Newport Beach: 9 activities for families

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Visiting the Southern California beach cities? Make sure you check out Newport Beach - where sun, sand and surf will keep you coming back for more!

Visiting the Southern California beach cities? Make sure you check out Newport Beach – where sun, sand and surf will keep you coming back for more!

I spent my University days in Newport Beach, California. School was nearby and I teamed up with about 500 students to share a three-bedroom flat on the Newport peninsula. I cleverly arranged all my classes for Tuesdays and Thursdays – so I had a 4-day weekend and a day off in between! I loved it … and managed to fit in earning a degree too.

If you’ve ever visited Newport Beach, you’ll know exactly how its sun, sand and surf can draw you in. Newport is addictive –  and it keeps you wanting to come back. I remember riding my beach cruiser along the miles of paved beach boardwalk and looking at the crisp beachfront holiday rentals with sand toys sprawled out front, and thinking it would be nice to visit one day with a family.

It’s been about 25 years since I lived on the Newport peninsula (on 32nd Street, right behind what was Lucky’s). We visited this summer on our tour of the Southern California beach cities and it was a pleasure reuniting myself with the beach town, and introducing my girls to its intoxicating culture.

Newport Beach for families: What to do

I was pleased to find that my daughters enjoyed many of activities I enjoyed as a college student! (well, minus the Woody’s Wharf happy hour). I’ve tailored this list a bit, but it should give you some ideas for families over a long weekend.

  1. Explore Balboa Island and get a frozen banana. You can access the “island” from a small bridge. Balboa has a Nantucket feel to it – with lots of shops, cafes, pastel-coloured homes and a view from every corner! Make sure you get a frozen banana. This treat is dipped in chocolate and smothered in your favourite topping. Not to be missed!
  2. Take the ferry from Balboa Island to Newport Pier. We did this several times. The ferry takes about 5 minutes and runs continuously. It’s a fun way to see the harbour too. There’s something about a water ferry that makes you feel you’re on holiday.
  3. Go to Ruby’s on Newport Pier. Don’t even think of ordering anything other than a classic cheeseburger and chocolate shake. Unless of course you get a date shake. I used to ride my bike here when I was at uni. So. Much. Fun.
  4. Ride the ferris wheel at the fun zone. It’s small and cute and has great views.
  5. Hangout at the beach at Corona del Mar. This beach is just a few minutes north and has gentler waves for kids so they can play safely in the water.
  6. Visit the Wedge. Named for the large wedge-shaped waves that make this a popular spot with surfers. Due to often hazardous conditions, I would only have kids get their feet wet in the waves here, but it’s fun to take a picnic and watch the professionals at work.
  7. Ride bikes on the boardwalk. Rent a beach cruiser and you can ride for miles.
  8. Take a Duffy boat ride on the harbour. These electric boats are for hire and are a great way to explore Newport Harbour. Bring a picnic and ogle the yachts and million dollars homes on Lido Isle.
  9. Eat at the Crab Cooker and Spaghetti Factory. Two of my favourites. The Crab Cooker for fresh seafood and the best Manhattan-style clam chowder (served in paper bowls). The Spaghetti Factory for the buzzing atmosphere and filling pasta (get 1/2 rich meat sauce and 1/2 Mizithra cheese). This place hasn’t changed since I worked there 25 years ago!

 

Where we stayed: The Balboa Bay Resort

We stayed at the Balboa Bay Resort, which is adjacent to the prestigious members-only Balboa Bay Club. I had only been there once before – on a date as a 21-year-old collegiate with a fraternity boy to meet his father! My date’s dad was a pilot, and I remember thinking that was really exotic.

Our premier Bay View Double queen room gave us access to the Balboa Bay Club facilities, which included a private beach with a really cool slide that went right into the harbour. We could also go to the member swimming pool and ladies changing room which had a steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. Our room had gorgeous plantation shutters that opened onto a secluded balcony with harbour views and comfy chaise lounge chairs. The beds had crisp duvets and feather-toppers – the type of thing you really notice when you crawl into bed at night after a long day at the beach). It is a great place for families and you can really feel the Newport luxury.

 

beach_9My 9-year-old’s perspective

I loved the Balboa Bay Resort! There was a mini beach with sand and lounge chairs the parents can relax in while the kids play in the water. The bay water was really nice and warm and easy to get used to. The best part was a big slide that went right into the bay! There aren’t any waves in the bay which makes it really fun to swim in. You can swim or walk along a pier to the slide that goes into the water. It’s totally entertaining and enjoyable.

 

 

Loving the Balboa Bay Club, the only full-service waterfront hotel in @NewportBeach. There's a private beach with a slide that goes right into the bay. The girls are a wee bit excited!

Loving the Balboa Bay Club, the only full-service waterfront hotel in @NewportBeach. There’s a private beach with a slide that goes right into the bay. The girls are a wee bit excited!

 

Heirloom Tomatoes, Burratta Cheese, Temecula Olive Oil, Balsamic and Arugula (aka Rocket) at Anchors & Oceans Kitchen + Bar at @balboabayresort @NewportBeach

Heirloom Tomatoes, Burratta Cheese, Temecula Olive Oil, Balsamic and Arugula (aka Rocket) at Anchors & Oceans Kitchen + Bar at @balboabayresort @NewportBeach

 

Could there be anything better than lunch at Ruby's at the very tip of the Balboa Pier? Don't even think of ordering anything other than a classic burger and chocolate shake! @newportbeach @rubysdiner

Could there be anything better than lunch at Ruby’s at the very tip of the Balboa Pier? Don’t even think of ordering anything other than a classic burger and chocolate shake! @newportbeach @rubysdiner

 

Welcome to Balboa Island! Taking the ferry from Newport Peninsula to explore the quaint streets, shops and of course get a frozen banana!

Welcome to Balboa Island! Taking the ferry from Newport Peninsula to explore the quaint streets, shops and of course get a frozen banana!

 

beach_10My 10-year-old’s perspective

Frozen bananas are soooooooooo good! They tasted amazing. We got ours at Sugar N’ Spice. First she got out the frozen bananas and took off the cling film and dipped it in melted chocolate and covered it in a topping that I chose! (sprinkles). I could tell mum was in a good mood because she let us get one for breakfast!

 

You can't visit Balboa Island in @NewportBeach w/o getting a frozen banana! This treat is covered in chocolate and then dipped in your favourite topping. It's a #balboaisland institution!

You can’t visit Balboa Island in @NewportBeach w/o getting a frozen banana! This treat is covered in chocolate and then dipped in your favourite topping. It’s a #balboaisland institution!

 

Body boarding near Balboa Pier in @NewportBeach. It was a yellow flag day with 2-4 foot swells and rip tides so chatted with the lifeguard about water safety. We decided to stay close to shore.

Body boarding near Balboa Pier in @NewportBeach. It was a yellow flag day with 2-4 foot swells and rip tides so chatted with the lifeguard about water safety. We decided to stay close to shore.

 

newport_9My 9-year-old’s perspective

We went on a Duffy electric boat in Newport Harbour. We saw a sea-lion, lots of boats, a heron, paddle boards and it was fun going through the water. My dad drove the boat. We also got to fill in an activity book and got a prize!

 

 

You can rent these cute Duffy electric boat and silently cruise Newport Harbour! They are perfect for checking out bay views.

You can rent these cute Duffy electric boat and silently cruise Newport Harbour! They are perfect for checking out bay views.

 

Perusing the menu at the Crab Cooker in @NewportBeach. It's a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves The BEST seafood, including it's signature Manhattan chowder.

Perusing the menu at the Crab Cooker in @NewportBeach. It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves The BEST seafood, including its signature Manhattan chowder.

 

It was a yellow flag day at The Wedge #balboa @NewportBeach

It was a yellow flag day at The Wedge #balboa @NewportBeach. A week after I took this pic, there were 20 foot waves due to a recent storm.

 

IF YOU GO:

Visit Newport Beach visitnewportbeach.com The official tourist site and your first port of call for visiting the Newport Beach area.

Balboa Bay Resort 1221 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663 +1 (888) 445-7153 balboabayresort.com Part of the Meritage luxury resort collection, the Balboa Bay Resort is adjacent to the prestigious members-only Balboa Bay Club. It sprawls 15 waterfront acres and is the only waterfront resort in Newport. Kids will love the private beach that has a slide that goes right into the harbour! Stuck for something to do? Patrick the concierge is full of suggestions and resources for families. And Sylvia gives a fantastic massage.

A&O Kitchen+Bar 1221 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663 +1 (888) 445-7153 balboabayresort.com The hotel’s gastropub, with stunning harbour views. All items are designed to be shared. We had Heirloom Tomatoes, Burratta Cheese, Temecula Olive Oil, Balsamic and Arugula (aka Rocket).

Ruby’s Diner 1 Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, CA 92661 +1 (949) 675-7829 rubys.com American diner at the tip of Balboa Pier.  Don’t even think of ordering anything other than a classic burger and a chocolate shake. Well, maybe I’ll let you try a date shake too. If you’re nice. 😀

The Old Spaghetti Factory 2110 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663 +1 (949) 675-8654 www.osf.com A Newport institution. Pasta, salad, garlic bread and spumoni ice cream for a tenner. Full of families wiping sand off their feet after a day at the beach. They don’t take reservations, and you will have a wait, but it’s so worth it.

Sugar ‘n Spice 310 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662 +1 (949) 673-8907 You absolutely MUST come here and order a frozen banana. They are dipped in chocolate and then coated in a topping of your choice (I picked roasted almonds and my daughters picked coconut and sprinkles).

The Crab Cooker 2200 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663 +1 (949) 673-0100 crabcooker.com Looking for the world’s best clam chowder? It’s in this tiny fish restaurant/market. It’s tomato-based Manhattan style and served in paper bowls with oversized oyster crackers. Perfect.

Duffy Electric Boat Company 2001 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 91913 +1(949) 645-6812 duffyofnewportbeach.com These charming electric boats are everywhere. They go 5 miles an hour and are perfect for cruising Newport Harbour and checking out the yachts, homes and wild life (we saw herons and sea lions).

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14 Comments

  1. 17/09/2014 / 11:23

    My kids would love this – and I would take the date shake please (haven’t had one of those for years and years…also in the USA!)

  2. Izzie Anderton
    12/09/2014 / 14:04

    Wow, looks like the perfect place to take a vacation.
    Those frozen bananas look scrummy & I’m guessing that as it’s one of your five-a-day it’s slighty more virtuous!

  3. 10/09/2014 / 07:21

    Have been very envious of your summer posts, Susanna. An area I know nothing about, brought to life for me.
    Can I freeze my bananas at home and create these treats?

  4. cassfrugalfamily
    09/09/2014 / 17:44

    That looks like a beautiful place to visit – I would love to take my family one of these days x x

  5. 09/09/2014 / 13:21

    I’ve loved your Summer posts Susanna, i REALLY want to take my kids now.

  6. 08/09/2014 / 21:22

    Hahahaha. I’m the same as Sonya. Was wondering how Newport looked so good – until I realised it was California. Beautiful post and a place that will definitely go on my travel wishlist.

  7. 08/09/2014 / 20:51

    I’m another one who thought you were writing about Wales to start with! Love that slide into the bay.

  8. Emma
    08/09/2014 / 19:57

    wow what a genius way to organise your study timetable. I tried things like that at Uni but it never worked out, I was still in most days!

  9. sriches
    08/09/2014 / 18:56

    A fantastic post!! It is making me very envious reading about everywhere you have visited this summer… best get the brochures out for next year!x

  10. 08/09/2014 / 18:25

    Oh my goodness – that looks like a STUNNING trip! How gorgeous! I’m inspired to make frozen bananas now, although I’m guessing they won’t be quite the same as in a location like that. The resort looks brilliant. What an amazing trip x

  11. 08/09/2014 / 17:16

    Haha I was also expecting Wales. Now you can’t do most of that cool stuff there.

  12. 08/09/2014 / 16:14

    I had a brief moment of thinking Wales had got proper posh, before realising it was the other Newport! Looks amazing, I would LOVE to visit Cali one of these days!