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A Guide to Orange County Great Park

November 12, 2010 12:18 PM

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ocgreatpark header A Guide to Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park (credit: ocgp.org)

Orange County Great Park is an ambition public project being developed upon the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. It is in the first phase of development and currently encompasses 27.5 acres of the 1,347-acre master plan. With outdoor art, large expanses of varied terrain, and ample space for public events, OC Great Park has the potential to become a beloved destination for area residents.

As a big fan of Griffith Park I cannot help but be excited and interested in the Great Park as it offers so many different experiences for families. There are cultural events, physical activities and educational opportunities. This is truly a great place to go to get away from the daily grind, get close to nature and spend the entire day with the fam.

Orange County Great Park
Irvine, CA 92623
(866) 829-3820
Thursday–Fridays: 10am–10pm
Saturday & Sundays: 9am–10pm
More Info

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OC Great Park Balloon (credit: ocgp.org)

The Giant Orange Balloon

Thursday–Friday: 10am–3pm & 7pm–10pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9am–3pm & 7pm–10pm
Closed on Federal Holidays
Admission is free
More Info

One of the marquee attractions of the park has to be the Giant Orange Balloon. The balloon is 118 feet tall with a volume of 210,000 cubic feet, and can hold up to 30 passengers in its 1,810-pound gondola. Flying at an altitude up to 400 feet, it is tethered to the ground by a steel cable.

Registration is required as is a signed waiver for every rider. Children under 18 must have their waiver signed by their legal guardian.

Hot tip: It is not a hot air balloon but instead operates off of helium. Little nuggets like that can be used to “teach” your children when they are doing fun stuff.

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OC Great Park Kid's Rock (credit: ocgp.org)

Kid’s Rock

Admission is free
More Info

Kid’s Rock is an area that was built for children. It is a group of structures that include climbing rocks, tunnels, and misting shade structures. This is another one of those spots that I love for my children because it is education through fun activities. While they are playing you can teach them about conservation and the water cycle.

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Farm & Food Lab

Saturday & Sunday: 10am-3pm
Admission is free
More Info

The Farm & Food Lab is yet another outstanding area. It is interactive and allows for hands on gardening of fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs. I like being able to show my children that food doesn’t magically appear on their plates and this helps me to do that.

farmers market A Guide to Orange County Great Park

OC Great Park Farmer's Market (credit: ocgp.org)

Farmer’s Market

Admission is free
Sundays: 10am-2pm
More Info

Located next to the Food Lab, you’ll find the freshest and most delicious fruits and vegetables grown locally for sale at the weekly Farmer’s Market. Parking and admission are free, and be sure to bring an empty stomach for breakfast and lunch, available for purchase.

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OC Great Park Walkable Timeline (credit: ocgp.org)

Walkable Timeline

Admission is free
More Info

The Walkable Timeline continues my theme of masking education with fun. It is as it sounds, an area that you can walk through and get a sense of some of the events that helped to shape the world and the United States.

The Timeline is currently in the early stages and there are plans to grow and expand it so that there are more interactive activities including audio and visual components.

great park carousel A Guide to Orange County Great Park

Great Park Carousel (credit: ocgp.org)

Great Park Carousel

Thursday & Friday: 10am-10pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9am-10pm
Rides are free
More Info

You can’t go wrong with a free carousel ride. It is wheelchair accessible and features hand-painted artwork inspired by vintage orange crate labels and Orange County scenes. Riders under 42″ must be accompanied by an adult. All rides free and on a first-come, first-serve basis, and may be subject to weather conditions. Check-in required at the Visitors Center.

Fact About The Carousel:

  • It has 15 different animals to ride
  • Offers rides of about 2 minutes each
  • Reaches a top speed of 4.5 mph
  • Glows at night with 1,440 light bulbs
  • Carries up to 36 riders
Joshua Wilner is a writer and father of two in Los Angeles.
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