Thank you to Destination Irvine for bringing us to the great city of Irvine California. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
Growing up outside of California, Orange County always seemed like a dream world to us. With its coastal cliffs, palm tree lined streets, year round sunshine, and endless adventures, we always dreamt of a life that embodied California cool. We used to watch shows like The OC and Laguna Beach and imagine ourselves living that SoCal, OC lifestyle. Now, as two Angelenos, we’re less than an hour away from the dream world that is Orange County. We headed down to Irvine California, the heart and soul of Orange County, to explore all of the delicious dining and amazing outdoor adventures that it has to offer.
Airport: John Wayne Airport (SNA), LAX, Long Beach
Population: 277,000 (2017)
Transportation: Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, OCTA buses, Metrolink/Amtrak
Where to Stay
Marriott Irvine Spectrum: The Marriott Irvine Spectrum is in the heart of Irvine California, close to all of the major attractions including the Irvine Spectrum Center. This hotel has a state of the art gymnasium, beautiful pool complimented by luxury cabanas, a top-notch restaurant, and beautiful rooms.
Where to Eat
Irvine is a dining destination in itself. There is no shortage of divine dining establishments and during our short time in Irvine, we treated ourselves to lots of delicious meals.
Tim Ho Wan: Located in the Diamond Jamboree complex, this Hong Kong based chain is known as the cheapest Michelin star meal in the world. The pork buns are a fan favorite and an absolute must. The pork filling is cooked to perfection while the outside bun is lightly sweetened, creating a meal that is both sweet and savory. We actually had the opportunity to eat at the Hong Kong Tim Ho Wan a few years back and while that may be the O.G. Tim Ho Wan, we think that the O.C. Tim Ho Wan actually tasted better!!! If there is one restaurant you should visit in Irvine California, it should be Tim Ho Wan!
Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine: Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails features the freshest ingredients and boasts California cuisine with Mediterranean flavors. There are plenty of delicious and healthy choices including fresh salmon and fish tacos. 100% of the restaurant’s profits benefit the Andrei Foundation, a non-profit which promotes eye research.
Hello Kitty Cafe: This is the first brick-and-mortar cafe from the iconic Kitty and it’s located right in the heart of the Irvine Spectrum Center. While it has cupcakes and candies, we loved the fact that it also had cocktails. We highly recommend ordering one of the Hello Kitty signature cocktails that comes in a special Hello Kitty cup. You can also purchase branded Hello Kitty items to go such as pasta and pasta sauce!
Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen: Located in the Marriott Irvine Spectrum Hotel, Heirloom boasts farm-to-table American fare and bespoke cocktails. We highly recommend the Cauliflower “Mac & Cheese,” the brussel sprouts, steak, and salmon.
Urban Seoul: Located in the Diamond Jamboree, Urban Seoul combines a mixture of Korean food with a Mexican flare. It’s simple, low-key, and the food is fantastic. We highly recommend the Chorizo Kimchee Fried Rice and Urban 3b (Bibimbap).
You had me at, “Hello Kitty”
Javier’s Cantina & Grill: Located in the Irvine Spectrum Center, Javier’s Cantina & Grill has the absolute best Mexican food in Irvine California. This restaurant is a local favorite and it’s packed every night of the week. The margaritas are fuego and the Carnitas are absolutely delicious.
Where to Adventure
- Quail Hill: A favorite of locals, the Quail Hill Loop Trail is an easy two-mile loop that offers beautiful views of Irvine and the surrounding area. This is a fairly easy hike and it’s great for all levels of hikers.
- Bommer Canyon: If you’re looking for a great place to go hiking and/or mountain biking, Bommer Canyon is the place for you! This beautiful trail allows hikers and bikers to enjoying the great outdoors of Irvine. While you’re close to the action of Irvine, Bommer Canyon is far enough away that it’s the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet in the Great Outdoors.
- The Big Wheel: Located in the Irvine Spectrum Center, the Big Wheel offers the best views in all of Irvine. We highly recommend riding during sunset when the surrounding mountains emblazon with those famous SoCal sunsets.
- San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: This outdoor sanctuary has 12 miles of trails and 300-plus acres of freshwater wetlands. It serves as a preserve for animals like great blue heron, finches and falcons, brown pelicans, and snowy egrets.
The Big Wheel in Irvine California at the Irvine Spectrum Center
- Pedego Electric Bikes: Explore the 54 miles of paved off-street bike trails around the city of Irvine with an electric bike. We rented our bikes through Pedego electric bikes and explored the beauty of Irvine’s great outdoors. The best part? When we hit those famous hills of Irvine, we simply hit the throttle to let us quickly cruise up without breaking a sweat!