Irvine is famous for many things. For starters, it's part of ever-popular Orange County. As an affluent suburb in Southern California, it's won a number of awards over the years - 4th Best Place to Live in the United States (CNN Money, 2008), 5th Best City in the USA (BusinessWeek, 2011), and The Best Run City in America (24/7 Wall Street, 2014). The FBI also recognized it in 2010 as having "the lowest violent crime rate among cities in the United States with populations of more than 100,000."
With 10 university campuses in the city, an average median income of $92,000+, and a pleasant Mediterranean climate, it's no wonder that over 200,000 people call it home.
On our recent trip to Irvine, we stayed at the Embassy Suites near Orange County Airport. Because of its proximity to the airport and to many of the numerous corporations that headquarter in the city (Ford Motor Company, In-N-Out, LA Fitness, Asics, and Kia Motors - to name a few), I can see how the hotel would be a hot spot for business travelers. That said, it's also a terrific pick for families! The spacious two-room suites and complimentary hot breakfast (with cooked-to-order options!) are top-notch. We always enjoy the evening reception as well - snacks and drinks on-the-house! The hotel is 18 minutes from Disneyland, 19 minutes from Newport Beach, 23 minutes from Huntington Beach + Laguna Beach, and 25 minutes from Knott's Berry Farm.
If you want a place for little ones to run, you can drive 2 miles to Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park. 42 acres of family fun - including lighted softball + soccer fields, lighted tennis courts, covered picnic tables, pretty fountains, plentiful flowers, and a pretty awesome playground (which was closed for refurbishment during our visit).
After playing at the park, we stopped for a late lunch at Urban Plates (9 minutes from the hotel). The fresh, modern vibe of the fast-casual restaurant is ideal for families. We appreciated the nutrition-filled options on the menu - especially after eating on-the-road. I enjoyed every bite of the large chicken cobb salad ($10), served with scrumptious chargrilled focacia. Tim ate the asian chicken salad ($10) and the girls ordered off the urban kids menu ($6). The restaurant prides itself on offering "freshly delivered food from local farms + producers"...and our palates could tell! All five of us agreed we would eat here again in a heartbeat.
While in the area, we ventured over to Santa Ana to visit Discovery Science Center (the cube-shaped building you can see from I-5). With over 100 interactive exhibits (including an outdoor dinosaur area), our girls (ages 7, 5, and 2) had plenty to look at and explore. Admission rates range from $12.95-$16.95 per person. Wee ones, 2 and under, are free. Note that parking is $4.
I anticipate that we will make many visits to Orange County in the coming years since it's only a 7-hour drive from Southern Arizona. It's nice to know that Irvine offers all this (and more!) for families!
Have you ever been to Irvine with kids? What travel recommendations would you add?
* Thanks to Destination Irvine for coordinating our press trip.