I attended this afternoon to get a sense of the layout to help Mrs. Boomer and the rest of our group to plan for tomorrow and future visits. I had a good time. The winds had died down, but it was still hot.
You'll want to plan on being there for about three hours, more if you want to see every house and all of the pavilions and displays. The space is pretty large, and you'll be tired when you're through. bring lots of water and hats, parasols, etc for shade. There are a few golf carts and a pedicab inside the gates, but mostly, you'll be walking.
1) if you enter on Marine Way, you'll be forced to park near the Palm Court, which is where the mini maker fair and a very few other exhibits are located, as well as the carousel and the orange balloon. BUT you'll be a substantial walk from the solar homes and the two main pavilions. The mini maker fair has a 3d printing demo and some interesting ecology demo projects that cycle nutrients through terrestrial and water environments.
Learning: Better to enter at the Trabuco and Sand Canyon entrance. Parking is close to the homes and frequent shuttles circulate in that parking lot.
2) There is a Competitors' Pavilion with booths with displays from each of the home building teams. I stopped there on my way to the solar homes and was able to chat with students in a quiet, shaded setting and I got a better understanding of the homes' themes, technology and purpose. Chatting with energetic young people is always fun.
Learning: if you want to stop at the Competitors' Pavilion before seeing the houses, assuming you enter the event at Trabuco, you'll have to walk past all of the homes to get to the Pavilion. It was a nice way for me to start my visit, but not essential. Your choice.
3) There may or may not be lines to get into the homes. A lot depends on how long each home takes to get through. Some have a very open arrangement and very little presentation from the students, so there are rarely lines for them. Other houses have complex interiors and a defined path through them, so they'll have lines more frequently. There is little to no shade in the waiting lines.
Learning: You can visit the homes in random sequence depending on the line length and your level of interest in each home. Shade will move throughout the day, and lines may get shorter at times. Check out the overall situation and plan accordingly.
4) The Expo Pavilion is the largest and most packed and active. There are displays from the DOE, SCE, UCI, Bosch, Schneider, and a bunch of solar industry and electric bike companies. Worth walking through if you're interested. There are giveaways like carry bags for the brochures that you pick up.
5) There were about five food trucks there and some strolling vendors with ice cream and frozen lemonade. There is also a Great Park Kitchen or some such title that sells various foods, and a shaded eating area. There was abundant free water available.
6) Bosch had a tent set up for their new electric bike technology. You can arrange to test ride several different styles of e-bikes from several bike companies.
7) The Kids' Discovery zone was pretty small and unimpressive. I was hoping that it would be good for my 3 year old granddaughter, but it was more aimed at 2nd or 3rd graders on up to junior high.
8) The Ride/Drive event for alt fuel cars only seemed to have Toyota participating. They do have the RAV4 EV. They may have the PiP, and the rest are hybrids.
There was a booth for the Hydrogen car alliance, but no drive opportunities, I don't think.
9) Plug-in America's table is inside the Expo Pavilion. I think that they are still looking for volunteers to man the table for next Thu-Sun.