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Orange County ITINERARY

Liquid Refreshment

Going with the flow leads from water park to lakefront dining.

July 30, 1998|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Take a slide on the wild side. While the rest of the Irvine valley swelters under the summer sun, you can get wet, stay wet and keep cool at Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine. More than 40 rides and attractions include water slides, wading pools and wave-action pools. When the sun goes down, wind down at Waters Lake House Restaurant.

DAYTIME, 1

First things first. A locker ($5 per day including $2 refundable key deposit) comes in handy at Wild Rivers, and you can use it all day. Put on your swimsuit at the changing hut.

The day goes down the tubes from there. Chaos unfolds in a dark tube with 360-degree turns and simulated lightning, while the Abyss offers 650 feet of total darkness.

Southern California's largest man-made earth mountain, Wild Rivers Mountain, boasts 25 rides including the Ledge and the Edge, Bombay Blasters and Sweitzer Falls, Whatubee and Wipeout, in which 1,000 gallons of water flush you down a flume.

The gentle waves of Monsoon Lagoon are made for bodysurfing, inner-tubing and swimming. The adjacent Hurricane Harbor (an additional $4 for an all-day pass) offers speedier waves ideal for bodyboarding; it's for strong swimmers taller than 54 inches. (All attractions have height requirements.)

Safari River Expedition is a lazy quarter-mile inner-tube float. Those who really want to relax will appreciate the giant whirlpools at Mombasa Hot Springs.

After six hours at the park, Costa Mesa residents John English and David Teregis, both 11, agreed that the Edge was their favorite attraction.

"It's fast, fun and bumpy," John said. "It's called the Edge because you fly off the track a little bit."

"A little bit?" David repeated. "It hurts your head!"

No wonder it's their favorite.

Many of the larger attractions have been scaled back for younger children; 10 rides on Explorers' Island include Pygmy Pond and Typhoon Lagoon. Even the littlest dippers can have a splashing good time at Tugboat Bay and the Dinosaur Slide. Kids afraid of--or allergic to--the water can stick to Jungle Rama, a padded tunnel playground.

Food is available at Colonel Hawkin's, Congo Cafe and the Sweet Shop.

General admission is $20.95, $16.95 for ages 3 to 9. Evening admission (after 4 p.m. through Sept. 7) and seniors (55 and older) is $9.95. A "dry pass" for spectators is general admission with a $7 refund at the end of the day. Parking, lockers and equipment rentals are extra.

EVENING, 2

Stick with the water theme but change clothes and mood: Enjoy the view at Waters Lake House.

Waters looks out on Irvine's placid North Lake in Woodbridge. Fishing is limited to Woodbridge residents and their guests, and swimming is prohibited. (Tell that to the ducks!)

Waters is a great place to have a drink; the bartender can steer you to the best tequila. The restaurant offers California cuisine (salads, sandwiches, pastas) amid a Caribbean decor featuring a banana-tree-and-palm-frond motif and a two-story mural of women in brightly colored dresses carrying fruit baskets on their heads.

Among Cajun- and Creole-inspired items on the dinner menu are a Bubba Gump Cajun shrimp appetizer served with garlic dipping bread ($7.95) and specialties such as jambalaya pasta (chicken $11.95, seafood $13.95), pan-fried catfish ($12.95) and Louisiana blackened steak ($18.95).

After dinner, a lakeside stroll is ideal to end the day.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

1) Wild Rivers

8770 Irvine Center Drive, (949) 768-9453.

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

2) Waters

4615 Barranca Parkway, (949) 733-9503.

11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Parking: $4 per vehicle at Wild Rivers. Free at Waters.

Buses: OCTA No. 75 (Santa Ana-Laguna Hills) runs along Irvine Center Drive with a stop at Wild Rivers. No. 175 (Irvine) stops at Barranca Parkway and Lake Road.

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