Land of suburbia, Hello Kitty and Ferris wheels: What to do in Orange County

Özge Terzioğlu/Staff

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Although Orange County is a land of suburbia, this county named after a fruit holds a nostalgic place in my heart. People claim there’s nothing to do for fun, it’s overpriced and it lacks culture. Are you kidding me? There are parks, restaurants, clothing stores, HomeGoods stores, Costco, gas stations… Alright, maybe Orange County isn’t exactly the place to go if you’re feeling adventurous. For my birthday last year, I went on a quest to have a fun-filled escapade in this land designed for suburban families. My boyfriend courteously joined me, and we were off on our hour-and-a-half pilgrimage to Orange County.

Özge Terzioğlu/Staff

First stop: the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe. Permanently residing at the Irvine Spectrum Center, this piece of heaven is perfect for Hello Kitty fanatics, like me, and kids. The café surprisingly has a wide variety of super cute treats and drinks to choose from, such as cookies, pies, cakes, iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate, popcorn… I have to stop there; I’m getting hungry.

Because it was my birthday, a national holiday, I stretched out my wallet and got us reservations for afternoon tea in the Bow Room. Reminiscent of a speakeasy, the Bow Room is in the back of the café, guarded by a tall white door with a signature Hello Kitty bow as its handle. One of the employees acted as the bouncer for the Bow Room. They knocked the bow handle on the door, and it magically opened. Were we in a dream?

Our eyes were blinded with pink everything! It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. As I internally screamed with unadulterated excitement, we sat down at the bar. We got to choose from an almost overwhelming selection of teas. Our waitress then presented us with an elegantly adorable stacked tray filled with tea snacks. Strawberries and cream, cucumber sandwiches, pesto tart, butter scone, apple tart. I could go on and on about the decadently sweet and savory eats we had. They were all delectable. 

After our two hours of tea time, it was getting dark, which meant the places that were open were limited to bars and The Home Depot. We walked outside the café and saw the Ferris wheel, which is iconic to the Irvine Spectrum. Cough up five bucks, and you can get breathtaking views of the shopping malls, corporate buildings and grassy areas that make up the beauty of Irvine. Don’t underestimate how cold it will be at the top of the Ferris wheel like we did. We couldn’t even focus on the suburban heaven that lay before us because our teeth were chattering from the frosty winds that blew. We did not expect to be freezing in March.

When the torture that was the Ferris wheel ended, we decided the only other things to do at the Spectrum required money, and we had already lavishly lived it up. One of my favorite free things to do is to go to the beach and listen to the waves. It was already dark, but we decided to go to Laguna Beach and go where the wind took us.

Arriving at a completely empty parking lot and absolutely no one on the beach was a good sign that it was the perfect time to go swimming! Just kidding, the water was freezing. The wind was bone-chilling, but we found a bench suitable for hearing the waves crash while digesting our Hello Kitty feast.

On our way back to the car, we stumbled, literally tripped, over a massive piece of driftwood just chilling there in the sand. My boyfriend decided we should claim this mini tree as our own. He lifted it and was walking to my car when he dropped it, and suddenly our new tree friend turned into two tree friends! We spent the next 20 minutes giggling and getting the best workout of our lives, heaving the driftwood onto our shoulders and slamming it on the sand. We managed to break it into four pieces, perfect for firewood. Proudly, we brandished our new, FREE firewood on our shoulders as we put it in my trunk.

Randomly stumbling upon this driftwood and breaking it was some of the most childish fun I’ve had as a young adult. Spontaneous memories are some of the best I’ve ever had. So go out somewhere that seems boring and create your own adventure!

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected] .