Newport Noob
May 29, 2007 5:23 PM   Subscribe

What to do in or around Newport Beach, CA with a budget of $1,000?

My family and I will be going to Newport Beach, CA from June 9th - June 16th. We have living arrangements already setup, so we do not need to include this in the budget.

I want some ideas on where to eat, what to see, and what to do. My daughter is 4 years old, so we will be doing Disneyland, Knottsberry, and maybe the San Diego Zoo. My wife wants to go to the South Coast Plaza and check out the shopping. /bore/ I wanted to have some time at the beach, but from what I can tell, it will be too cold.

I need to know what else to do while we are up there. Any of the locals have any ideas for me?
posted by dnthomps to Travel & Transportation around Newport Beach, CA (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I disagree with it being too cold. Of course, I used to visit LA from Portland, so my idea of cold is pretty different than yours. Bring a windbreaker and a pair of khakis and go walk barefoot in the sand is my advice.

Where you are isn't really San Diego. It's more South LA/ Orange County. So you've got Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm within easy driving distance, you've got Huntington Beach and some very nice restaurants, boardwalks, etc. a few miles north of you up the coast, and you have all of the other amusements that can be found in the Orange County area at your fingertips. Once you get there and see it, you'll realize that you can hardly walk without tripping over something to do.

(My parents and I regularly shop at South Coast Plaza when I stay with them; it's just a few quick freeway interchanges from their place in Cypress.)
posted by SpecialK at 5:53 PM on May 29, 2007

4 years is about the max age for enjoying Legoland. It's a ways south of Newport Beach, but if you're thinking about going to the SD Zoo, it's closer.

Weather along the SoCal coast has been pretty crazy lately, so you never know - maybe you'll luck out and it'll warm up. Most years I would say beaching it in mid-June was a done deal but it has been unseasonably nippy of late. I'm assuming Newport weather is pretty much like La Jolla weather (since it has been every time I've been up that way).
posted by crinklebat at 6:12 PM on May 29, 2007

On a weekday, drive onto Balboa Island (at the end of Jamboree), and take the Balboa Island Ferry. Drive straight across to the parking lot near the pier. You can play on the beach for a while, and then have lunch at Ruby's on the end of the pier. You might get lucky and spot some dolphins. There's plenty of mid- and high-end touristy stuff on the island.

You can take the ferry back, or head West on Balboa Blvd, which becomes Newport Blvd. There are some good places to eat as you get closer to Highway 1. Ask the locals.

I wouldn't try this on a weekend during the summer months.
posted by dws at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: Newport Beach in June is usually overcast in the morning but by 10:00, the gray burns off and you have another warm, sparkling SoCal day. :) Layer up, and enjoy the weather. It will be much warmer and dryer than Portland.
I live in downtown Huntington Beach and can vouch for the cool surf-related museum, shops and restaurants. If you have a 4 year old, you may want to visit HB during the day, as the nights down here get pretty rowdy and are really a much more adult-oriented outing. The beach itself was iin the mid 80's this past weekend and today the weather is pretty much the same.

Be sure to visit Newport Center/Fashion Island as well as South Coast Plaza. Both are about equal in terms of fabulous shopping, with Fashion Island being closer to where you're staying. Fashion Island is mostly outdoors and kid-friendly with some cool fountains designed for kids to play on. Bring your camera and watch your 4 year old chase water droplets that pop out of the fountain.

Crinklebat is correct about the Legoland age thing - it's about an hour south of Newport Beach in the town of Carlsbad - from there, it's about another 45 minutes to the SD Zoo. If you have to choose between the two - take the zoo instead. Balboa Park (where the SD Zoo is located) is also full of museums and other great stuff for kids and adults and I would encourage you to visit at least one day and see as much as you can.

Otherwise, there's a Mummy exhibit at the Bowers museum, and plenty of other great stuff right around where you'll be staying.

Disneyland in June is best done on a weekday to avoid the crowds and get the most from both sides of the park.

Welcome to our part of the world - hope you have a great time. while you're here! :)
posted by Carnage Asada at 6:43 PM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: Also, taking the train from Irvine or Santa Ana to Balboa Park is a relaxing way to see the coast without dealing with the drive.
posted by Carnage Asada at 6:51 PM on May 29, 2007

I'll pop in with a restaurant recommendation. Try Mama D's in Newport here.
Excellent italian, the best bread ever, and definitely family friendly. Oh, and if your wife cares...tell her that they just opened the Bloomingdale's at South Coast a few weeks ago.
posted by Asherah at 8:25 PM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: Skip Knott's Berry Farm ... it's simply not worth the money, on any level. If you want to hit another theme park, head down to San Diego and go to Sea World or the San Diego Zoo.

Skip South Coast Plaza. Yeah, you can shop, but the place is visually uninteresting. If you want high-end shopping, go to Newport Center / Fashion Island. They're both malls, and somewhat equal, but Fashion Island is outdoors, at least. I see that Carnage Asada is saying the same thing.

Keep in mind that parking will be difficult around the beach areas. DWS' advice, above, is sound, but parking on Balboa will be difficult, but not impossible.

If you're at all interested in snorkeling, I would recommend a visit to Catalina Island, which you can reach via ferry from Newport Beach.

Also, drive 5 minutes south to Corona del Mar and see if you can score a firepit for an evening bonfire. And go 15 minutes south to Laguna Beach, which is a totally different vibe than Newport.

On the Balboa Peninsula, a good place to eat is the Crab Cooker. Good food, and cheap, too. Although, like everything in Newport, it can get crowded.

P.C.H. has a "restaurant row" in Newport, but only one place, Joe's Crab Shack, will be 4-year-old friendly. And it's pricy. And crowded.

By the way, if you run into trouble, the county's absolute best hospital is Hoag Memorial, right on the bluff above P.C.H. overlooking the entrance to the Newport Peninsula.
posted by frogan at 8:30 PM on May 29, 2007

it won't be cold at all.

if you want to do something extremely memorable for all, take them to torrance zampernini airfield and take them on a helicopter ride. flight development has a R44, which is the cheapest possible heli to take up four people. about 90 minutes should be plenty and you should be able to do it for less than $500 (call them to confirm, it's been a while. the guy I flew with is Simon, a very nice brit).

I recommend a helicopter because LA lives behind fences and hedges. you will be able to go pretty much anywhere you want and even just an hour should be enough to take you up the beautiful beaches past LAX (you can cross above the runways with jets landing about 1000 feet *below* you) and santa monica all the way to malibu, cut over the mansions in beverly hills to the hollywood sign (look out for eddie murphies magnificient former home) and back south past the downtown skyscrapers. there really is nothing like this to see a city as large and beautiful as LA. consider doing this either around noon or in the early evening.

yes, I realise this is not the cheapest activity around but I really do only recommend it because it is *so* out of this world cool for tourists to do there. you can choose to ask him to take out the doors (which is safe since you're wearing seatbelts) and ask him to take you anywhere you like, circle anything particular again, go lower or higher.
posted by krautland at 8:52 PM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: Seconding Balboa Island/Balboa Peninsula. Very pretty area, very pretty houses to look at, you've got the beach and the bay right there. There's a ferry ride from Balboa Island to Balboa Peninsula. There's the Balboa Fun Zone arcade area for your child. And as was mentioned, a Ruby's on the pier which can be a pretty fun place to eat, especially if it's sunny and you can sit outside, in their roof seating area. Also check out The Wedge at the end of the peninsula. Especially if it's a windy day; the waves can get pretty big and can be fun to watch.

At Balboa Peninsula you can take a harbor cruise to see the bay, or take the Catalina Flyer out to Catalina Island for the day (recommended, even though I haven't been in a while and the slightly overcast weather might not be the most ideal, but still, a neat spot. Lots of bald eagles there now I here...)

Also seconding Fashion Island over South Coast Plaza. Fashion Island is smaller but does look nicer, and I've met some out-of-towners who are "wow-ed" by the fact that it's an outside mall. I've lived in Newport Beach/San Diego all of my life, so I don't understand why this is a wow factor, but...that's what I've heard! o.O

There's also the Spectrum out in Irvine, if you want to go inland for a bit. Very large outdoors-y mall, with a very large theater, including an Imax. It can get pretty crazy-crowded though, especially on the weekends.

Also recommending the Crystal Cove State Park, which is between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. I stayed at some of the new renovated beach houses they rent there, and it was beyond awesome. But unfortunately, you have to reserve those way in advance.

Don't miss checking out downtown Laguna Beach, especially if you're into neat little artist shops. Plenty of those there!

There's also the Back Bay, which I actually never spent a lot of time at, except during the Fourth of July. Anyway, I think they've got some hiking trails and I think you can rent kayaks and jet skiis and things, but honestly, compared to Balboa Island, Balboa Peninsula, Big Corona, Laguna Beach, and Huntington Beach...yeah this would probably be last on my list. :) Great birding I here though.... Actually I probably should spend more time there!

And yes...the beaches in Corona del Mar - Big Corona and Little Corona - are absolutely delightful. But I grew up there, and am probably a little nostalgic about it. ;> Big Corona has a neat jetty which I remember was very fun to walk to the end of, when I was a kid. If you like tidepools, go check out Little Corona at low tide. The entrance to Little Corona is at the very end of Ocean Avenue and Poppy. Unfortunately, because the beach is open to the public 24 hours a day now, and has been for a while, the tidepools aren't nearly what they once were...but still a pretty neat thing to explore, especially with a child, I imagine.

Also recommending that you skip Knott's and stick to Disneyland, especially with a four-year old. Don't forget that they've got a "second park" there at Disneyland - California Adventure - though I've never been there and can't vouch for it.
posted by sbuffy at 11:21 PM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: Here's a list of some of the local restaurants that I would take out-of-townders too....

The Galley This is a place I haven't personally eaten at in ages, but I know my family still regularly goes here. I definitely recommend it for breakfast, and I think it still gets pretty crowded on weekend mornings. The location and atmosphere of the restaurant are what really makes this place fun. It's kind of hidden away on Harbor Island. Definitely kid-friendly.

The Omelette Parlour Good food, kid-friendly, fun old-timey atmosphere. Great place for lunch or breakfast.

Cafe R&D If you go to Fashion Island, I recommend eating here. Very limited menu, but their prime rib sandwich is amazing, as well as their shoe string french fries. 8)

The Spaghetti Bender - Little hole-in-the-wall Italian place.

Crab Cooker Previously mentioned, but recommended if you like seafood.

Amelia's Nice but fancy Italian restaurant on Balboa Island.

Me-n-Ed's Okay, to get away from the fancy stuff, if you just want some pizza at a very kid-friendly place, try Me-n-Ed's. Not exactly very pretty on the inside, but there's always tons of kids here, and the thin-crust pizza is delicious and different.

Mongolian BBQ Really great Mongolian BBQ place, around before Great Khan's got popular, and so much more delicious than Great Khan's. Also hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, and it's got a lot of of weird, useless crap like old mickey mouse rip-off pinatas for decoration. But fun!

Sprinkles Cupcakes All right I'm recommending this mostly because it seems to be quite the novelty right now. This place sells cupcakes, only cupcakes, four dollar cupcakes. Yeah they're great, but you will have to wait at least 15 minutes to get one, and that's on a good day. There's always a long line, and there's always tourists crowding around that line asking, are they really that good? If you really like cupcakes, yes, they are that good!

Dad's Donuts and Bakery Okay, to continue with the dessert theme, if you're on Balboa Island or Balboa Peninsula, be sure to try a Frozen Banana or a Balboa Bar. Dad's has got 'em, as does another dessert place on Balboa, and I think there's a place near the Pavilion on the peninsula. This place is mostly recommended to people who enjoyed the show Arrested Development.

America's Cup My favorite place to get yogurt in Orange County. It's a big self-serve place that's been around for years, kid-friendly.
posted by sbuffy at 12:10 AM on May 30, 2007

Oops! Shame on me for not spell-checking and link-checking before posting.

Here's the real link for the Omelette Parlor
posted by sbuffy at 12:15 AM on May 30, 2007

Seconding Crystal Cove State Park. My wife and I stumbled across it while on a Sunday drive down PCH and had a great time: she basked in the sun while I hopped around like a doofus poking at things in the tidepools.
posted by quite unimportant at 8:27 AM on May 30, 2007

I should also add that I sailed around Newport every week for a year, and there's nothing like that harbor. If you don't sail or can't charter a boat, rent a Duffy (basically a golf cart on water) and take the family for a spin.
posted by quite unimportant at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2007

Seconding the Crab Cooker. Mmmmmm...
posted by Carnage Asada at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2007

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