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.
Comments (8)
  1. bigjim says:

    The writer left out that their is a museum on Crown Fire Appartus that shopwcases the ONLY fire engine made here in Southern California. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, almost all of Southern California operated Crown Fire Engines plus there is very few adults today who do not remember the school bus rides on a Crown bus.

  2. Carol says:

    park sounds great, Good use of the land

  3. Roger Christofer Gade says:

    Hey Great, Another future space for protests(you name um.) yeah. Really man..

  4. Duh! says:

    Don’t forget to mention that it has been over ten years and still the Great Park is not open, not creating jobs, not bringing in tremendous amounts of tax revenue, and the dead trees are an eye sore.

    An airport would have been open by now bring in lots of tax revenue, creating many jobs (including jobs not directly related to the airport, like hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc…), and easing of traffic because you don’t have to go to LAX to fly (which by the way gives LA our Orange County tax dollars).

    1. Caroline Fisher says:

      I completely agree about the park vs. airport….the airport would have been done and doing a lot more for our economy. Spoiled South OC’ers SPOILED it all…again.

  5. Sandra Ault says:

    I think the park is great. I’ve been there for a movie in the park one fall evening. I didn’t know they had all these other activities. I love to take my grandkids to these events. Thanks Irvine for thinking of the kids first. We need places like this where the kids can run free.

  6. Jane says:

    friend, I do enjoy the manner in which you have framed this situation plus it does indeed supply us a lot of fodder for thought. On the other hand, from everything that I have experienced, I simply just hope as the actual comme ntary stack on that people today keep on issue and don’t get started on a soap box involving the news of the day. Yet, thank you for this excellent piece and though I do not necessarily agree with the idea in totality, I regard your standpoint

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