The Great Park Balloon is a popular attraction at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. // © 2014 Creative Commons user mystandardbreakfromlife
Feature image (above): After a day of shopping at Irvine Spectrum Center, rest your feet while riding the 108-foot-tall Giant Wheel. // © 2014 Creative Commons user zoso_tc
Do you know the differences between Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.? Learn about them here.
With a location midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Irvine, Calif., could easily be overlooked by travelers. But its position between these two popular cities is exactly what makes Irvine a fine vacation destination for families.
No visit to Southern California would be complete without a beach day, and Irvine is close to many of the most beautiful beaches in Orange County. In about 20 minutes, families can be on the sand or on a boat from Dana Point Harbor, which is considered to be one of the best whale watching spots around.
Another item on most families’ Southern California must-do list is the Disneyland Resort in the city of Anaheim. It’s just a 20-minute drive from Irvine, but those without a car (or those who prefer not to drive) should consider taking the Disneyland Resort Express, a luxury motor coach offering daily round-trip bus service between John Wayne Airport in Orange and several locations close to Disneyland. The bus takes about 20 minutes — the same as a self-drive, but with none of the hassles.
While Disneyland and plentiful beaches are certainly great family vacation activities in Orange County, there are many cool things to do right in Irvine. Here are five picks for families:
Irvine Regional Park
Spend a day at Irvine Regional Park, where families can enjoy paddleboats, hiking trails and even ponies for the children. This is also where visitors will find the Irvine Park Railroad, a one-third scale train that travels through the beautiful historic park.
Irvine Spectrum Center
Enjoy the vibrant entertainment, premier dining and shopping at the Irvine Spectrum Center, which features a 108-foot-tall Giant Wheel that was custom-designed and handcrafted in Italy. Families can eat, shop, catch a movie and grab a sweet treat from Casey’s Cupcakes, the 2011 winner on “Cupcake Wars.”
Marconi Automotive Museum
Check out a $30 million collection of historical, exotic and classic cars at Marconi Automotive Museum. Included are some rare Ferraris, such as the sapphire-blue FX Ferrari designed by Frank Williams and the 53rd car built by.
Orange County Great Park
At Orange County Great Park, visitors can ride a carousel featuring hand-painted artwork inspired by vintage orange crate labels, or get a bird's-eye view of the area from 400 feet high onboard the iconic Great Park Balloon.
Pretend City Children’s Museum
Give the kids a chance to play grown-up at Pretend City Children’s Museum. The museum welcomes children of all ages to experience a small, interconnected city that includes a beach, a farm, a city hall and a marina. In addition, after working at the construction site or health center, children can deposit their well-deserved paycheck in an ATM before heading to the grocery store or gas station — just like mom and dad.
As for where to stay, Atrium Hotel is located right across the street from John Wayne Airport and offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. The hotel also boasts an ultra-cool pool area with an open-air bar, comfortable (and complimentary) cabanas with televisions and ample lounges for soaking up the SoCal sun.