20 Things to do in 2020
Yes, a lot of Newport Beach’s best activities revolve around the coast. But what many visitors don’t know is that there’s so much more to be found here. World-class golfing, an exciting cuisine scene, inspired shopping experiences and magical holiday moments. Experience the very best of Newport Beach in every season with this essential checklist of 20 Things to do in 2020.
Hike the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
With ample natural beauty and plenty of bird-watching opportunities, the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve can be enjoyed year-round. But hike the bluff and the bay trail loop during March and April, and you’ll be treated to a views speckled with colorful wildflowers. (Psst: don’t forget to pack your phone or camera!)
Stop at the Balboa Fun Zone and take the Ferry to Balboa Island.
This amusement area has everything you need for a fun, family-friendly afternoon—a waterfront ferris wheel, an arcade and game room and so many nostalgic breach treats. Right next to the Fun Zone, you’ll find the Balboa Island Ferry, which has been operating since 1919. Sure, you can technically drive over to Balboa Island, but where’s the fun in that?
Play a round of golf at Pelican Hill Golf Club.
With vistas of undulating hills and a vast ocean, Pelican Hill’s awarding-winning courses feel like a loving ode to the sport. And once you’re there, it’s difficult not to get swept off your feet. There is a reason, after all, the place was rated the world’s top golf resort in Condé Nast Traveler readers’ choice survey. If you’re not already a pro, take advantage of the club’s golf programs and lessons.
Attend The Newport Beach Film Festival.
As any film buff will tell you, the Annual Newport Beach Film Festival has evolved to become one of the city’s signature cultural events. The festival takes place between April 23-30 this year, and will screen the year’s best in foreign and American contemporary filmmaking. Plus, some of the area’s best eateries will be serving bites at the event’s 15 parties—all the more reason to spring for a ticket.
Meander through Sherman Library and Gardens.
With a lush garden growing over 1,000 different plant species, a tropical conservatory (with a koi pond) and a rose garden, Sherman Library and Gardens is a great place to explore in Springtime. When hunger strikes, grab a seat at “Cafe Jardin,” where an al fresco situation puts you in direct view of the central flower gardens.
Attend the Summer Concert Series.
Every local knows that once summer hits, and The Bank of the West Summer Concert Series makes a comeback, Friday evenings get a lot more interesting. Every year, music lovers come together to enjoy world-class music, fine wine and dining at the intimate Back Bay Amphitheater of the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. And this year, you should, too.
As one of the more unique activities in Newport Beach, glow tours allow folks to experience stand-up paddleboarding at night. Underneath a dim sky, the boards (equipped with LED lights) create a glow underneath and light up the surface of the water in a way that’s truly magical.
Paddle your way through the season.
Tired of the drudgery of the gym? One of the best ways to get some exercise, fresh air and sunshine is to navigate the waters via a kayak. The Back Bay Newport Aquatic Center, Southwind Kayak Center, Sunset Kayak Rentals, Balboa Kayaks and Paddleboards and many others provide hourly rentals you can take advantage of. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
When in Newport Beach, spending the afternoon on a boat is a quintessential thing to do. Don’t worry about packing dips and cold rotisserie chicken sandwiches in zip locks. Don’t panic if you forget the drinks. A handful of waterfront restaurants will allow you to dock your boat, hop off for a meal before resuming your boating adventure.
Taking up surfing.
Or learn to. Or try to learn to. There are a number of pro surfing instructors around town ready to help you hone your skills, regardless of your experience level. And if you end up giving up on the idea, you can at least watch other surfers at The Wedge—a spot reserved only for surfing daredevils who are brave enough to tackle big, mind-boggling waves.
Hit the beach
Spending some time at the beach is an obvious check-list item, but what many newbies in town don’t know is that Newport Beach’s pristine waters are best enjoyed in the fall, during what we call “locals’ summer.” (AKA that time of year when tourist crowds dwindle). From Corona Del Mar State Beach to Crystal Cove State Park, there are plenty of open beaches and stretches of sand to welcome you and your beach towel.
Right around fall, Roger’s Gardens transforms into a Halloween-lover’s paradise. There’s a new theme every year, and plenty of reasons (think: intricately decorated corners, one-of-a-kind merch and whimsical displays) to wander and get into the Halloween spirit.
During the summer months, this coastal parkland draws hordes of visitors exploring the trails that wind into the foothills on foot and bikes. But if you swing by when the temps drop ever so slightly around October, you’ll likely have the place to yourself. Explore the Crystal Cove State Park Historic District—a collection of rustic beachfront cottages—before hunkering down at the Beachcomber Cafe for a burger and a cold one.
Shop at Lido Marina Village and Fashion Island.
Both Lido Marina Village and Fashion Island are a must-visit for those who love embarking on long shopping crawls punctuated by lunch-and-cocktail breaks. These shopping destinations are enjoyed year-round, but something about open patios and the fall breeze really enhances the experience. (Plus, with all the deals going on, it’s a good time to get your holiday shopping done early).
The Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival has been garnered national attention since 2014, drawing a slew of celebrity chefs to its exclusive program. The multi-day event features bites from dozens of high-end restaurants and over 250 varieties of wines—plus VIP events, cooking demonstrations and tasting panels you won’t want to miss.
… not just for the frozen bananas, but for the festively decorated storefronts that line Marine Ave. It’s also important, if not necessary, to note the Newport Bay waterfront estates also put on a show with decorations and light displays. So slip into your walking shoes and peruse every corner of this picturesque neighborhood with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.
Brightly kicking off the holiday season, the event touts a full itinerary of live music, cookie decorating, train rides and an outdoor Christmas movie screening. The highlight of the celebration, however, is when the lights turn on and more than 50 LED-lit Christmas trees and holiday decorations illuminate the bay.
For many locals, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a Christmas-time tradition as significant as, say, decorating a tree. (Just so you know, the origins of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade can be traced back to 1908). Every year, a parade of yachts, boats and kayaks illuminate the water with twinkling lights and over-the-top decor—and yes, it’s absolutely stunning.
Newport Beach is chock-full of best-in-class restaurants offering delicious grub, and every year, dozens of them participate in the highly anticipated Restaurant Week. For close-to two weeks, these eateries offer diners multi-course menus in distinct price tiers. All to say, if you’re a foodie, mark your calendar.
There’s something about cozying up in front of a screen that feels so appropriate in the wintertime. Ditch Netflix and head over to the Lido Theater—an iconic art deco movie theater with ample charm. Alternatively, if you like your flicks with a side of dinner and a drink, schlep over to THE LOT, where you can order a meal from the comfort of your leather recliner.