Newport Beach, California
Trendsetters, jetsetters, and beach lovers in the know have been taking advantage of Newport Beach's Southern California coastal charms - both vintage and nouveau riche - for decades. There's the ritzy harbor most folks will only dream of parking a yacht in; beachside "bungalows" worth many, many millions; a shopping district so chic, Rodeo Drive looks discounted; and, oh yes, an utterly magnificent stretch of beach. This wide bed of sand, silky and blonde, rolls south from Newport Pier to Balboa Pier, and plays host to diehard surfers, serious sunbathers, trendy twenty-somethings, and families young and old. Sitting by a weathered pier, gazing past wooden lifeguard stands toward a fiery sunset, one can't help but wax nostalgic for days when Beach Boys records and long boards were all the rage.
Surf seekers will be thrilled to discover the beach eventually runs south into a jetty, forming the notorious Wedge, where waves reach heights of 25 feet and break in a mere 2 feet of water. Visitors hoping for tamer pastimes may opt to mark their territory elsewhere along Newport's otherwise tranquil 3-mile stretch of sand, or even visit Newport Harbor, home to 10 yacht clubs and 10,000 yachts. Considered to be among the world's finest small-craft harbors (with price tags to prove it), Newport Harbor is well worth exploring. Perhaps the most amusing way to see the old haunts of former locals John Wayne, Shirley Temple and George Burns, is via a gondola tour. Otherwise, try the more classic harbor cruise.
The bustle of Newport certainly doesn't stop at sundown. Strolling historic Balboa Pavilion, taking a spin on the Fun Zone's Ferris wheel, or loosening purse strings at one of many spectacular restaurants and rowdy pubs will more than satisfy night owls. When the urge to sleep does arrive, Newport is ready to meet your weary needs with cozy inns and posh hotels.
Web Site: www.dorymansinn.com
From its Victorian designs and rich mahogany undertones to the French and American antiques, Doryman's Inn is a striking display of vintage bed-and-breakfast charm. The inn's 10 rooms are exquisitely decorated in warm colors with lush hanging ferns to accent floral bedspreads and draperies. No detail has been overlooked at Doryman's. Italian marble sunken tubs are requisite in each room, hand-painted floral borders add an elegant touch and authentic Victorian wallpaper lines the walls. Brass and iron canopy beds lie in the midst of rare antiques, including gilt-edged mirrors and a dining table for two. The inn rests mere steps from the beach and features the on-site restaurant, 21 Oceanfront, a famed dining establishment noted for its marvelous ocean views.
Best Luxurious Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach
Web Site: www.fourseasons.com
Few hotels execute superior quality quite like the Four Seasons Newport Beach, rated among the world's finest hotels. The 295 rooms, including 83 spectacular suites, feature private balconies and elegant, unpretentious decor. Pampered guests can unwind with massages in private spa treatment rooms, while body buffs will enjoy a poolside fitness center complete with iced towels, Evian spritz service, and personal television headsets for workout equipment. Relaxing by the hotel's pool deck is exceptional - a pool bar with thatched roof graces the area, and a 17-foot outdoor fireplace is lit nightly to keep guests cozying up with sunset cocktails warm. Eight poolside cabanas dot the deck, and dataports and telephones are available at every set of lounge chairs. The renowned on-site restaurants will satiate hungry travelers while nearby shops and golf courses entertain.
Best Family Hotel
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
Web Site: www.newportdunes.com
A family campground that's sure to please everyone, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort has been called "the Ritz of RV parks" by the L.A. Times with sound reason. Set among 100 acres lining Newport's gorgeous Back Bay, the resort is home to more than 400 oversized RV sites with full hookups. With a boardwalk, beach, resort marina with boat rentals, volleyball, horseshoes, swimming and biking close at hand, nary a dull moment will be found at Newport Dunes. Group activities capture the interests of the little ones, and include movies and potluck suppers. Parents will appreciate the Village Center, where a convenience store, laundry facilities and even a spa can be found. Families can dine in the relaxed atmosphere of the Back Bay Caf��, and the nearby "Pirate Playground" is a hit with kids of all ages. Newport Beach's restaurants, shops and galleries are all within walking distance.
Food & Drink
Blue Beet Cafe
Web site: www.thebluebeet.com
With the promise of sultry blues and live music every night, crowds of midriff-baring, sun-kissed beach beauties and a warm atmosphere rivaling any small-town bar, the Blue Beet Cafe is Newport Beach's not-to-be-missed nightspot. Antiques and a menagerie of 1940s collectibles, gathered over nearly 100 years of business, decorate the brick walls. And the upstairs, outdoor patio is the perfect people-watching venue. The bar food is reliably delicious, but even better is the montage of martinis offered. From the Danny Bear to the infamous Malibu Slut, locals agree that they never leave disappointed.
Best Waterfront Atmosphere
Web Site: www.21oceanfront.com
Fiery streams of color burst over the Pacific Ocean, enchanting visitors and locals alike with every magical Newport Beach sunset. Capturing the splendor of these moments are the brilliant views offered by 21 Oceanfront, one of the area's finest restaurants. Located across from the Newport Beach Pier, the famed establishment offers a classic decor, rich with burgundy colors, well-oiled leather and shiny mahogany. Slip into the Sunset Room or the "Club 21" ocean-view bar for notoriously fine views of the sea. The chef's classic Escargots Bourguignonne and a divine Baja Pink Abalone will awe even seasoned diners. A vast wine list and impeccable service are added bonuses.
Best Newport Original
Web Site: www.rubys.com
Kids and adults alike will fall in love with Ruby's, a diner oozing 1940s Southern California charm. Now a bustling chain of diners throughout the region, Newport's own Ruby's at the end of famed Balboa Pier is the original, and retains the kitschy charm to prove it. Burgers, shakes and fries (aren't these life's staples?) fill the menu, and locals will tell you that Ruby's Fish Tacos have even changed lives! Save room for dessert ... the Banana-Pecan Sundae is a dream come true. And heck, it can be walked off with a post-dinner stroll around the pier.
Best Kid Stuff
Balboa Fun Zone
Web Site: www.thebalboafunzone.com
For more than 50 years, the old-fashioned Fun Zone has been welcoming families with its towering Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and pinball and skeeball arcade games. Whether spinning 'round on the carousel, munching cotton candy or strolling the Balboa Pier, the Fun Zone lives up to its name. Adjacent to the Fun Zone, Balboa Pavilion beckons visitors with its historical lure. Big Band legend Benny Goodman played at this former bathhouse. The historic pavilion is now the boat terminal for informative harbor cruises on the Pavilion Queen and Pavilion Paddy, boat trips to Catalina Island aboard the Catalina Flyer, and whale-watching excursions to fascinate the entire family.
Best Day Trip
Crystal Cove State Park
Web Site: cal-parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=644
A secluded beach stretching some 3.5 miles, an official "underwater park" teeming with reefs and 2,000-plus wooded acres for exploring make Crystal Cove State Park a remarkable escape from the crowds and bustle of Newport Harbor. Tidepools and coves delight visitors to the beach year-round, though rangers advise exploration of these during winter, when lower tides present clearer views of the aquatic life. Carved into the park's ridges and canyons are more than 23 miles of mountain biking, horseback-riding and hiking trails, many of which feature steep, rocky climbs. So be prepared for a workout, and don't forget to bring a camera. These trails offer truly unforgettable vistas of Signal Peak, Saddleback Mountain and the Pacific Ocean.
Best Maritime Museum
Newport Harbor Nautical Museum
Web Site: www.nhnm.org
Old salty dogs, take note! With a harbor that's home to some 10,000 boats, 10 yacht clubs and a notable maritime history, Newport Beach has become one of the leading yachting locations in the world. Bringing together the town's colorful heritage is the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, located on the stunning 190-foot paddle wheeler, the Pride of Newport. Three onboard museum galleries include the History of Newport Beach, the Model Gallery, featuring ships of the Pacific, and a Grand Salon that hosts ever-changing exhibitions. Recent highlights include "Submarines From Nemo to Nuclear" and "Hot Yachts, Ocean Racers From Topsails to Turbos." The museum also pays homage to the famed Newport Dory Fishing Fleet, the last remaining dory fleet on the West Coast.
Best Island Adventure in Walking Distance
Web Site: www.balboa-island.com
A 5-minute ferry ride to Balboa Island, in the middle of Newport Bay, transports visitors into a precious island village chock full of charm and friendly locals. Marine Avenue is the heart of the island's shopping district with marvelous boutiques and galleries. When the munchies strike, indulge in the delectable "Balboa Bar," made of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate. If a more substantial meal is in order, Amelia's restaurant promises tasty Italian entrees, fresh seafood and a casual family atmosphere. The two-mile walk around the island's perimeter is requisite and offers views of the harbor's yachts and the island's bayside bungalows and million-dollar mansions. Newer residents cringe upon learning that the island's original plots of land sold for as little as $250. This stroll turns into a romantic stroll as evening falls and twinkling lights of the Fun Zone and Balboa Pavilion appear across the water.