May 31, 2017

6 Things To Discover in Newport Beach

This was first published on The Debrief.

Hi, my name’s Emma and I’m a huge OC fan. I should be embarrassed because I’m a grown woman hanging on to a noughties TV show about rich teens from a seaside town. But, as you can tell from me publicly writing this article, I don’t try and hide my love for it. Mainly because I know I’m not alone. There are huge swaths of millennials all over the world who still hang onto their dear memories of this sitcom (which only actually aired between the years 2003-2007). References to The OC are still going strong in 2017 and I believe it will continue to live on. (In case anyone gets any ideas, no, I won’t lend my boxsets to anyone. They are very precious to me.)

Who would have thought this sitcom about spoilt teenagers living by the beach would play such a weirdly big role in my life? I had all the official merchandise: posters in my bedroom, the pencil case, the notepads. I was obsessed with finding my own nerdy Seth Cohen, and it made me fantasise about living by a sunny beach, sneaking into lifeguard huts for snogs and skateboarding to school. I loved the show for many strange reasons: Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows; getting my mates round after school to watch it; gently mocking Ryan’s choker necklaces; the fact that the cast were comically so much older than their “teen” characters and the obsession the Cohen family had with bagels (and bagel slicers, which I made my mum go out and buy.)

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the show’s finale in 2007 (a very sad year for me). It’s clear that I’ve aged in those ten years, mainly via my dress sense, but also because I no longer find Seth and Ryan attractive. I’m more interested in Jimmy Cooper, Marisa’s dad. And Caleb. Too far?

So, thanks to Visit California, I got to re-live my childhood dream by visiting the one and only Newport Beach in Orange County, residing for a few days at The Duke Hotel. The bad news is that a lot of the TV locations weren’t actually shot at Newport Beach.The good news is the vibe of Newport Beach is *exactly* like the show. The people-watching is fun, the houses are insanely luxurious and the beach is completely breathtaking.

So OC superfans, I’m here to recommend the top 6 things you can do in Newport Beach to play out your overdue childhood fantasy:

1. Hang Out At The Crab Shack

So spoiler alert: ‘The Crab Shack’ (where Ryan works in the show) is fictional, but The Crab Cooker is the seafood restaurant that heavily inspired it. It was established in 1951 and is quite the local landmark. The writer Josh Schwartz, originally from Newport Beach himself, used to hang out at The Crab Cooker as a teen so there is a personal connection there, too. The restaurant is known for its Manhattan-style clam chowder, skewers of scallops, lobster and crab (duh). I had delicious scallops and prawn skewers with rice and vegetables. There’s a warm atmosphere, friendly staff and the kitchen is big and open – not in a hipster way, but in a chaotic authentic way.

2. Pucker Up On A Ferris Wheel Like Ryan And Marissa

For the gooey-eyed teenage viewers of the show (i.e. me and my friends at the time) we were kind of obsessed with the ferris wheel episode. The will-they-won’t-they between Ryan and Marissa had been going on for a while – and then hurray – they finally went on a date and snogged on the ferris wheel. The *actual* ferris wheel in the scene was set up in a parking lot (not very romantic IRL) but there is an awesome one in the Balboa Fun Zone that brings back all those memories. The Fun Zone is one of Southern California’s oldest and last great coastal amusement areas. It brought me back to my childhood in more ways than one, buy a tacky t-shirt, grab an ice cream and enjoy the rides.

3. Shop at Fashion Island Like Kirsten Cohen

Summer and Marissa’s outfit choices in the show were at times…questionable. But at the time, they embodied the height of noughties fashion. Marisa wore really bad cardigans and very odd flat caps. Summer enjoyed layering clothes that really weren’t supposed to be layered. Kirsten, however, never really got it too wrong – always chic and simple. Enter Fashion Island, one of the nicest shopping malls I’ve ever been to – it’s Southern California’s premier coastal shopping and dining experience. To name just a few: Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Elie Tahari, Trina Turk, Kate Spade, Jonathan Adler and Anthropologie. There are also movie screens inside at Island Cinema if you want to escape the heat of the beach for an afternoon.

4. Sail Away, Sail Away Like Seth Cohen

Sailboats are a part of the romance of The OC. Seth’s boat was named Summer Breeze (creepy or sweet, you decide?). Jimmy Cooper lived a new barefoot boat life after his separation from Julie Cooper. Well, do what the OC characters do best and rent a gorgeous boat from Duffy or Fun Zone Boats and sail around the bay with friends or family. Each boat has a full canopy top and a music player with iPhone hookup and you can bring on your own drinks. OC soundtrack anyone?

5. Surf Those Waves Like Sandy Cohen

Newport beach is one of the most idyllic beaches I’ve ever been too. It’s truly beautiful. Vast, friendly, so CLEAN. There’s plenty to do, too: restaurants, play volleyball, fishing on the pier or surfing. It’s all very family friendly. On the topic of surfing: there are fan forums dedicated to ‘husband goals’ Sandy Cohen. Not only is he a good-looking lawyer with a kind heart but he SURFS! If you’re not a surfer, the Balboa pier is a good place to watch as experienced surfers nail the waves OR you can surf yourself. There are plenty of surfboard rental companies along the beach. (You’ll find me eating a burger in Ruby’s diner at the end of the pier, however).

6. Forget The Sweaty Tube, Get On Two Wheels

Londoners love to walk everywhere (or fight with people in a sweaty tube carriage). Well in California it’s all about the roller-skating, skateboard or cycling in the sun! If you’re like Marissa you’d probably be hanging off the back of Ryan’s bike, covering his eyes romantically and dangerously! I don’t recommend that, but I do recommend hiring a bike for a seaside cycle from Seaside Bike Rentals. Like Ryan and Marissa, you should cycle up the pier and catch some amazing sunset views of the beach at nighttime. It’s really rather stunning.

6. Catch A Date Movie

The Newport Film Festival is on every year, and we got to enjoy a range of amazing films. One of the most inspiring things I saw was a documentary called AUGIE, which was about a well-known fitness entrepreneur’s later life struggle with ALS. It was very moving and very educational. Everyone who was volunteering at the festival was so nice and helpful – and the cinema itself was gorgeous. There are already some details for the 2018 festival here.

Thank you Discover Newport Beach for organising such fun things for me to blog about. If you’re interested in booking a trip, you can find out more information here. If you’re an OC fan, I recommend visiting. If you’re not an OC fan, I still recommend visiting. Newport Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. Sadly I didn’t find Sandy Cohen this time round however. Sandy, if you’re reading this: call me.

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic