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Orange County Itinerary

Matinee Idles

For action figures and other do-gooders, the Central motive to go to the park is to beat the summertime blues.

June 26, 1997|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Many people go to Huntington Central Park for a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, the park itself is a hotbed of activity, with options ranging from Frisbee golf to horseback riding. A sensible person would center an outing around any one or two; a particularly industrious person could sample most of them in a day.

EARLY MORNING: 1 & 2

If you rise with the sun, you could start with the Parcourse: 18 exercise stations on a 1.2-mile loop.

Later risers can stroll through Shipley Nature Center. The 18-acre center features a variety of bird and plant habitats. A self-guided trail meanders among forests, grasslands and a marsh; it may only be a half-mile long, but you can get lost.

Exhibits inside the visitors' center show 40 bird eggs, ranging from black-chinned hummingbird to ostrich, and a dozen nests; an elaborate pond display features live turtles and fish. Animals in terrariums include a tarantula and a rattlesnake.

BREAKFAST: 3

House specialties at Alice's Breakfast in the Park include the B.I.P.: one egg, four pancakes or toast, and ham, bacon or sausage, $3.50. Don't leave without trying Mary Beth's Unforgettable Cinnamon Nut Roll! The Mini (more than enough) is 50 cents; the Outrageous is $2--and can be substituted for toast with any breakfast, for 95 cents. The kids' menu (10 and under) offers more than a dozen choices.

The restaurant is decorated with bird cages and doll puzzles; there are antiques and collectibles for sale. The patio overlooks a lake. If there's a wait, feed the ducks until your table's ready. If there's too much of a wait, all items (including the Mini) can be prepared for takeout; order to go and eat on the grass.

MORNING: 4

Disc Golf, which uses Frisbees or specialty discs instead of balls, has been at Central Park for about 20 years. Right now the course has been displaced onto an adjoining field by a horse show. It should return to its usual grassy location by Aug. 15. Figure on about 90 minutes to play the course; it consists of 18 three-par "pole holes," basically chain baskets. The fee is $1 all day; those 17 and under can play for free.

A stand offers snacks and specialized disc-golf discs for sale. Models ($7.50-$9.50) recently included Viper (" '94 world distance record, 645 feet") and Gazelle ("extremely accurate at high speeds").

LUNCH: 5

Park Bench offers soups, salads, sandwiches and almost a dozen burgers at lunch ($1.99-$7.49). Make that more than 40 burgers: Each variety can be made with beef, turkey, chicken or garden-style (meatless). Kids' lunches are under $3. Cappuccino frost shakes or hot brownie sundaes are $2.99.

What really sets the Park Bench apart is that leashed pets are allowed at designated tables. On the Canine Cuisine menu are Hot Diggity Dog, a bun-less all-beef wiener in doggie-size bites ($1.25); Chilly Paws, a scoop of vanilla ice cream for pampered pooches (95 cents), and Doggie Kibble, a scoop of kibble for discriminating dogs who eschew table food (75 cents).

AFTERNOON: 6 & 7

At Adventure Playground, kids age 6 to 12 can raft on a small pond, navigate a rope bridge, go down a mud slide and build forts. Children must wear tennis shoes, and parents should be prepared for them to get dirty. Adult supervision is provided, and a small fee is charged for each child ($1 for Huntington Beach residents, $2 for nonresidents; no charge for parents or guardians).

The Huntington Beach Central Library boasts the largest children's library in the state and the largest genealogical collection in Southern California. There's also a wide selection of books, magazines, videotapes, compact discs and books on tape; computer time can be rented.

LATE AFTERNOON: 8

You can saddle up until sunset for guided tours over 25 acres of scenic trails at Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. Horse rentals are $25 per hour through August. Or watch: Horse shows are scheduled throughout the summer (phone for schedule), and polo games take place Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Spectating is free.

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