iExplorer by  Corinne Edmiston

Why Irvine, California Is One of America’s Favorite Cities

It may not be the oldest town in America nor the largest, but it’s pretty clear there’s something special about Irvine, California. For starters, it has a seemingly endless list of accolades. Leading news and tourism outlets consistently rank Irvine as one of the best places to live within the United States, while the FBI has named it one of the safest cities in the country for the past 12 years in a row. It’s a family-oriented town full of sprawling bike paths and rows of pretty houses. Its local economy thrives just as well as its 20,000 acres of green space, and the Pacific Ocean is only 10 miles away. It’s easy to see why more than 200,000 people call it home and why millions of others visit each year.

It’s all pretty impressive for a city that’s less than 50 years old, too. This South Californian city has it all — and then some. It’s one of those places where the people are just as wonderful as its surroundings; a city you'll find yourself returning to year after year for another memorable vacation. Who knows? You might even find yourself moving there one day.

Photo courtesy Destination Irvine
Photo courtesy Destination Irvine

The back story

Irvine proper is actually a master-planned community, a concept that was first introduced back in the 1960s. Master-planned communities are purposely created in underdeveloped areas from seemingly nothing so as to ensure a community could maintain a set ratio of green space to residents. In Irvine’s case, that means safeguarding that for every 1,000 resident there is at least five acres of parkland available. With more than 54 miles of biking trails and another 16,000 acres to enjoy, Irvine boasts the most open space in all of Orange County. Doing so ensures that residents — on two legs and four — can explore the best of the area for years to come.

Photo courtesy Destination Irvine
Photo courtesy Destination Irvine

Outdoor opportunities galore

Pegged as the “Center of Orange County,” Irvine is conveniently located besides thousands of acres of natural landscapes, 16,000 acres of which is permanently preserved and classified as open space. Thanks to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks organization, visitors and locals alike can explore the majority of that area by foot or by bike. The group has a detailed website on its trail system and frequently leads guided hikes and bike rides along its trail systems with extensive background on the local history and legends. Offerings include full moon hikes to Bommer Canyon and Orchard Hill, a meditative walk through the meadows, and even a “quiet hike” designed to help every adventure-goer take in the solace and natural beauty of the great outdoors.

Photo courtesy Destination Irvine
Photo courtesy Destination Irvine

Brag-worthy adventures

The Mountains to Sea Trail is easily of the most popular adventures in the area for hikers and bikers alike. The 22-mile trail begins in Weir Canyon, hits five major cities and an unincorporated portion of Orange County, before ending in Cleveland National Forest. If time (or little legs) is a factor, the hike is relatively easy to divide and conquer in smaller chunks. The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks group has more information on its website about the trail plus details on its long-hike guided tours.

Photo courtesy Destination Irvine
Photo courtesy Destination Irvine

Great food scene

What’s the point of all that adventuring if you don’t get to treat yourself, right? Thanks to a slew of high-profile companies headquartered here and the nearby University of California, the Irvine area has a flourishing multicultural scene. The global fusion of Irvine’s tight-knit community is easy to explore in its bustling restaurant scene, too. Its dishes run the gamut from Indian to Korean, Chilean to Americana. Fresh and enticing, you’ll learn quickly you’re never far away from a killer meal — and a great adventure.

Laguna Beach Photo by Don Graham via Flickr Creative Commons
Laguna Beach Photo by Don Graham via Flickr Creative Commons

Easy day trips

Irvine seems to be close to just about everything. Want to go to the beach? Laguna and Newport Beaches are less than 20 minutes away. Thinking of swinging a visit to see the Big Mouse at Disney? Disneyland is a measly 15 miles away. Need a sweet treat? Knott’s Berry Farm is an easy drive, too. Southern California is a region with plenty to do and see, but with Irvine as your base camp, you can still experience several of its top attractions in a matter of minutes — and still have time to enjoy a sunset bike ride back in Irvine.

Photo courtesy Destination Irvine
Photo courtesy Destination Irvine

How to do it

Irvine’s residents are as warm and as welcoming as the California sunshine and its local pride is infectious. Visitors can fully immerse themselves in the history of the city at the La Quinta Inn in Old Town. This former lima been and grain warehouse has converted its silos into 101 beautiful and unique hotel rooms and features a downstairs display for visitors to better understand the history of the area. No matter your budget or the length of your stay, it won’t take long for you to feel like you belong in Irvine. Click here to start planning your getaway.

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