Best of Newport and Balboa
Image by WPPilot under Creative Commons License.

Best of Newport and Balboa, Newport Beach, California (A)

This guide visits the major beaches, restaurants, and attractions that make the Newport Beach and the Balboa Peninsula a destination tourists come to see from all over the world. The guide starts in Lido Village, moves to some of the city's most popular restaurants, the Dory Fishermen at the pier, then cruises along the scenic boardwalk to the attractions in Balboa.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Best of Newport and Balboa
Guide Location: USA » Newport Beach
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles
Author: Scott Weber
Author Bio: Scott is a native Californian and a longtime resident of the Southwest. He gets out to explore as often as he can and writes about his adventures through his website, short stories, articles and screenplays.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Lido Theater
  • Cannery Restaurant
  • Crab Cooker Restaurant
  • Dory Fishermen and Newport Pier
  • The Boardwalk, 15th Street, and Newport El
  • The Balboa Pier and Balboa Inn
  • Balboa Performing Arts Theater
  • Balboa Pavilion
  • Newport Harbor Nautical Museum
  • The Fun Zone
  • Ferry, Balboa Island, and Harbor Cruises
1
Lido Theater

1) Lido Theater

The Lido Theater opened in 1938 with the premier of “Jezebel,” starring Betty Davis. It was a very big deal and the envy of some of the more famous Hollywood theaters. But when you’re Betty Davis and you live a few miles away in Corona del Mar, you can probably twist a few “studio-arms” to get your way. This is a wonderful landmark that continues to welcome visitors to Newport Beach. The theater has been completely restored right down to the Catalina Tile at the entrance, the sitting parlor in the ladies room, and the parlor stools. The theater has 410 seats downstairs and 212 in the balcony., and from the minute you walk up to the small box office located outside the lobby, you know they’ve attended to every detail. From the Grand Marquee, the manually dispensed tickets, and the hand-painted murals inside the theater, this is a delightful place to spend a couple of hours. Even the popcorn tastes authentic. Independent films seem to be the staple here, but they are very active with the Newport Beach film festival as well as the occasional surf and skateboard movie making the rounds. The theater is open everyday.
2
Cannery Restaurant

2) Cannery Restaurant

This building has been a landmark in Newport Beach since 1921. Perched on the bay near the entrance to Lido Island, this part of the harbor was the hub of the fishing industry and this structure housed the Western Canners Company, the largest cannery in the area and they were capable of hand processing 400 cases of fish a day. As the years passed and the population grew, the combination of over-fishing and offshore pollution made commercial fishing unprofitable and in 1966 the cannery closed. In 1973, the building was remodeled and opened as The Cannery. They are a full service restaurant and bar and also have an all-weather patio on the bay. They are capable of hosting private parties or wedding receptions and can accommodate as many as 375 guests. And if you’re out for a sail, you can tie-up at one of their docks and come in for happy hour. They’re open everyday for lunch and dinner.
3
Crab Cooker Restaurant

3) Crab Cooker Restaurant

No trip to Newport Beach is complete without a visit to the Crab Cooker. This iconic restaurant and been satisfying customers since 1951, and they claim to have the world’s best clam chowder. Don’t be put off by the crowds, small tables and paper plates; the Crab Cooker grills fish like no one else and it’s definitely worth the wait. All they serve is fish and they’ve perfected their menu to satisfy everyone’s taste. They also have the best bread sticks on the planet. The hodge-podge restaurant décor honors fish, fishing, fish songs, and there’s even a great white shark hanging from the ceiling. They have a lunch and a dinner menus, but if you don’t have time to stay for a meal, stop at their fish market and pickup some chowder and smoked albacore. Their motto is: “Eat lots a Fish.” Hours are 10am to 10pm everyday, but arrive before six to avoid the crowds.
4
Dory Fishermen and Newport Pier

4) Dory Fishermen and Newport Pier

The Dory Fleet Fish Market opened in 1891 when an enterprising fisherman, tired of selling his fish to wholesalers, began marketing to the public on the beach. The market sits next to the Newport Pier and has its own unique charm. The dory fishermen go out early every morning, weather permitting, to catch fish and bring them to market. Don’t be surprised to see restaurant chefs here at the crack of dawn to get the catch of the day. The site was recognized as a historical landmark in 1969. The Newport Pier is 1,032 feet long and is also a registered historical landmark. Built in 1891, it was originally named McFadden Wharf after one of the local landowners. At one time, the local railroad system ran onto the pier at it served as the only port for the county’s booming citrus industry. And like most of the piers in Orange County, rumrunners used it to drop off liquor during Prohibition in the 20’s and early 30’s. The pier is now used solely for recreation activities.
Image by WPPilot under Creative Commons License.
5
The Boardwalk, 15th Street, and Newport El

5) The Boardwalk, 15th Street, and Newport El

The wide concrete boardwalk extends from 36th Street at the north, to E Street south of the Balboa Pier, and it is a major thoroughfare for pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters. It’s a scenic 20-minute walk from pier to pier and you’ll stroll past some of the city’s most unique oceanfront homes. This section of Newport Beach is called the Balboa Peninsula and was named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. This is a major tourist area in the summer so wear your bathing suit and enjoy the activities. As you head down the boardwalk to the Balboa Pier there’s a great beachside burger stand at 15th Street with tables in the sand. A few blocks more is the Newport Elementary School, where at the envy of every kid on the planet, these children spend their recess on the beach playground. The school is reminiscent of early 20th Century elementary schools and hosts after school art’s programs for children interested in dance, theater, and visual arts. Around the front are several beautiful mosaic tile murals.
Image by Goosebbb76 under Creative Commons License.
6
The Balboa Pier and Balboa Inn

6) The Balboa Pier and Balboa Inn

This is the second of two piers in Newport Beach and was built to lure homebuyers to the newly developed peninsula. It also anchored the southern end of the Red Car Line that ran from Long Beach down the coast. The pier has never really had any commercial value, but it remains a popular fishing spot and there’s a restaurant at the end to grab a burger and fries. The pier is open from 5am to midnight. At the base of the pier and the entrance to shopping district is the Balboa Inn. Built in 1929, the Inn has been the number one hotel on the peninsula and although it’s been remodeled several times, it stills has many of the original features. The Inn has 11 oceanfront suites, banquet and special events facilities, and their own restaurant. The weather is best in the fall and so are the rates.
Image by Epolk under Creative Commons License.
7
Balboa Performing Arts Theater

7) Balboa Performing Arts Theater

Originally a vaudeville house, and at one time run by the infamous Madame LaRue, the Balboa Theater was built in 1928 on the site of the fire ravaged Rendezvous Ballroom. It opened as the Ritz Theater and was considered to be the most advanced theater facility in the area. Its popularity grew not only because of the risqué entertainment, but it also housed a speakeasy during prohibition. It received the name Balboa Theater in 1939 and made the transformation to a movie theater. Throughout the years, their isolated location and meager ticket sales forced the owners to explore a multitude of entertainment options. They even tried it as an art house, adult cinema, classics, and had a 10-year run of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The theater finally closed in 1992. New ownership, coupled with support from the Orange County Performing Arts Center, have championed a revitalization of this old classic and live entertainment is coming back to the Balboa Theater. The facility is expected to reopen in 2012.
8
Balboa Pavilion

8) Balboa Pavilion

The Balboa Pavilion is probably the most recognizable landmark in Newport Beach and is the city’s oldest standing building. Completed in 1906, the Pavilion, like the pier, was constructed to attract real estate buyers to the newly constructed bay. A lot of money went into turning what was once a swamp and dunes into a very desirable beachside community. The 65-foot high building was finished in time to coincide with the completion of the Red Car Line from Long Beach. The ballroom is very spacious and in the early years Big Bands would come to play and this was the place to come on Saturday night. Now, the Pavilion houses a nice bayside restaurant, their docks anchor a fleet of sport fishing boats, and it’s the terminal for the Catalina Flyer, the only shuttle to and from Avalon. At night, 1,500 lights dress up the old beauty and it can be seen for miles.
Image by WPPilot under Creative Commons License.
9
Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

9) Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum is nestled in the middle of the Balboa Fun Zone. They have 2 facilities open and plan to expand even more. One of the major attractions is their superb collection of model ships. They also feature an interactive exhibit called “Sea of Adventure” where you learn about the past, present and future of nautical exploration. They also have a “touch tank” aquarium where kids get a first hand experience of life under the sea. Historic photographs are displayed throughout the museum to document the history of Newport Beach. The museum prides itself on their education programs and continues to support nautical and environmental awareness. The museum is open Wednesday thru Sunday from 11am to 5pm and is closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for kids.
Image by VYGOcommons under Creative Commons License.
10
The Fun Zone

10) The Fun Zone

Like most coastal communities in Orange County, Newport Beach tried to do something different hoping attract the legions of beachgoers and vacationers coming from Long Beach and Los Angeles. When the Red Car Line was completed, thousands of visitors flocked to Newport Beach and Balboa and the merchants weren’t about to let a good thing get away. Beach cities always thrive in the summer and Balboa was no exception. The Fun Zone was built in 1936. It had a Ferris wheel, carousel, an arcade of games, and with the ballroom and theater nearby, this was a very popular place for families and couples alike. It still is, although compared to how many entertainment options we have today, small theme parks have become a thing of the past. There are some great restaurants and bars in the area and one shop still makes old-fashioned salt-water taffy. This is also a popular spot to watch the Christmas Boat Parade. Hundreds of boats circle the bay and it’s really something to see.
11
Ferry, Balboa Island, and Harbor Cruises

11) Ferry, Balboa Island, and Harbor Cruises

With three boats crossing the 1,000-foot waterway every 5 minutes, the Balboa Island Ferry has been shuttling cars, pedestrians, and in the summer, throngs of beachgoers and junior lifeguards since 1919. This is the easiest way to get back and forth from Balboa Island especially in the summer when traffic on the peninsula grinds to a halt. Fares run $2 per vehicle, $1 per adult, and $.50 for kids. It’s always nice to get on the water and if you’re inclined to take the short walk to Balboa Island’s two-block shopping district and taste the “Original Frozen Banana” dipped in chocolate, give it a go. Next to the ferry are several outfits that offer boat and personal watercraft rentals, harbor cruises that circle the bay, and a sport fishing fleet that offers a variety of day trips and also has whale watching trips in season.
Image by David Eppstein under Creative Commons License.