Oceanside Getaway in Newport Beach
1If you can, definitely leave work early to try and avoid traffic on the I-5 or I-405. Friday afternoons are always the worst, so good luck! We say, start your weekend a bit early and head to tiny Balboa Island to unwind. It's like a quaint East Coast village, almost stuck in time. There is a small ferry that takes you over, or you can walk across the bridge from Jamboree Road.
2While away the afternoon by strolling along Marine Avenue with plenty of quaint shops, and don't forget to walk to the pier. If you're hungry and thirsty, a couple of low-key stops include Picante Martin's for some tacos, and the Village Inn for a nice cold beer.
3Head back across to Newport Beach, check into your hotel and get ready for dinner. There are a lot of restaurant options around Newport, from high-end dining rooms to mom-and-pop favorites. But it's Friday, so go big: You can get fantastic stuffed squash blossoms, caprese salad, and amazing pizzas from Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza. If you've been to the one in L.A., you'll recognize everything, down to the Tuscan red walls. But it's one of the best restaurants in the OC.
1Pain du Monde originally lived on Balboa Island, but now there are several of these cafes in several parts of Orange County, including a Fashion Island location. But what remains the same: fresh, hearty breakfasts, great coffee, and those amazing croissants and cinnamon twists. It's just what you need before a relaxing day at the beach.
2You came here for the beach, and there is no shortage of great ones. The Wedge at the east end of the peninsula is where everyone bodysurfs, or you can watch surfers (or surf yourself) near the pier. Corona del Mar State Beach is often overrun with families, but it's also great for surfers and divers. Crystal Cove State Park has three areas below the bluffs, plus cool trails that circle historic 1930s houses. There's also a restaurant there, The Beachcomber, which is great for lunch, drinks, or dinner.
3Take a sunset gondola ride along Newport Beach's bay and canals. It's not quite Italy, but this is a fabulous way to see the homes and charm of the peninsula (and it's fantastically romantic, to boot). We recommend booking with The Gondola Company, where you can arrange a tour with Champagne and sweet or savory nibbles to tide you over until dinner.
4You've been on the water all day, so seafood, served waterfront, is in order. We like Bluewater Grill, where you'll find seafood from around the globe — from Mississippi catfish to barramundi from Australia — all of which is best enjoyed on the pier-top patio with waves crashing below. Start with a half-dozen oysters and jalapeno-spiked crab dip, or the famous lobster bisque, then dig into specialties like seafood cioppino, pan-fried seabass, or seared ahi tuna. This popular spot also has a well-edited (and well-priced) wine list.
5Before you go back to the hotel, stop at Billy's at the Beach for a mai tai. Why go for a mai tai? Well, why not? This lively waterside locals' favorite has killer views and a kitschy grass-hut decor. The Polynesian-inspired food is also quite good (kung pao calamari, ahi poke tower), so you could have a bite to eat here, too.
1Go over to the Peninsula and get in one more walk on the beach before breakfast. There is a tiny coffee shop called Picante Martin's for some tacos, and the My Galley right there. Locals swear by it. Grab a coffee, pastry or even a breakfast burrito.
2Time to shop. Fashion Island is one of Southern California's premier luxury shopping destinations, with specialty boutiques, department stores like Neiman Marcus, and great restaurants located on a landscaped promenade lined with ponds and fountains. While you're here . . .
3 . . grab a bite to eat before hitting the road. The indoor-outdoor R + D Kitchen is a sure bet for a burger or a chopped chicken salad, and True Food Kitchen is tops for high-flavor, low-cal dishes like edamame dumplings, kale salad, and spaghetti squash casserole. But if you've been to the one in Santa Monica, you might already know that.