If you are looking to get out of town for the holidays, why not head out to California? It offers warm weather and there is so much to see and do.
Irvine may not be the most well-known California city to visit, but it certainly is a lot of fun. It is home to Orange County Great Park which offers amazing balloon rides. You can hike in Bommer Canyon or visit the Pretend City Children’s Museum or the Irvine Art Museum.
The city of Irvine has a lot of great things to offer, especially at Christmastime. Here are some things you can check out on your trip.
Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park is a prime vacation destination. The Park goes all out by erecting a Christmas tree right in the middle of the beach. After viewing the tree, you can eat at one of the many restaurants that line the beach like The Beachcomber or Ruby’s.
Newport Harbor Parade of Lights
The Newport Harbor Parade of Lights is a four-day event that spans from mid-week right into the weekend. Boats of various shapes and sizes are decked out with all manner of holiday lights as they make the 14-mile cruise through Newport Harbor.
The nice thing about this 107-year-old tradition is that boats can be viewed from various vantage points along the water’s edge. One of the best experiences is to see it from Balboa Island where you can view the decorated bayfront houses while enjoying the parade.
Irvine Park Railroad
The Irvine Park Railroad brings a magical experience year-round. You can hop aboard the 1/3 scale train to take in views of historic Irvine Regional Park which houses James H. Irvine’s grove of 100-year-old California Live Oak Tees.
At Christmastime, the train depot transforms into a winter wonderland. Riders will travel to the North Pole for a visit with Santa. When they get back, they can participate in activities in Santa’s Village including a moon bounce and Rudolph Racers. There’s also a decorate your own cookie booth, Ice Fishing, Blizzard Ball and carnival games.
Free activities include story time with Mrs. Claus, a coloring corner and holiday themed photo stands that make for great selfie opportunities.
The Irvine Spectrum Center
The Irvine Spectrum Center is a great place to shop for holiday items. Attractions include an outdoor skating rink and a tree lighting ceremony. The tree lighting takes place nightly as part of the Disney Magical Holiday Lights show which runs every hour from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
The Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 and is known as being the birthplace of Orange County, many of its original structures from California’s early days still stand. You can walk through the gardens and chapel to be transported to a simpler time. During the holiday season, the Mission will have a holiday nativity scene on display.
After visiting the Mission, stroll through nearby Los Rios Historic District, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the state. It is full of little wooden homes and unique gift shops and cafes. If you get hungry, check out Adobe Restaurant. Built in 1797, it has plenty of history to share.
Holidayz at the Park
Holidayz at the Park takes place from late November to early January at Orange County Great Park. The Park is transformed into a winter scape full of holiday themed art, music and lights.
While there, you can visit Air Santa, a modern take on Santa’s travel which puts the big guy in a plane instead of a sleigh. You can stroll through Palm Court, Artists Studio and the Hangar 244 promenade to check out interactive displays and take selfies against festive backdrops. You can also participate in activities such as painting Christmas stockings and decorating gingerbread houses.
Hikari Festival of Lights
Hikari Festival of Lights is a drive through event that happens at Tanaka Farms. Hikari can be loosely translated to mean shine in Japanese. And you can bet the farms will shine for this event. The 30-acre property will be decked out in over a mile of twinkling lights and displays that include themed scarecrows, tractors and a sugarcane holiday light treatment. Santa will be making weekend appearances.
Christmas Countdown at the Pretend City Children’s Museum
The Pretend City Children’s Museum starts counting down the days to Christmas 12 days out. Every day the staff will be ‘unwrapping’ a different holiday activity. Families can write books together and more.
Visit the Irvine Museum
The Irvine Museum is a great place to appreciate fine art. There are a variety of exhibits that include everything from works that honor the state of California to American Impressionist pieces. It is surrounded by lush fields and farms which are terrific for walking through and creating in. Exhibits rotate on a regular basis so there is always something new to see. It also provides tours, programs, lectures and classes.
University of Irvine Arboretum
The Arboretum is the ideal destination for plant and nature lovers. A variety of plants are featured including those that are locally sourced and a unique collection from South Africa. There are also collections from Baja, the Channel Islands and the Mojave Desert. The facility spans 12 acres making for a great way to spend the day.
If you are thinking of escaping the cold this winter, Irvine makes the perfect destination. There are so many things to see and do. What will you be checking out when you’re in town?
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