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The 20 Best Things to Do in Newport Beach, CA for First Timers

Newport Pier

Newport Beach is a coastal city in southern California. It is a popular tourist destination because of its beaches, harbor, and waterfront attractions. While it is best known for everything along the coast, this city also boasts upscale restaurants, fantastic shopping options, and historic or cultural attractions. This means that there is something for everyone who chooses this city as their vacation destination. To plan your visit and avoid missing out on the activities or attractions that appeal to you the most, here are the 20 best things to do in Newport Beach, CA for first-timers.

Crystal Cove State Park

20. Take a Stroll or Spend the Night at Crystal Cove State Park

A peaceful place to enjoy the coastal location of this city is Crystal Cove State Park, says Time Out. This is a two-mile stretch of beach between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. During the day, it is a popular place for exploring tide pools and canyons. People also visit to take a walk along the beach or the cliffs. There is also a campsite within Crystal Cove State Park, so you can reserve a spot and spend a night feeling close to nature.

Fashion Island

19. Enjoy Some Retail Therapy at Fashion Island

Newport Beach is an excellent place for shopping, and one of the top spots to enjoy some retail therapy is at Fashion Island. This is a vast shopping mall that boasts four department stores, along with various brand outlets and boutique stores. It is a one-stop place for you to do all your shopping while visiting the area. There are also several dining outlets within the mall, so you can grab a bite to eat while you are there.

Balboa Pier

18. Dine at Ruby’s on Balboa Pier

Newport Pier is not the only pier in Newport, as Balboa Pier is also a popular spot to visit. This pier is most famous for being the original location of Ruby’s, which is a local diner chain with a 1940s theme. You can take a stroll along the pier, then stop for a burger at Ruby’s when you reach the end. Due to its position at the end of the pier, one of the best features of Ruby’s is the ocean views.

Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery

17. Go to Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery

California is known for its excellent wines, and the best place to try these in Newport Beach is at the Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery. Located in the Upper Newport Bay area, this is a small vineyard that produces five tons of red wine grapes during each September harvest. Visitors can take tours of the vineyard and winery for a group of eight or more people at a time. The tour is concluded with a two-hour wine tasting session. The tasting consists of an estate and Meritage tasting and a single varietal tasting.

Newport Beach Brewing Company

16. Enjoy Food and Drink at the Newport Beach Brewing Company

You will find the Newport Beach Brewing Company in the Old Delaney’s Seafood Market in the historic Cannery Village. This brewery was established in 1995, and they make award-winning beers. You can try their beers on tap in their bar. The brewing company also has its own restaurant, so you can enjoy a bite to eat while drinking a refreshing beer. It is a casual dining venue that sells sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and salads. They host regular game nights as they have huge televisions all around the bar and restaurant.


15. Try Paddleboarding

A fun activity to try during your visit to Newport Beach is paddle boarding. If you have never tried this water activity before, then you can book a one-hour lesson. This will give you the chance to learn the basics of this fun activity and also about marine safety and navigation. Those who have experience of paddleboarding can hire a paddleboard and take to the water on their own.

Gondola Adventures

14. Take a Boat ride with Gondola Adventures

While you are visiting Newport Beach, you should take the opportunity to enjoy the water. One way to do this is to enjoy a ride on a Venetian gondola, which you can book with Gondola Adventures. There are several options available, including a romantic cruise along the Newport Harbor or a cruise with a singing gondolier. You can sail along the water in your gondola while watching the sunset, drinking champagne, or enjoying a picnic lunch or dinner. This is one of the best activities to enjoy if you are looking for something romantic to do during your stay.

Sherman Library and Gardens

13. Explore the Sherman Library and Gardens

Located in Corona Del Mar, the Sherman Library and Gardens is a 2.2-acre public botanical garden. It was established by Arnold D. Haskell in 1955 when he bought a plant nursery. He named the library and gardens after M.H. Sherman, who was his mentor. During your visit to this attraction, you can stroll around the conservatories that contain tropical plants and through seasonal flower beds. There are also fountains and patios. The gardens are divided into different areas including a rose garden, a cactus and succulent garden, a Japanese garden, a herb garden, and a fern grotto. In the library, you will find materials that relate to the history of the Pacific Southwest.

Pete and Mary Muth Interpretive Center

12. Visit the Pete and Mary Muth Interpretive Center

Lonely Planet recommends a visit to the Pete and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. It is a 10,000-square-foot education facility that has been open since 2000. The focus is on the history of the center, and visitors are encouraged to learn about this through a variety of interactive displays. The facility is built into a bluff on the north side of the bay, and visitors can take guided walking tours. The center is divided into sections, including a movie theater, activity rooms for children, a live reptile and amphibian display, and a butterfly garden.

Balboa Fun Zone

11. Have Fun at the Balboa Fun Zone

Those who are visiting Newport Beach as a family should spend a day having fun at the Balboa Fun Zone as this is the top family attraction in the city. You will find this amusement park along East Bay Avenue on the Balboa Peninsula. The park was built by Al Anderson in 1936, and it initially consisted of just a Ferris wheel and a small beach. Now, it boasts a range of amusement rides, with something for people of all ages. There are also arcades, harbor cruises, and the 1905 Balboa Pavilion.

Environmental Nature Center

10. Learn About the Natural Area at the Environmental Nature Center

The Environmental Nature Center consists of a collection of 15 environments of plants native to California. The center was founded in 1972, and it is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. There are walking trails that take you through plant ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Some of these include a redwood forest, an oak woodland, a desert area, and a freshwater marsh. The center focuses on educating people about these natural ecosystems and the plants and wildlife that you will find within them. Some of the programs at the center include a butterfly habitat and a nature museum where visitors can touch and explore things.

Balboa Village

9. Go to Balboa Village

Located on the Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Village is a popular place for tourists to visit because it boasts a range of amusements and amenities. There are boardwalks on each side of the peninsula, and these are lined with restaurants, shops, and activities. Some of the activities include amusement park rides, art galleries, and yachting.

Newport Beach

8. Have Fun at Newport Beach

The most popular beach for sand-based activities is Newport Beach. It has fine sand beaches and a paved trail that runs for several miles behind the beach. People flock to this beach to enjoy activities including sunbathing, volleyball, skating, biking and walking. People also enjoy water-based activities at this beach, including swimming, fishing, surfing, and boating.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

7. Explore Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

If you enjoy exploring natural environments, seeing wildlife, and spending time outdoors, then one of the best parts of the city to visit is Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Also known as The Back Bay, it is an estuary and coastal wetland that covers approximately 1,000-acres. Many people visit this preserve for bird watching, and this is because it is a stopover for 35 thousand birds that travel the Pacific Flyway. Other popular activities at this preserve include hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Orange County Museum of Art

6. See the Art at the Orange County Museum of Art

The best attraction for art enthusiasts to visit is the Orange County Museum of Art. The permanent collection boasts more than three thousand pieces, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. At this museum, you will also find a section devoted to new art media, such as video art, installation art, and digital art. There are temporary exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year, and this venue is also used to host a variety of events and outreach programs. Check what is on before you visit.

Newport Pier

5. Newport Pier

One of the most notable features of this city is Newport Pier. The Pier was completed in 1888, and it was originally called McFadden Wharf. Although its original purpose was for shipping, it became a recreational and residential pier in 1902 when it was sold to new owners. The original pier was then destroyed in 1939 by a hurricane, and the current pier replaced it a year later. It is now a popular place for a walk, photography, fishing, and dining.

Corona Del Mar State Beach

4. Spend Time at Corona Del Mar State Beach

The coast along Newport Beach is amazing, and one of the best beaches for you to spend time at is the Corona Del Mar State Beach. According to Vacation Idea, this beach was established as a state park in 1947. It is a stunning beach that is lined with cliffs and a rock jetty that marks the entrance to the city’s harbor. It is a popular place for families visiting the area to spend their time, and it is also a fantastic place to enjoy the water. People enjoy swimming, surfing, scuba diving, and many other water-based activities at this beach.

Balboa Island

3. Visit Balboa Island

There are several manmade islands off the coast of Newport Beach, and the best one to visit is Balboa Island. It is a charming island that has the feel of a harborfront village along the East Coast. There is a 1.6-mile boardwalk around the coast of this small island that is lined with shops and places where you can enjoy snacks or a meal. Although you can reach the island by driving along Marine Drive, the best way to get to the island is by taking the ferry as this adds to the experience. Some people take the ferry ride as an activity without even visiting the island.

Pelican Hill Resort

2. Enjoy the Amenities at Pelican Hill Resort

If you are looking for the best accommodation in this city, then you should consider Pelican Hill Resort. However, you do not have to stay at this hotel to enjoy the amenities as they have many facilities that are open to the public. Some of the amenities that the public can enjoy include a full-service spa and a golf course with its own golf academy.

Whale Watching

1. Go Whale Watching

According to Time Out, one of the best activities in Newport Beach, CA for first-timers to enjoy is whale watching. Newport Beach sits along the Pacific Ocean, and this is a migration ground for blue, humpback, and gray whales. At the harbor, you will find several companies that offer reasonably priced whale watching tours. The boats sail from the harbor out into the Pacific ocean, and you can watch these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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