining their cruise, but give your guests a glass of vino out on the Pacific blue waters and they’ll think you’re genius. It really is such a lovely way to spend the day. Duffy Boat cruises let you and your guests take command, steering your boat through the Newport Bay as you wish, at your own pace. Now, be sure to do it all up right, which means: pack a picnic, bring some wine (don’t forget the glasses or corkscrew), prepare the cheese and crackers, grapes and perhaps sandwiches too. And bring tunes; you can play your iPod through the Duffy’s speakers. If you’re really good, you’ll make a cruise playlist with artists they like. And fear not, driving a Duffy is like driving a car on water—everybody can do it. You’ll see seals, sea lions, point out best boat names, take the quintessential Southern California shots on the water, and they’ll never forget their Duffy cruise. Some Duffy details: you can rent the boats hourly (weekend pricing is $198 for two hours), you can fit up to 12 people in your boat, reservations are recommended and bring a jacket (the boats have zip-up windows, but if you want the fresh ocean air, it can get pretty breezy). Happy cruising.
Dana Wharf Whale Watching
34675 Golden LanternDana Point, CA 92629
What out-of-towner doesn’t want to have a whale of a time (sorry, had to) and say they went whale watching in Southern California? The Gray Whale sightings are on at Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching in Dana Point. The Grays swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, where they give birth to their calves. Along the way both southbound and northbound, they pass through Dana Point—a landmark for the whales. Last season they saw about 300 Gray Whales. How many will you see? You never know; which keeps everyone guessing. The trips depart daily at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm. Adult tickets are $32 and kids are $19. And bring some cash for boat food—you know, the candy, sodas and good stuff to keep you focused and alert to spy some whale. Binoculars are a nice-to-have too.
26705 Aliso Creek RoadAliso Viejo, CA 92656
You want your out-of-towners to go home sometime, right? Order them some tofu or tempeh and they may be right back on that plane before you know it. Kidding. But Native Foods, a completely Vegan restaurant, is definitely not for everyone. It’s a good gut check to see just what kind of guests you’re hosting. Can they go with an open mind and appetite for an Earth Bowl, or will they run next door for some pizza or wings? It’s a fun, healthy stop and makes for good conversation, plus it lets them go home with stories of just how kale-and-quinoa crazy we Southern Californians are. Chef-crafted is Chef Tanya’s mantra with a goal to use fresh foods and organic, local ingredients whenever possible. Everything on the Native Foods menu is made fresh from scratch everyday with a vision to share the flavor and love with the world—both vegans and non-vegans alike. Hey, if your guests are really scared, get them the chili; it tastes like the normal kind and it’s spicy enough to keep their mouth shut from saying, “And why did you take me here?” Again, kidding. There’s lots of great food, and they may just get converted.
Debbie Lavdas is a Southern California freelance writer, who enjoyed the heck out of The Deck and every other spot here, as did her out-of-towners. You can keep up with her and her writings at DebbieintheOC.com.