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Visitors Info

Visitors Info

Open to the public, the Balloon Park prototypes the kinds of spaces, programs, and features that reflect the Orange County Great Park’s dedication towards historical preservation, sustainable practices, and family-friendly activities.

Recycled runway concrete, a bio-swale, low water turf, solar lighting, citrus plantings, and native shade trees, can be found throughout the landscape’s design.

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Great Park Balloon
For up to date flight information, please call 949-724-6599.
Great Park Balloon
Thursday–Friday: 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.

The Great Park Balloon is the Orange County Great Park’s iconic attraction. With the ability to hold up to 25 to 30 passengers and soar 400 feet above the surrounding landscape, it serves as a public observation deck for the Great Park’s development and offers an unmatched 360° view that spans 40 miles on a clear day.Beginning January 16, 2014, the Great Park launched a new standard pricing structure for the Great Park Balloon designed to provide more opportunities for families, children, and large groups to enjoy the iconic Great Park attraction.Great Park Balloon:

  • Adults (19 and older): $10
  • Children (12-18 years old): $5 without paid accompanying adult
  • Children (18 years old and younger)*: Free with paid adult
  • Family & Friends Pass: $40 for five adult flights

*Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult on Balloon flights.

Ticket purchase and check-in is required at the Visitors Center. Riders under 42” must be accompanied by an adult. Availability to ride is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and may be subject to weather conditions.
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Great Park Carousel

Thursday–Friday: 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.

Featuring hand-painted artwork inspired by vintage orange crate labels and Orange County scenes, the Great Park Carousel is a favorite for kids of all ages. Rides on the Great Park Carousel are approximately two minutes long, reaching a top speed of 4.5 mph. Carrying up to 36 passengers, the Carousel is also wheelchair-accessible.

Beginning January 16, 2014, the Great Park launched a new standard pricing structure for the Great Park Carousel designed to provide more opportunities for families, children, and large groups to enjoy the iconic Great Park attractions.

Great Park Carousel:

  • All-Day Pass: $3
  • Single Ride: $2
  • Family & Friends Pass: $20 for 10 all-day passes


Check out Free Sports Equipment at the Visitors Center

Monday-Wednesday: Closed
Thursday-Friday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

You can check out a football, soccer ball, Bocce ball set, Frisbee or jump rope and play on the many acres of open lawn around the Great Park.

Palm Court Arts Complex

The Palm Court includes the Great Park Gallery and Great Park Artists Studios, housing a publicly-accessible artists-in-residence program. Preserving El Toro’s World War II era atmosphere and architecture, the Palm Court now serves as the Park’s cultural campus, supporting the development of fresh and interdisciplinary, public arts programming.

Farmers Market

Every Sunday: 10 am–2 pm (rain or shine).

Shop for a variety of fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, breads, flowers and plants, and other items from local artisans. Breakfast and lunch from gourmet food trucks are available for purchase. Video

Kids Rock

Kids Rock is inspired by and focused around educating young guests about conservation ecology and the water cycle (condensation, precipitation, accumulation, evaporation). A group of misting shade structures, climbing rocks, “underground tunnels,” a seating area made from recycled runway concrete, and illustrated lakes and streams on recycled rubber flooring, come together to form an educationally unique and environmentally conscious space that is safe, fun, and relaxing.

Special Events

House produced signature events (concerts and dances, workshops, outdoor movies, and more) bring year-round activity to the space—a commitment to the public that the Orange County Great Park remains open during its development. Find out more by visiting our upcoming events page, signing up for email updates (on the right), or by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Farm + Food LabOpen daily from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.The Farm + Food Lab is a hands-on gardening experience, featuring themed planters with fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs. A “Pizza and Spaghetti Garden,” for example, shows how ingredients and toppings look before they are made into sauce. Other themes include: an “Ethnic Garden,” “Fruit Salad Garden,” and a “Sensory Garden.” The Farm + Food Lab is maintained by the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. We love groups of 6 or more and are happy to accommodate them, however, please RSVP by calling 949-724-7418 to ensure we have the right amount of resources and supplies.

Reflecting Ponds and Viewing Pier

A pair of reflecting ponds and a 2,200 square-foot redwood viewing pier near the Marine Way entrance now welcomes visitors to the Great Park. The reflecting ponds connect to the Walkable Historical Timeline and link the South Lawn Sports + Fitness Complex with the Great Park Balloon. The reflecting ponds and additional storm water retention ponds are the first water features at the Great Park.

Walkable Historical Timeline

The Walkable Historical Timeline spans 2,604 feet and includes 162 historical milestones and serves as a natural connection between the Great Park Balloon and the reflecting ponds and viewing pier. The Timeline begins at 13,000 BC with Humans Reach the Americas and concludes with 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall. A future expansion of the Timeline will include contemporary historic milestones. Two University of California, Irvine Professors Emeriti of History developed the historical milestones highlighted on the Timeline, Keith L. Nelson and Spencer C. Olin.

Learn more about the history of the Orange County Great Park. Click here to view the Handbook.

Heritage and Aviation Exhibition

The Heritage and Aviation Exhibition is located in historical Hangar 244 and features historical images, displays and artifacts that tell the story of the Great Park from its agricultural roots to its role in the military as a Marine Corp Air Station.


The exhibition includes:

  • World War II Airplanes – N3N-3 Canary and SNJ-5 TExan
  • Airforce C-135A Stratolifter Memorial – In honor of United States Airmen and Marines who perished in the Loma Ridge crash departing Marine Corps Air Station El Toro on June 25, 1965
  • History Room – Transport back in time to WWII
  • Farmers to Flyers – Learn significant events that transformed Irvine’s agricultural land into an active military base

Exhibition Hours:

Thursdays & Fridays: 12-4 p.m.
Saturdays & Sundays: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Note: Exhibition hours may occasionally vary due to private events. Please call (866) 829-3829 for up to date information.

Free admission. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions and answers that might help you plan your visit. We’ll be adding more popular topics in the near future. For further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact the Visitors Center (see below).


How do I get to the Great Park?

Is there a charge for parking?

How much does it cost to ride the Great Park Balloon?

How much does it cost to ride the Great Park Carousel?

Are there age restrictions or requirements for riding the Balloon?

Are there age restrictions or requirements for riding the Carousel?

Are there bike or jogging paths in the Park?

Can I reserve space for a birthday party or private gathering?

How can I arrange to rent park space for a large event at the Great Park?

How can I receive regular updates about Great Park events?

Are dogs permitted?

Is smoking allowed?

How do I arrange a group visit or field trip?

Need more info? Contact the Visitors Center at (866) 829-3829 (toll-free) or send an email.

Phantoms Phorever

Art + Language at MCAS El Toro

Phantoms PhoreverPhantoms Phorever: Art + Language at MCAS El Toro is an exhibition that investigates the relationship between twentieth century art and popular culture by showcasing the work of six photographer/archeologists who comprise the Legacy Project. The arresting oversize photographs in this exhibition depict found site specific art works made between 1943 and 1999.

These images, reproduced on vinyl and installed in the Great Park Visitors Center, were created by U.S. Marines serving under demanding circumstances and subsequently documented by fellow artists connected with the Orange County Great Park Legacy Project in the course of innumerable photographic surveys of the 4700 acre El Toro site. The photographs selected for this exhibition were culled from the Legacy Project archive of nearly 200,000 images of El Toro air base as it transitions into the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century.

Phantoms Phorever: Art + Language at MCAS El Toro celebrates the memory of Jerry Burchfield (1947-2009), Legacy Group co-founder, and honors co-founders Mark Chamberlin and Clayton Spada as well as Jacques Garnier, Robert Johnson and Douglas McCulloh for their eagerness to journey into the artistic equivalent of harm’s way for nearly a decade while ranging through MCAS El Toro’s hangars, runways and support buildings with cameras at the ready.