Irvine is a planned city in Southern California with a population of 250,000 people. It was incorporated in 1971. The city is home to a number of universities and colleges, including UCI, Concordia University, California Southern University, University of La Verne, Pepperdine University, Kaplan International Colleges, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Webster University, and more. There are lots of cool tourist attractions in Irvine to visit.
10. Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial
The memorial site, at 4531 Bryan Avenue, was dedicated on November 14, 2010. It started in 2003, when one local man bought some lumber and made crosses with the names of Americans who’d died since 2001 in Afghanistan and Iraq. He placed them in Northwood Community Park to honor them. Today, the names of every American who died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn is engraved in granite at the site, which is open every day. Family members of those memorialized can contact the park to have a rubbing of their loved one’s name mailed to them for free.
9. Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre
Located at 8808 Irvine Center Dr., this amphitheater is the site of numerous stand-up comedy shows, popular music concerts, and classical music concerts. The venue, which opened in 1981, has hosted many music festivals. The Grateful Dead played there 15 times, and Michael Jackson performed there during his Bad Tour. With a capacity of 16,085 people, it is the largest amphitheater in Orange County. This venue is a great place to see a concert, but it is worth it to pay for seats versus the lawn area. Allow ample time for parking, as this popular place is very crowded.
8. Irvine Spectrum Center
The Irvine Spectrum Center is a fun place to visit for those who enjoy shopping. The Center is an outdoor shopping mall with 164 stores and services, including an IMAX theater, a comedy club, and several restaurants. Unusual attractions at the mall are an ice skating rink, a kiddie train, a carousel, and a giant wheel. A ride on the giant wheel after dark provides a beautiful view of the city’s night skyline, perfect for a romantic evening out. The shopping center hosts a number of seasonal events each month. Spectrum Center is located at 670 Spectrum Center Drive.
7. UCI Arboretum
The UCI Arboretum has been running since the late 1960s. Initially, it housed a collection of plants from South Africa, but today the arboretum has an extensive collection of plants from coastal Southern California and Mexico as well. The 12.5 acre botanical garden and research facility is not currently open to the public for daily visits, but it hosts an event during each quarter of the year of public Arboretum and Marsh Tours. The timing of the events is chosen to line up with peak flowering times of some of the collections. Visitors will get to see what researchers are working on at the botanical gardens during the tours. The UCI Arboretum is located at Campus Dr., Newport Beach.
6. Orange County Great Park
This 1300 acre park was once the location of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. This parcel of land sits in the center of Orange County. Attractions include the Great Park Balloon, the Carousel, the Great Park Visitors Center, Kids Rock play area, Walkable Historical Timeline, Historic Hangar 244, Palm Court, Farm + Food Lab, and a number of different sports fields. The balloon is especially popular. It is a tethered hot air balloon that takes up to 30 people at a time 400 feet up. On a clear day, riders can see up to 40 miles around. The balloon runs Thursdays through Sundays, and there is a fee to ride. There is also a nominal fee to ride the carousel.
5. Orange County Zoo
The Orange County Zoo is a small wildlife park located at 1 Irvine Park Road. The zoo started informally with some red foxes that were brought to live in the park in 1905. Over the years other animals in pens and corrals were added. The zoo as it is now was officially opened in 1985. The eight acre zoo features animals that are native to the region, and only takes animals that cannot be released back into the wild. Some animals on display include owls, bobcats, coyotes, black bears, beavers, and reptiles, to name a few of the more than 30 species. Kids will enjoy the Story Time Area and the Petting Zoo. The zoo is open every day except major holidays. Admission is $2.00 per person ages 3 and up. Kids 2 and under get in free.
4. Blue Whale Migration
Each year hundreds of giant blue whales make their annual migration south, passing the coast of California on their way during the months of May through October. The grey whales make their run from November through April. Newport Landing Whale Watching offers tours to view the stunning animals. Tourists are frequently treated to glimpses of other whales and bottlenose dolphins, too. The touring company runs multiple tours every day of the year, weather permitting. Tours can be booked online. Whales are spotted on most excursions, but in the event that they are not, the company offers a discount on a future tour.
3. Heritage Hill Historical Park
Heritage Park is located at 25151 Serrano Road in Lake Forest, just a few miles southeast of the city. This historical park has four fully restored, furnished buildings built between 1863 and 1908 on its 4.1 acre grounds. Visitors can take a free guided tour through the buildings on Wednesdays through Saturdays, in groups of seven or fewer. Groups of eight or more can tour for a nominal fee, if reservations are made in advance. The park is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Visitors may not enter the buildings unless they are with a guide. The park hosts special events, like a Victorian Christmas, or a Candlelight Walk. Check their website for special events and details.
2. William R. Mason Regional Park
The Mason Regional Park is a 339 acre parcel of land featuring picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, sand volleyball courts, and three playgrounds for toddlers. It also features a 123 acre wilderness area, and a nine acre lake. The park is also the location of the Strawberry Farms golf course, and an amphitheater. The Mason Regional Park is one of the best places to relax with friends and family in the city. Enjoy model boat sailing, watch the ducks, play softball, and have a barbeque, all at the same place. The park, located at 18712 University Drive, is open every day until sundown. There is a fee for parking.
1. The Irvine Museum
This lovely museum, which is dedicated specifically to California art of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930), is one of the best places to visit in Irvine. One example of the exhibits on display is Independent Visions: Women Artists of California 1880-1940. Exhibits change every few months. The museum is located at 18881 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 100, and is open every Tuesday through Saturday, except major holidays. There is no charge for admission, but donations are appreciated. A free tour is offered every Thursday at 11:15 AM. Group tours can be arranged by appointment.
Whether your visit to the city is for an extended time or just for a weekend, you are sure to find cool things to do in Irvine. The weather is mild to hot all year, and the days are usually sunny. A jacket is recommended for evenings, as the desert climate cools off at night.