Planning a trip from Tucson to Irvine by car? We have a full guide to help your road trip be as safe, fun, and stress-free as possible. Read on for information about where to stay, places to stop along the way, and what to eat on-the-road.
According to Google Maps, the trip from Tucson, ARIZONA to Irvine, CALIFORNIA is 471 miles and will take approximately 7 hours. That’s the shortest route possible (along I-10), but your time may vary based on the weather, traffic conditions, and how many people you are traveling with.
There are two possible routes to Irvine from Tucson.
ROUTE 1: 1-10
The first route is on Interstate-10 and is about 15-25 minutes shorter. This “northern” route takes you through Phoenix, Palm Springs, Riverside, and then Irvine.
A notable stop along this route is in Cabazon, California in Riverside County. The most distinctive feature of this stop are the dinosaurs! You’ll want to take a quick photo or two after going to the restrooms. If you have time for an extended break, you can pay $13/adult or $11/child (ages 3-12) to go inside Cabazon Dinosaurs, where you’ll view 50+ dinosaurs and climb inside Mr. Rex!
Cabazon is also home to Desert Hills Premium Outlets, which is close to I-10 and has a Five Guys and a Starbucks.
People sometimes also stop in Palm Springs, a popular luxury destination for celebrities. It doesn’t look particularly striking when you drive by, but this “secret city” has a number of high-end resorts and upscale restaurants. Many of the most popular attractions (Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Wet ‘n Wild water park, etc) are not necessarily right off the freeway. If you’re just making a quick stop, you can look for (or route to) the In-N-Out alongside I-10 in Thousand Palms, CA. It’s Exit 130.
ROUTE 2: I-8
The second route is along Interstate-8 and takes you through Yuma and San Diego on your way to Irvine. Although this “southern” route is about 15 miles longer, some people select this way to bypass Phoenix traffic and/or because they are planning a stop in the San Diego/Carlsbad area.
If you have small children with you, you may want to stretch your legs and eat lunch at West Wetlands Park in Yuma. Also known as “the castle park,” this city park features an impressive castle-themed playground with swings, a dragon slide, a tot area, and climbing apparatuses. You’ll also find a lake, covered ramadas, 9-hole disc golf trail (bring a frisbee!), and a second playground at this expansive 110-acre park. Note that it’s not far from the freeway and there is a Sprouts grocery store nearby if you want to pick up a few lunch items for a picnic! (This is probably not a great place to stop in the middle of the summer since Yuma temps can easily reach 110+ during the hottest parts of the year).
Irvine is a master-planned community in Orange County in Southern California – north of Mission Viejo, south of Santa Ana & Anaheim, and east of Costa Mesa. The nearest beaches are Newport Beach (15-20min), Laguna Beach (20min), and Huntington Beach (25min). Irvine has consistently been named “America’s Safest Big City” by the FBI since 2005.
What you can expect in Irvine? Almost-perfect weather, lots of green space, swaying trees, sunshine galore, and access to Southern California’s top amusement parks and attractions.
WHERE TO STAY IN IRVINE
Whether you are traveling for business or vacation, Embassy Suites offers plentiful amenities and a consistent experience. No matter where you book in the USA, you can expect a spacious two-room suite, made-to-order complimentary breakfast, and complimentary in-house evening reception.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton Irvine Orange County Airport is a 10-story hotel in a business/hotel district with easy access to local attractions. When you arrive, you’ll check-in at the pleasant, clean, and welcoming lobby, where you can order drinks and pastries at the in-house Starbucks if you so desire.
Your 500sqft room will have either one king bed or two queen beds in the bedroom. The living room has a queen-size sleeper bed. The suites with a king bed sleep 4, while the rooms with two queens sleep 6. While the rooms don’t have a full kitchen (you probably won’t need one), they do have refrigerators, microwaves, and coffeemakers. Traveling solo? A limited number of studio rooms (with one bed) are also available. Want to spread out? There are a few 1200sqft Presidential/Penthouse Suites on the 9th & 10th floors.
The complimentary breakfast includes bagels & toast, pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, a selection of hot items, and made-to-order omelets. Many mornings also feature a “breakfast special” (ex ham & cheese croissant sandwich). Coffee, tea, juice (orange, apple, cranberry), milk, and water are also available.
After a long day of play and/or conferencing, you can relax at the complimentary evening reception (5:30pm-7:30pm nightly) – offering free drinks and snack items. Nachos, snack mix, fruit, and/or cheese are standard fare. For the best selection of snacks, be sure to arrive to the reception early as items are not replenished toward the end of the reception. Beer, wine, and cocktails are available for adults, but non-alcoholic options like Shirley Temples and sparkling water can also be ordered.
Embassy Suites has an indoor pool and fitness room, but – with so much to see in Southern California – it’s unlikely you’ll want to use either.
- Check-In: 3:00pm
- Check-Out: 12:00pm
- WiFi: Free
- Parking: $20/day self-parking; valet not available
- Amenities: Free breakfast, Free evening reception, Starbucks on-property, Complimentary airport shuttle service
- Something We LOVE: Forgot your razor? Need extra towels or a restaurant recommendation? You can text the hotel before, during, or after your stay.
- Book A Room
Other hotel options to consider in Irvine include: Courtyard by Marriott Irvine Spectrum, Homewood Suites by Hilton Irvine John Wayne Airport, or Hyatt House Irvine/John Wayne Airport.
WHERE TO PLAY IN IRVINE
Irvine has some gorgeous, green spaces so don’t stay inside. In fact, the City of Irvine offers more than 16,000 acres of park & open space. If you have little ones with you, you might want to visit Orange County Great Park, Bill Barber Memorial Park, or the Adventure Playground.
Boasting 1300 acres and dreamed up as the “Central Park of Southern California,” Orange County Great Park has an impressive master plan but…is still “in the works.” At present, you can soar up 400 feet on the Great Park (hot air) Balloon, ride the Fashion Island Carousel ($2/ride or $3/all-day pass), climb on the kids rock playground, and/or wander the Sunday Farmers Market. Note that the balloon is only open Thurs-Sun and is subject to weather conditions.
Bill Barber Memorial Park is a lovely park as well – with walking paths, flowering arbors, spraying fountains, a playground, and lots of sports fields. This is a very pretty and well-maintained park, where you’ll want to stop to take photos. Parking is free and you should be able to find a spot without much of a snafu – especially if you arrive early and/or are visiting on weekdays.
If you have a toddler, preschooler, or early elementary child in your party, the Adventure Playground is not your typical park playground. There are cement slides, Lego blocks to build, tons of trucks & shovels to play with, water tables, and a giant chessboard. The park even has a ping pong table and little library! Because this park is staffed, the hours are limited so be sure to check before planning this into your itinerary. This is a very “local” park, not a touristy destination. Admission and parking are free. Bring a towel and/or change of clothes because your little ones may get muddy and/or wet.
If you’re more of the hiking or biking mindset, take a quick drive to the Limestone Canyon Regional Park and/or Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Again, hours may be limited and a permit may be required so plan accordingly.
Of course, you can also slather on sunscreen and head to one of the nearby beaches – Newport Beach (15-20min), Laguna Beach (20min), or Huntington Beach (25min).
Irvine is also drivable to many major attractions – Disneyland (20min), Knott’s Berry Farm (25min), Legoland (1hr), and Universal Studios (1hr).
WHERE TO EAT IN IRVINE
One of the best fast-casual dining chains in Southern California is Urban Plates. The laidback restaurant chain, with 13 locations in Cali (including one in Irvine!), offers entrees made with local, sustainable, and ethically sourced ingredients. What’s on the menu? Hand-tossed salads (served with scratch-made dressings & rustic bread), grilled wild-caught albacore, sustainable oven-baked salmon, chimichurri grass-fed steak, free-range chicken club sandwiches, curry tofu & vegetable braise, and soooo much more! Delicious and nutritious equals an obvious win for your road trip. We’re hoping they expand to Tucson next!
One of the big perks of living in Tucson is that you are an easy 7 hour drive from Southern California…including the City of Irvine!
Not a fan of long drives behind the wheel? No problem! You can fly from the Tucson International Airport to the John Wayne Airport or LAX in less than three hours!