‘California here we come, right back where we started from…’
If you grew up watching THE OC (Orange County) or you are currently binging it on Netflix, you are likely humming the song right now.
The song stirs deep emotions of wanting to be transported to the beautiful beaches of California, sipping on a margarita, coupled with the perfect Californian weather – or in this case to Irvine, one of the biggest planned cities of Orange County.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Irvine (CA)
1. Newport Beach
With the Pacific Coast just 7 miles from the center of Irvine, the city has access to some of the best beaches in California, and Corona del Mar beach in Newport is the closest in proximity. With spectacular views and a paradise for divers and surfers, this is the perfect spot for any given day! In fact, 1928 saw the inception of the Corona del Mar Surfboard Club, which happened to be one of the biggest in the United States, garnering international attention towards the beaches.
Catching the most incredible sunsets at Little Corona beach is a must! A favorite of locals is the Tackle Box, a sea food restaurant that often collaborates with world renown chefs. Next on the list is Lookout Point, situated just above the beach, offering views of the Pirate’s Cove and Balboa Peninsula, the epitome of Newport.
There is also plenty of grassy area at the beach which makes for the perfect picnic spot! The restroom facilities provided are also clean and ample, which makes it easier to stay out for a longer period of time.
2. Great Park Balloon Ride
One of the highlights offered by the park is the Orange County Great Balloon, a hot air balloon that takes passengers on a ride from Thursdays through Sunday.
The balloon has a capacity of up to 30 passengers and it can fly at an altitude of 400 feet. The first of its kind in the United States, the balloon is environment friendly and the magic lies in being able to experience Irvine and Orange County from the sky! The All-Day pass is available at $10 and a Single Rise pass costs $3.
3. Improv Comedy Club
You are in for an evening of epic comedy at the Irvine Improv! With a capacity to seat 490 people, located at the Irvine Spectrum, the club has been home to famous comedians like Russel Peters and Tom Segura.
They offer great deals on their tickets, and to top it all, they have amazing food and drinks available as the Club’s menu is provided by Umami Burger. It is family friendly as they have “Laugh Fest” shows that caters to all age groups.
4. Botanical Gardens
In the late 1960s, the UCI Arboretum, a plant growing facility was created at the University of California, Irvine. With an exotic and unique collection of plants from South Africa, Baja California, the Mojave Desert and so on, this is a must visit if you are a plant lover and want to enjoy a nice walk, these gardens, spread over 12.5 acres are just the rejuvenating therapy you need!
There is no entrance fee for the place and it is open to the public from Tuesdays through Saturdays.
5. Farm + Food Lab
If you want to take your love for plants up a notch, your next stop can be the Farm + Food Lab located at the Orange County Great Park. An interactive outdoor classroom offering classes for all age groups, you can learn everything from vertical gardens to worm compost bins. By the end, you would have gained fair knowledge on gardening, picked up tricks to start your own, and even learn about growing food and finally learn about food waste management.
It is an informative yet fun activity to go to, especially with children! Operating Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (10 am – 3 pm)
P.S. Do not miss out the Pizza and Spaghetti Garden!
6. Buccaneer Cove Waterpark
If you love water and more importantly playing in the water, head over to Buccaneer Cove at Boomers! Irvine. With four water slides and a bunch of other interactive activities inside the park, you can make a day out of this place! The water play area has five levels of slippery slides and you can hit the ‘Aqua Dome’ for some fun with spray cannon! You can also rent your own cabanas through the Boomers! Irvine website under ‘All Day Cabana Rentals’
Depending on the type of pass you are looking for, the admission tickets vary from $21. 99 – $31.99. The non-participant fee is $5.
7. Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
Famously known as Orange County’s ‘Eatertainment’ destination, Diamond Jamboree brings together flavors for every palate. With over 15 restaurants to choose from, one can satisfy all of their Asian food cravings. Be it sushi at the Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, or the popular pho at Pho Saigon Pearl, or tofu at BCD Tofu House for all the vegan lovers, every single restaurant has its unique delicacies and mind blowing taste!
The latest attraction with hour long waits is the Haidilao Hot Pot – for your Chines Hot Pot desires. So to all the foodies out there, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to this culmination of cuisines!
8. Irvine Korean Cultural Festival
If you would like to extend the Asian experience; every year as a tribute to the rich Korean heritage present in Irvine, the city celebrates the ‘Irvine Korean Cultural Festival’.
Usually taking place between the 10th – 15th of May at the Irvine Civic Center, the festival brings together a day of extravaganza of the finest of Korean cuisine, games, music, art and entertainment! May 11th, 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the festival! So if you are in Irvine around this time, be sure to check it out!
9. The Irvine Museum
Featuring impressionist art from the impressionist era in California, it is a wonderful way to get to know how California looked a century ago. What better way to experience the majestic Californian landscapes than take a walk down history and see it from the eyes of an Impressionist?
It offers an exhibit with an array of mediums such as waters colors, graphite and charcoal paintings. You can also enjoy food trucks that are parked in the courtyard outside the building.
10. Tanaka Farms
Started by Glen Tanaka and his family over 3 decades ago for their love of farming, the Tanaka farms – became accessible to the public a few years ago. You can go on farm tours in a wagon, you can enjoy field trips that include group activities. The summer special is strawberry picking! Their Drive-Thru Produce market stand offers fresh fruits and vegetables harvested daily.
They also have Community Supported Agriculture with which they deliver a box of fresh farm produce – majority of which is grown by Tanaka Farms. The beauty of Tanaka Farms comes from experiencing the warmth extended by its owners and gives you a sense of the community!
11. Irvine International Film Festival (IIFF)
With close proximity to the entertainment capital of the world, the IIFF is a week-long event that takes place in March. The competition witnesses some of the best films from across the globe. The festival is attended by some of the top names in the industry and has been a contributor in talent to Hollywood.
The festival also offers a number of grants to budding filmmakers. A number of their selections have also made it to the Oscars, A Walk in Winter, The Phone Call and Berlin Troika, to name a few.
12. The Wine Artist: Wine and Cooking Experience
If your idea of the perfect day involves wine, then head over to The Wine Artist for a combination of wine and cooking! From sushi rolls to preparing brunches, this boutique winery is all about the fun! It is even better if you go as a group, as this allows them to split you into teams and have a cooking competition of sorts.
You can also participate in the wine bottling experience – where you get to create custom wine labels! It is a great spot to host a special occasion as the group activities are worth every penny!
13. Bommer Canyon
The beauty of Irvine is the preserved open spaces and planned trails spanning over 300 miles for on-road cycling and 50 miles for off road biking.
The Bommer Canyon in particular has ancient oak and sycamore groves to explore, while you hike or bike through some tough rocks! The area also happens to offer programs such as yoga and a full moon hike! And as one hike up the hill, they are in for a treat of the best views of the Pacific Ocean!
14. San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary
The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary – that spans over 300 acres is a constructed wetland of coastal freshwater, owned by the Irvine Ranch Water District. Open to the public during the day, the sanctuary offers over 10 miles of wheelchair accessible hiking trails that can be enjoyed by visitors, along with the chance to view over 200 species of birds that visit the marsh.
It is also an educational tool for students who can access it as a live laboratory. Wildlife educational programs and tours are made available to all.
15. Marconi Automotive Museum
If you constantly dream about the finest of cars, then look no further – the Marconi Automotive Museum houses cars worth over 30 million dollars from all eras, with the highlight being the 1996 Ferrari Formula One race car that was driven by Michael Schumacher.
The museum can also be hired for corporate events and the proceeds go to a charity for at-risk children. Opened by Dick Marconi to display his private collection, this is a great way to spend a few hours!
16. Irvine Spectrum Centre
Another amazing attraction at the Irvine Spectrum Centre is it’s iconic 108-foot tall Giant Wheel. What makes this particular giant wheel so special is that it was custom designed in Italy and features over 52,000 LED lights, with the ability to project over 16 million color schemes!
The view from the Giant Wheel overlooking OC is definitely a treat but looking at the wheel from the ground is quite mesmerizing in itself.
17. Irvine Historical Museum
Built with a $1,300 budget, this was the first home to be made between Anaheim and San Diego. Commissioned by James Irvine himself in 1868, this is the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of the Irvine Ranch.
This museum was developed by the Irvine Historical Society that aims to preserve the city’s heritage and important landmarks. One can seek to learn and know about the life and events that took place on the Irvine Ranch and get a sneak peek into how the city of Irvine was founded and its rich roots.
18. Irvine Regional Park
Nestled between Oak and Sycamore trees, this 490 acre park is a wholesome experience! From built-in barbecue pits to bicycle trails, from volleyball play areas to softball fields and space for endless group picnics – Irvine Regional Park is a must do!
The park also offers pony rides and horse rentals. The Irvine Park railroad – offers train rides that circle the two lakes and the area surrounding the oak woodland – a winner with the children! For food options, you can choose between the Lakeside Snack Bar and the Train Station Snack Bar.
19. Pretend City Children’s Museum
Founded in 1997 to create an environment for children to have some fun learning experiences, the Pretend City Children’s Museum – is a city made up of – a café, a farm, a post office, a theater and so on, where children can learn how the real world works – through activities like role playing and educational programs offered by the museum.
The highlight is the ‘Imagination Playground’ which allows children to use their thoughts and creativity to build spaces, houses, rockets, etc. So if you are looking for an engaging experience for the kids, and a fun packed day for the family, this should definitely make it to your list.
20. New American Cuisine at Bistango
Do you ever wish you could experience the classiness and elegance of the forties or fifties? Well, a tryst with Bistango will take you back in time while serving a modern twist. With the finest combination of art and New American cuisine, Bistango offers a unique experience to all its guests.
The place also boasts an extensive list of 400 varieties of wine. The whole restaurant lights up even more once the live music commences – with everything from Latin Jazz to R&B Classics – this place is truly fulfilling for the soul!
21. Left Coast Brewing Co.
Started back in 2004, this company prides itself in creating the highest quality product with the perfect blend of premium ingredients. If you are looking for a relaxing evening with great food and beer – the Left Coast Brewing Co. offers just this, with the added benefit of quick and friendly service!
They also have an exclusive Tap Room – that hosts events, and alcohol tasting. Drinks on tap include Hop Juice Triple IPA and Asylum Belgian Style Triple Ale, while Executive Chef Jason Tsiames serves up his signature meats such as slow cooked beef brisket and pulled pork.
22. 626 Night Market
Inspired by open air bazaars of Asia, the 626 is the largest open market food festival! With over 250+ food, merchandise, crafts, games and entertainment attractions, the iconic festival takes places over a 3-day weekend, held ten times a year and draws over hundred thousand attendees per year.
It creates a platform for local talent such as artists and entrepreneurs and gives visitors access to everything new and exciting! If you are in to try out some pho tacos and ramen burgers and indulge in some more fusion food, be sure to check out the market.
23. K1 Speed Indoor Karting
Who doesn’t love a good old race of go karting? With two professionally designed tracks and races for kids and adults, this is the perfect way to spend the evening in Irvine.
The place also allows you to plan your next party or event. Along with having world class tracks, K1 offers a Virtual Reality Gaming Zone giving you all the more reason to stay. They have your food and beverage needs covered at their Paddock Lounge, with menus for all ages.
24. The Rinks – Irvine Inline
The Rinks – Irvine Inline is a place that offers public roller skating sessions. They have three full sport court surfaces, all offering different services. If you are a beginner, they also provide you with additional assistance through ‘Skate Mates’. The general admission is just $5 and the skate rentals cost $3.
The place also plays some great music, making your skating experience more enjoyable! The space is big enough to have birthday parties and events.
25. Scoops n Scoops Creamery
The cherry on top to complete your Irvine experience, definitely comes from a guilt trip to Scoops n Scoops, who for years practiced and experimented with bringing some iconic and mind blowing flavors for a one of a kind ice cream affair.
For instance, their Cinnamon Bun and Crunch flavor comprise a smooth cinnamon bun ice cream swirled with crunchy cinnamon toast crunch cereal. You can also make your own creation with over 50 different toppings, flavors, and waffle types to choose from. If you prefer a milkshake over ice creams, they got you covered.
Whether you are spending just a couple of days or a few, you can take a pick from the above list of things that best suits your interests! Irvine is sure to give you a taste of the Californian magic!