In 1984, a group of Orange County community members founded Families Forward after realizing they shared the same vision. Their goal: to help support local families in financial crisis with housing, food assistance, and other services that could help them achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. Along with 28 transitional homes to help families dealing with the loss of their homes or eviction from their apartments, Families Forward runs a food pantry that supports more than 7,000 people each year, career workshops, counseling services, and seasonal programs for children. The transitional housing program has helped more than four out of five families served successfully transition from crisis to stability. Once a family's financial status and living situation stabilize, they can return to being independent, productive community residents, which helps kids from such households experience a safe, happy, and secure childhood—accomplishing Families Forward's number-one priority of protecting children.
At Irvine Improv, comics lure laughs from deep within bellies while following in the footsteps of standup legends such as Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle, all of whom have graced the Improv club stages. The club's calendar schedules comedians as often as six nights a week, alternating between big-name headliners and up-and-coming performers. Audience members munch on a savory menu of appetizers, entrees, burgers, and deserts while sipping specialty cocktails to avoid eye contact with the giant rubber chicken sitting at the next table.
The Festival of Arts has showcased the paintings, sculptures, and creations of local artists in an outdoor gallery alongside hands-on workshops and live music shows for 79 years. A carefully curated bumper crop of local artwork from 140 artists brightens gallery walls in a spectrum of styles, from romantic gemstone jewelry and modern abstract painting to neo-classical busts of Colonel Sanders. Mere blocks from the ocean, the exhibits ring a spacious lawn, which brims with spectators for the festival's many events, including celebrity meet and greets, live jazz concerts, and eco-friendly fashion shows. During daily workshops, spectators become participants, stretching fingers into paint, pressing prints, molding clay, and post-modernly trying to eat a bottle of glitter. Check the calendar for daily events.
At the age of 5, Natalie Costa’s daughter was cute, lively, and photogenic—reason enough to give show business a try, she thought. But with no one to guide her and her daughter through the maze of booking auditions and getting representation, she found herself out thousands of dollars on useless portfolio shoots and manager fees. In response, Costa founded The Performers Academy, modeling the friendly, welcoming atmosphere on the dancing school she loved as a child. She made sure to stock it with instructors who had the inside knowledge she could have used at the outset: all professional actors, directors, and producers with lots of experience in film and TV and a special focus on children’s programming.
The academy caters both to kids seriously trying to break into the business and to casual enthusiasts who find performing a liberating way to build self-confidence. Age-appropriate classes deal with such key topics as managing audition stress, honing improvisational comedy skills, and projecting loud enough to be heard over that giant gong that somebody keeps bumping into.
The certified trainers at Pilates Plus offer one-on-one and group training designed around the Pilates system, which builds powerful core muscles while toning and lengthening other muscle groups. Fifty-five-minute sessions use equipment such as reformers, ladder barrels, and Wunda chairs to work different sets of muscles. Besides Pilates, the center also offers Zumba, reiki, and massage therapy.
Presented in part by Dan Clark, also known as Nitro, of American Gladiator fame, the Gladiator Rock'n Run 6K pairs an obstacle-heavy running course with post-race entertainment, including beer, music, and food. Six kilometers’ worth of collective scampering awaits participants as muscle-testing obstacles impede progress to the finish line. Those prepared to race must dance through tires, army-crawl through mud, and clamber up rope ladders to avoid barrels thrown by giant apes. The roar of spectators rings throughout the course as bystanders cheer on runners to inspire strong finishes. Gladiator Rock'n Run proceeds go toward a good cause, helping to raise money for TACA (Talk About Curing Autism), an organization that provides education, support, and information to aid parents in helping their children diagnosed with autism.
Aqua Restaurant & Lounge, located within Holiday Inn Irvine Spectrum, serves up classic American cuisine as well as gourmet specialties. In the morning, breakfast platters and cups of RainForest Alliance coffee give diners enough energy to race a taxi on foot on the way to work. Later on, chefs prepare heirloom salads and signature dishes such as the Philly West, a gourmet riff on the philly cheesesteak that pairs shaved filet mignon with housemade Jack Daniels au jus and melted provolone. A full bar, 50-inch plasma TV, and sleek decor round out the hotel-lounge experience.