By Erin Gifford
Just 45 minutes from Los Angeles, you won't want to overlook Irvine as a must-go destination for families. From riding a steam train to renting bikes to exploring works of art, there are a lot of fun things to do with kids in this SoCal town.
On our recent visit to Irvine, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Irvine-Orange County Airport. It was a great location for exploring Orange County as a family. As a bonus, your kids will love the rubber duckies in the hotel fountains, which remind team members at the hotel to strive to make a difference each day.
We stayed just one night, but as usual, my favorite part about staying at an Embassy Suites was breakfast. Sure, lots of hotel chains offer free hot breakfast, but only Embassy Suites offers cooked-to-order omelets. There were plenty of other breakfast foods to add to our plates, too.
If you're thinking about exploring Irvine, take a look at my list of 12 fun things to do in Irvine with kids.
1. Explore Works of Art at the Irvine Museum. Make a stop for arts and culture at the Irvine Museum. Kids will love taking in the paintings from the California Impressionism period, as well as art reflecting the history of California. As a bonus, admission is free, though donations are accepted.
2. Rent Bikes and Boats at Irvine Regional Park. At Irvine Regional Park, make a stop at Wheel Fun Rentals to rent multiple kinds of bikes, like deuce coupe and surrey bikes, to ride around the park as family. Wheel Fun Rentals also rents out big-wheel paddle boats. So much fun.
3. Take a Tour at ChocXO Chocolate Factory. See how chocolate is made as you take in the full chocolate making process during a one-hour tour at ChocXO Chocolate Factory. As a bonus, you'll get free samples as you explore each phase of the chocolate making process. Nice.
4. Spend the Day at Knott's Berry Farm. Just down the road in Buena Park, the kids will love a full day of fun riding the rides and watching shows with Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang at Knott's Berry Farm. Even better, this time of year, look for scare-free Halloween fun with Knott's Spooky Farm.
5. Get Picking at Tanaka Farms. A great U-Pick farm to explore is Tanaka Farms. They harvest strawberries, watermelons and pumpkins. They even have wagon rides and a petting zoo for kids in the fall during pumpkin picking season. Looking for seasonal cooking classes, too.
6. Go on a Scavenger Hunt at the Orange County Zoo. The Orange County Zoo is a great place to spend a few hours as a family. See how you measure up to different types of bears, including panda bears and sloth bears, and go on a scavenger hunt around the zoo to learn more about the plants and animals.
7. See the Stars at UCI Observatory. Six times a year, nearby University of California, Irvine opens up the UCI Observatory to visitors to see meteor showers, as well as solar and lunar eclipses, with giant telescopes. The new observatory opens up in January, so be sure to claim your spot to enjoy the night sky.
8. Ride a Steam Train on the Irvine Park Railroad. Pay a visit to scenic Irvine Regional Park and hop aboard the train around the park at the Irvine Park Railroad. It's a fun way to get your bearings when you first arrive, and really, who doesn't love a good train ride? Tickets are $5 per person.
9. Explore Nature at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. In the middle of busy Orange County, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary offers acres and acres for peaceful nature exploration. Look for wide paths that go around ponds and over bridges allowing for easy viewing of various birds, turtles, ducks and more.
10. Get Hands-On at Pretend City. Take little ones to Pretend City Children's Museum for a fun afternoon of play and hands-on activities. Kids will love building their own play creations at the Imagination Playground and role-playing in the grocery store, gas station, farm and construction site exhibits.
11. Rent an Electric Bike. With more than 50 miles of paved bike trails, it's a must to rent an electric bike with Pedego Electric Bikes to see the city. Pedego also offers three-hour Pedal & Paddle tours, which combine bike riding with stand-up paddleboarding along the Back Bay.
12. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Irvine Spectrum Center. Take in the views of Irvine from atop the Giant Wheel at Irvine Spectrum Center. As a bonus, there's also a carousel and a kiddie train. It's a nice way to spend time in Irvine before or after dinner at one of dozens of restaurants at Irvine Spectrum Center.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Destination Irvine. However, I received no compensation for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.