Discover the world through travel & beyond!

Irvine Regional Park Guide for Families

Travel Mamas sometimes receives compensation and/or hosted travel and sample products related to blog posts. This story may include affiliate links for which we receive a small commission at no extra cost to consumers. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases. Be sure to check with businesses and locations regarding travel restrictions and safety precautions before visiting.

The next time you plan a trip to Disneyland, schedule an extra day or two to explore the nearby Irvine Regional Park. I fall a little more in love with this park every time I visit this treasure in California’s Orange County. You could easily spend a whole weekend just exploring this 477-acre park with its plentiful hiking trails, zoo, horse rentals, miniature train and more – all amid tall, leafy trees and the natural beauty of Southern California.

Peacock at Irvine Regional Park

Freely roaming peacocks add to the magic of Irvine Regional Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Bicycle and Surrey Rentals

I can’t remember the last time I laughed as much as I did during my family’s most recent visit to this park. Nothing made us laugh more than our surrey ride. I am a bit of a worry wart and my husband tends to think no rules apply to him. Although the rental attendant warned us to avoid a couple of specific hills on the park’s trails for safety reasons, my husband peddled our surrey straight toward those areas. As we zipped down the hills I commenced yelling, which led to our 5-year-old daughter’s nervous screaming, and caused our 2-year-old son to turn around from his front basket seat and ring the bicycle bell frantically – apparently as a warning to Daddy to slow down. Once we reached the bottom of the hill safely the whole family would burst out into laughter. Until the next hill. Rent cruisers, kids’ bikes, tandem bicycles, surreys, and other wheeled items from Wheel Fun Rentals near the boat dock.

Family Surrey Ride at Irvine Regional Park

For a giggling good time, rent a surrey at Irvine Regional Park! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Pedal Boats

Since the paddle boats only fit three, my husband and I took turns peddling the children around the small, picturesque lake. Our little boy’s chubby cheeks squished up by his life preserver busted his big sister and me into more rounds of giggles.

The paddle boats are available to rent by the half hour, and that’s about all you’ll need. My legs tired quickly as I followed ducks around the lake, while the kids gazed in awe at the birds’ submerged orange feet.

Irvine Regional Park Paddle Boat

The paddle boats are a fun way to explore the lake and get some exercise (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Pony Rides and Horse Rentals

Kids can ride ponies for a small fee at the Country Trails and Riding School. A parent leads the pony and child around a gated ring a few times. My daughter was delighted by her pony ride on a visit earlier this year. (Closed Mondays.)

Trail rides are also available for adults. Rides are by appointment only, so plan ahead! The trail horses meander sloooowly along one of the park’s many trails. There’s no cantering, certainly no galloping, and barely any trotting allowed. As a teenager I rode horses competitively so trail rides are a bit of a yawn for me. But it’s always nice to climb aboard a horse and take in the scenery, especially in a setting as lovely as Irvine Regional Park.

Pony Ride at Irvine Regional Park

Sitting pretty proudly atop a rental pony (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Orange County Zoo

Contained within Irvine Regional Park is the Orange County Zoo, home exclusively to native inhabitants of Southern California. During a trip to this zoo, you can expect to see animals such as raccoons, eagles, burros, snakes, mountain lions, black bears, and others. (Small admission fee for children and adults aged 2+.)

According to Zookeeper Lauren Howell, the zoo’s residents live here because they cannot be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Many have been injured by cars, gunshot, hunting traps, or by predatory animals. Others are orphans who could not survive in the wild because they were never taught survival skills by their mothers. Some were confiscated from people who illegally kept the animals as pets.

Screech Owl at Orange County Zoo in Irvine Regional Park

Willie the Screech Owl, who is blind in one eye possibly due to being struck by a car (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Miniature Train

If visiting the park with young children, be sure to make your way over to the Irvine Park Railroad for a journey on the miniature train. Listen to commentary about the park’s history as you chug through the foothills of Orange. (Small fee per rider aged 12 months+.)

Peacock at Irvine Regional Park

Kids love a ride through the park aboard the Irvine Park Railroad (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

More to Explore at Irvine Regional Park

There are several playgrounds equipped with swings, jungle gyms, and such throughout the park. Picnic tables are also plentiful. There are a couple of on-site snack bars with affordably priced items like hamburgers, corn dogs, burritos, and ice cream. I’ve never ordered anything beyond a bag of chips and a soda because we like to pack a picnic lunch for our Irvine Park adventures.

On my three visits to Irvine Regional Park I’ve been too busy with all of the other activities to explore the park’s several hiking trails. This gives me an excuse to come back!

Playground at Irvine Regional Park

Soaring through the air on swings at Irvine Regional Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I think spending a day outdoors at Irvine Regional Park was good for my family. I know it was good for my soul. This park is now officially one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a place to connect with nature. To play. To laugh. To breathe. To take joy in the little things. Learn more about the park at their website.

Where is your favorite place to take joy in the little things? Share your thoughts in the comments!

A note from The Travel Mama: Irvine Regional Park provided my family with complimentary surrey rental, paddle boat rental, train tickets, and entrance to the Orange County Zoo on our most recent visit. My horse rental was provided by Travel Media Showcase, a conference for travel writers that I attended earlier this year. 

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Thanks for the find – we’ll have to check this place out (maybe more than once!). Looks like our kinda fun!

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Debi – It really is such a great place to go as a family to connect with nature and with each other. Let me know when you’re going and maybe we can meet you there!

  3. Well, we’re going to Disneyland again and it’s the second time so I guess this suggestion of yours is really timely for us. Would be good to be able to visit a new place hat ‘s just near Disneyland. And those pictures are really so good and interesting that I know we’ll surely be having a great time there. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. I was searching for Disneyland info and came across this site. I was looking for other things to do in California while we will be at Disneyland in September. This park looks like so much fun. Since your post was several years ago I was just curious if what you posted is still accurate information? Thanks!


  1. Tweets that mention Irvine Regional Park – For Families, For Nature Lovers, For Everyone! -- says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Colleen Lanin, Jill . Jill said: Kid-Friendly Orange County RT @TravelMamas Irvine Regional Park: For Families & Nature Lovers #kids #playoutdoors […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.