the downtown streets of irvine california with a blue sky and palm trees on the side of the street

13 Irresistible Things to Do in Irvine, California

In the heart of Orange County, Irvine is a constantly growing, master-planned city, offering an extraordinary quality of life.

Irvine’s dynamic atmosphere has activities for all ages through its trail networks, parks, shopping centers, and nightlife.

With more than 100 global corporations within the town, including Google and Microsoft, professionals flock to this economic center. Additionally, the University of California, Irvine campus makes the area enjoyable for young adults and students.

Noted as “America’s Safest Big City” by the FBI, families continuously move to this safe and central Orange County hub.

As the city continues to expand, more enjoyable activities are constantly arising. The following pastimes are just a few of the reasons Irvine is so beloved!

Best Things to Do in Irvine, California

Visit the Orange County Great Park.

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Photo Credit: Joe Wolf via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Orange County Great Park is an open space area, ideal for photo ops and enjoying OC’s fresh air.

The vintage carousel with intricate artwork is a favorite for children, and the weekly Sunday farmer’s market is pleasant for all ages!

The Palm Courts Art Complex houses the Great Park Gallery and the Great Park Artist Studios. This interdisciplinary public art program highlights the City of Irvine’s commitment to historic preservation. 

The Park also includes 1.5 miles of walking and biking trails, great for further exploration. 

Ride the Orange Balloon.

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The Orange Balloon at the Great Park is an innovative take on hot air balloon experiences and stands as the largest tethered helium balloon!

This non-polluting, environmentally safe alternative to traditional hot air balloons is enjoyable for all ages, whether looking for a fun experience for your children or a romantic date night excursion.

Open Thursday through Sunday, flights on the Orange Balloon are free; you just sign up and wait for your turn! 

Shop at the Irvine Spectrum.

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The Irvine Spectrum is a hub of top-notch dining, entertainment, and shopping options!

This outdoor mall has a little something for everyone, including a kid’s play area and fountain, fine dining establishments, and sought-after stores.

The mall includes stores ideal for picking up essentials such as Target, Urban Outfitters, Free People, Nordstrom, and Oakley.

The long list of dining options includes famous restaurants such as Javier’s, Habana, Cucina Enoteca, and Little Sister.

Save your appetite for desserts, and enjoy sweets at After’s Ice Cream, Honey & Butter Macaroons, or SomiSomi Taiyaki, where you’ll find soft serve in adorable fish-shaped cones!

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In addition, visitors can catch a film at the Regal Irvine Spectrum movie theater, play around at Dave & Buster’s, or take a ride on the 108-feet tall Giant Wheel.

As the day transitions to night, the Giant Wheel brings the center to life with colorful lights, complementing the spacious open-air center.

Furthermore, the Improv Comedy Club has tons of shows with famous comedians and prime seating throughout the year for comedy lovers.

In winter, the Irvine Spectrum even has its own ice-skating rink!

With many options to choose from, this shopping center could keep you occupied for days. 

Grab a bite at the University Center.

University Center, located near the University of California Irvine campus, is another hot spot for open-air shopping!

A favorite local pastime is grabbing boba from Cha For Tea. Though the line can get long, the boba is worth the wait!

More restaurants in the Town Center include fast-food classics such as Chick-fil-A, In-n-Out, and Chipotle and unique options such as Mendocino Farms and the Breakfast Republic.

Don’t forget to save room for freshly baked cookies from Insomnia Cookies!

Explore Irvine Regional Park.

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At Irvine Regional Park, visitors can rent paddle boats or bikes, ride the train, horseback ride, play volleyball, or hike through the trail network.

Bring your bike or running shoes to run on the quality trail system within the 477-acre park.

Moreover, Irvine Regional Park is home to the Orange County Zoo, which rehabilitates native animals. Though it is temporarily closed, some animals you can typically see here include black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, and domestic sheep and goats in the barnyard.

In addition, Irvine Regional Park holds events for holidays throughout the year, including an Easter egg hunt, a pumpkin patch, and a Christmas train ride!

Ideal for parties and gatherings, Irvine Regional Park’s vast open space will leave you more than fulfilled. 

Try a new dish at Diamond Jamboree.

At the Diamond Jamboree retail center, you will find multicultural offerings to try new flavors and dishes!

From hot pot at Haidilao to dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, the center is an opportunity to explore cuisines from all over the world!

In addition, the multicultural ambiance is complete with an Asian supermarket, so you can make your own international dishes at home.

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If that’s not enough, you can end your day with karaoke at Plush Karaoke Lounge.

This spunky karaoke lounge invites visitors to show off their voices and sing the night away! Reserve a VIP room for an intimate gathering or hop on the waitlist for different sizes of rooms. 

Hike through Quail Hill Trail.

At the end of Sand Canyon Road, hikers have access to Quail Hill Trailhead, an easy two-mile hike leading through Irvine’s trail network.

This part of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve allows leashed dogs, so feel free to bring your furry friends.

Visitors can also listen to a self-guided audio tour pointing out notable features along the way.

To access this audio tour, guests can download the podcast beforehand or follow their provided prompts for listening through your phone.

Play golf at a secluded course.

Irvine is a beautiful place for golfers, with many renowned local courses. Oak Creek Golf Club’s secluded Orange County location offers stunning scenery throughout its 18-hole course designed by Tom Fazio.

With dynamic flora and lakes, Oak Creek Golf Club is an ideal scene for perfecting your swing. Even for inexperienced golfers, the Spanish architecture and rustic stone terraces make this location a must!

Another top-notch, challenging course is Strawberry Farms. This course lies amid wetlands, rolling green hills, and natural vegetation, creating serene conditions for a day of golf.

Following your tee time, grab a meal on the outdoor veranda at the onsite Farmhouse Grill

Catch a show at FivePoint Amphitheater.

When visiting Irvine, be sure to check the line-up at the easily accessible FivePoint Amphitheater!

This open-air concert venue has a capacity of over 16,000 and often hosts festivals with affordable General Admission lawn tickets.

In addition, the venue’s food trucks serve Mediterranean, Korean, American, and Mexican food options as well as beers, cocktails, and wine.

The lineups include country, rock, and pop artists, so you will find your perfect show no matter your preference!

This venue is much more convenient for Orange County residents than Los Angeles venues, making for an ideal night out. 

Enjoy nature at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary and Marsh.

Photo Credit: Jack Miller via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary and Marsh encompass over 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands away from the hustling business centers.

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The marsh includes 12 miles of trails and over 200 bird species, so visitors can hike, bird watch, take photos, and breathe in the fresh air.

This area is great for bird watching, and people often see great blue herons, finches, brown pelicans, and yellow warblers, to name just a few!

The wetlands are an integral part of the Irvine Water District’s Natural Treatment System.

Visitors can learn more about the area by checking out the Marsh Campus, a place filled with restored ranch houses and educational opportunities.  

Wander around Tanaka Farms.

The local 30-acre, family-run Tanaka Farms holds year-round activities such as pick-your-own produce wagon rides and drive-thru or walk-up produce stands.

Visitors can pick up their local and responsibly grown produce items through these activities, including tomatoes, strawberries, and melons.

Furthermore, Tanaka Farms holds seasonal activities such as pumpkin patches in fall and Christmas tree farms in winter, depending on the time of year. During summer, come for melon tours and strawberry picking! 

Grab a cocktail at Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar.

Wind down after a long day with panoramic city views. Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar, at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum, serves bites such as rosemary garlic fries, farmhouse burrata, and oysters.

For alcohol drinkers, make sure to order their craft cocktails such as the Wasps Nest, made with mezcal, jalapeno agave, strawberry, and lemon, and Beez Kneez, with gin, honey, lemon, orgeat, and flower seed garnish. Yum!

Occasionally, Hive & Honey serves a sweet Honey Bear drink in a bear-shaped glass!

The rooftop experience is worth it for the stunning view showing off Orange County alone. 

See a live performance at Irvine Barclay Theatre.

If you love live performances, be sure to buy tickets for a show at Irvine Barclay Theatre!

The intimate 750-person performing arts center showcases the talents of contemporary and multicultural artists and theatrical shows, ranging from jazz bands to dance performances.

Moreover, Irvine Barclay Theatre showcases local and regional artists and the University of California, Irvine’s School of the Arts, serving the city’s goal of creating an innovative performing arts venue for the community to enjoy!

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