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Balboa Fun Zone

Explore a different side of Newport Beach at this throwback park

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The Orange County town of Newport Beach is known for its gorgeous homes, fine dining, and luxe shopping. The Balboa Fun Zone, meanwhile, offers a glimpse of both Newport Beach’s past and its distinctly carefree side.

Tucked on the inland side of the town’s Balboa Peninsula, the Fun Zone goes back to the 1930s, and has been owned by a long series of families and locals over the decades. Back in its earliest days, a Ferris wheel and a merry-go round made up most of the amusement park, built on the site of a former boat yard (during World War II, there was reportedly an ongoing, secret poker game that happened on Fun Zone grounds).

These days, the Ferris wheel is the main ride, along with fair-style thrills such as a Family Swing, a bungee cord attraction, and the Coconut-Tree Climb, as well as an arcade where you earn tickets to cash in for prizes.

Just getting here is part of the fun. You can drive or walk onto the Balboa Island Ferry, which connects the peninsula to Balboa Island—a nice reminder that, to first-time visitors, Newport Beach sits on a complex stretch of shoreline. While you’re here, stroll the nautical museum, and shop for beach fashions and gifts. This is also a great spot to rent beach cruisers or even boats, or to take a scenic harbor tour or whale-watching cruise with Hornblower Cruises.

Just be sure to save plenty of room for treats. The abundant dining options include seafood, barbecue, corn dogs, pizza, and Newport Beach’s signature frozen treats: chocolate-covered bananas and the chocolate-dipped-ice-cream Balboa Bar. 

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An ocean shore

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