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Irvine

Irvine
This centrally located Orange County city is the perfect home base for shopping, dining, and kid-friendly exploring

Irvine’s central location—45 miles from Los Angeles, 85 from San Diego, and 15 minutes from Disneyland Resort—makes it a popular hub for Southern California travellers. But there’s a lot to love right in Irvine proper. From kid-friendly outdoor activities to full-service shopping, the little big city of more than 250,000 has something for everyone.

A strong concentration of universities makes Irvine an under-the-radar destination for art lovers. The city’s largest academy, University of California, Irvine, is home to the Beall Center for Art and Technology, which promotes creative expressions of digital science; The Irvine Museum, which preserves art by California Impressionists; and The Barclay Theatre, which hosts ballets, symphonies, and musicals.

For growing minds, Irvine mixes learning and fun at a number of spots around the city. Kids can learn about the harvest during strawberry and watermelon season by visiting Tanaka FarmsPretend City Children’s Museum is a wonderland for tykes with miniature interactive versions of the supermarket, dentist, and a post office. The constantly expanding 600-plus acre Orange County Great Park has a Farm + Food Lab where your family can visit the butterfly garden and chicken coop before burning off energy at one of the Sports Complex’s 25 tennis courts.

Shopping malls are an Orange County hallmark, and Irvine’s selection does not disappoint. The grandest is, of course, the massive outdoor Irvine Spectrum Center. Visitors can browse more than 100 stores and restaurants, ride the Ferris wheel, and ice-skate during the holidays. Other options include the South Coast Plaza known for its high-end boutiques and Quail Hill Shopping Center.

The mall culture has even informed some of the area’s most exciting dining. The Trade Food Hall is a trendy take on the classic court. Tuck into some pork belly fries at Pig Pen Delicacy or a waffle on a stick at Sweet Combforts, just two of the hall’s merchants. For eclectic fare in a more formal setting, try the omakase (chef’s choice menu) at Ootoro Sushi or freshly made pasta at North Italia.

 

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Huntington Beach by Scott Mansfield

Southern California

Discover Orange County

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July
Average (°C)
June - Aug
35°
High
11°
Low
Sept - Nov
31°
High
5°
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Dec - Feb
15°
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2°
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Mar - May
26°
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5°
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From board shorts to mouse ears to designer clothes, what you wear in this sun-splashed corner of the state says everything about how you like to play. Whether it’s surf-perfect beaches or celebrated theme parks, all framed by oceanfront towns dotted with luxury yachts, “The O.C.” stands out as one of California’s—make that the country’s—most iconic destinations.

“Surfing is like golf. . . it keeps knocking you down. But when you stay with it and catch that wave. . . magic.”  --actor Dennis Quaid

Shop at spectacular South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, or get the surfer look in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA. 

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Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776, was the first winery in California.
The magic of Disneyland, walking through the tunnel underneath the train station to Main Street, it just transports you to other places and other times.
John Lasseter
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Trip 4-5 days 10 stops

Pacific Coast Highway - South

Beach Towns, Iconic Theme Parks
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Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun washed European look straight out of the Riviera. Santa Barbara, nicknamed 'the American Riviera,' has a burnished antique look like much of the Mediterranean,...

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End your trip with at this sunny, waterfront city. Downtown, shop at Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, Little Italy, North Park, South Park, East Village, pedestrian friendly...

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Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate play lands

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone, from tots and teens to film buffs and daredevils. Find out what is...

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Lucas Himovitz
Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.
Corky Carroll (Orange County surf legend)
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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

O.C. Shopping

Discover boutique brands and bargains

Shopping in The O.C. is almost as legendary as surfing. Start at expansive South Coast Plaza, California’s largest luxury shopping complex, with...

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Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

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July/August

With a nickname like ‘Surf City, USA’, Huntington Beach is the obvious place for this 9-day, sun-and-wave extravaganza, the world’s largest surf event. Top pros including Kelly Slater and Rob...

Surfers competing in the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing
William Fovall/Flickr
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Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Orange County's Luxury Resorts

Live like a star at posh getaways

The good life might have been invented in ‘The O.C.’—especially when it comes to resort destinations. With spas, elegant dining, five-star...

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Get into the coastal vibe

Maybe it’s the sun-streaked hair, the frequent smiles, the eyes always gazing west, looking to the horizon to see when the next set might roll in. It’s the unmistakable look and vibe of a...

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Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
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Discover the awesome sports scene in the Golden State

With nearly twice as many professional teams as any other state, California is big league all the way. But the state’s sports scene goes far beyond football and baseball, with a diverse line-up of...

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Christina Lauren/Flickr
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Crystal Cove State Park

Stroll a perfect beach with an intriguing past

In 1912, an early Laguna Beach artist described finding a rugged coastline “with cove after cove and headland after headland, golden cliffs and...

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From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Golf in Orange County

Tee up at top courses, with some ocean views

With ideal Southern California weather and some of the country’s most celebrated courses, Orange County justly earns the nickname ‘California Golf...

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind the scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of actvities...

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Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
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Courtesy of Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park

Explore an impressive urban park

Turning former military land into a roughly 1,300-acre green space, this Irvine park is as ambitious as it is beautiful. Though it...

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Every year, the Orange County Great Park Balloon dons a smiling jack-o-lantern mask, marking the unofficial start of fall in Orange County.