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Southern California is great year-round, but nothing beats the beautiful, balmy weather you find here in the spring. Here's how the make the most of springtime in Orange County by taking advantage of the weather -- not your wallet!
Las Brisas is where the locals go to start their morning the OC way, with this basic but high-quality breakfast buffet. Las Brisas offers tasty versions of the customary breakfast breads (French toast, muffins, croissants) and meats (bacon, sausage, ham). However, make room for their specialities: the omelette bar (with an endless selection of add-ins), sky-high Belgian waffles made to order, sweet and savory crepes, and steaming Eggs Benedict. You can even have "dessert" with your breakfast with their assortment of bread pudding, sweet risotto and fruit.
However, it's not the food that makes Las Brisas exceptional. Nothing beats the view from this oceanside restaurant, which serves Mexican-American fusion cuisine outside of its buffet breakfast. Whether you're here for a sunrise breakfast or margaritas at sunset, Las Brisas is the place to be to take in the sparkling blue Pacfic while noshing on your Latin-inspired dishes.
The breakfast buffet runs at about $11 (excluding beverages and gratuity). You may also order off the menu. Margaritas will set you back about $10. However, skip Las Brisas for lunch and dinner -- the meals get more expensive as the day wears on even though the dishes themselves hover at medicre.
Walk off your indulgent breakfast with a scenic stroll along one of Orange County's most charming beaches. Simply head up the coast on PCH and hang a left off Marguerite, which will take you straight toward Corona Del Mar (CDM) beach.
Park on the street -- it's free -- and hike down the hill. From the jetty to Inspiration Point, CDM's curving shoreline is the perfect distance for a picturesque mid-morning walk along the beach.
You might follow the generic-sounding name with a big yawn, but Roger's Gardens is actually quite breathtaking. Part garden, part nursery, part antique store, part home furnishings boutique, Roger's Gardens is a lush nature experience with a vintage feel. The landscaped five-acre grounds feature all kinds of flowers, foliage, fountains, furniture for indoor and outdoor, home accessories and even botanical toiletries.
There is no admission fee or obligation to purchase; simple wander the gardens at your own pace and take a minute to enjoy the fragrant greenery gently fluttering in the ocean breeze. Interesting trivia: Many couples have been inspired by the gardens' beauty and book it as a wedding venue.
There is nothing more "OC" than Fashion Island, the ultraluxe shopping center just off the coast of Newport Beach. Although it's not or even near an actual island, it still offers an escape -- an escape into retail bliss.
Here you can find high-end retailers, from department stores such as Neiman Marcus, to designer stores such as Betsey Johnson, to exclusive boutiques. But you will also find toy, electronic and home stores to suit your fellow adventurers, as well as some interesting koi ponds and water fountains for those who aren't interested in buying.
You can grab lunch at a wide variety of eateries in Fashion Island, but why not make the most of your steps-to-the-ocean location and enjoy a nice sit-down meal at P.F. Chang's? You'll get an Asian fusion dining experience with views of the ocean, and you'll have fun people-watching as the Newport Beach lunchtime crowd makes its way in, complete with suits, sunglasses and Bluetooth earpieces.
And, if spring could taste like something, it would taste like the crunchy lettuce wraps that you fill with warm chicken. This signature dish brings you the crisp freshness of green iceberg lettuce with a warm filling to counter any remnants of winter chill.
Had enough of polished, tan-and-blonde South County for the day? Head inland, where The Lab allows you to tap into your most subversive self. Created as a rebellion against the ubiquitous shopping mall, this "anti-mall" features alternative shops and restaurants that are a welcome change to your local echoing, maze-like shopping mall.
Here, you can find a variety of stores, including a vintage shop, a salon that will give you a multi-colored mohawk and various art installations that you can view free of charge. Spring is a perfect time to sit in the open-air courtyard and listen to the energetic music, or visit the newsstand stuffed with indie magazines and newspapers. Or, go "boho" (bohemian) and sip a cup of organic coffee at the quaint Gypsy Den.
They may be the Los Angeles Angels now, but the locals know that the Angels really belong to Anaheim. Pay your homage to the 2002 World Champions by visiting their Disney-designed home ballpark, with is distinctive asymmetry and water fountain. The gigantic red baseball hats suspended above the main entrance make for a great photo opportunity. Hike up and down the sunny bleachers, then cool off in the air-conditioned official store, where you can get your very own Rally Monkey.
Downtown Disney, an entertainment district that is modeled after a metropolitan city environment, is exactly like every other Disney attraction: colorful, clean and creepily festive. So why does so much of its business come from locals?
Maybe because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't cost a lot of money to go there. First of all, parking is free. Also, you often can find live music, such as violinists, percussion bands and guitarists, who are sprinkled throughout. Feel like a celebrity as your peruse through movie-star memorabilia or have your photo taken on a magazine cover. Rest your feet by sitting by the fire at the Grand Californian Hotel lobby, which you can access through a side entrance location right next to the Sephora makeup store.
Speaking of which, stop by the giant cosmetics retailer to sample some exotic lotion or try a springtime makeup look. You'll look (or smell) like a million bucks, without having to spending anything at all. And, with all the money you saved, you can splurge a little on dinner!
before to grab a pre-dinner drink at the Uva Bar. Part of Catal Restaurant, operated by LA-based supercaterers The Patina Group, the trendy Uva Bar is a prime location to see and be seen.
You can go all-out with dinner at the pricey Cajun-themed Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, or grab an inexpensive meal at Tortilla Jo's. Or, join concertgoers with a meal at House of Blues.
The perfect way to end your springtime day in OC is with the fireworks that blossom in the sky almost every evening. You don't need park admission to see these pyrotechnic perennials; simply stroll down Downtown Disney toward the parks and stop when you can find an opening among the storefronts and trees. Spring evenings may get a bit chilly, so be sure to bring a light sweater, jacket, or cuddly sweetheart -- another reason why springtime is the right time to be in Orange County!