While some of you may have heard of Irvine, California, you may not know where it’s located. It’s in Southern California, nestled in the heart of Orange County. That’s roughly 40 miles south of Los Angeles.
You could say this place has always been a community with a master plan. Initially designed for just 50,000 residents, the city was laid out to include industrial and residential areas as well as recreational spaces and greenbelts. The region has been associated with the Irvine family since 1878, when it started the Irvine Ranch. But the city itself was less than half a century old when it was incorporated in 1971. That’s six years after one of the city’s major draws, the University of California, Irvine (UCI), was founded.
Like just about everything else in Irvine, even the university is young—it was founded in 1965. Today, there are 27,000 students, but more than half of the classes have fewer than 20 students. While we’re on the subject of numbers, consider that this campus was voted the greenest in the country by the Sierra Club.
As one of the city’s center points, events like university football games and theater performances aren’t just for the students, but for the entire community. With a campus that sits on nearly 1,500 acres, they need a way to get around. Like many California universities, UCI is loaded with students and bicycles, but that’s not the point—it’s where they’re going. As part of the city’s original master plan, they made sure to include easy access to the great outdoors right in their own backyard.
Irvine remains one of California’s better kept secrets. Imagine 16,000 acres of open space within the city limits alone and 54 miles of hiking and biking trails. Then there’s Bommer Canyon—protected wildlands right in Irvine. Come out early in the morning, and you’ll practically own the place.
After you’re done working up a sweat in those open spaces, you’ll want to enjoy one of the other great aspects of Irvine: the cuisine. Thanks to UCI, and partially to the booming technologies in the area, the city draws residents from around the world (especially from Asia), and they bring with them some delicious dishes.
The Diamond Jamboree hosts an array of Asian restaurants. Try a place like Yigah, which serves authentic Korean dishes. Or stop at the Curry House CoCo Ichibanya to get a taste of Japan. But one place you definitely won’t want to miss is straight from Taiwan. Smart travelers will make a trip to 85 degree bakery a priority. Why the name 85 degree? The bakery believes that coffee holds its flavor best at 85 degrees. That’s Celsius. But you don’t go there just for the coffee.
In this place, size does matter. You either go big, or you go home. Guess what? I’m doing both. I’m going big and I’m going home with my small little brioche. But that’s the point about Irvine. It is a place that only the locals know…and now you do too. While Irvine may be a master plan city, I can guarantee this place is definitely not part of the master plan of my diet. But I’m not complaining.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com