Irvine is located in Orange County, a place known for its friendly residents, excellent education system, and low crime rate. When in southern California, you are certain to find plenty of fun things to do in Irvine!
If you have never been to this often overlooked town, you might be wondering what to do in Irvine. Irvine, California, is all about family time, with plenty of bike trails and homes situated in quiet neighborhoods.
Because Irvine doesn’t have much nightlife, some people wonder, is Irvine worth visiting? Heck yeah! One of the exciting things about Irvine is the giant carousel in Orange County Great Park. While there, you can also take a hot air balloon ride in the Great Park Balloon and witness Irvine from a “bird’s eye view.” These are only two of the magnificent things you will find while looking for fun and the best things to do in Irvine.
Irvine Marriott Hotel & Conference Center is a deluxe hotel located in the heart of Orange County, California. Only minutes away from John Wayne Airport and close to many popular attractions such as Disneyland® Park, South Coast Plaza®, Fashion Island and the Great Park.
This hotel is only a step away from John Wayne Airport and provides the perfect location for both work and leisure travellers. Explore South Coast Plaza, the largest shopping mall in California or visit attractions such as Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. Relax after a day of sightseeing at the outdoor swimming pool or soak up some rays on the sun terrace of this Irvine hotel.
Sonesta Irvine, the closest hotel to John Wayne Airport is an affordable option and offers a free airport shuttle service. A free continental breakfast is served every morning with fresh coffee, pastries and juices. Guests can also enjoy local beer and wine at the on-site restaurant.
If you don’t have time to do an official search for some of the best things to do in Irvine, California; here is a short list of the main sites and attractions:
- Most significant landmark – The Irvine Historical Museum
- Best park – Irvine Regional Park, aka William R. Mason Park
- Best free activity – Crystal Cove State Park
- The best activity for kids – Pretend City Children’s Museum
- The best activity for adults – Bommer Canyon National Trail
- Best food – All That Barbecue
- Best nightlife – Hive and Honey Rooftop Bar
- Best all-around accommodation – Irvine Marriot
Fun and Best Things to Do in Irvine California
When you are planning a vacation, remember all the things to do in Irvine, California. There are so many sites to visit, from beaches to wilderness trails. The following list of fun and best things to do in Irvine is only the beginning!
You can choose to do one, a few, or all of them over the course of several days or weeks. There are so many things to do in Irvine, California. Whatever you plan to do while in Irvine, make sure you bring lots of sunscreens because the California sun gets really hot!
1. Orange County Great Park
Address: 8000 Great Park Blvd. Irvine, California. 92618
One of the popular places to visit in Irvine is Orange County Great Park. This park is filled with attractions, lots of sights, and amenities that feature a broad spectrum of alluring things to do. The Orange County Great Park opened to the public in 2017 and sprawls over 1,300 acres.
In addition to the Farmers Market, the Orange County Great Park features the central attraction known as the Great Park Balloon. This offers people a chance to ride in a hot air balloon! This balloon ride takes you over Orange County’s skyline in a breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience.
The Great Orange Balloon ride will take visitors 400 feet above ground level and offers a 360-degree, bird’s eye view of the city, park, and beyond.
But that’s not all; besides Great Park Balloon, tourists can discover what the Palm Court Art Complex is all about. What used to be a military hangar is now an event center. It is 10,000 square feet in size and is known as the Great Park Gallery.
In addition, Orange County Great Park now has a public skating event hosted by the Great Ice Park, which features skating all year long.
See Related: Best Botanical Gardens in California
2. Pretend City Children’s Museum
Address: 29 Hubble, Irvine, CA 93618
The Pretend City Children’s Museum takes children through a magical day of interaction in the city as an adult does. They get to pretend they are grown-ups by getting the chance to do everything they see mom and dad do. From going to work, picking up groceries, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and even getting paid!
Pretend City Children’s Museum is a non-profit museum created by the city of Irvine. There are 17 special exhibits available at this museum giving children the opportunity to live life as an adult.
The interactive displays are made to construct better minds by creating a play that has a purpose. Children get to learn hands-on activities, allowing them to role-play and get excited about this fun educational program.
On the second Friday of every month, families are offered Play Days at the Pretend City Children’s Museum once a month. This is an exciting way for caregivers and parents to learn about the milestones within childhood development.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Blythe, California
3. Irvine Regional Park, aka William R. Mason Park
Address: 18712 University Dr., Irvine, California 92612
For people who enjoy spending time outdoors, Irvine Regional Park is the place to be. More than 50,000 acres have been placed under permanent protection by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. This ensures that all the landmarks of Irvine, from woodlands to parks, are protected. Many outreach programs have created summer camps, private lectures, and tours around this beautiful park.
Core to the park’s principles is to create a place where nature and business can co-mingle peacefully. The result of this plan became over 16,500 acres of beautifully managed parks, sports fields, and wide open areas.
Visitors and residents can explore the wildlands and natural habitats which have been preserved. The Mason Regional Park has literally miles of trails cut out through the wildland to enjoy hiking or biking along all year. If you enjoy biking, there are more than 300 miles of in-road lanes and a designated bike trail with over 60 miles of trails off-road.
The William R. Mason/Irvine Regional Park has various activities and outdoor events to partake in. If you are looking for some cheap things to do in Irvine, the Mason Regional Park has it all. With over 50,000 acres of guarded parks and wildlands, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy makes it ideal for nature lovers.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Blythe, California
4. Bommer Canyon National Trail
Address: Irvine, CA 92603
For adults, hiking at Bommer Canyon in Irvine, California, makes the list of some of the best things to do in Irvine.
Bommer Canyon has some awesome views of both the canyon and the city of Irvine. In addition to trails filled with a variety of activity levels, you can make plans to take to embark on a guided tour. Bommer Canyon is part of the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp, with some former buildings still standing.
Every type of outdoor enthusiast is invited to check out the wonders of nature and the lore at Irvine Ranch. Take a walk among the groves of Sycamore and ancient Oak trees, and enjoy the outcrops of rugged rocks. You can check out the various trails, such as Irvine City’s Quail Loop Trail.
Each trail is open daily, with self-guided hikes available from dawn till dusk. Other parts of Bommer Canyon have tours that are only accessible through guided programs, making pre-registration necessary.
See Related: 16 Fun & Best Things to Do in Julian, California
5. All That Barbecue
Address: 15333 Culver Dr. Irvine, CA 92604
Couples that are looking for an exciting, interactive way to spend an evening, should go to All That Barbecue in Irvine. You and your date can enjoy Kobe beef and bulgogi cooked to perfection as you dine on the all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue. After dinner, the two of you can sneak off to a place nearby for something sweet and tea or coffee.
All that Barbecue is open seven days a week from 11:30 am until 11:00 pm. This restaurant is obviously intended for meat lovers!
Once you take your seat, the salads and other side dishes (kimchi, and pickled cucumber, for example), will be set out. A few choice menu items include the #1 Simply Clean (Filet Mignon) and the #2 Beef Rib Eye steak. Another fine choice is the #5 Hot Cow-Ture (Spicy Brisket) and the #14 Tried & True (Beef Bulgogi). Irvine locals love this place!
See Related: Best Things to do in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
6. The OC Zoo
Address: 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869
If you are looking for things to do in Irvine, California, and want to find something fun for kids, the Orange County Zoo will deliver. This zoo is conveniently situated within the Irvine Regional Park. Nestled amongst the giant groves of sycamore and coastal live oak trees. These are all plants native to the southwestern U.S. and are on display on all eight acres.
The Orange County Zoo has animals on exhibit living in a habitat that closely matches their natural ones. For instance, children can witness mountain lions, black bears, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, great-horned owls, porcupines, turkey vultures, coyotes, the ocelot, and many more creatures.
In addition, the animal exhibits assure a comfortable habitat for each animal, which augments the educational needs of each visitor in Irvine, California.
If you are looking for things to do in Irvine, California for young kids, the zoo offers a petting zoo and a barnyard setting. The kiddos can pet domesticated goats, pot-bellied pigs, Cheviot and Jacob sheep, pheasants, doves, and chickens. There is also a display available to share interesting information about each animal.
Children relish the opportunity to pet the animals through the fenced enclosure. In addition, you can purchase grain to allow your little one to enjoy feeding the animals at the petting zoo. Bring a picnic basket for your family to relax and enjoy the picnic areas just across from the zoo. Hampton Inn & Suites is a good place to lodge after the whole picnic.
See Related: Things to Do in Fresno, California
7. Irvine Spectrum Center
Address: 70 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, California
The Irvine Spectrum Center offers tourists and residents several attractions, such as landscaped fountains and retail shops. You will find the Irvine Spectrum center off the I-5 and I405 junction.
Lululemon and The Denim Lab are some of the retail shops you will recognize at the Spectrum Center. Some eateries like Dave and Buster’s, After’s Ice Cream, and Umami Burger can also be found here. Besides each of these places offering delicious food, you will notice American fare and adult arcade games.
There are also lots of low-cost to free attractions you will find at the Irvine Spectrum Center. The kids will love the giant Ferris wheel and carousel featured at the center, while mom and dad enjoy taking a stroll along the manicured gardens and hardscaping grounds.
On weekends there is plenty of outdoor entertainment, featuring live music playing throughout the courtyards. We recommend you bring the family to the Spectrum Center for a day visit.
However, the center is magnificent at night too. As the lights come on and the temperatures become cooler, it’s the ideal atmosphere for a stroll through the courtyard.
If it’s a movie or comedy you’re after, the Irvine Improv offers weekly big-star comedians. There is also a movie theater in the plaza with bright lights and fountains. Is that not doing it for you? The arcade “Spaces” offers visitors and residents of Irvine a new experience of virtual reality!
8. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: 5 Riparian View, Irvine, California
If you enjoy the wilderness, you are going to love the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. This park is located within the limits of the city of Irvine. Photographers and bird watchers alike enjoy the simple accessibility of this sanctuary.
There are over 10 miles of trails within the San Joaquin wildlife sanctuary. These trails assist hikers and day walkers in navigating their way along the terrain and marsh. In addition, there are also many ponds located all over the property.
The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is open to the public from early dusk until dawn, seven days a week. There are trails that vary from broad dirt roads to narrow footpaths the further you walk into the sanctuary.
It is advisable for visitors to bring fresh drinking water along on their hikes through the area. Additionally, it is asked that you take your trash with you.
See Related: Best Things to do in Three Rivers, California
9. Tanaka Farms
Address: 5380 University Drive, Irvine, California
If it’s a farm tour that interests you, then Tanaka Farms will pique your interest. Tanaka Farms is a lesson in agriculture for the whole family. It is 30 acres of farmland and offers lots of fun for the entire family.
With a u-pick for fresh fruit available, every new season, this farm produces a new crop. One way to get in on the farming experience is to join the Farm Tours that run all day long.
From February through June, take the family on a tour of the strawberry fields. During the summer months, corn tours are offered. Guests get free samples as well as a ride on the guided wagon.
During the month of October, there are harvest festivals and pumpkin picking. Tanaka Farms is also a common place to throw a birthday bash any time of year! If you have an extended stay after the market day, you will definitely want to checkout Extended Stay America Suites.
10. Irvine Farmers Market
Address: 5428 Bonita Canyon Drive, Irvine, California
The Irvine region has agriculturally abundant soil, and the area has a growing season that lasts year long. Consequently, you can find great local produce at a local farmers’ market.
Two markets in Irvine are certified by the Orange County Farmer Bureau. The market at Irvine Regional Park is one, and they offer markets on Tuesday mornings.
The other market is close to the Mariner’s Church, with markets being held on Saturday mornings and Sundays from 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Swing by and grab a bite or some locally made handicrafts!
See Related: Best Things to Do in Santa Rosa, California
11. Irvine Open Space Preserve
Address: 13252 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, CA 92620
The areas around Irvine contain an amazing amount of natural open spaces. These spaces create a number of outlets for recreation for both tourists and the local community. Wildlife sightings have been in abundance throughout these wide open spaces. Some common forms of travel within these natural environments included horseback riding, biking, and hiking.
The popular Bommer Canyon grants access to the Irvine Open Space Preserve. This area has many opportunities for outdoor activities, like the self-guided exploration of the many trails, such as the Turtleback Mountains and the Jeffrey Open Space.
The total acreage between Crystal Cove State Park, Fremont Canyon Nature Preserve, and Irvine Regional Park exceeds 20,000 meaning tons of wide open spaces for you to immerse yourself in nature.
12. FivePoint Amphitheatre
Address: 14800 Chinon, Irvine, CA 92618
The Irvine Spectrum Center is a little shy of one mile away from the Five Point Amphitheatre. Opening in 2018, it took the place of Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre which closed its doors in 2016.
With room for 12,000 guests, many of the shows and concerts actually sell out quickly at the Five Point Amphitheatre. Their loaded calendar of events spans the upcoming year, with musical festivals, comedians, and many other acts touring. On event nights, vendors and food trucks are available for guests to grab a bite at this outdoor venue.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Bakersfield, California
13. University of California Irvine Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Address: Campus Drive and Jamboree Road, Irvine, California
There are collections of plants featured in this educationally blooming space. Some of their plant species are extremely rare and originate out of South Africa. However, although rare, the essential spotlight within the Arboretum of the University of California Irvine is the flora of Southern California.
Some of the specific groups of species contained at the California Irvine Arboretum encompass many Channel Islands, Mojave Desert, and Baja species. The entire arboretum consists of 12 acres and is actually a living classroom that is 12.5 acres in size.
The Botanical Gardens at UC Irvine Arboretum is open to public access Tuesday through Saturday. It is free of charge to take a walk through here and enjoy the wonder of nature.
14. Day Trip to Crystal Cove State Park and Newport Beach
Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If you are looking for a day trip just a short 13 miles from the city of Irvine, check out Crystal Cove State Park. Pack a picnic basket and load the kids in the car for a short twenty-minute drive to Crystal Cove State Park.
The California State Park runs alongside the Pacific shoreline for approximately 3.2 miles. Crystal Cove State Park is complete with chaparral canyons and many beach houses within the Crystal Cove Historic District. This state park is a piece of the South Coast area of Wilderness and can be found in Newport Beach. You can also enjoy Whale watching at Newport Beach.
There is a stretch of beachfront coves and coastal cliffs in Crystal Cove’s area. Nestled in an area of the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway slightly north of Laguna Beach Crystal Cove was first established in 1979 and is a park made up of 3,936 acres of stunning seaside landscapes.
There are beaches and tide pools that add up to a combined three miles, in addition to a marine Conservation Area that is 1,400 acres, and a park underwater. There are also 2,400 acres of canyons as well as 400 acres of beautiful bluffs.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Solvang, California
15. Jack and Shanaz Langson Institute and Museum of California Art
Address: 18881 Von Karman Avenue Suite 100, Irvine, California
The Institute & Museum of California Art (IMCA) was established by the University of California in 2017. It is the result of the merging of two prominent collections of California art; The Buck Collection and the Irvine Museum Collection.
Nowadays, this art collection accounts for more than 4,500 of the IMCA’s collection of permanent pieces. Just northwest of the campus, in the building known as the Airport Tower, is an interim museum where the collection resides.
In this interim museum, IMCA displays its current collection of art. There are more than 2,500 square feet of space devoted to showcasing art within the first-floor museum. You’ll also find the Irvine Museum here too (we’ll get onto that later).
Following a generous gift, in December 2021, the Jack & Shanaz Langson Institute & Museum of California Art was born from this collection. However, the completion date and site of this new art building have yet to be determined. Once it’s finished this mighty collection is set to move – we’ll keep you updated.
16. Turtle Rock Viewpoint
The Turtle Rock neighborhood is east of the University of California Irvine’s border. This consists of an intermingling of outdoor spaces. It is a beautiful and fairly quiet residential community with parks, golf courses, and other amenities. Jutting forth out of the center of this neighborhood is a rock formation known as Turtle Rock.
A few paths head towards Turtle Rock, and its vantage point is quite impressive and photo-worthy. On the south edge of Turtle Rock are two popular areas: Turtle Rock Community Park and Chaparral Park. There are many features to each park, such as picnic equipment and playgrounds, making them popular for relaxing.
On your way up to Turtle Rock, you will notice an incline the whole way up, although it’s not even a mile long, so most walkers will be just fine. That said, you’d better plan on wearing sunglasses because this whole area has HUGE sunlight exposure. Also, wear a hat and bring plenty of drinking water!
See Related: Things to Do in Oakland, California
17. Irvine Park Railroad
Address: Irvine Park Railroad, 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, California 92869
The Irvine Park Railroad is located at the farthest east end on Jamboree Road, nestled in the foothills of the nearby city of Orange. Chapman and Jamboree Road are the two closest cross streets. The Irvine Park Railroad is a short 20-minute jaunt from John Wayne Airport and 20 minutes to the east of Disneyland. You can book a departure to John Wayne Airport here.
The Irvine Park Railroad is the ideal place to take the entire family when in the Orange County area. There is plenty to find when you are looking for things to do with the kids or even as a couple. All year round, there are special events and activities scheduled to celebrate Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and more.
Visit the Wheel Fun Rentals in Irvine Park to rent bikes and paddle boats. There is also the Orange County Zoo, pony rides for the kids, and horseback riding for the adults. They even have model train rides! Check out the website and find out how much fun other visitors of the park have had.
18. Irvine Museum
Address: 18881 Von Karman Ave #100, Irvine, CA 92612
When you are looking for something to do as a couple, the Irvine Museum has a specialty for fine arts to keep you enthralled.
It spotlights the American Impressionist Movement and other scenes from California. The Golden State is full of farms and luscious fields, providing local artists with inspiration.
Exhibits are provided and rotated regularly to ensure you get your fill of exquisite art samples. It doesn’t matter how often you return to this museum; you will always find something new. You’ll see artwork that dates back hundreds of years ago to current works of contemporary art.
Thursday tours that are docent-led for various programs are also available are some fun classes and interesting lectures.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Eureka, California
19. The Irvine Historical Museum
Address: 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606
If you are looking for things to do in Irvine with kids, check out the Irvine Historical Museum. The San Joaquin Ranch House was first commissioned in 1868 by James Irvine, this building is thought to be the oldest one standing in town.
You and your children will be in awe as you view the old paintings that depict scenes from the past. There are exhibitions in the Irvine Museum that include “Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Covers Art Program, 1928 through 1981”. You can also view the “Sunlight & Shadow: The Tradition of Plein Air Painting”, as well as many more exciting portrayals of the old world come to life in paint.
Educational programs are bolstered by the Irvine Historical Museum like “Art Meets Science.” In addition, schools can take students on field trips here, and there are year-round lectures.
Visiting a museum is often one of the best free things to do in Irvine from Tuesday through Saturday. There are private tours available for groups by appointment only. On Thursdays, there is a docent-led tour.
20. Irvine Barclay Theatre
Address: 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, CA 92612
If you love the theater, the Irvine Barclay Theatre can entertain you. Relish on world music, contemporary dance, chamber music, theater, and other events designed for the family. The Barclay Theatre in Irvine presents one of the country’s most consistent rosters of impressive events.
The Irvine Barclay Theatre showcases some of California’s most imaginative performing arts. This theatre has a 750-seat “jewel box” and is famous for its awesome acoustical sounds and an air of intimacy.
See Related: Best Things to do in Sacramento, California
21. The Irvine Fine Arts Center 22
Address: 14321 Yale Ave, Irvine, CA 92604
If you want to take up painting as a hobby, painting classes are offered at the Irvine Fine Arts Center 22. Here there are art studios that are fully equipped for aspiring artists of all ages.
Are you looking for something fun the children can do in Irvine this summer? Why not sign them up for some art classes at the Irvine Fine Arts Center 22? All local and state requirements are followed by the City of Irvine, ensuring a safe opportunity this summer for recreation.
22. The Oak Creek Golf Club
Address: 1 Golf Club Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
There are several opportunities in Irvine if you are an avid golfer! The Oak Creek Golf Club is one of the best options to enjoy the glorious walk. It offers a picturesque landscape, with interesting holes and several tee times that accommodate any schedule.
For less than $50 a person, you can enjoy a day playing golf at the Oak Creek Golf Club. From May 20 – September 25, juniors under 17 years of age pay only $25. You can also embark on a “ride and play” of 9-hole golf for $46.
See Related: Best Museums in San Diego, California
23. The Hive and Honey Rooftop Bar
Address: 7905 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, California, 92618
Enjoy beautiful west coast sunsets while celebrating or having a meeting at the Honey & Hive Rooftop Bar. They specialize in light bites, as well as mouthwatering cocktails, all accompanied by incredible views in a luxurious setting.
Available for a buy-out and private events; inquire about availability by contacting the event specialist.
24. Irvine Global Village Festival
The Irvine Global Village Festival is an awesome event of different cultures coming together. It is normally held in Orange County Park in October. Enjoy a complete day filled with music, art, and food from all over the world, in celebration of the diverse community, Irvine has become.
There are plenty of activities for kids of all ages, including the worldwide marketplace, cuisine that is local and worldly, as well as exhibits, music, and art.
What is Irvine known for?
The first thing you will notice when visiting Irvine is its beauty. This city in Orange County is a destination of postcard quality. As a result of city planning that has been well-executed, Irvine has diverse natural areas. These spaces provided plenty of exploring opportunities, such as children’s museums, parks, and wildlife sanctuaries.
Irvine is most famous for its low crime rate, excellent education system, friendly residents, and beautiful parks. The population of Irvine is anticipated to keep growing due to its rapidly gaining popularity. This southern California city will become a favorite place to live and work in the coming years.
What are some of the good things recognized about Irvine?
Irvine is recognized as being one of America’s happiest cities. It is one of the best U.S. cities to raise a family in, due to the increasing job market, safe neighborhoods and abundant family-friendly activities.
What fun things can you do in Irvine with the kids when it rains?
On a rainy day in southern California, you can take the kids to any number of kid-friendly museums. An example of one of these museums is the California Science Center or the Discover Cube. Both places offer children lots of hands-on, interactive fun and excitement. You can also take the pets for a walk at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace when it rains.
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