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15 Best Things to Do in Irvine - 2023

Just south of Los Angeles and north of San Diego sits Irvine, Orange County - a lifestyle city that dances to its own tune, one of rolling hills, stunning coastal horizons and masterful urban development with things to do and places to see for all ages. Whether you’re just visiting or want to see the “City of Innovation” with new eyes, you’ll want to try out at least a few of the items on this list while you can; keep reading for our top 15 recommended Irvine attractions and must-see stops to add to your itinerary.
irvine spectrum
1. Irvine Spectrum Center
Home to 100+ restaurants, shops and entertainment venues including the Improv (see later in this list!), the Irvine Spectrum will keep you busy for an afternoon — or all of the weekend. Catch a showing at the movie theater, a ride on the Giant Wheel ferris wheel or carousel or a breather on one of the many outdoor benches and chairs scattered throughout; here in the sunny weather and ocean breeze, people-watching comes at its most relaxing and luxurious.
2. Biking
Over 100 miles of off-the-streets biking paths make Irvine a haven for cyclists and fitness enthusiasts. And with almost year-round beautiful weather, there’s never a time where a bike ride doesn’t seem like a good idea. With paths leading straight into Laguna Beach and the Newport coast, a loop to the shore and back will have you wanting to slow your gears and take in the scenery. For longer rides, bring a snack or two - and during your journey look out for one of many picnic tables scattered along the way.
great park
3. Orange County Great Park
OC Great Park is hundreds of acres of park space — with an amphitheatre, rock playground and renovated WWII hangar. But the most iconic of attractions at OC Great Park is the Great Park Balloon, which rises 400 feet up into the air and offers residents and visitors a thrilling way to experience the city with new eyes.
san joaquin marsh reserve
4. San Joaquin Marsh Reserve
The Irvine Ranch Water District’s San Joaquin Marsh Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary hidden amongst the metropolitan city. Over 300 acres of wetlands and lots of pathways for walking and touring make this a showcase for the beauty of nature. Best of all? Admission is free to the public.
tanaka farms
5. Tanaka Farms
Tanaka Farms is a family-owned and -operated plot of land spanning approximately 25 acres and offering visitors a chance to pick their own organic produce. While the blackberries, strawberries and wagon rides are a hoot all year, locals know the best time to go is Christmas, when everything is lit up and rich with festivities.
6. Irvine Improv
Stop in on a random day of the week, and you just might catch an A-list comedian trying out new material. The Improv, situated inside the Spectrum, was originally an all-performing arts house showing singers and pianists, but one day during the early years, the first stand-up comedian walked upon its stage — and more and more began to follow. Now, it’s a world-famous venue for comedy, and a can’t-miss stop on your Irvine bucket list.
newport beach
7. Newport Beach
The residents of Irvine are fortunate enough to be about a 20-minute drive from the coast, and visitors will be remiss to not take the 405 or Jamboree Road to the pier at least once during their stay. Known as the birthplace of surfing legends, Newport Beach meets Irvine at the border, making it a fast and fun stop on the itinerary. (If you do visit, whale watching is a must!)
pretend city
8. Pretend City Children's Museum
The “real world” shrunk down to fun-size, Pretend City has a grocery store, mechanic’s garage and a variety of other miniature buildings. Not just a children’s museum or play area, it’s an interactive look at the kind of life Mommy or Daddy might live, a way for a child to experience and play in it first-hand. If you have young ones and ever find yourself in Irvine, this is the place to visit.
9. UCI
Performances, public lectures and special events at the University of California, Irvine give non-students and faculty a taste of campus life. While there’s always an Anteater game going on (check out basketball and volleyball, which the university is known for!), even just strolling through walkways between manicured lawns under shady trees alone is enough to make the visit to campus worth it.
bommer canyon
10. Bommer Canyon
If you were waiting for a hiking recommendation, it’s finally here: Bommer Canyon, nestled between Turtle Ridge and Shady Canyon. As a part of the miles of trails winding through Irvine, Bommer offers an open-space natural and historical alternative to shopping centers and movie theaters. Be sure to check out the hiking and biking trails that take you through scenic valleys and hilltops.
11. Disneyland
A short trek but a trek nonetheless, Disneyland is about a 45-minute drive from Irvine; but if you’re visiting the city from across the nation, those are 45 minutes well-spent. Whether you want to visit the Disneyland or California Adventure amusement parks, Downtown Disney or any of the museums, shops and dining in the surrounding Anaheim area (if you go with the latter, it’ll be an even shorter drive), you’ll find sightseeing magic around every corner and an unforgettable trip for the whole family.
farmers market
12. Farmers Market
Shop organic fruits and veggies from local vendors in a friendly, casual environment. If sweets are more your jam, well, then there is also strawberry jam — and jelly, and preserves. Visit the Irvine Farmers Market to get a taste of the city, a feel of the people and even an Irvine-specific piece of candy or chocolate to take back home. Affordable and suitable for the whole family, local farmers markets (not just Irvine) are always a treat for the senses.
global village festival
13. Global Village Festival
The Irvine Global Village Festival is a gathering of food vendors, artists, musicians and curators. Multicultural-focused, the Festival represents the diverse communities in Irvine, and the histories and stories behind them. It’s filled with free things to do, but it's also a one-day operation — so check the Festival’s website often for announcements and location (and to catch the date).
living spaces design center
The Design Center, inside Living Spaces Irvine, is a workshop space of sorts, to plan out ideas and bring your home living room, bedroom or other space to life. It’s free to use and staffed with interior designers who will tackle the problems and hurdles usually associated with redesigning or redecorating. Not to mention, it’s air-conditioned, quiet and, if you’re prone to retail therapy, a nice way to escape the hullabaloo and heat of a day out in Southern California.
15. Golfing
A golfer’s sanctuary, Irvine is home to more than one golf course, well-designed and equipped with programs, facilities and other resources that make a trip to the green feel less like just another day and more like a mini resort vacation. In general, golf courses are a great idea no matter where you travel: they offer the priceless chance to slow down, get some steps in and take in your surroundings. (If you're looking for a specific recommendation, check out the Oak Creek Golf Club.)
More Things to Do in Irvine
Yearning for more? The activities and entertainment are many; Irvine has all the standard “fun zones” that a tourist would expect out of a suburban community (things like laser tag, water parks and go-karting are around every corner). If you find yourself drawn to the more nature-focused angle of Irvine, though, try the local-specific parks: Irvine Regional Park and William R. Mason Regional Park are two worth mentioning for their scenic lakes, kids play areas and walking trails.

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