Explore Irvine Park Railroad: A Family Haven In California

A mom and dad set out a picnic blanket while their daughter and toddler son run under it before a visit to Irvine Park Railroad

Irvine Park Railroad is a beautiful park in Irvine, California with plenty of activities and attractions for the whole family to enjoy! Whether it’s a family bike ride, a train ride around the park, or a visit to the zoo, there’s always something fun to do – and in the winter, it transforms into a beautiful Christmas wonderland. Keep reading to learn more about this totally unique attraction right here in our backyard!

A young boy looks through a magnifying glass with help from mom and dad in a park

About Irvine Park Railroad

1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869

Irvine Park Railroad was the passion project of two childhood friends, John Ford and Steve Horn, who grew up together and spent their summers working at the snack bar in Doheny State Beach. After years of renting out bikes and beach gear and selling treats, they eventually decided to take over rentals and concessions at Irvine Regional Park. As more and more guests began to visit and their business grew, they decided to add more activities and attractions for families to enjoy. In 1996, they founded Irvine Park Railroad. Today, over 25 years later, Irvine Park Railroad is a destination for families, full of exciting attractions, delicious food, and special events.

A mom shares a moment with her toddler daughter under a tree before visiting Irvine Park Railroad


Irvine Park Railroad has fun activities and outdoor adventures for the whole family to enjoy. The Railroad itself is a ⅓ scale train that takes kids and grown-ups on a beautiful ride throughout historic Irvine Regional Park. In the winter, it transforms into a Christmas wonderland (but more on that a little later.) 

Other attractions in the park include bike rentals from Wheel Fun Rentals, offering a variety of unique recreational vehicles the whole family can enjoy! The park is also home to several trails of varying difficulties, perfect for a beautiful hike with views of Irvine’s diverse wildlife.  

The Orange County Zoo is another popular draw for Irvine Park Railroad, with 8 acres of natural habitat exhibits that are home to animals like black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, and more. You can even get up close and personal with sheep, pigs, chickens, goats, and pheasants at the petting zoo! 

A mom and her toddler daughter walk through a park trail at sunset holding hands


Every holiday season, The Irvine Park Railroad is transformed into a beautiful – and highly popular – Christmas experience. It’s a separately ticketed event, but one that the entire family will enjoy. 

The Christmas Train operates in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It picks up riders from Santa’s Village, an area dedicated to festive activities like cookie decorating, ice fishing, photo opportunities, and so much more. From there, you’ll ride the train to the North Pole, where children can meet and have their pictures taken with Santa! Then, you’ll take the train back to Santa’s Village to finish your visit on your own time. 

Then, in the four or five days following Christmas day, the railroad transforms into the Train of Lights, taking visitors on a one-mile ride amidst thousands of twinkling lights. White Santa and Mrs. Claus will already have returned back to the North Pole, the Train of Lights is a wonderful way to make the magic of the Christmas season last just a little bit longer. 

Tickets to The Christmas Train and the Train of Lights sell out quickly every year, so if you want to make it a part of your holiday tradition, you’ll need to be thinking ahead. Tickets typically go on sale several weeks before the event window opens, so be on alert in early November. When you buy a ticket, you’ll reserve a time slot for your visit; just note that if you miss your window, you’ll be unable to change your reservation. 

A toddler boy in a tan sweater plays with a stick with dad in a park before visiting Irvine Park Railroad

Irvine Park Railroad

Irvine Park Railroad is a wonderful place for families to gather, explore, and have fun. While there’s always something to do year-round, it’s an extra special place during the holidays! Be sure to check their website for info on the Christmas Train well ahead of time to secure your tickets! 

As a photographer, I love having fun and capturing those contagious smiles. That is why I focus on working with families. So check out more of my work in my portfolio. Then, let’s chat about creating special moments with your little one!

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