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Why We Love Travel

Suggest a Local Tip

From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.

Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.

Benefits of Traveling Locally

While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:


More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.


Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.


Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.


Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.


More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.

Explore Local: Irvine, California

Irvine, California offers so much more than the college it’s best known for. At once a suburb of Los Angeles and a thriving community all on its own, there are so many amazing things to do and places to explore in Irvine. In this guide, we’ll help you see the place like a local!

*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.

Parks in Irvine, California

From rolling hillsides to the waves that roll endlessly onto the Pacific shore, there are plenty of places to get in some quality outdoor time in southern California. Here are some of the best state and national parks and preserves to check out in and around Irvine, CA.

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Offering a three-mile stretch of sand and sea, as well as endless opportunities to observe local wildlife, Bolsa Chica State Beach is a hot spot amongst both campers and day trippers. The area is teeming with bottlenose dolphins, gray whales, California sea lions, migratory birds and more, and is also a popular place to surf, swim, suntan and surf-fish. 

Chino Hills State Park

Although it’s just over half an hour away from downtown Irvine, a trip to Chino Hills State Park will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a different universe. Its horizon of green hills punctuated with beautiful wildflowers is about as far from the urban hustle and bustle of the greater LA metro as you can get… without having to actually go very far at all. This park features a 90-mile trail network that’s perfect for hikers, bikers, and equestrians alike. It’s also a great spot for bird-watching and wildlife spotting, so be sure to bring your camera!

Crystal Cove State Park

Combining three miles of beachfront and tide pools with 4,000 acres of bluffs, 2,400 acres of canyons and a sprawling 1,400 acre underwater park and marine conservation area, Crystal Cove State Park truly encompasses a multitude of biospheres and habitats — and temperatures stay between about 60 and 70 degrees year round. Unsurprisingly, given that kind of hospitality, the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including more than 180 species of birds and 26 types of reptiles, not to mention fish, mammals, and insects.

Huntington State Beach

Another option for Irvinites looking for sand and surf, Huntington State Beach protects 120 acres of beautiful southern California shoreline, and is popular amongst surfers, swimmers, and sunset seekers. The park also features facilities like volleyball and basketball courts, fire rings, and multi-use trails to make it inviting even for those who’d rather not get their feet — or anything else — wet. 

Limestone Canyon Regional Park

A local go-to for hikers, Limestone Canyon Regional Park offers a diversity of landscapes as well as a diversity of plant and animal life to see along the way. From lush oak forests to year-round springs and a network of limestone sinks that are often compared to a miniature Grand Canyon, this park is an excellent option for self-exploration or taking part in a guided tour.

Chino Hills State Park

Hiking in Irvine, California

You don’t have to venture far from the urban heart of Irvine to get your boots on the ground — literally. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Irvine and the surrounding areas.

Bommer Canyon Trail

Nestled in the Bommer Canyon Open Space Preserve, Bommer Canyon Trail runs a little under five miles and sees almost 1,000 feet in elevation gain, making it a great option for those looking for a moderate-level workout. Blooming with wildflowers and offering expansive views of the surrounding hills, this trail is open from 7 a.m. to sunset and is accessible year-round.

Quail Loop Trail

Offering a unique combination of cityscapes and countryside views, the Quail Loop Trail is an especially popular outdoor destination for those who live in Irvine and beyond. At just under two miles and 200 feet in elevation gain, this trail is easy-to-moderate and a great option for beginning hikers looking to get their feet underneath them (literally).

Turtle Rock/French Hill Loop

One of the most frequently trod trails in Chaparral Park, Turtle Rock/French Hill Loop is just over four miles long and sees about 800 feet in elevation gain, and is considered a moderately challenging hike. Wildflower-spotted hillsides lead up to sweeping views of the surrounding area, and the trail is also dog-friendly (though pups need to be kept on leash at all times).

Shady Canyon Trail

Tucked into Quail Hill Community Park, Shady Canyon Trail is great for those looking for a slightly longer route. Running just under eight miles out and back and seeing a little more than 500 feet in elevation gain, this one will keep you and the family busy for a few hours — but do keep in mind you won’t always be in the shade, so bring plenty of sun protection!

Tree Hill, South Loop, and Midway Loop

A fun and easy network of trails to tackle in the San Joaquin Marsh Reserve, the Tree Hill, South Loop and Midway Loop hike comes in at less than three miles and just over 50 feet in elevation gain — so it’s a great option for beginners or more advanced hikers looking for something quick. The trail meanders along water sides and is home to plenty of blooming wildflowers, and is also popular amongst trail runners.

Restaurants in Irvine, California

The sheer number of things to do, see, and explore in Irvine will certainly ramp up your appetite. Fortunately, one of the best parts of getting to know this city is getting to know its dining scene! Here are some of the best restaurants in Irvine, from Italian to Mexican and everything in between.

HiroNori Craft Ramen

Is there anything quite as satisfying as a large, delicious bowl of fresh, hot soup? We don’t think so, either — and at HiroNori Craft Ramen, you can enjoy ramen made to your exact specifications, whether you’re after the traditional pork-based dish or even a vegan version. Serving an authentic Asian experience to the southern California area, the team comes to the table with more than 15 years’ combined experience… and it shows!

North Italia

Nobody does date night quite like Italian places, and the best Italian restaurant in Irvine might just be North Italia. Serving up handcrafted and authentic Tuscan meals for brunch, lunch, dinner and more, this spot is great for everything from a quick happy hour nibble to a long and leisurely evening meal. Whatever you do, be sure to save room for dessert: the Italian butter cake is hard to say no to!

La Sirena Grill

What’s the only thing better than fresh, delicious Mexican food? Fresh, delicious, sustainable Mexican food, of course! La Sirena Grill is a small local chain with three locations across the greater Los Angeles metro area, and its Irvine branch is easily one of the best place to get south-of-the-border eats without leaving town. The menu ranges from tacos and burritos to tortas, nachos, quesadillas and more, and the blackened wild salmon salad is also a great option.

Annapoorna Indian Cuisine

Offering highly-regarded Indian cuisine in a quiet and inviting setting, Annapoorna Indian Cuisine is considered one of the best restaurants of any variety in the Irvine area — and is a particularly stand-out option when you’re in the mood for something fresh, satisfying, and and affordable. Along with their in-house dining and take-out options, this place also delivers up to 10 miles away!


A food-court-style joint serving up burgers, burritos, tacos, bowls, and salads — all of which are 100% plant based — ButterLeaf is a go-to for folks looking for vegetarian and vegan eats in Irvine. Utilizing a wide array of protein-dense plant ingredients like quinoa, this is a great option for everyone in your party, carnivores included.

Localeur Insider Tip

Sonsern Lim


Fukaka always hits the spot whenever I’m craving authentic Japanese food. Everything is always fresh and delicious, but I suggest you take a page out of my book and try the udon and tuna dons. The only drawback is that the secret is definitely out about this place among locals, so if you don’t want to get stuck with a long wait, get here before they open their doors. 

Le Diplomate Cafe

I tried the sandwiches from Le Diplomate Cafe for the first time back in 2008, when I was a college student at UCI. Twelve years later, it’s safe to say I’m still addicted! My favorite sandwich is the chicken, broccoli, and mushroom sandwich with garlic sauce, which is made extra tasty with a drizzle of sriracha sauce. No matter how hungry I am, this combo aways satisfies the cravings.

Dada Shabu

Dada Shabu offers delicious, Korean-style shabu with is a great selection of quality meats you’ll order from your server. I recommend trying them all least once; after all, it’s all-you-can-eat (my favorites are the prime steak chuck-eye roll and pork belly). In addition to shabu meats, there is also a hot station with delicious items like chicken wings, tteokbokki (spicy Stir-fried rice cakes), japchae (Korean stir-fried glass noodles) and more! While a meal won’t be the cheapest of your trip, this place is definitely worth your money if you like to eat! 

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Activities in Irvine, California

Dining? Check. The great outdoors? Check. Still looking for more places to explore in Irvine? You’re in luck! Here are just a few of our favorites. 

For Kids and Families

Irvine is a great place to raise a family, so if you’re bringing the kids into the adventure, you’re in luck. Here are a few spots to add to your itinerary.

Pretend City Children’s Museum

For kids — and adults, too, for that matter — a good learning experience is often all about getting hands on. And at Pretend City Children’s Museum, your family will have the opportunity to do just that: engage and interact with educational and exciting exhibits that drum up excitement about the great big world around us. (It is a pretty special place, after all.)

Tanaka Farms LLC

When “where food comes from” looks as sterile as an average grocery store aisle, it’s easy to see why kids would be uninterested in learning more. But at Tanaka Farms LLC, you and your family can get a real look at the farm life that makes each meal possible — whether you’re just there to buy some produce or to pick your own berries or interact with farm animals!

Boomers! Irvine

Looking for an afternoon of excitement and fun that’ll have your whole family smiling? Boomers! Irvine offers everything from arcade games to go karts to mini golf and more, to say nothing of its on-site dining options. (Honestly, along with being a great option for families, this is also high on our list of things for couples to do in Irvine.)

At Night

No matter what kind of nightlife you’re after, you’ll find your match in southern California. Once you’re done reading about things to do during the daytime in Irvine, here are some options to consider after the sun goes down.

Woodbridge 5

Bigger isn’t always better, and at Woodbridge 5, you’ll benefit from the intimacy of a smaller, cozier kind of theater. Filming both big box-office releases and select independent and foreign films, this theater also offers discounts to AMC Stubs members on Tuesdays.

Irvine Lanes

Bowling is kind of the best of all possible sports: it’s active(ish), and yet you can still enjoy a cold beer or a plate of nachos while you do it. Plus, it’s a great way to get your whole family in on the fun, provided it’s not past anyone’s bedtime. Irvine Lanes offers the best spot to try and roll a strike in town, and also offers birthday specials, events, and more.

Cheap Things to Do in Irvine

Having a good time doesn’t have to mean having an expensive time! Here are some of our favorite cheap and low-cost things to do in Irvine.

Orange County Great Park Farmers Market

Also known as the Certified Great Park Farmers Market, this weekendly event is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and features plenty of freshly grown local produce as well as prepared foods, crafts, and more. It’s a great place to stroll on a Sunday morning, and you don’t necessarily have to spend a thing (though we won’t lie and say you won’t be tempted!).

626 Night Market

The first and largest market of its kind in the United States, 626 Night Market was inspired by the Asian tradition of open-air nighttime bazaars, and several different markets at several different locations across the LA metropolitan area are offered throughout the year. A fun and festive atmosphere featuring food trucks, arts and crafts, live music and more, this is a great spot to have some affordable, yet still unforgettable, fun.

Free Things to Do in Irvine

Want to get out… without getting your wallet out? Here are some of our favorite free things to do in Irvine!

UCI Arboretum

UC Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences maintains the UCI Arboretum, a 12.5-acre expanse of well-curated and maintained plants from California and further abroad. The arboretum has an especially impressive collection of South African plants, and is free to enter during the school’s quarterly open houses.

Great Park Balloon

It may look like a hot air balloon flying high above the expanse of Orange County Great Park, but it’s actually a tethered helium balloon, which means it’s environmentally safe, non-polluting, and nearly silent. What’s more, the Great Park Balloon is open to riders of all ages, heights, and health conditions, and is also wheelchair accessible, meaning everyone can enjoy the stunning 360-degree panoramic views that reach nearly 40 miles on a clear day — absolutely free of charge.

Wellness in Irvine, California

Spas in Irvine

Everyone needs some pampering from time to time! If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, here are some of the best day spas and salons in Irvine.

I Spa

I Spa — short for Irvine Spa — is a local go-to for affordable yet indulgent massages, sauna stays and more. They also offer a salt room, fire room, ice room, expansive, relaxing pool and more. Body scrub and skin treatments are also available.

Brush Salon

Southern California is not the kind of place where you can get away with a so-so haircut. Fortunately, Brush Salon offers professional cut, color, and styling services, along with professional makeup application and extensions. 

Best Gyms & Yoga Studios

Ready to become your best self? A gym habit is about way more than how you look: it’s about how you feel and carry yourself through your life. Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios in Irvine for those ready to get a sweat session going.

3D Fitness Gym

Along with existing in three physical dimensions, workouts at 3D Fitness Gym are dynamic, diverse and dedicated to helping you get in the very best shape of your life. You’ll be guided through a tough-but-fun high-intensity circuit workout with a qualified instructor and plenty of community to help motivate you and keep you accountable.

Ra Yoga

A good yoga practice is known to leave participants feeling and looking radiant — and Ra Yoga is the place to go in Irvine if you’re looking for that experience. Offering a wide range of classes from challenging, heated flows to restorative and yin yoga, this spot will help get you aligned and grounded, no matter your fitness or ability level.

Day Trips near Irvine, California

While there’s certainly no shortage of amazingness to keep you occupied in Irvine itself, there are also plenty of opportunities in the surrounding area for a great day trip or weekend getaway. Here are just a few.

Joshua Tree National Park

Known for (and named after) the unique trees that punctuate its otherworldly landscape, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-do for any southern California denizen — and honestly, anyone who has the means to get there. Fun fact: those “trees” are actually giant succulents, meaning the name is a bit of a misnomer!

Palm Springs

A classic getaway for those in the LA metro area, Palm Springs is known for its indulgent spas, adorable boutiques, and exquisite dining, all in a desert environment that will make you feel like you’ve well and truly left the city. Many consider a trip to the desert a quick way to cleanse their spirits — especially if you spend some if your time looking up at the star-spangled night sky.

As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Irvine that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Irvine? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.

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