Even though the city of Irvine is mainly a suburb, the town has many things to offer and so does the surrounding area in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Whether you’re a new student at UC Irvine or have lived in the area for a while, here are the top six fun things to do at UCI.
The University Center is a shopping center run by the Irvine Company. The plaza is adjacent to the UC Irvine campus and can be accessed through a walking bridge accessed through Aldrich Hall. Here are some of the stores and restaurants close to UCI that you can get to within minutes by foot.
MINISO (Japanese-inspired variety store)
Sanrio (Home to Hello Kitty My Melody, Kuromi, Aggretsuko, Gudetama, and more)
3 Thirty 3 Nail Nail Bar
Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza
Blue Bowl Superfoods
Jack in the Box
Slapfish - A Modern Seafood Shack
Poke Kai, Island Ahi Poke
Regal Edwards University Town Center (Movie theater specializing in showing independent films and documentaries)
Acacia Counseling & Wellness
Mason Regional Park is just north of the UCI campus, right behind the University Town Center. This big beautiful park is 339 acres of green space lined with trees centered around a lake that’s home to a family of ducks. If you’re into scenery then you’ll love hiking the trails, the trails are also biking friendly, you’ll also find two sand volleyball courts, and a small physical fitness course with helpful instructional signs.
Mason Regional Park at UC Irvine also has a variety of amenities to take advantage of. Learn about some of them down below and on the website.
Model boat sailing
Strawberry Farms golf course
There is a $3 fee per car for entry Monday through Friday, and a $5 fee on Saturday and Sunday, the fees may be higher during the holidays but take a look at the full fee list on the website.
The park hours are:
Fall - Winter hours, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT
Spring - Summer hours, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST
Office hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Irvine Spectrum Cente is a large shopping center located just a few miles away from UCI. This shopping plaza features more than 100 shops and restaurants but the main attractions include, the Giant Wheel, carousel, movie theatre, and Irvine Improv Comedy Club. The Spectrum also is home to the first Hello Kitty cafe in the United States!
Lip Lab by Bite
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics
White House Black Market
Brio Tuscan Grille
Calfornia Pizza Kitchen
Capital Dimsum - Seafood Bar
Afters Ice Cream
Museums bring us back to moments in history so here are a couple of places to explore near UC Irvine.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western United States and features more than 130,000 works of European and American art from different time periods, locations, and styles. They also have a variety of educational programs for kids, adults, students, and teachers.
If you’re into breathtaking views while taking in art then you’ll love the Getty Center. You can find this museum on a hilltop in Brentwood with lovely views of the city. This museum features art, sculptures, and architecture from different time periods, and also features a beautiful garden area. The great thing about this place is you only have to pay for parking! Daily entrance to the Getty Center is free of charge.
The Getty Villa Museum is another great place to explore for students, it’s located in the Pacific Palisades along the Malibu coast. This location is a recreation of an ancient Roman country house with Greek and Roman art and antiquities. The large Roman-style garden is also a sight to see with the ocean breeze making it a perfect day.
One of the perks of being near the campus is the access to all of the amusement parks in the area. Here are some of the best amusement parks to check out but also remember admission tickets can be expensive so make sure to do additional research before deciding to go.
Both Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland are located in Anaheim and 30 minutes away from campus. There are so many fun rides and amenities at the park that you’ll need to carve out your entire day to get the most out of it. Check out the brand new Avengers Campus, the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, and get an aerial view with Soarin’ Around the World. At night you can check out the fireworks at Disneyland Park and meet Disney princesses.
Knott’s Berry Farm is also 30 minutes away from campus located in Buena Park. The amusement park has a carnival atmosphere with an old west ghost town theme, some of the fun attractions include, rollercoasters, thrill rides, and water rides. Knott’s Berry Farm is famously known for its annual Knott’s Scary Farm held in October, you can expect roaming monsters and haunted mazes so get together with a group if you plan on going to this event.
Universal Studios Hollywood has a variety of attractions to keep you entertained throughout your visit. You might have heard of the Studio Tour, a popular tram ride through Universal’s backlot to see where a variety of TV shows and movies are filmed.
Here are a couple of shows and movies filmed in the backlot that you may have heard of,
Back to the Future
Pirates of the Caribbean
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Don’t forget to check out the attractions at Universal! There’s so much to do at the park but here are a couple of our favorites.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Simpsons Ride
Special Effects Show
Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Jurrasic World - The Ride
Flight of the Hippogriff
Universal’s Animal Actors
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co
Cletus’ Chicken Shack
Duff Brewery Beer Garden
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
Nectar Bath Treats
Remember to plan ahead for a visit to the park to make sure you get the most out of your time.
One of the best things in the state is the beaches. The Southern California coastline has beautiful beaches along the way for you to plan a fun beach day. Pack up your sunscreen and check out a few beaches along the coast that you should stop by.
Corona Del Mar State Beach is the closest beach to UC Irvine and is operated by Newport Beach, there’s a parking fee associated because it’s run by the state, however, there is free street parking in the neighborhood on top of the cliff. It’s a popular spot for swimming, tanning, and volleyball. One of the features of this beach is the sandy coves, jetty, and cliffs. You can also get a group together for bonfires, barbecues, and making smores with access to the fire pits.
Main Beach in Laguna Beach is easily accessible through the Pacific Coast Highway. This large sandy beach features a basketball court, volleyball court, and boardwalk. The beach is also great for swimming, boogie boarding, and of course tanning. It’s also directly adjacent to downtown Laguna Beach where there’s access to shops, art galleries, and restaurants. You can also visit Heiser Park while you’re there, a gorgeous park at the top of the cliff above the beach with gazebos, sculptures, and artwork.
Huntington Beach is nicknamed “Surf City USA” and hosts the annual US Open of Surfing competition along with other surf competitions. The surfing atmosphere makes Huntington Beach great for surfing and boogie boarding, you can also go swimming and work on your tan. There’s also a large pier to walk along to take in the views of the beach and people watch. Across from the pier is the downtown area with access to a variety of shops, bars, and restaurants. If you have a dog then check out Huntington Dog Beach where dogs are able to run off leash to enjoy the sun and sand with their owners.
Don’t miss out on any chance to drive along the coast and take in the ocean views along the way, you’ll see the beach without having to worry about parking.
We hope this list was helpful with figuring out what fun things students can do at UC Irvine. When you’re looking for UCI off-campus housing think of the option below to seal your decision.