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Family-friendly things to do in Newport Beach

Family playing on the beach

Ready for some fun in the sun? Head to Newport Beach, CA , the haven for families who love sand and surf. It’s also a mecca for surfers and boat lovers. In fact, there are plenty of things to do with family in Newport Beach, from visiting idyllic islands to whale watching to attending top annual events like Newport Beach Independence Day on the Bay and the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. There are excellent dining and shopping destinations as well, designed to make  your Newport Beach family vacation especially memorable. 

Located on the coast of Orange County, California, Newport Beach covers over 23 square miles of land and 29 square miles of water. Huntington Beach lies to the west of Newport Beach, while Costa Mesa and the City of Irvine can be found along its northern border. East of Newport Beach, you can find Crystal Cove State Park, one of the many things to do in Newport Beach with kids.

The city was named Newport in 1870 following Captain Samuel S. Dunnells’s successful navigation of a 105-ton river streamer through a bay that was once considered too treacherous to travel.  The main landowners at the time, James and Robert McFadden, were excited by the inaugural voyage, musing about the possibilities a “new port” would bring the coastal property they owned. The name stuck.

In 1888, the McFaddens decided to move their shipping operations from the inner bay area to the oceanfront where they built a wharf. The McFadden Wharf became one of the largest businesses in the newly minted Orange County, according to the Newport Beach Historical Society. 

Today, Newport Beach is one of the most desirable places to live in California, as celebrated for its natural beauty as the chill, high-end lifestyle it purveys. More than 86,000 people call Newport Beach home. Their median income in 2021 was $142,463, which is significantly higher than the national average of $70,784 during the same period.

While the largest industries in the city are professional, scientific, and technical services, followed by health care and social assistance and finance and insurance, it’s clear that Newport Beach will always be about sun, sand, surf, and living an affluent, family-friendly  lifestyle.


Things to do 

Searching for Newport Beach things to do with your family? You’ve come to the right place. There’s sure to be something for everyone, from harbor cruises and a Ferris wheel, to swimming, surfing, and even hiking.  

  1. Take the Newport Beach harbor cruise 
  2. selfie of mother and daughter

    No Newport Beach experience is complete without a harbor cruise. You can rent an electric boat at Lido Electric Boat Rentals and gaze at the gorgeous waterfront homes and yachts. These boats are very easy to operate, so you can drift along the harbor. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of the occasional wildlife. 

    Under the Dock & Dine program, you can simply dock your boat and take your pick from the many nearby restaurants. Sample the clam chowder or grilled scallops at Harborside Restaurant in Balboa Village. Bluewater Grill at Lido Park offers oysters and crab cakes, while Woody’s Wharf at Balboa Peninsula offers excellent fish and chips and fish tacos. Dine in one of these restaurants or from the comfort of your boat.  

  3. Ride the ferris wheel at Balboa Fun Zone
  4. The Balboa Fun Zone may be a small boatyard turned park, but it more than lives up to its name. No matter what age you are, you’ll want to ride the ferris wheel for gorgeous panoramic views of the Balboa Peninsula. It only costs $5 and kids below 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The ferris wheel opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m.  

  5. Browse hundreds of stores on Fashion Island
  6. If you still have some energy after dinner and your kids don’t need to sleep early, head to Fashion Island, an outdoor shopping hub with over 125 stores, ranging from department stores and boutiques to designer outposts. There are also water fountains, park areas, and a koi pond for your kids to enjoy, as well as restaurants and movie theaters like The Lot.  

  7. Shop, eat, repeat at Lido Marina Village
  8. Looking for upscale shopping and dining? Head to Lido Marina Village in the western harbor area. You’ll fall in love with its ocean views and piquant charm. There are many places to shop here, such as vintage shops, boutiques, and accessory and jewelry stores. 

    Chains like Warby Parker are also here, alongside smaller shops like Charlie and Me, which sells pet supplies. Need a haircut or want to work out? Head to the nearest salon or fitness boutique. 

    Of course, Lido Marina Village also offers excellent dining options. Indulge in high-end sushi at Nobu, or dig in to farm-to-table goodness at Malibu Farm. Parents who enjoy a glass of wine will be thrilled to know that Lido Bottle Works and Zinqué have a deep wine list and excellent tapas. 

Places to visit

happy family

Explore tide pools 

  1. Take the ferry to Balboa Island
  2. Take the scenic route to Balboa Island. A ferry will bring you to this small, man made island that’s linked by a bridge to Newport Beach. You can’t leave without trying the island’s two famous desserts, the Balboa Bar, an ice cream bar coated in candy and the Frozen Banana, which is dusted with toppings like nuts, sprinkles, and cookie crumbs. Head straight to Sugar ‘N’ Spice or Dad’s Donut and Bakery Shop to sample these toothsome treats.

    Once your sugar rush wears off, rent a kayak, paddleboard, or sailboat to enjoy some family-friendly fun with your kids. You can also rent bicycles and cycle around the island, which only spans 0.2 square miles.

    Check out  the independent restaurants, shops, and boutiques on Marine Avenue, the island’s main street. The quirky shops feature coastal and nautical themes as well as art, fashion, and jewelry that complete the beach bohemian vibe. Other than seafood, you can choose from Mexican, Italian, and French-Swiss cuisine.    

  3. Discover sea anemones and tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park
  4. Crystal Cove State Park is known for its rolling surf, sandy beaches, and tide pools. Expect damp and foggy mornings that give way to bright, sunny days and cool evenings. If you’re an early bird and would love to eat breakfast on the beach, head to Beachcomber Cafe for excellent food and stunning beach views.

    Crystal Cove State Park is home to striped shore crabs, sea anemones, and sea hares. You can also walk among the oaks, willows, and sycamores at the seasonal Moro Creek. If you’d like to stay for more than a day  at Crystal Cove State Park, you can rent a cottage or pitch a tent at coastal or backcountry campsites. There are backcountry trails where you can hike, bike, and even ride a horse.

    Some of the cottages have been converted into quaint shops that you can also check out.  

  5. Spend the day at Corona Del Mar State Beach
  6. Swimmers flock to Corona Del Mar State Beach for its calm surf. If sunbathing is more your thing, there’s a half-mile-long stretch of sand to choose from, so you’ll be sure to find the perfect spot. Tourists love this beach because it’s clean and well-kept.

    If you’re looking for a scenic backdrop for your family photo, there are towering cliffs that surround the beach. 

    Corona Del Mar State Beach is also a good place to picnic, play volleyball, or just hang out. If you bring your own wood and fire starters, you can even use a fire pit, but be aware that they’re first-come, first served.

    Planning to stay until sunset? Go to Inspiration Point, an overlook that can be found just south of the beach.

    For lunch, there are many restaurants just a few blocks away. Pet owners can bring their dogs to the beach before 10 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. If you have a car, you’ll need to pay a parking fee if you opt to use the paid parking near the beach, but aside from that, Corona Del Mar State Beach is free to enter.   

  7. Play in the alcoves of Pirate’s Cove Beach
  8. You can find Pirate’s Cove Beach on the west side of the parking lot of Corona Del Mar State Beach. Like the previous beach, the water is also calm here, making it a great place to swim. Pirate’s Cove Beach is also called Rocky Point Beach due to the unique rock formations that can be found in the cliffs behind it. There are many large cave alcoves where your children can play and pretend to be pirates.   

  9. Ride the largest waves at the Wedge (for skilled surfers only)
  10. woman holding her surf board

    For skilled surfers, there’s no better place to go than the Wedge, which is known for some of the largest waves in Southern California, some reaching as high as 30 feet. There are strong rip tides and currents at the Wedge, which is why it’s not suitable for novice swimmers and young children, although they’re more than welcome to lounge on the beach. Aside from surfers, body surfers and people who love riding wave runners also frequent this beach.  

    Admire the massive houses and stay for the sunset view. There’s also an excellent vista of nearby Catalina Island.

    Only street parking is available near The Wedge, so when it gets crowded during the summer, it’s better to walk or bike to the area if you don’t want to waste time looking for parking. 

  11. Wander among books and blooms at the Sherman Library and Gardens
  12. girl picking flowers
    After all that fun in the sun, it’s time to do something different. Arnold D. Haskell founded the Sherman Library and Gardens in 1966 in order to foster cultural learning and education. Now, the botanical garden boasts of over 100 species of plants. In addition, there’s a succulent garden, a rose garden, and a tea garden, as well as a koi pond and small hidden waterfalls. There are also colorful tile fountains that can soothe restless souls.

    The tea garden houses a creperie where you can enjoy your thin pancakes in an outdoor setting. Sample the French dishes at Café Jardin while you gaze at the stunning flowers that surround you.    

    The Sherman Library and Gardens was built for ecological conservation and also assists in preserving biodiversity. The gardens alone span two acres. 

    The library contains books about the history of the Pacific Southwest.

    The Sherman Library and Gardens is also a favorite venue for festivals, art exhibits, and yoga classes, so make sure to check their website for a schedule of upcoming events

     The library is open from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays, while the gardens are open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. In the summer, the garden is open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Adults must pay a $5 admission fee while children 3 years and younger can enter the library and gardens for free. 

Experiences not to be missed 

  1. Sunset at Newport Beach
  2. man on the sunset

    Sunset is a special occasion at Newport Beach. Head to Inspiration Point in Corona Del Mar for a stunning view of the Newport coast and pier. There are many benches for you to choose from and you can even head down the path, where you’ll find more benches and stone bleachers. If you keep on going, eventually you’ll reach Pirate’s Cove, Little Corona, and Big Corona beaches. 

    Want to avoid the sunset crowds? Go to the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, more commonly known as Back Bay. This place spans over 1,000 acres of well-preserved wetlands. Traverse the Back Bay Loop before sunset and enjoy a calm, unhurried walk while you bask in the glory of Mother Nature. 

    For 180-degree views of the pristine Newport coastline, head to Pelican Point, which can be found on a cliff on top of Crystal Cove. Go to the circular platform and find a spot on one of the benches. Once you’ve taken your seat, relax and let nature do the rest.

  3. Whale watching
  4. Newport Beach is a premier whale-watching destination because whales pass through this spot all year round. The gray whales migrate south in winter and early spring in order to give birth to their calves. Come April or May, they’ll be headed north again along with their calves, so this is the best time for whale watching if you want to see some young whales.

    Blue whales swim around Newport in the summer and fall, but some lucky visitors have also seen minke whales, humpbacks, and even the occasional dolphin. July is the best time to catch a glimpse of these affable creatures. 

    Expect to pay around $25 to $40 for a standard whale watching trip, and over $50 for a VIP ticket, which grants you a seat next to the captain.

    Allot at least two hours for a whale watching tour. Most boats, which have huge observatory decks, snack bars, and restrooms, leave from the pier at Palm Street, which can be found on Balboa Peninsula, next to Balboa Fun Zone.  

  5. Orange County Wine Fest (parents only)
  6. Just a stone’s throw away from the Newport Beach Golf Course, you’ll find Costa Mesa, the venue for this year’s Orange County wine fest. Get a babysitter so that you can fully indulge in up to three hours of wine tasting. Over 30 wineries that are expected to pour well over a hundred wines. Enjoy full-bodied red wines or indulge in a crisp white vino.

    You must be at least 21 or above to attend the Orange County Wine Fest, so make sure to leave your kids safely at home.

  7. Newport Beach International Boat Show
  8. Come to the Newport Beach International Boat Show to see stunning yachts and experience electrifying live entertainment. Perhaps no other event highlights the luxe lifestyle that can be found at Newport Beach, which comes alive during this time. If you get hungry, dine at one of the many nearby restaurants.

    When you get tired of gazing at boats, you can also go shopping at one of the numerous trendy boutiques. Once you’ve tucked your kids into bed, you can come back and hang out at a sponsored lounge.    


Photo portrait with her pets

Are you ready to experience the many Newport Beach activities for families? Get in touch with me, Ariana Trenev. I offer expert guidance and concierge-level care. I also exert all possible effort to get the best price for my luxury real estate clients. I have over a decade of experience and deep knowledge in luxury real estate and I’m consistently ranked in the top 1.5% of Realtors nationwide. My clients appreciate my personal touch and constant communication. Buying or selling a house, or even just doing research about a neighborhood like Newport Beach can be complex and time-consuming, but I strive to streamline the process at every step of the way in order to provide a seamless experience for my clients.   

They love my aggressiveness and negotiating skills. If you want a tiger in your corner, I’m the woman to call. I am also a consummate professional who is always responsive. Whether you’re buying or selling your luxury home, you can count on me to give you a wonderful experience. I make sure to communicate clearly and manage my client’s expectations. 

If you want to learn more about living in Newport Beach and the housing options available to you,  I’m more than happy to answer your questions. Get in touch with me today at 949.524.2387 or   contact me here.


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