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Tourists flocking to the real 'OC' hangouts

Producer gives lowdown on Newport Beach hot spots

Washington Post (and reported in Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

Here's the latest weather report, courtesy of Fox's 'The OC,' for Orange County, Calif.: Today, tomorrow and every day after that till the end of time will be warm and sunny, with intermittent spurts of melodrama.

OK, it does rain in sunny Southern California. But these are bright times for Newport Beach, the wealthy town about 40 miles south of Los Angeles where the popular teen-scene drama, now in its second season, is set. The surfside hamlet has become a mecca for fans who want to walk in the flip-flopped footsteps of 'OC' characters Seth, Ryan, Summer and Marissa.

To that end, the Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau has produced a map highlighting the show's hot spots ' from the Balboa Fun Zone ('The OC's Hangout') to Crystal Cove ('Aerial Shot in the Opening Segment').

'OC' executive producer McG, a Newport native and director of 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle,' said in a phone interview that the area's rapid growth has turned the town into a popular destination representing the 'most attractive triad of the human experience: high-end shopping, the beach and beautiful people.' Happily, he said, there's still room for skinny comic book fans like Seth in this 'world of strapping, beautiful ear-to-ear grins.'

With a little help from McG, here's how to find your own private 'OC.'

'Set sail like Seth: Start your voyage in Newport Harbor, where Seth docked his beloved sailboat Summer Breeze in Season 1, said McG. This season, good-guy-but-lousy-financial-planner Jimmy Cooper, Marissa's dad, calls this spot home after losing his house and wife.

'Hit the beach: The beaches in these parts are smooth, white and wide.

Start your beachcombing by walking south on Balboa Peninsula to the Wedge, which, according to McG, is 'home to the largest, scariest waves or beautiful, tranquil waters, depending on the day.'

Summer and Marissa frequent 32nd Street Beach.

Catch a wave at the 56th Street Beach, among the area's top surfing spots.

'Take a drive: Who cares about gas prices' Cruise Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to San Juan Capistrano, said McG. This is a main road that carves through the county and will take you to all of the characters' hangouts ' and the ocean is in view nearly the whole time.

'Eat it all up: Restaurants ' from cheap eats to deluxe dining ' frequently take center stage on 'The OC,' and the bathos arrives on heaping platters.

Save room for Ruby's (1 Balboa Pier), an old-style eatery that McG said was the model for 'The OC' diner. The Rubyburgers are slathered in Ruby Sauce (Thousand Island dressing and mayo) and the shoestring fries are a must. Burgers start at $6, but, as Luke discovered, the knuckle sandwiches are priceless.

'Rock out: 'The OC' gang grooves at the Bait Shop, which McG said was created in honor of the now-defunct Cuckoo's Nest, an '80s punk-rock destination in nearby Costa Mesa.

Though fictitious, the Bait Shop has launched more than a few careers after performers appeared on the show, including Death Cab for Cutie, Finley Quaye, the Black Eyed Peas, Bright Eyes, and Jet and Spoon. Fox's 'OC' Web site reports each got more radio airplay after their Bait Shop gigs.

Travel information

'Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau: 1-800-942-6278, .

'Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau: 714-765-8888,

'For more on 'The OC': .