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Family Guide to Balboa Fun Zone with kids – Where to eat, stay & play

There is so much fun to be had with kids in Newport Beach where carnival meets the sea

There are lots of fun things to do in Newport Beach, but it is rather large and divided up into various neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has something different to offer, but for those traveling with kids it is all about Balboa Village.

This neighborhood of Newport is loaded with exciting activities, and is one of our top 7 affordable places to visit in Orange County. In addition to the beaches and numerous water activities, there is the Balboa Fun Zone. We take our kids quite often to spend the day together, having fun and enjoying the ocean views.

If you are thinking about visiting Newport, here is everything you need to know in order to have a great day at Balboa Fun Zone with kids.

Family Photo at Balboa Fun Zone


Watch our family day at Balboa Fun Zone:

If you would like to see the Balboa Ferris Wheel in action, as well as retro arcades, discovery cube’s ocean quest and happy hour lunch at the Harborside Restaurant, check out our fun video on YouTube! It will give you a good idea about what the Balboa Fun Zone Experience is all about, and why kids (and adults, hello all day happy hour!) love it so much.


Where to stay near Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach CA:

What many people like to do in Balboa is rent a beach house, but for those who like the hotel life there are some options. Balboa Village is just a neighborhood within Newport, so there are tons of accommodations available throughout the city to fit one’s budget. However, if you want to stay in Balboa Village the only option is Balboa Inn The Resort. It is a little pricey with rates starting at $189, but the location is great. It is right across the street from The Fun Zone facing the beach. Check prices.

View of Balboa Village

Best Places to Eat at Balboa Fun Zone:

Again, Newport is filled with great restaurants, but here are a few to enjoy around Balboa Fun Zone with kids.


The Harborside is my go-to restaurant. I love the location on the Balboa Fun Zone, the views of the bay and I love the happy hour. Triple threat! Plus it is historical, built in 1906. So, you know I’m all about that! When we visit, we head straight to the saloon. Yes, kids and all. Actually, I have never even sat in the main dining room. Ha.

Harborside Restaurant at Balboa Fun Zone

Patty Macs

Patty Macs is a local favorite, it has good food in a casual setting. You won’t feel uncomfortable dining there even if you are all beachy. I really like the wide-selection of lemonades and iced teas, like pomegranate lemonade and fresh Jamaica Hibiscus iced tea. Don’t worry mom and dad, there is beer and wine too. And yes, there is Mac N’ Cheese; lots of it. At Patty Macs there are about 10 different styles of Mac N’ Cheese, like Buffalo Mac and Rasta Mac.

Newport Landing Restaurant

The Newport Landing Restaurant can actually be dressed up or dressed down. Whatever your style, this restaurant will work. I prefer the upstairs Oyster Bar, because of its casual setting. I also love the patio, because the views of the bay are gorgeous. It is walking distance from Balboa Fun Zone and makes for the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner with the family.

Ruby’s Diner

Ruby’s Diner is a total classic. Located on the Balboa Pier, diners get panoramic views of the pacific while chowing down on burgers and malts in a 1950’s setting. This iconic restaurant is perfect for dining with kids, because it is casual, fun, and has food kids will love. No restrooms though, so potty before you make it all the way to the end of the pier.

Ruby's on the Pier at Balboa

Balboa Bar-B-Que

The Balboa Bar-B-Que is great for dining with kids, because it is located at The Fun Zone and who doesn’t love good old messy barbeque? Their specialty is slow-smoked meats, but their handmade burgers are pretty bomb too. The atmosphere is very casual and is a quick-service style dining.

Where to grab a drink at Balboa Fun Zone:

Just because you are traveling with kids does not mean you can’t enjoy a drink break. I love taking time to enjoy the harbor views and sip on something cool and refreshing. Since I am usually on a budget, Happy Hours are my best friend. Luckily, Harborside, Patty Macs, and Newport Landing all offer exciting happy hours to make your day of fun more affordable. Harborside is my favorite because it is the world’s longest happy…seriously it is all day every day!

Family Fun Harborside Bar

Balboa Craft Beer Festival offers unlimited tastings from 15 breweries as well as unlimited yummy grub from local restaurants for $55. For $20 guest can come enjoy the event and food without the booze. It is a big annual event that combines food, beer and live music! Don’t want to drive? Take the free Downtowner around the peninsula! No kids allowed into this event. If you are traveling with kids and want to go to the beer fest, bring a babysitter.

Fun Things to do with kids:

Balboa Fun Zone is want truly make Balboa different from the other neighborhoods in Newport. It just screams, “HEY! BRING YOUR KIDS!” As a result, many of the surrounding businesses are family-friendly too. At Balboa FUN ZONE you will find a variety of activities to keep your family entertained.

Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel

The Ferris wheel is my family’s favorite. Each ride is about $3, but you can get a value card for $50 that gives you 20 rides. Although the views are spectacular, I doubt you’ll need more than one ride.

Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel

Fun Zone Arcades

There is also the Bay Arcade. The arcade is not my favorite thing, but the kids love it, so we usually make a stop to let them play in exchange for good behavior during happy hour. Hehe.

Kids at Balboa Fun Zone Arcade

Kids playing games at Balboa Arcade

Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest

Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest is also located at the Balboa Fun Zone and is a nonprofit organization teaching kids about the ocean. There is the Ocean Literacy Center for hands on experiments. The ExplorOcean Maker Lab adds a little technology to the fun. At the Steele Model Pavilion kids get to see historical ships, even ones made of whale bone! For older explorers, check out the Innovation Lab with advanced tools and programs to enhance your ocean literacy. My lil scientists LOVE hands-on exploring.

Cute kids with shark in Balboa ExplorOcean

Other activities on the board walk include electric boat rentals, whale watching and spotfishing excursions, paddleboarding rentals, para-sailing, bike rentals, and more.

Take or watch the Balboa Island Ferry. My kids find it interesting to watch the cars drive onto the ferry and get carried across the harbor to the island. The island is mostly residual, but there are some fun restaurants and shops to enjoy.

Balboa Ferry

Balboa Beach

The beach, duh! I mention this last, because Balboa Village is on the Balboa Peninsula between the harbor and the beach, so it is pretty obvious the fun that can be had on the sand without going into too much detail. What makes Balboa Village unique from the other beaches in Newport is activities offered at the Balboa Fun Zone. I will say, however, Balboa Beach does have an interesting play area and jungle gym that my kids do enjoy playing on. Jungle gyms stress me out, so I avoid this when I can.

Balboa Beach jungle gym

That’s A Wrap!

Sounds like a lot of fun, huh? When we visit Newport Beach with the family, we try to pick a neighborhood and plan the whole day in that area, because there is so much to explore. We love Balboa Village. It has a fun vintage-California-beach vibe you just can’t get in the other neighborhoods. Plus, there are tons of things to do with kids besides just playing at the beach. So next time you are planning a family vacation, think about making a trip to Balboa Fun Zone with kids!

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Have you ever been to Balboa Village?

What is your favorite family-friendly beach town?

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I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. Well.. I’ve got no kids to take care of, but I wouldn’t mind a beach house for me and my friends 😀 Seems like a great place either way!

    • It was so fun. We did it with a group of friends before we had kids and had a blast! So many fun bars in the area too!

  2. Wow, the Inn is quite pricey but your little excursion seemed a lot of fun! Never heard of Balboa Village before. Thanks for the tip.

    • Yeah the inn is pricey, but thankfully Newport is full of budget accommodations just minutes away. Hopefully you’ll be able to visit soon!

    • Yes, fun for all ages. Big kids would probably really have a good time. Hopefully your friend will be able to check it out. If they do, I’d love to hear what they think!

  3. Love this post. It sounds like you made the most of your trip to Newport. By the way, we met at the WITS brunch on Sunday morning. I enjoyed chatting with you and the others at our table. Your blog is great!

    • Hi Cindy!! It was so nice meeting you too! I just sent you an email haha! Thank you for visiting my blog!!

  4. I have no kids myself, but I am a big kid at heart and would love to visit this place. The restaurants and bars sound great, especially Balboa Bar-Barbie-Q.

    • No kids needed! Balboa is just as fun for adults. Note the Harborside all day happy hour. Hello to good times!

  5. Haven’t been to Newport Beach in years… Would love to take my children on the ferry, and down to the pier this summer! Thank you for all the wonderful info!

  6. I absolutely love Newport Beach and Balboa Island is so much fun, especially with kids. I really think more people should explore places like Newport when they’re visiting L.A. for the first time. It’s great day trip.

    Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

  7. I have not been in Balboa Village. My children are grown up and away. I like your post and tips for traveling with children anyway. Thanks for sharing.

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