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Fun things to do and places to go in the California southland.
This lovely art deco ocean liner resides permanently in Long Beach Harbor and will be a hit with historians, Cunard enthusiasts, and children. Daily tours take you through restored sections of the ship, and for the truly adventurous, there is a Ghosts Tour that explores some of the paranormal activity aboard the Queen. Be sure to take in happy hour at the Observation Bar, and if you want to extend your experience, stay the night -- the ship is also a hotel.
Forest Falls is tucked into a canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains. The hiking there ranges from easy (and very appropriate for young hikers on their first trek) to challenging (an ascent of San Gorgonio Mountain). Mill Creek cuts through the canyon, and several waterfalls feed into it -- several trails will take you to these lovely falls. Spring is the best time for waterfall enthusiasts to visit Forest Falls, as the spring run-off is at its height.
The view from the bell is spectacular -- the Pacific Ocean, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Catalina, and other Channel Islands. Go during the day to look at the blooming wildflowers or in the late afternoon to see a brilliant sunset. Be sure to bring your camera. The scenery is gorgeous, and the bell itself has some intricate, stunning detail.
Strolling along 4th Street is a wonderful way to spend a spring afternoon. Retro enthusiasts will love the vintage boutiques and midcentury modern furniture stores, all owned by locals. The Sneaky Tiki Boutique has a great collection of retro clothing, accessories, and handbags. The Starlite Lounge caters to rockabilly, tiki, and Googie fans, and it offers a wide variety of vintage furniture and housewares. Xscape is a great place to find Eames and Heywood Wakefield furniture, and Siren has candles, soaps, greeting cards, art, and jewelry -- wonderful novelties with a bit of an edge. When you're in need of refreshment, stop at Portfolio Coffeehouse on the corner of 4th and Junipero. Portfolio has wonderful drinks, and its pastries and sandwiches are fabulous.
If you want a pristine, uncrowded beach, Little Corona del Mar is for you. Popular with locals, the small beach is just south of Corona del Mar State Beach, at the intersection of Poppy and Ocean. Park on Poppy, Ocean, or Hazel Drives, and walk down the steep hill using the footpath. At the bottom, you will find a small, beautiful beach with tidepools to explore and rocks to climb. Remember to wear sneakers while climbing the rocks and looking at the tidepools -- the rocks can be very sharp. And please be kind when looking at the tidepools and refrain from handling the sea creatures. These are animals, and you are checking out their home.
Get a head start on next season's trends and find great deals on current styles! The California Mart features designer's stalls that cater to fashion buyers, but go on a sample sale day and walk away with one-of-a-kind items. If you like to sew or are redecorating your house, textile row will overwhelm you with variety. Park at one of the many public lots, and start hoofin' it! Lots of fun and fashion await!
Antique-lovers will love the rows of antique malls just south of The Circle in Old Town Orange. But even if you aren't into antiques, there is plenty to love about this area. Cafes, shops, and coffeehouses line the streets around The Circle, and the adjacent streets are loaded with beautiful Victorian homes and craftsman bungalows. It's like stepping back in time -- "That Thing You Do" was filmed here for that precise reason. Kick back on the grass in the middle of The Circle or stroll along the streets, taking in the sights. And be sure to stop at Cafe Felix for some of the best Cuban cuisine in southern California!
You've seen them on TV and in movies, including "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" -- go see the dinosaurs firsthand! Located just off Interstate 10 in Cabazon, the dinosaurs lure you off the road. You can go inside the brontosaurus and visit the gift shop, which sells fun trinkets, postcards, toys, and, of course, dinosaur memorabilia. After shooting a lot of pictures, head to the Wheel Inn next door for some classic diner food. This place is truly great! The menu is loaded with tasty truck stop fare and a selection of fantastic pies that will make you throw caution (and your food plan) to the wind. Someone's belt buckle collection is on the wall, and the "art exhibit" in the back room features some of the finest Elvis-on-Velvet, dogs-playing-poker, and Indian art you'll find in any roadside restaurant. The Wheel Inn is worth visiting simply for the experience, and it's a great daytrip from LA.
This small, red restaurant is a landmark in Newport Beach, and the food is well worth the inevitable long wait. The atmosphere and wonderful seafood, coupled with a pleasant walk down the Newport pier afterward, makes for a super lunch date on a spring afternoon.
HUZZAH! This annual spring Renaissance faire is much fun and is a great weekend outing for families, couples, or groups of friends wanting to make merry. Costumed performers (and patrons!) recreate an Elizabethan village whose streets are filled with artisan wares, period clothing, musicians, dancers, acrobats, and food. Grab an ale and a turkey leg, and crash out under a tree to peoplewatch as you dine. Take in shows by troupes performing Morris, Irish, Scottish, and Middle Eastern dances. There are plays to see as well, games to play, and a joust to cheer. Gig with pirates and Puritans and maybe even the Queen herself! For the most fun, dress the part. And if you don't have a jerkin or muffin cap, a booth near the entrance of the faire has garb available for rent. Huzzah and well met!