Without a doubt, Southern California offers one of the best weather anywhere in the world which, makes outdoor activities that much better. Since moving back from abroad, I think I’ve learned to re-kindle my love for my city and realized that there’s so much that I have yet to see. With a new bike within reach, I saw places that I’ve never been to, explored areas that I’ve never taken and sometimes, just go without any plans. Here are a few new (and some old) places that I came across this year that are worth seeing.
- Niguel Botanical Preserve (Laguna Hills):
29751 Crown Valley Pkwy, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
On my first go, shamefully, I had missed this place as it is situated right next to a Boys and Girls Club. I was visiting with my mom at the time to check out the gym on the property that this park was also located. Fast forward a couple of months later, I finally came back and oh so, happy to explore the grounds of this Botanical Reserve. Entering from the bottom, it’s hard to tell that this place is actually quite huge. There are hills to climb and many more nooks and cronies awaiting for you to explore. It will likely take you at least 1-2 hours to see everything but, don’t let this one pass you by.
2. Chapparosa Park (Laguna Hills)
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
I came here one day during my lunch hour to get some fresh air. The park is connected to a walking path that leads you to another park uphill. From there, it overlooks a nice view of the city. Not only does the view does justice but, the park was also very quiet. Having good views and being one with nature, what else do you need?
3. Castaway Park (Newport Beach)
700 Dover Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
A popular spot among the locals; it is situated up a hill with million dollar homes along a walking trail. However, one early morning I caught the sunrise during my walk and never have I seen, such a beautiful glow while the birds chirped with each footsteps I took. This place is worth coming to.
4. Upper Newport Bay (Newport Beach)
2301 University Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
A 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands this place is known for bird-watching as well as outdoor activities from jogging, bicycling to hiking and horse back riding. I personally liked that you have a choice of taking either a dirt or paved paths. I believe at some point the pathways will also connect to the Castaway Park, if you’re up for solid hours of work-out with a nice view (of course) 😉
5. Northwest Open Space (San Juan Capistrano)
30291 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
My number 1 go to spot for lunch near my work. It’s away from the freeway (although close enough to reach it within minutes), there’s plenty of parking spaces, long trails and the happiest squirrels I’ve ever seen. Swear, every time I’ve come here I always see them chasing each other on the ground, on trees, tables, practically anywhere. Bonus, there’s also a dog park near the lot for those who are pet owners.
6. Bolsa Chica Wetlands (Huntington Beach)
18000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Located adjacent to the beach, the wetlands offers a 3-mile loop with ocean breeze and various types of birds to observe from shorebirds to waterfowlbirds. One can easily spend 2 hours wondering aimlessly here.
7. Cedar Grove Park (Tustin)
11385 Pioneer Rd, Tustin, CA 92782
A good size neighborhood park that offers a field, a playground, some outdoor exercising sets, large pine trees on the side of the park with benches. The topper? There’s a walking trail that connects to Peters Canyon which, I take to go on a longer walk over the weekend.
8. Heisler Park (Laguna Beach)
375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
One of the prettiest parks with the best views I’ve seen in O.C. It is situated right along the beach offering ocean views, cliffs, tides and much more. Definitely a ringer for a romantic beach walk especially at sunset.
9. Woodbridge Community Park (Irvine)
20 Lake Rd, Irvine, CA 92604
It was once my neighborhood park slash a jogging pathway. Talking about a picture perfect home on a lake, this would be it. Surrounded by manicured lawns with bloomed flowers all year (it seems), there are homes along the banks of the 2 lakes at this park with local ducks and geese that freely roam around the area. During warm days you’ll find numerous people playing volleyball, basketball, tennis and even riding small boats on the lake. What’s more, during the summer months, they also hold free concerts at the amphitheater bringing in a flock of locals picnicking and simply enjoying themselves.
10. Treasure Island Park (Laguna Beach)
Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Simply gorgeous. There’s a reason why wedding receptions happen here every time I come and visit. The walking path stretches along a sea cliff view which, leads you a few steps down to the beach. Across the street is a nearby shopping center and bus stops where you can also take the free trolly that runs up and down the city. Not a bad way of spending the day at the beach, I think.