Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sunny day in a laid-back SoCal beach city like Newport Beach. Modeled after Cape Cod, MA (which I grew up visiting every year when I lived in New England) this destination offers everything a sun chaser could ask for: sand, surf, and plenty of ice cream shops and cocktail bars. There are ten distinct neighborhoods throughout the city, each offering its own unique adventures…
Although this isn’t nearly an all-encompassing guide to the city and its activities, here’s a rundown of how you can spend one sunny day in this Orange County oasis in the dead of winter and completely forget that the majority of the U.S. is most likely buried under snow.
Morning Coffee at Herst Coffee Roasters at the Trendy “Lido Marina Village”
Lido Marina Village is overflowing with a charming mix of trendy boutiques, restaurants, and lively waterside musical performances. From well-known eateries like LA-based Zinque, or Malibu-born Nobu and Malibu Farm, to village reppin’ Lido Bottle Works, there’s no shortage of places to indulge your tastes for high-class fashion and food.
I started my morning off right, with a hearty almond milk latte from Herst Coffee Roasters (formerly known as Honor Coffee Roasters). This specialty coffee shop also serves pastries, and roasts right onsite for the most freshly made brews.
Its minimalist interior design is chic and the bright decor makes you feel like you’re somewhere futuristic and exotic like Oslo, Norway- but without having to buy that transatlantic flight to travel (so you can spend the extra $$$ you saved on more coffee!!). My favorite part of this shop is the outdoor seating with views of the harbor.
Ride Beach Cruisers Along the Beach
After you’re fully caffeinated, it’s time to go for a bike ride on a classic beach cruiser. There’s a bike path which runs most of the way along the beach from North of the Newport Beach Pier to West Jetty View Park which is long and flat- perfect for oceanside exploration paired with a some exercise. There are bike rental shops at every corner, and you can’t go wrong with any of the locally owned options. I love looking at all of the beautiful houses which line the beach along the bike path and look out onto the ocean.
Explore Balboa Island (and get a Balboa Bar)
Next, it’s time to explore Balboa Island. My favorite way to get to the island is via the Balboa Island Ferry- a car ferry which charges $1 per human, $1.25 per bike, and $10 per car (as of when this article was written). It runs from 6:30 am until midnight, (2:00 am on weekends and during summer), and you pay with cash once you’re onboard. Balboa Island is a man-made island with a plethora of restaurant choices, quaint boutiques, and souvenir shops to browse, as well as a walking path adjacent to some more of the cutest houses I’ve ever seen.
THE MONEY IS IN THE BANANA STAND. On Balboa Island be sure to grab a Balboa Bar or signature Frozen Banana at one of the equally tasty and historic shops: Dad’s, and Sugar ‘N’ Spice– which happen to be 100 feet away from each other on the main road, Marine Avenue. Although they’re always engaged in friendly competition, both have stood the test of time and continue to bring happiness to each visitor on the island. Still curious about the origins of these frozen banana booths? Read more about each shop’s individual history, here.
Ride the Ferris Wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone
After ice cream, take the ferry back across the harbor to the mainland and stop at the Balboa Fun Zone– which has been open since 1936- and is right off the dock. This miniature amusement park hosts a ferris wheel which offers fantastic views of the Newport Harbor and Pacific Ocean as well as a variety of classic arcade games. The ferris wheel is $5 per ride, or $40 for 10 rides (this value card never expires!).
Embark On A Boozy Dinner Cruise
Now that you’ve had the chance to relive the ultimate childhood vacation with an ice cream bar and a ride on the ferris wheel, it’s time to transition back to adulthood with a sunset cruise around Newport Bay. There are many different companies to host your cruise experience, and ours included a glass of wine along with the price of a ticket which was much enjoyed. There are also brunch cruises, dinner cruises and honestly just about any kind of cruise you can think of- we even saw a wedding reception cruise while we were on our trip.
Enjoy a Nightcap Lido House’s Waterview Rooftop Bar
Following the cruise, check out one of the local bars like Lido House’s Topside Roof Deck, as of right now the only rooftop bar in Newport Beach. It’s a great place to catch an incredible sunset, and people watch. After the sun has set you can continue the shenanigans downstairs at the The Mayor’s Table inside Lido House- located on the site of the old City Hall.
Now that you’ve spent a (warm) winter day at sunny Newport Beach, make sure to return during the summer when there are just as many activities (if not MORE!) to enjoy including hiking, beach-going, and experiencing a day on one of the city’s signature “Duffy Boats.” More to come on that, later….
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