Family Fun: Day-cation Guide to Newport Beach

Newport Dunes Waterpark, Photo by Ashley Erikson

Summer is officially over for the Burbank Unified School District, but the heat is just beginning to climb.  Escape to cooler weather on the weekend and have a family day-cation in Newport beach.  Here’s your guide to all things fun under the sun!

Balboa Fun Zone
Along the harbor side of the Balboa peninsula is an outdoor fun zone featuring rides, an arcade, food, stores, and water rentals. It’s also home to the oldest ferris wheel on the water in California.  Other rides include the Happy Swing, Coconut Climb, and Ocean Motion, where you are placed into a harness and can jump high enough to see the whole harbor. Here you can also rent jet skis, boats, and take a parasail ride off the cost of Newport beach.

Ocean Motion ride at Balboa Fun Zone. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Balboa Island & Ferry
Across the peninsula is Balboa Island, a man-made area of houses, vacation rentals, cute shops, and food.  You can drive your car right onto the Balboa ferry for just $2.50 and get your vehicle transported to the island.  Marine street on the other end of the island is where you’ll find all the shops and eateries. Or you can take the ferry as a pedestrian passenger for $1.50 and $0.50 for kids.  Once across, you can pick up some fresh fruit from a local stand, and stroll the island while admiring all the decorated beach houses and quaint streets along the way.

Balboa Island. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Davey’s Locker Whale Watching
At the end of the harbor, just adjacent to the Balboa Fun Zone, you’ll find Davey’s Locker whale watching cruises. They depart all year round, so there is always something to see out on the water. They have six vessels ranging from 15 to 115 passenger limits that sail out all through the day. The most common sightings are dolphins which surround the boat in big pods, using the waves to cruise and jump through the water. It’s also common to see giant blue whales in the summertime and gray whiles in their migration from winter to spring. The crew is very knowledgable and are all trained and certified naturalists through the American Cetacean society, so they share fun facts about the species you’re seeing during the trip.

The cruise is about 2.5 hours and such a great experience if you’ve never seen a whale or large pod of dolphins before. They’re offering 50% off ticket prices to our readers, just put in the promo code ‘Insta50’ at or call 949-675-0550.

Common dolphins spotted on Davey’s Locker cruise. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Newport Dunes Waterpark
This is Newport’s best kept secret! You can stay do a Newport Dunes overnight stay at their beachfront RV sites or rent one of their cottages near the water.  Here you can also rent standup paddle boards, kayaks, duffy boats, and pedal boats, but the best thing you can do is experience the inflatable water park, only open during the summer through September 30. You won’t believe how much fun you will have!

Your hourly reservation includes a life jacket and then you swim off into the bay to play you’re way through an inflatable waterpark. Here you’ll find a giant iceberg, multiple slides, a jungle gym, floating trampoline, obstacles, floating monkey bars, and so much more. Every where you look, people will be jumping, flipping, and a lot of the time, falling, into the water, It’s the best hour on the water you’ll ever have.

Newport Dunes Waterpark. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Dine at Harborside
Harborside restaurant has award-winning seafood and a great view of the waterfront.  You can sit in the saloon and enjoy the longest happy hour you’ll ever find.  Get great deals on drinks and appetizers Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 6:00pm and even longer on weekdays. It’s located right where you off board the whale watching cruise, so if you’re hungry and craving seafood after the 2.5 hour trip, this is the place to go.

Balboa Pier & Beach
On the other side of the peninsula, just a few minutes walk from the harbor, and where all the parking lots are located, you’ll find the Balboa pier and beach. Take a stroll down the pier and watch people bring in the catch of the day as they fish off the rails.  At the very end of the pier you’ll find one of the last Ruby’s Diners left, which is open daily until 8:00pm.

On both sides of the pier stretch miles of sandy beaches. Newport is known for its surfing community, so it’s a great place to catch some waves or just spend the day on the shore, swimming and building sand castles.

Balboa Beach. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Don’t Forget a Frozen Banana
You can’t think about Balboa Island without thinking about a frozen banana, they just go hand in hand. Sugar ’n Spice is a landmark and the original frozen banana stand on Balboa Island, having just celebrated their 75th anniversary. If you’re not on the island and still want a frozen banana, you can pick one up at Balboa Beach Treats, located in the Balboa Fun Zone.

Watch our VIDEO REEL showcasing a Day-cation in Newport Beach here!