It’s easy to figure out the highlights to hit in LA or San Diego, but what is there to do in the space between? The answer is: Orange County — and don’t call it “The OC” — that was a TV show. Locals just call it “OC” without the “The.” At the center of Orange County lies Irvine California, where the Women in Travel Summit will take place from March 18-20, 2016.
If you’re attending the Women in Travel Summit, then you’ll be looking for things to do and places to go between all of the networking and informational panels included in the conference.
Hotel Irvine, the official venue of the Women in Travel Summit, is pretty much in the center of Irvine.
OC spans south to San Clemente’s surfer beaches, east to the Santa Ana Mountains – most notably Saddleback Ridge, and north to Seal Beach’s ocean pier. Miles of inviting coastline stretches all along our western reaches.
From Irvine, everything is within 20-30 minutes away not taking into account the ever-present SoCal caveat of: “depending on traffic.”
Exploring Irvine, California from Hotel Irvine
You can stick close to Hotel Irvine for a good taste of the whole Southern California experience. I drew up a custom map so you can make little escapes whenever time allows — or maybe you’ll be able to arrive or depart early to spend some extra time exploring?
To get a sense of distance, it’s a little less than 2 miles along Jamboree from Michelson at the top of the map to Barranca at the bottom — and approximately a half mile between Harvard and Jamboree.
On the sunny day when I parked my car at Hotel Irvine to research what was within walking distance for you, I headed out on a surprisingly pleasant walk between big buildings:
I had no idea I’d stumble upon the yummy and local poqetDonuts. You have to try the Butter Salt donut, so simple yet so decadent. Pictured, you can see the Lemon Meringue which was not just sweet but citrusy and tart, a Tiramisu and Nutella donut. I’m sure I will need to do further research and if the ready-made are not appealing, you can create your own by picking glaze and toppings.
Poqet was only a 5 minute walk which took me past the San Diego Creek Trail portion of the Mountains to Sea Bike Trail. As you are walking towards Harvard from the hotel, the mountains are on your left and the creek leads to the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve on your right.
If you have the time, I’d recommend borrowing one of the 3 bikes with a bike lock and helmet that you can check out from the hotel on a 1st come, 1 serve basis — or rent one for the day for about $30 from Jax Bicycles.
Take the trail away from the mountains and make a stop at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary and continue on through the scenic Back Bay Drive while keeping an eye out for local birds and wildlife. When you get to the end, you can keep going to Balboa Island and even take the Balboa Island Ferry over to the Balboa Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean.
Get Off the Map
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Expect it to be very busy on the 17th, but it’s worth a visit anytime. Try my favorite authentic Irish pub, Muldoon’s, a neighborhood hangout in Newport Beach. Or you can travel down the road at The Auld Dubliner of Tustin which has more of a sports bar flair.
In-N-Out Burger. You can fulfill your secret menu cravings at one of two nearby locations. There’s one at the corner of Barranca and Jamboree. And also one up at UCI Marketplace which is the college-y retail & restaurant area across from the University of California at Irvine.
Breakfast or Sunset Cocktails at the Beach. Crystal Cove State Park is one of the most beautiful and protected places on the coast. You can try to spot dolphins and gray whales from Ruby’s Shake Shack on the bluff or hang out at the Beachcomber in Crystal Cove’s Historic District. Perfect for beach walks, tidepooling, and getting into the laid back California feel. Parking is pricey but Beachcomber validates when you eat there. If you don’t have a car, there’s always the option to use Uber.
The Best Mexican Food. This is a hot button issue in SoCal where we have national chains, local chains, and hidden hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I put 2 fish taco restaurants on the map: Wahoo’s and Rubio’s. But I love to bring friends to Avila’s El Ranchito in Lake Forest — just a little south of Irvine.
Where Families Can Play. Take the stroller and walk to many of the parks on the map. Even if you don’t have kids, a visit to Victory Park shares interesting displays of history about the gigantic blimp hangars and former El Toro Air Station. Try something entirely different at the new Irvine Adventure Playground which isn’t too far away and 100% free.
TBS is a media partner with the Women in Travel Summit. Members save 10% on their ticket. Visit your member’s perks page for a discount code.
Michele Whiteaker blogs about local outdoor activities in Orange County on FunOrangeCountyParks.com and family-friendly outdoor travel in the western U.S. at NaturePlayTrips.com.