Irvine, California located in south Orange County, is one of the larger cities in the region and is home to fantastic restaurants, hotels and fun for families. With John Wayne airport in town, the city of Irvine is super easy to access as well. Let’s break down the best of Irvine for family travel!
Where to Stay
While in Irvine, our hotel home was the Homewood Suites Irvine. Opened last year, this all-suites hotel features a free daily breakfast, a fantastic outdoor pool, workout center and amazing amenities. We had a two bedroom suite that had a full kitchen – it was perfect for our family of five. While at the Homewood Suites, we decided to take a dip in the pool at the Homewood Suites Irvine – which is the perfect depth for younger kids, ranging from 3.5’ to 4.5’ and on the shady side of the hotel, if you can get out in the morning.
We started our day by enjoying the free breakfast at Homewood Suites that includes yogurt, eggs, waffles, cereal and just about everything else imaginable. While savory – one word of warning – the breakfast goes from 6-9 am on weekdays…and they start taking all the food away promptly at 8:58 AM. So, if your kids are late risers like ours, you’ll need to get a move on and go enjoy breakfast well before 9:00 AM 🙂
What To Do In Irvine, California
Our first activity in Irvine was a visit to the Irvine Spectrum Center – which is a large entertainment district right near downtown Irvine. Our first stop was the Irvine Spectrum Giant Wheel, a large Ferris wheel that is as beautiful as it is fun. The designers adorned the wheel with LED lights and a display, so you can see the wheel from far away in its stunning beauty. The ride is peaceful and beautiful all at the same time…and offers 360 degree views of downtown Irvine, neighboring cities and more. During the day you can see the mountains that surround the area and even downtown LA, some 50 miles away. Our kids loved being able to see the freeway traffic moving and all the gorgeous lights of the buildings of downtown Irvine. We’d recommend going at night for a great twilight view of the city’s skyline.
Feeling the need for speed? Irvine is home to a K1Speed indoor go-cart race track. Perfect for kids taller than 48” (our six year old sun cleared the minimum!), these electric go-carts offer thrills and excitement. We arrived at K1 and received a briefing on how to operate the go-carts, which is easy enough, even for our small children. Then, you’re fitted with a helmet and sent out on the track. Kid racers operate carts sized for them that go slower than the adult carts and after a little trepidation on their part – our children started cornering, squealing the tires and racing to their hearts’ content. The K1 Staff was informative and answered all our questions. It’s apparent that safety is a huge part of what makes K1 a successful national company with locations now nation-wide. In fact, we were happy to hear a K1 is opening soon, near us, in Portland, Oregon!
Irvine Regional Park sits in the hills that overlook Irvine and the neighboring city of Orange and is home to open spaces for biking, jogging and exploring. Also, fortunately for families, the park also boasts attractions such as the Irvine Train, duck pond, OC Zoo and more. As a first step in exploring the totality of the offerings, we took the Irvine Train to sit back and hear the conductor tell a brief history of the city of Irvine, the park and attractions that are held within.
Back in the late 1800s, John Irvine bought the rights to 110,000 acres, that stretched 23 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana River. Then held by his family mainly for farming, the city of Irvine was established in the 1960s and built out accordingly. Films and movies have been filmed in the city, especially early westerns on the roaming farm land.
The Irvine Park Railroad is $5 / person and takes you through the educational areas and past the duck pond that centers the park. We then rented two ‘water bikes’ and cruised on the duck pond to explore the park from the water. The park is peaceful and serene, being about 2 miles off the main city grid and in the hills, it’s adorned with eucalyptus trees that give off a beautiful scent.
If you’re in the Irvine area in September/October, be sure to check out the pumpkin patch that will be there! We saw the groundskeepers and staff preparing for the Sept 15 opening of the event and it looks to be a lot of fun!
Where to Eat In Irvine
Located at the Irvine Spectrum Center is Dave and Busters, an experiential restaurant we visited for dinner. We came for the food and stayed for the games! Dave and Busters is one of the only places where you can watch sports, have a drink with friends, and play thrilling video games all at the same time. Also, many of the video games can accommodate up to 4 simultaneous players, so our kids were able to play their own games and also play against each other – it was an ideal way to end a fun-filled day.
Before leaving Irvine, we stopped by 85° Bakery for some sweet treats. This bakery, in the heart or Irvine, has dozens of treats that will satisfy any sweet craving you and the family might have. Also, the prices are very reasonable. We bought 10 baked treats and our bill was a mere $21 as most baked goods range in price from $1.60 to $3.00 each. My wife and I also enjoyed an iced coffee that was needed after a long day at Irvine Regional Park. 🙂
Let’s Wrap It Up
For SoCal fun in the sun, experiences that will excite and delight and a crazy fun food scene, check out Irvine, California. What’s your favorite Irvine adventure or dining spot?
Disclosure: Destination Irvine hosted our family’s time in the wonderful city. Thanks to Destination Irvine and their hotel partners for our experiences, meals and overnight stay. While they hosted our time, our opinions can never be bought and are honest accounts of our fun experience in Irvine. Enjoy!