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Fun Towns

There are many beach towns up and down the coast, we think Balboa is one of the most fun. Balboa is full of things to do and see. If you start on Harbor Blvd whether in Santa Ana or Costa Mesa head to the beach (west.) As drive over the bridge into Newport Beach you will be on the right road to the Balboa Peninsula. Traveling on down the road it turns into Balboa Blvd. As you drive west you will see many restaurants, bike rentals, bathing suit and kite shops. On the right look for the Newport Pier (see our section on piers and harbors), find a parking space and walk the pier. There is a great restaurant on the end of it. You can see board and body surfers waiting for that perfect wave.

In the summer beach lovers rent houses on both sides on the road as well as closer to the beach. If your car window is open and you see people hanging over their balcony you might yell the word “party” and they will raise their glasses or can to salute you, or maybe not. This would be mostly in the warm days on summer. In the winter you can’t find too many partiers hanging around anywhere. Driving on you will come to the Balboa Pier area. You need to turn right at the traffic light, there is a sign telling where the parking lot in, it’s hanging over an intersection on the right side, look hard as you can miss it easily. When you turn right stay in the right lane and park in the huge parking lot. Walk over to the pier and check it out. Read the plaque at the foot of the pier, it holds some interesting information about the history of the area. If you look east from the pier you will see bike and skate rentals. They have those four-wheel bikes you can get the whole family on then you can honk those irritating goose-sounding horns that come with these bikes.

Next when you leave the parking lot and turn right at the traffic light or go straight if you didn’t turn into the lot and still on Balboa Blvd. Keep to the right at the Y, then go all the way down to the end park. You will see that you can go left but do that later. Drive down the street that is the right side of the fork in the road. When you get to a stop sign and have to turn either way, park. Walk to your right along the shore above the rocks. As you walk out to the ocean go out to the area where the waves and coming in. Sit there are watch the waves for a while. If you will notice the waves come in from three different directions. One set heads toward the rocks and one comes in from the far left. As the one hits the rocks they bounce off and head in land. This makes three sets of waves. The lifeguards do not allow surfboards in that area as they would be hitting other people since most of the time surfers would fall off the board due to the roughness of the waves. Most just body surf or ride small boogie boards. When the weather is rough or a storm is on the sea, the waves will be HUGE. We love to just sit there and watch the braver swimmers get tossed around trying to ride the big one. On your way back to your car you will see park benches on the right. You might want to sit there if you find an empty spot and watch the boats going in and out of the harbor. You might get to see some of the million dollar yachts cruise by or a guy in a row boat.

When you return to your car stay to the right and drive up a ways to the second traffic light. Watch for the sign that tells you where to get on the ferry. Get into the right hand lane and turn at the light. This will take you to the Balboa ferry. The ferry holds three autos and lots of pedestrians and bikes. The cost is small and the ferry takes you to Balboa Island. If you can find a parking place on the other side go back to the corner where you got off the ferry. At that corner is a small hamburger shop. If you are hungry they make great burgers.

You can drive around the island and go off it on the east side or go back on the ferry. On the west side of the ferry is a fun zone where the kids have a ball. Try a frozen banana.

Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is located on highway 18 in the San Bernardino Mountains; you can also get there on highway 38. Both highways will take you to Bid Bear. Highway 38 goes up over the highest mountain, which is around 8,000 feet. Highway 18 hits a height of 6,600 feet. The man made lake is seven miles long and about a mile wide at places. There are many motels and hotels around the lake. Some are really nice and most are nice. This depends on the price and the view of the lake. Many great motels and hotels do not sit on the lakeshore but have other things to make your stay memorable. There are a few good restaurants in the area, one is La Paws (Mexican) and another is the Cowboy (steaks and ribs). The area has a water slide park, horse riding, boat rental, Para-sailing, great shopping, lake cruises and movie theaters. Chamber of Commerce (909) 866-4607

Take a ride down Sunset Blvd (called the Sunset strip) and see all the wild and unusual sights there. You can tour the studios (see the Movie/TV studios page), check out Mann’s Chinese Theater where the stars footprints and are set in cement. Check and see if your feet are larger then your favorite stars. Pick up a map of the stars from those young sellers on the street and drive by the some of the most famous homes in the world. We don’t know just how up to date the maps are but it’s fun to see the beautiful houses. There are gift shops and nick knack stores all along the strip. You can buy a clock with a stars face on it or a get a picture with you standing next to a cardboard movie star, it’s up to you. Take Sunset Blvd off the 5 freeway and go north.

Laguna Beach
Set between Dana Point and Newport, Laguna Beach is one of the most pristine beaches anywhere. You can walk from one end to the other and see some of the most beautiful rock formations and walkways that turn into a great bathing beach with powder white sand. The town sits close to the water and you can see the ocean from many places while shopping. Laguna has many sidewalk restaurants and other eating-places with an ocean view. Find a parking place and stroll the area. It’s great just to walk around and see and smell the town. Artists founded the town, as the picturesque bay and surrounding hills is a picture all by it’s self. This area is known for the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. The Festival of Arts is accompanied by the Pageant of The Masters and the Sawdust Festival. The Festival of Arts is an art show like no other and the Pageant is a must. On a large stage local people act out famous paintings and sculptures of the world. In a grand style the curtain opens and there before your eyes is a painting or sculpture exactly as it was done by the artist but many times larger. The work on the principles and background is beyond words. Real people are in the scene dressed and posing to resemble the original artwork. Sitting in the audience it’s almost impossible to tell that real people are in the scene. The Festival starts around July; general information number is (714) 494-1145

Newport Beach
The 2008 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the premier Christmas event not only for Orange County and Los Angeles but Southern California . .http://www.christmasparadeboats.com/

Palm Springs
You have probably heard that Palm Springs, for the most part, is a wealthy community that only the affluent can shop, dine and spend the night. This is not only false but just the opposite. We have stayed on Palm Canyon Drive at the Shilo Inn (one of our favorites) and spent the day shopping and walking around looking at all that Palm Springs has to enjoy. Palm Canyon Drive is the main part of Palm Springs where most of the great stores and restaurants are. You can eat all manner of food in the area. We had Mexican food sitting on the sidewalk café style while watching the crowds pass by. At night we like to go to one of the fine steak houses and sit outside again watching the lights and the people. Palm Springs has more then 35 golf courses from the east side of Palm Springs to the west side of La Quinta. La Quinta is just west of Palm Springs. You can visit the Aerial Tramway, swim in the Oasis Water Park, check out the worlds largest electrical producing windmill farm or gamble at the Vegas type casinos. Palm Springs visitors center (760) 5681441

San Diego
Touted as one of the most beautiful cities in California, San Diego has just about everything you would want in a big city plus a great coast lined with pristine beaches and harbors. Balboa Park area is located in the east part of town and is a gathering of historical museums and topical ones as well. The San Diego Automotive Museum and the San Diego Aerospace Museum rates high with most people. We have spent a lot of time in the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the Reuben H Fleet Space Theater & Science Center as well. Don’t past up the San Diego zoo; it’s one of the best animal parks in the world. You get to see animals living in the own habitat.

You can take a harbor cruise and check out the Navy’s ships and docks. This is a great tour because you get to see many other things that enhance the harbor. Downtown San Diego is a bustling metropolis with surprisingly good air. Trolleys run all over the area, you can get to Mexico, Old Town, Qualcomm Stadium, on the east side and other places in comfort for a small price.

Check out Mission Beach, among other thing, it’s a great place to get Fish Tacos.

The word Solvang is Danish for “sunny fields”. We came across this great village just north of Santa Barbara a few years ago and we come back every year. The area is two or three streets of stores built in the Danish style. Here you can see windmills, pastry shops (many), gift stores, smorgasbord and other restaurants. You can look at or buy all kinds of trinkets including blown glass figures, handmade lace, table cloths, music boxes, clothing, hand painted plates and lots of great cookies! Many galleries are in the area plus plenty of curio shops. We always wondered what the word “curio” meant. For those who didn’t know {like us}, we looked it up and it means “an object or article valued because it is strange or rare.” This is true in Solvang, you will find things you have never seen before. The area had many good hotels and motels. Waking up early in the rural community has its reward, as you can smell the aroma of bear claws, cookies, and pies cooking in the many ovens around you. The kids will love this shopping experience as the colors and shapes are unsurpassed, but watch the little ones, as the shelves are full of breakable attractions. Solvang is on highway 246 about thirty-five miles north of Santa Barbara. Take highway 154 out of Santa Barbara and turn left on highway 246, and then just five miles and you are there. From highway 101 out of Santa Barbara go north to highway 246 and turn right on highway 246 and drive another five miles or so. You can’t miss it. Enjoy! Solvang Visitors Bureau Phone (805) 688-6144

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