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Fun things to do in Irvine CA with kids - Giant Wheel at Irvine Spectrum Center

Fun Things to do in Irvine, CA with Kids

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More than just a stopover on the way to Disneyland or Los Angeles, Irvine, California offers families an array of activities. Situated in what locals call “The OC,” this Orange County town is a gateway to the outdoors from the beach to the mountains.

Originally founded by the Irvine family, the city plan brings together the preservation of wildlands and parks to help residents and guests connect to nature. What I loved most about Irvine was the fact that no matter where you turned there were spaces and attractions that encourage outdoor living. Here are five fun things to do in Irvine, CA with kids:

Head outside to hike or bike on a trail

Irvine boasts over 300 miles of hiking and biking trails suited to every level. The Mountain to Sea trail spans approximately 22 miles from the rugged mountains through Irvine and along the Back Bay towards Newport Beach. It was amazing to be have bicycles delivered to Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport by Trail’s End Cycling Center for a guided tour from the heart of Irvine through the back bay towards Newport Beach.

For hiking, active families can select a trail based on interest and ability. Bird lovers and naturalists can spend hours exploring the San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, which spans 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands and offers 12 miles of trails.

Bommer Canyon, part of the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp (some of the old structures still exist on the property), offers hiking trails that take you back in time and provide vistas that span from the heart of Irvine to the beach. Tip: If you plan to hike Bommer Canyon, consider renting a car for the day to get to the trailhead. I decided to travel without a rental car and relied on taxis and UBER cars, but found that drivers often did not know where the trailhead was located.

Cruise for dolphins or whales

Depending on the season, the waters off the coast of Orange County are a playground for dolphins and whales. Old and young will find themselves giggling as dolphins play in the wake of passing boats departing from Newport Pier.

Although I had hoped to see whales during my whale watching cruise with Davey’s Locker, we found ourselves surrounded by dolphins who seemed to want to play like school children on a field. Sailing back into the harbor, we passed a group of sea otters sunbathing on a buoy at the entrance of the harbor.

Fun things to do in Irvine CA - Newport Beach Dolphin Watching Cruise

Going on a dolphin watching cruise is one of the fun things to do in Irvine, CA!

Stroll along Balboa Island

Nestled between Irvine and Newport Beach, Balboa Island takes you back in time with charming homes and a Main Street full of boutiques and cafés. Spending an afternoon walking on Balboa Island made me dream of living there, where I could enjoy the outdoor lifestyle 365 days a year, with patios filled with succulents and lemon trees.

Play, Eat and Shop at the Irvine Spectrum

The Spectrum Center in Irvine features an outdoor promenade that is more than just a mall. With a a carousel and a spectacular 108-Foot Giant Wheel that was made in Italy, this outdoor area makes a great destination to spend an afternoon or evening. If you are hungry, make sure to stop at Cucina Enoteca for pizza or their signature appetizers called “vasi,” mini mason jars filled with dips and delicacies served with Tuscan toast.

Fun things to do in Irvine CA with kids - Irvine Spectrum Center

Visit the Irvine Spectrum Center for a perfect space for families to shop, eat and play.

Dip your toes in the sand at Newport Beach

Newport Beach is long and wide, providing the perfect location for sand castles, shell collecting and splashing in the waves. Stroll along the pier that jets out over the water to watch hopeful fisherman or walk along the boardwalk for a taste of beachside living.

When traveling to Irvine, Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport is located across the street from the airport and offers a central location to local attractions. My travel to Irvine was arranged by Destination Irvine. All opinions are my own.

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Our Hilton Mom Voyage team members live throughout the U.S. and have traveled by air and car all over the world with their families!

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