Irvine offers cycling enthusiasts 44.5 miles of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles of on-road bicycle lanes.More

Discover the city that is a short ride from some of California’s biggest attractions and a draw in itself

Published: 05/18/2011
Ahh, the sunny climate and attractions of Southern California's Orange County.There's Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the Nixon Library and birthplace, Crystal Cathedral, California Adventure, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Balboa Island, and beaches like Laguna,Newport, and Huntington - Surf City USA.

The list goes on and on.

With a little planning you can avoid some of the congestion that can accompany a vacation to some
of these popular and populated areas.

Irvine is a centrally located master planned community within a 25-mile radius of Orange
County's beaches, theme parks and other major attractions.

With a street system designed to avoid traffic jams and a network of protected open space,parks, and trails, it's the paragon of what can be accomplished when a city is designed from scratch with the resources to do it right.

The comforts and conveniences created for its residents make it a great place to stay. There's a full range of arts and entertainment options, outdoor recreation, festivals and cultural events, fine and casual dining, and shopping galore.

Developed and incorporated as a city by the Irvine Co. when the University of California's Irvine
campus was established, this culturally diverse and architecturally coordinated community
is designed to offer a full range of options for today's active lifestyle.

With a sun-drenched Mediterranean climate, its low crime rate - the FBI named it the safest city with more than 100,000 people in America in 2009 - and the highest median income for a city its size, it's little wonder it
fell at number 22 on CNNMoney.com's nationwide list of the best places to live.

History of the land
Irvine is a microcosm of the history and development of California.

It is the product of interactions between the indigenous people now known as the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe and Spaniards who brought forts, towns and the Catholic Church's mission system.

Hearing that the Jesuits, who had established missions along New Spain's coast, were amassing
great wealth and power, Spain's King Carlos III ordered them replaced by Franciscans led by Father Junípero Serra, who at the time was leading missions in Mexico.

Serra arrived in what is now California in 1769, the same year as Spanish soldier and explorer
Gaspar de Portola. Other soldiers, missionaries, settlers, mules, and servants accompanied
them to assist with maintaining the Spanish crown's control, spreading the faith to the native population and colonizing the region.

The indigenous Gabrielino-Tongva, who acquired their resent name from the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, were among those subjugated and relocated to that mission, where they provided labor for construction,
agriculture and the production of goods.

The Native Americans lacked immunity to European diseases brought in. Women of childbearing
age were cloistered and European crops took over native food sources. Much of the indigenous
population was wiped out.

For more on the plight of the Gabrielino-Tongva, officially recognized by the state of California in 1994, and to gain a perspective not included in conventional historical texts, see http://www.gabrielinotribe.org/Tribal-
History/tribal_history.cfm.

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 and the Secularization Act granted or sold mission land to Mexican applicants for ranchos.

Twenty-five years later, Mexico was defeated in the Mexican-American War, and California was ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The Congressional Act of 1851 required landowners to reapply to the Board of Land Commissioners
for title to their land grants, or ranchos, which by then had often changed hands or
been divided, creating a tangled web of claims.

As a result, three large Spanish and Mexican grants were acquired by a partnership that included
sheep rancher James Irvine: Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana was an early Spanish land grant to Jose Antonio Yorba and his nephew and partner Juan Pablo Peralta. Lawsuits over titles in the 1860s divided the land among prosperous American sheep ranching claimants, including Irvine.

Rancho San Joaquin included San Juan Capistrano mission lands granted to Don José Andrés
Sepulveda in 1837. With one of the largest cattle ranches in the state, Sepulveda supplied beef to miners in the California Gold Rush and is said to have been the richest man in California.

He lived lavishly and gambled extravagantly. By 1864, with his herd devastated by a prolonged
drought, he was forced into foreclosure. Irvine and his partners bought 50,000 of Sepulveda's
acres for $18,000.

Teodosio Yorba was granted Rancho Lomas de Santiago in 1846 on the day California became
a U.S. territory. Irvine and his partners bought the 47,000-acre Rancho Lomas de Santiago,
which borders the Santa Ana River, for $7,000.

In 1878, Irvine acquired his partners' interests for $150,000 in what became the Irvine Ranch.
Once one of the largest private ranches in the United States, its more than 100,000 acres
stretched over 22 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana River.

When James Irvine died in 1886, the property passed to his son James II, who incorporated
as the Irvine Co. a year later. He grew field crops and olive and citrus orchards - products introduced
by Spanish missionaries.

The ranch became one of the world's largest producers of Valencia oranges.

In 1897, James Irvine II donated his favorite picnic grounds, 160 acres in the Santiago
Canyon, to the public, establishing the Irvine Regional Park, the oldest county park in
California. A statue of him with his beloved hunting dogs, facing the Santa Ana winds, was erected
in the park in his honor.

City incorporation
During World War II, the Irvine Co. sold some land to the government for Marine Corp facilities.
According to the City of Irvine's website, when James II died in 1947 age 80, the company
presidency passed to his surviving son, Myford. In 1959, the Irving Co. gave 1,000 acres requested
by the University of California for a campus, and the University bought an additional 500 acres.
The consulting architect and the Irving Co. drew up a master plan for a city of 50,000 people
around the university, and the expanding city was incorporated in 1971. Irvine's descendants
have since designated almost 60,000 acres that are now parks and wilderness.

Cultural center
The abundance of open space Irvine an especially enjoyable to live and visit. The diverse population drawn
here has given rise to a wide variety of recreational, dining and cultural options.

The Irvine Museum, founded in 1991 by Joan Irvine Smith, is the only museum in California
dedicated to the preservation and display of Californiastyle impressionism or plein-air
(fresh air) paintings. The style was popular from 1890 to 1930, before large-scale urbanization
and population growth.

The tethered bright orange Great Park Balloon soars hundreds of feet in the air for a birds-eye view of the 27.5-acre Balloon Park. On a clear day you can see to Los Angeles. It's free.

Or, create your own picnic of fresh local fruits, vegetables and more, then browse the arts and
craft at the park's Sunday Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine.

You can't miss the 108-foot Ferris wheel that was custom designed and hand crafted in Italy. It marks the Irvine Spectrum Center, a retail destination with more than 130 shopping, dining and entertainment venues.

Whether you are in search of retail therapy in the shops, some laughs at the Improv Comedy
Club or some dizzying spins at the ice skating rink, you'll find this and much more.

Traveling with children?
Imaginations soar when playing grown-up at Pretend City Children's Museum, a 15,000-squarefoot
interactive play city. Visit the doctor, buy groceries, be an artist or firefighter or whatever strikes your fancy in this just for-fun mini-metropolis.

Stroll the campus of the University of California's Irvine.

Discover unique coastal California plants at the12.5-acre Arboretum, a botanical garden and research facility.

Check the schedule at UCI's Barclay Theatre - the site of ballet, symphony and other performances
throughout the year.

Spend a day at Irvine Regional Park. Ride the miniature train, paddleboats or trotting
and walking ponies. Bike or hike the trails. See animals indigenous to Southwest - bald eagles, porcupines,
coati, black bears, ocelots, mountain lions, island foxes, red-tailed hawks - at the Orange County Zoo.

Want to get some exercise while enjoying the California sunshine? There are 44.5 miles of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles of on-road bicycle lanes.

Make a splash at Wild Rivers Water Park, where there are more than 40 inner tube rides,
water slides, wave pools and other water adventures.

Check for access days and programs before hitting the trail at Bommer Canyon, owned by
the City of Irvine. The almost 40,000 acres of open space was once part of Sepulveda's Rancho
San Joaquin and the former center of the Irvine Ranch cattle operations. It was designated a
Natural Landmark by the State of California and U.S. Department of Labor.

Festivals
Irvine celebrates its diverse interests and cultures with festivals throughout the year. Here
are a few top choices:

June 18-19, the Irish Fair
and Music Festival features seven
stages of live bands, step
dancing, sheep herding demonstrations,
bagpipes, theater,
sports and plenty of food and
drink. It's the largest festival of
its kind in the Western United
States, and is held in Irvine's Verizon
Wireless Amphitheater.

June 24-26, the Greek Food
Festival features gyros, pastichio,
spanakopita, dolmanthes,
baklava and more. Also, there's
folk dancing, music and wine on
the grounds of St. Paul's Greek
Orthodox Church.

From the July 4 Spectacular
to Tchaikovsky on Sept. 3,
enjoy five concerts of great music
ranging from big band swing
and jazz to the classics during
the Pacific Symphony Summer
Festival concert at Irvine's Verizon
Wireless Amphitheater.
Check http://www.pacificsymphony.
org/main.taf?p=1,1,4 for
the schedule.

Celebrate 50 different cultures
Oct. 1 at the Irvine Global
Village Festival, Orange County's
largest multicultural festival.
There are over 100 performers,
70 restaurants and merchants,
cultural exhibits and
demonstrations. 

 

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