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Exploring the world outside of the park
The Lab Antimall

Image from the Anitmall website

The Lab Antimall is a pleasant break from the homogeneity of Orange County malls, but it's also hilariously self- conscious. If you're in the neighborhood, it's definitely worth a visit, if only to see the zenith of pre-canned counterculture.

The Lab is to typical malls what "alternative music" is to popular music.

Remember when alternative music became popular in the 1990s, and fans felt they were part of something hip and underground? No one wanted to recognize that "alternative music" was just the new marketing catch-phrase for "Top 40 music for the masses."

The Lab is the physical embodiment of this principle.

Image from the Anitmall website
Image from the Anitmall website

The Lab tries hard to be unique and edgy in a way everyone can conform to. Lab shoppers are looking for that Street Urchin / Thrift Shop look so popular with the MTV crowd. They decorate their expensive apartments with inflatable furniture and leopard-print curtains.

Billy Joel's lyrics describe it perfectly: "You can't dress trashy 'til you spend a lot of money."

That said, don't let the silliness keep you away. This is a fun and interesting place to shop.

The complex itself looks like a post-apocalyptic warehouse district. The highly industrial landscape includes broken concrete slab, rusted iron beams, stacked metal drums and designs of broken tile. All of this has been decorated with thrift-shop ephemera and retro kitsch.

Tennants in the Antimall include Urban Outfitters, Empire Sports, Crew Salon, Music X, Decor Delux, Na*Na, DWP, Stateside, Shine and Habit. The Lab also includes Habana, a Cuban restaurant, and the Gypsy Den coffeehouse. I have yet to eat at Habana, but the Gypsy Den has some excellent off-beat sandwiches.

On the fringes of The Lab are the Trilogy Playhouse and Memphis Cafe. Memphis has a casual atmosphere and serves Southern and Creole food with an artistic twist.

Image from the Anitmall website
Image from the Anitmall website

Decor Delux offers an interesting assortment of recycled mid-century furniture and decor at somewhat advanced prices. Did you know that your grandmother's kidney-shaped coffee table was back in style?

Na*Na is by far my favorite store in The Lab. It bills itself as the shoestore from hell, but that's really selling it short. Where else could one find finger-puppets based on the various incarnations of Vishnu? Where else could one find a carved tiki god that looks like Elvis? Where else could one find shirts designed by retro-cool artist Josh "Shag" Agle?

Be warned that most of the shops in this counterculture mecca close at 10 pm. Eleven pm would be past the counterculture's bedtime.

I strongly recommend a visit to The Lab Antimall if you have even the least interest in pop-culture, marketing principles, commercial architecture or dressing like a street crazy.

Go. Hang out. Be full of post-modern angst. Bring a credit card.

The Lab Antimall

2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa

(714) 966-6660

(The link above will open in a new window so you don't lose your place)

Guest Columnist Douglas Seabury can be contacted at


Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

This is the nation's oldest theme park. It includes 165 attractions in multiple themed areas such as Calico Ghost Town, Mexican Village, Indian Trails, The Boardwalk and Camp Snoopy. (714) 220-5200

Hard Rock Cafe
451 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach

One in a chain of 104 Hard Rock Cafes around the world. You are paying for the honor of sitting under the autographs of rock stars. The highlight of the decor is the garish suit worn by Prince in the film "Purple Rain." (714) 640-8844

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
7662 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

Watch "knights" engage in jousting and other forms of mortal combat while you eat dinner. Paper crowns (a la Burger King) included. (714) 521-4740

Movieland Wax Museum
7711 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

An elaborate collection of movie and TV memorabilia, including authentic costumes and sets and more than 200 lifelike replicas of famous stars. Open Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission $6.95-$12.95. (949) 522-1154 or visit Movieland Wax Museum online.

Rainforest Cafe
3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa (In the Sears wing of South Coast Plaza)

A themed restaurant with a jungle motif. Includes animatronic creatures, indoor thundershowers, live parrots, talking trees and a large saltwater aquarium. (714) 424-9200

Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum
7850 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

"The odd, the unusual and bizarre from nature and man." Open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission $5.25-$8.95. (714) 522-7045 or visit Ripley's online.

Wild Bill's Wild West Dinner Extravaganza
7600 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

Watch dancing Indians, lariat-twirling "cowboys" and singing cowgirls while you eat dinner. (714) 522-6414

Wild Rivers Water Park
8770 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine

A water theme park with over 40 water rides and attractions, on the site of the late lamented Lion Country Safari. (949) 768-9453

Intrigued by this abbreviated list? Click here to visit Douglas's more complete list of significant locations in Anaheim, including including HISTORICAL SITES, MUSEUMS, SEASIDE ATTRACTIONS, GARDENS, SHOPPING, JUST FOR KIDS, and MISCELLANEOUS FUN categories.

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