25 Best Things to Do in Irvine (CA)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The city of Irvine is nestled between Loma Ridge at the north and the San Joaquin Hills to the south in the great state of California. The weather is beautiful throughout the year and the city is set in the heart of Orange County.

The FBI has ranked Irvine as the “Safest Big City” Making it a fantastic place to bring up your children or a perfect spot for a vacation.  The population is just over 200,000 and the city is spread out over approximately 45 square miles. Due to the cities location you are right at the gateway to some of California’s top attractions. Combine the weather, location and low crime rate and you are left with a city that has an exceptional quality of life.

With so much to do in this fascinating city let’s take a look at the best things to do in Irvine.

1. See Orange County From The Sky

Great Park BalloonSource: mikeledray / shutterstock
Great Park Balloon

One of the iconic images of Orange County is the Great Park Balloon that you can take a ride in at Orange County Great Park. The balloon is 72 feet in diameter and offers a tethered ride to passengers every Thursday to Sunday. The balloon rises 400 feet above ground and at its peak you can see Irvine and Orange County below. You can take a ride during the day and at evening and is a must do activity for all visitors that are not afraid of heights. The balloon itself is orange so during the day it looks like a rising sun and at night a harvest moon.

2. Take Yourself Shopping At The Irvine Spectrum Center

Irvine Spectrum CenterSource: Tada Images / shutterstock
Irvine Spectrum Center

If you love shopping then you will love the Irvine Spectrum Center. The center is a complete facility that offers more than 100 boutique shops as well as a cinema, spa and plenty of dining options. One of the main draws apart from the shopping is the 108 foot high Giant Wheel. The wheel offers shoppers an opportunity to take a ride on the wheel and see the area from a different perspective. The wheel is open daily but is particularly elegant at night when you get to see the local area lit up.

3. Catch Some Comedy At Irvine Improv

Irvine ImprovSource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Irvine Improv

Irvine Improv has been voted the “Best Comedy Club” in Orange County and you will not be disappointed when you see the large range of comedy acts on offer at the club. The club holds over 500 people and has a state of the art technology system in place. If you like your burgers then a trip to Umami Burger will leave you feeling full and excited as the burgers are mouth wateringly delicious. Over the years many of the greatest comedians in America have performed at the Improv and the venue is still a starting point for future acts. Success at the Improv usually guarantees a successful career in the comedy business.

4. See The Botanical Gardens At UCI Arboretum

Aloe VeraSource: New Africa / shutterstock
Aloe Vera

If you are interested in seeing plants that are native to the California Floristic Province or a collection of South African plants, then you may want to take a walk through the UCI Arboretum. The area is open to the public between Tuesday and Saturday and there is no entrance fee. The gardens cover a space of 12.5 acres and offer and plant lover a beautiful relaxing walk in the sun. The park is located on the main UCI campus.

5. Take The Kids To Buccaneer Cove at Boomers

Splash PadSource: Lumena / shutterstock
Splash Pad

If your children like swimming then they will love Buccaneer Cove. Buccaneer Cove is a water play area that is split over five levels, each containing water slides, tunnels, loops and splash buckets. In total there are more than 1000 feet of water slides to be ridden. There are slides that cater to different age groups, starting with a kiddies slide that is perfect for very young children. Parents can sit back and relax in comfy chair whilst their children enjoy themselves under the watchful eye of trained professionals.

6. Enjoy Asian Cuisine At Diamond Jamboree

SushiSource: nioloxs / shutterstock

Lovers of Asian food can relax and enjoy a whole host of Asian choices at Diamond Jamboree in Irvine. There are Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese restaurants to name a few, so all taste buds are catered for. The quality of the restaurants is exactly what you would expect of a world class destination such as Irvine. In California healthy does not mean boring and the culinary innovation that you will see within the restaurants will keep you coming back for more.

7. Join The Korean Festival

Korean FestivalSource: Plamen Tsvetanov / shutterstock
Korean Festival

Each Year the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival attracts people from all over the city of Irvine. The festival is home to traditional Korean music, dancing and other performances. There is also a large selection of food stalls selling many unusual and interesting types of food. In 1903 the first Koreans arrived on American soil and over 100 years later the Californian government recognised this day and declared January 13th as the ‘Korean American Day’

8. Enjoy The Artwork At Irvine Museum

Art GallerySource: guruXOX / shutterstock
Art Gallery

California has long been a golden land with beautiful weather and an environment that is perfect for growing the most succulent of fruits. Over 100 years ago impressionist artists would come from miles around to paint the beautiful landscapes of the day. The Irvine Museum is home to many such paintings and is keen to keep today’s generation painting the glorious surroundings that they live in. There are many fixed exhibitions as well as traveling ones meaning there is always something new to see.

9. Cheer On The UC Irvine Anteaters

UC Irvine AnteatersSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
UC Irvine Anteaters

The University of California, Irvine has a rich sporting history and if you love sports then you are in for a treat. The UC Irvine Anteaters is the nickname that is used by each of the 18 different sports teams that represent the university. There is a huge range of sports that you can come and watch including basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, athletics, volleyball and more. 28 National championships have been won by the Anteaters in their respective sports and 53 people have gone on to compete in the Olympics.

10. Go On A Tanaka Farm Tour

Tanaka FarmSource: Steve Bruckmann / shutterstock
Tanaka Farm

Glen Tanaka and his family have been farming in California for more than 30 years. In the last few years they have opened their farm up to the people of Irvine to give them a tour of the organic produce that is grown here. You start by taking a wagon ride around the farm which will give you an insight into how a farm is run. After the tour you can harvest some of your own produce to take home with you. Tanaka Farm is right at the heart of this community and you get a sense of this during the entire time you are on the farm.

11. Entertain The Children at Pretend City Children’s Museum

Pretend City Children's MuseumSource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Pretend City Children’s Museum

The ethos of Pretend City Children’s Museum is to ‘build better brains’ and this is done through purposeful play and hands on learning. The museum has 17 interactive exhibits that are designed to get children playing and learning as much as possible in a great environment. There are trained staff that interactive with the children whilst they explore the beach, or pay in their money at the miniature bank. Children can also gain an insight into the construction industry or join the emergency services. There is so much to do at the museum that one trip will never be enough.

12. Embrace The World At The Irvine Global Village Festival

Irvine Global Village FestivalSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Irvine Global Village Festival

Every year in September the city of Irvine comes together for the annual Irvine Global Village Festival. The festival is held at the Great Park and is one of the most cultural festivals in all of Orange County. The event usually starts at around 10 a.m. and features more than 100 dance, musical demonstration performances. Like any international festival there are food stores galore allowing you to taste delights from many countries around the world. The event is completely free and free shuttle buses are usually put on to help with the fact that there is no parking at the event.

13. Remember The Fallen Hero’s

Northwood Gratitude and Honor MemorialSource: Brian MacIntosh / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial

Located within Northwood Community Park is the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. The only memorial in America that lists by name every American service man and women that lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. At the time of the memorial being dedicated it had 5,714 names on it, as time goes by the memorial has been updated and now holds the names of 6,786 Americans. The memorial is a special place that you can come to and remember the hero’s that have died for this great country.

14. Enjoy The Irvine International Film Festival

TheaterSource: Matusciac Alexandru / shutterstock


Each year Irvine comes together for the Irvine International Film Festival, an annual event that has been happening for several years. The festival is a competition that sees some of the best films from around the world brought to Orange County. A good percentage of the films that are celebrated at this fun festival go on to receive Academy Awards and Oscar nominations. Many of the industry’s top names come to the festival year after year to check out the talent that keeps providing Hollywood with some of its greatest stars.

15. Walk Amongst The Cars Of Your Dreams

Marconi Automotive MuseumSource: ShanHams / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Marconi Automotive Museum

The Marconi Automotive Museum houses a stunning collection of cars that are worth over 30 million dollars. The cars that are housed in the museum are mainly racing cars and will leave any car loving, adrenaline junkie weak at the knees. The museum can be hired for corporate events with the profits being invested in the Foundation for Kid’s, a charity that supports children at risk. One of the highlights of the museum is a 1996 Ferrari Formula One race car that was driven by Michael Schumacher.

16. Increase Your Local Knowledge At Irvine Historical Museum

Irvine Historical MuseumSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Irvine Historical Museum

The Irvine Historical Museum is run by the Irvine Historical Society with the purpose of preserving the heritage of the Irvine Ranch. The Irvine Ranch was at one time one of the largest private ranches in the U.S. The ranch was built in 1868 by James Irvine, he wanted a place that he could use as a house when he came to Irvine on business. Unfortunately there were many problems with the house including, coyotes, wild cats and flees. The Irvine house itself was destroyed in 1971 but travellers can visit the Irvine Historical Museum and learn all about this interesting story.

17. Take A Stroll Around Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Regional ParkSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Park was the first regional park in Orange County, the park covers an area of 475 acres and was first opened in 1897. There are plenty of tables and barbeque pits throughout the park making family get togethers a complete breeze. There is a paved walking and cycling path that runs through the centre of the park and gives you access to playgrounds, softball fields and a lake. Children can take advantage of the year round pony rides that are offered every day except Mondays.

18. Play A Round At Oak Creek Golf Club

Oak Creek Golf ClubSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Oak Creek Golf Club

The Oak Creek Golf Club is a spectacular course in Irvine, it has beautiful greens, stunning landscapes and perfect weather. The eighteen holes are a dream to play as you make your way past the beautiful lakes and onto the scenic greens. There are a great variety of birds and fauna that you will come along whilst you play, which adds to the experience. The course was designed by Tom Fazio who is one of the worlds most respected golf course designers so you can tee of knowing you are going to be playing a fantastic course.

19. Join The Irvine Bike Club

CyclingSource: AStolnik / Shutterstock

The Bicycle Club of Irvine is the perfect place to start if you love cycling. The club is laid back and friendly and also an excellent way to meet new people from throughout the city and also a lot of people from outside the city as well. The club has been open for more than 30 years and has various cycling events on throughout the week. You do not have to be a member straight away so why not go for a ride with the existing members to see if it works for you.

20. Grab A Burger At In-N-Out

In-N-Out IrvineSource: AbelDL / shutterstock
In-N-Out Irvine

In-N-Out burger in Irvine is one of the most popular and tasty burgers places you can eat at. The queues that pour out the door and the number one ranking on TripAdvisor testify to its brilliance. The food is not complicated or outrageous like so many people try, it is just simple, fresh ingredients that are prepared in a simple delicious way. For nearly seventy years In-N-Out have been preparing burgers and growing their business. The business has always been very open about the ingredients they use, there are no secret recipes or sauces here. Just great customer service and the freshest of ingredients.

21. Spend The Night At Bistango

BistangoSource: Bistango / Facebook

Bistango is one of the trendiest places to be seen in town. The bar offers New American cuisine served in a tasteful way whilst sitting within the award winning Atrium Building. The bar is well stocked with great variety, and the Wine Spectator has given out various awards for the extensive wine lists. If you want to dine al fresco there is a private patio area where you can relax with a glass of wine and a fabulous dinner. Each evening live entertainment can be enjoyed, ranging from jazz, Latin, R&B and much more.

25 Best Things to Do in Irvine (CA):

  • See Orange County From The Sky
  • Take Yourself Shopping At The Irvine Spectrum Center
  • Catch Some Comedy At Irvine Improv
  • See The Botanical Gardens At UCI Arboretum
  • Take The Kids To Buccaneer Cove at Boomers
  • Enjoy Asian Cuisine At Diamond Jamboree
  • Join The Korean Festival
  • Enjoy The Artwork At Irvine Museum
  • Cheer On The UC Irvine Anteaters
  • Go On A Tanaka Farm Tour
  • Entertain The Children at Pretend City Children's Museum
  • Embrace The World At The Irvine Global Village Festival
  • Remember The Fallen Hero's
  • Enjoy The Irvine International Film Festival
  • Walk Amongst The Cars Of Your Dreams
  • Increase Your Local Knowledge At Irvine Historical Museum
  • Take A Stroll Around Irvine Regional Park
  • Play A Round At Oak Creek Golf Club
  • Join The Irvine Bike Club
  • Grab A Burger At In-N-Out
  • Spend The Night At Bistango