Best Park for Kids - 2009
William R. Mason Regional Park
Originally part of the Rancho San Joaquin, this 345-acre park is as close as you can get to experiencing Orange County's presuburban, unspoiled beauty and still find yourself within the city limits of Irvine, which is ironic because this is the oldest completely manmade, preplanned park in Orange County's original preplanned model community. The park opened in 1973 thanks to a gift by the Irvine Co. and is named after an executive of the development giant who died that year. Five years later, it expanded to include a lovely 9-acre lake, complete with ducks, geese and turtles. It also features an extensive physical-fitness course, a wilderness area perfect for hiking, dog-walking and bicycling trails, volleyball nets, an amphitheater, picnic tables, endless stretches of grass, and rows and rows of shade-giving trees. But most important, this park has three separate toddler areas, complete with jungle gyms.