I approached the hill with great anticipation. Normally, this would be the moment that I dread pm a bike, but I twisted the throttle and the electric bike flew me up the hill. “MUAHAHAHA!!,” I quietly thought as I peered over at the other bikers intensely peddling.
13 BEST THINGS TO DO IN IRVINE CALIFORNIA
Irvine, California is a master-planned community located only an hour and a half away from LA. The city has more than 16,000 acres of parks and dedicated open space with tons of access to natural habitats, hiking trails, and biking trails. On top of that, you’re less than half an hour away from Disneyland and less than 10 miles from the beach.
One of the biggest incentives to stay in Irvine is that hotel tax is 10% here as opposed to 17% in Anaheim. Also, it’s a business center so more people travel here on weekdays, which means the hotels have more competitive weekend pricing than the surrounding cities.
To help you plan your visit, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do here.
Learn about farming at Tanaka Farm. It changes throughout the year. There are also cooking classes and other special events, and you can pick your own fruits and veggies.
Sept-Oct: Pumpkin Patch
This was one of our favorite spots! You can get there through a short easy hike, or take the longer route via Suicide Hill. On clear days, you can see downtown LA, Santa Ana Mountains, amazing views of the OC, and the Pacific Ocean. This is a great spot for sunset.
LOCAL TIP: Bob from Pedego told us Concordia University has the second best view of the city.
The Irvine Spectrum is a large outdoor mall. it has 130 shops, restaurants, pubs, and there’s even a pop-up Hello Kitty Cafe there. On top of that, you can take a ride on their 108 ft Giant Wheel.
This small gallery focuses on California Impressionist paintings. It’s free to get in and they even validate parking for you. Our favorite was the one of Yosemite Falls.
LOCAL TIP: There is also an Irvine Museum in Newport Beach so be sure you have the right one when navigating there.
This museum is located in one of the oldest standing structures within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch. In addition to the exhibits, you can find a research library and an extensive photo collection of the local history. It’s open between Tuesday and Sunday from 1 to 4, and you can join in on a one-hour walking tour of Old Town Irvine every first Sunday.
Take a tour of this specialized chocolate factory. Learn about the process of making chocolate, what it takes to make quality chocolate, and taste samples through the tour. In the end, you get to take home 3 pieces of chocolate from the chocolate case. If you can’t do the tour, stop by and pick yourself up a bag of the 80%. We were so surprised how sweet it tasted without much-added sugar. Usually, anything over 60% starts tasting so bitter.
This wildlife sanctuary is right in town and is a great spot for birders. Keep your eyes peeled for birds, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, and butterflies.
PHOTO TIP: If you want to photograph the birds, you need at least a 400mm lens. We had our 70-200, and it didn’t even get us close.
8. Bike Irvine
On top of all the bike-friendly streets, there are an additional 54 miles of paved off-street bike trails. If you’re looking for exercise, you can rent a bike from Trail’s End Cycling Center and do the Mountains to Sea Trail that takes you on a 22-mile journey to the ocean. If you’re looking for a more leisurely ride, rent an electric bike from Pedego Electric Bikes where you can peddle as much or as little as possible. This was our first time on an electric bike. After zooming uphill without breaking a sweat, I was hooked! I may never go back to a regular bike again.
9. Irvine Spa
If you’re looking to relax or loosen your muscles after a long bike ride, Irvine Spa or iSPA is one of the largest Korean spas in the OC. We didn’t get a chance to check it out on our trip, but our friends have been and recommend it.
10. UCI Arboretum
This Botanical Gardens and research facility is open and free to the public from Tuesday to Saturday. Explore the 12.5 acres of native plants from Socal, Mexico, and South Africa.
11. Bommer Canyon
This open space preserve gives you the chance to hike, jog, or mountain bike along its trails. It’s part of the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp and some of the structures still exist today. Remember the Windows 95 rolling hills? In the spring, the hills are green and lush that it looks just like that.
12. Great Park
Great Park is the largest park in Irvine. It has a farmers market, sports complex, and they are developing much more in the 1,300 acres. When driving around Irvine, you may notice a giant orange balloon up in the sky. Head over to the Great Park Balloon Ride to get a great view of the city.
Mason Park is 345 acres of trails, frisbee courses, and open areas. We biked through the park during our visit and saw a lot of people walking the trails.