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OC Side Trip: Balboa Island

Gingerbread House sits on a private dock on Balboa Island, this Orange County jewel is decked out for the holidays (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Gingerbread House sits on a private dock on Balboa Island, this Orange County jewel is decked out for the holidays (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

If you find yourself heading to, or passing through, Orange County during your Southern California holiday travels, Consider a stop at Balboa Island.

Whether you have an hour or a day, this quaint seaside community offers comfortable weather, gorgeous views and festive decorations this time of year. This is a great pit stop if you are on a Southern California road trip and need to stretch you legs or grab a snack or bite to eat.

Rows & rows of one and two story beach houses stand shoulder-to-shoulder along narrow streets on the island, surrounded by a waterfront sidewalk along the Island’s perimeter. Park your car on any side street, and you can walk the circular path and easily return to your vehicle once you’ve had enough exercise.

Related photos & story : Balboa Island, CA USA

Along your holiday stroll, you’ll see homes and docks decorated with gingerbread men, Christmas Trees and other holiday decor.

gingerbread men, gingerbread house and a Christmas tree decorate a dock on Balboa Island, Newport Beach, CA

Waterfront homes & docks on Balboa Island in Newport Beach are decked out for the Christmas holidays (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Year round, keep an eye out for the Teddy Bear House, a home jam-packed with stuffed bears of all sizes. There’s also a tall Statue of Liberty perched on a dock, near an American Flag blowing in the breeze.  You’ll see boats and yachts of all sizes, paddle boarders and a ferry shuttling cars, cyclists and pedestrians to the carnival across the waterway on Balboa Peninsula.

Lady Liberty stands proudly on this Balboa Island private dock year-round. Just one of the sights to see as you stroll around the Island (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Lady Liberty stands proudly on this Balboa Island private dock year-round. Just one of the sights to see as you stroll around the Island (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Balboa Island gets decked out for the holidays, with Christmas wreaths and decorations lining the bridge onto the Island and its main street (Park Avenue). I love being here around the Fourth of July, too, when the red, white and blue ribbons and decorations are on display.

My dad loved being at the beach and Balboa Island was one of his favorite places.  One of the last walks we took together was on Balboa Island. He was using a walker and the smooth sidewalks and flat terrain made for an easy stroll.  Keep Balboa Island in mind if you are looking for a quick side stop on your Southern California vacation. Happy Holidays!


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Daylight Saving: After Work Getaways!

Get ready to hit the road and enjoy the extra So Cal sunshine that comes with Daylight Saving Time.

With Daylight Saving Time kicking in on Sunday, you’ll be enjoying at least an extra hour of daylight.  So, why not head out on an after-work adventure?  You don’t have to go very far to find a beautiful place to relax and take  in a Southern  California sunset.

Santa Monica and Malibu top my list of quick getaways.  From the bluffs of Palisades Park, to Montana Avenue and the Third  Street Promenade,  click here for more Santa Monica Daycations.

When you’re in the mood for a scenic coastal drive, Pacific Coast Highway through west Malibu is hard to beat. Click here for details on the Malibu Drive from Oxnard to Santa Monica. Your car will be hugging the rugged coastline and there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the view. If you hurry, you might even see some whales migrating along the coast, prime whale watching season continues through April.

Related: Conejo Valley Getaway – Gardens of the World

Palisades Park in Santa Monica is a lovely place to enjoy the extra hour of daylight that comes with Daylight Saving Time.

 

An easy work getaway in Orange County could include a trip to Fashion Island.  This upscale outdoor shopping mall offers fresh air, a sea breeze and several delicious restaurants including The Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, one of my favorite places for bar dining.

Across from Fashion Island is Balboa Island. A short drive over the bridge and you might feel as if you’re in a quaint NewEngland beach town. You can catch the ferry to Balboa Peninsula.

Pacific Coast Highway through South Orange County will take you from Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente, with plenty of places to enjoy and explore along the way.

Read: So Cal Burgers

When you’re in Southern California, there’s no need to wait for the official start of summer to start your summer vacation. Enjoy!

Balboa Island, CA USA

Balboa Island, CA is a seaside getaway in Orange County. It offers a small town feel on the edge of sprawling Newport Beach.

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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/balboa-island-ca-usa/thumbs/thumbs_balboaislandchannel.jpg]40Balboa Island in Orange County has a ferry to take drivers, bikers, skaters and pedestrians from Balboa Island to the Balboa Peninsula.
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Balboa Island, CA USA

Balboa Island offers a small town vibe amid sprawling Newport Beach and Orange County.  Driving over the bridge from Newport Beach onto the Island, you’ll be on Marine Avenue, Balboa Island’s main street, lined with shops with colorful flags and awnings, and a lot of red, white and blue.

Balboa Island is a comfortable place for a summer stroll.

This small piece of paradise is an ideal place to enjoy a relaxing walk, once you find a parking spot.  The residential streets are narrow and, since the entire perimeter of the island is less than a two mile walk, you can park anywhere, walk around the island, and be back at your car in about an hour (just remember the name of the street where you parked!).

Walking around Balboa Island is a comfortable experience. The boardwalk is smooth and flat, lined with beautiful bay front homes, private docks, and a front-row view of the array of boats cruising Newport Harbor.


Related: Check Real Time Traffic Conditions to Balboa Island & across California
Marine Avenue features an array of unique boutiques, restaurants and ice cream shops featuring chocolate dipped frozen bananas and ‘Balboa Bars,’ vanilla ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate and colorful sprinkles.

Balboa Island is the place to enjoy a frozen banana or ice cream bar while shopping.

You can hop on the ferry (in your car or on foot) for a five minute ride across the bay to the Balboa Peninsula, where the Balboa Fun Zonefeatures a bayside Ferris wheel, arcade games, along with boat rentals and tours.

Balboa Island will be decked out in red, white and blue for Fourth of July week and other summer holidays.  It’s also a good place to catch the Old Glory Boat Parade on July 4th,  sponsored by the American Legion Yacht Club.


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Balboa Island, CA USA

Balboa Island, CA is a seaside getaway in Orange County. It offers a small town feel on the edge of sprawling Newport Beach.

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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/balboa-island-ca-usa/thumbs/thumbs_balboaislandchannel.jpg]40Balboa Island in Orange County has a ferry to take drivers, bikers, skaters and pedestrians from Balboa Island to the Balboa Peninsula.
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Nearby attractions:  Newport Beach Fashion Island, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach.

 

 

 

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Opa! VC Greek Festival comes to Camarillo

Members of the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church are cooking up a storm, preparing for this weekend’s Ventura County Greek Festival.  If you love all things Greek, there are several reasons you’ll want to hop on the 101 and head to Camarillo.

The 34th annual Ventura County Greek Festival comes to Camarillo June 22-24. It’s worth the drive from Los Angeles! (source: http://www.vcgreekfestival.org/)

For starters, the food is delicious! Authentic dishes, prepared with love in the church’s kitchen.  Gyros, pastichio (Greek lasagna), roast lamb and chicken, spinakopita, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves) and, my favorite, saganaki (flaming cheese), are just some of the yummy dishes on the menu.  The desserts are just as tasty, baklava, pastries and cookies, packaged to take home while they last.

There’s live music featuring the Olympians, Greek dancers, and everyone’s invited to get out on the dance floor.  Dancers from The Greek at the Harbor perform, and the gorgeous Aris Mikelatos’ will perform his famous table dance (ladies, you won’t want to miss this!).

Related: Take the Scenic Route to the VC Greek Festival – Malibu Drive

Another great feature of this festival is that it’s intimate, there’s plenty of free parking and it’s easy to stop by to enjoy a delicious meal, music, perhaps a little dancing, and be on your way.  The weather in Camarillo is perfect year round, it’s cooler than Los Angeles, and sunnier than Ventura. Admission is $3, or print free admission tickets on their website.  The Ventura County Greek Festival kicks off Friday night and runs through the weekend (June 22-24). Click here for festival hours and the event schedule.

Traffic411: Check Real Time Traffic Conditions

Camarillo is located off the 101 (Ventura) freeway,  30 minutes north of the San Fernando Valley and 20 minutes south of Ventura.  So, if you’re heading up from Los Angeles, you could stop by the VC Greek Festival, then head up to the Ventura Harbor or Ventura Pier to enjoy the rest of your day.


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Related: Along the way, stop by Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks

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Driving to Disney’s New Cars Land is a Bumper-to-Bumper Adventure

Driving to Disney's New Cars Land is a Bumper to Bumper Adventure

The opening of Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, will make the nearby 5 freeway a busy commute for So Cal drivers.

The grand opening of Disney’s “Cars Land” in Anaheim promises real life gridlock on the nearby Santa Ana (5) freeway in the coming weeks.  Thousands of Disney fans and families will be vacationing in Anaheim this summer to be among the first to explore Disney’s newest attraction.

Based on the popular Disney-Pixar films, Cars Land is the crowning jewel of a $1 billion overhaul of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, located across the entrance to Disneyland.  A tribute to the glory days of Route 66 is also featured in the remodel, which demonstrates our long love affair with driving cars.  Disney officials are hoping that Cars Land will drive traffic to Disneyland’s sister park.  California Adventure hasn’t thrilled visitors much since it opened in 2001.



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Malibu Drive: PCH Oxnard-Santa Monica

California's Finest Drive:  Route 1 Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard

The coastal route between Ventura and Los Angeles is not only beautiful, it can be a time-saving alternate to the busy 101 freeway.

Here’s a Southern California coastal drive that’s enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike.  And, believe it or not, it is often less crowded than the freeway (101 and 405) when traveling between Ventura County and Santa Monica.  Plus, there’s plenty of fresh air to breathe and beautiful scenery to see along the way.

California Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties is mostly a single lane in each direction.  The smooth road hugs rocky mountains or sandy hills on one side, and the rugged crystal blue-turquoise Pacific Ocean on the other.  The approximately one hour (without traffic) drive takes you past the Naval Base Ventura County (home of the “Seabees” and Point Mugu Naval Air Station) to the Santa Monica Pier.  And, there’s so much to see along the way.

Related: El Matador Beach Malibu “Picture Perfect”

Mugu Rock, a distinctive boulder that stands on the coastal side of the road, can be seen from far away, as you wind along the highway.  You might recognize Mugu Rock, and this stretch of Pacific Coast Highway, since it’s a popular shooting location for TV shows and car commercials.

Malibu, CA

California's Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) between Oxnard and Santa Monica offer is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA. The New York Times calls this drive through Malibu one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the USA! Here are some photos I took along the way. Story to follow soon, in case you want to try this 30 mile coastline drive yourself. I highly recommend it!

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve.jpg]59500Point Dume Natural Preserve, Malibu
Point Dume offers a hiking trail down a hill to a beautiful secluded beach.
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How's this for a camping spot?!? Thornhill Broome Beach State Park is an ideal place to cool off in the summer. Bring your camper, motorhome or fifth wheel and you're all set!
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchdriveroadsign_traffic411.jpg]4930California's Finest Drive: Route 1 Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard
This stretch of California coastline is among the most beautiful in the state. Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) is also a great alternative to the 101 freeway when traveling between Ventura County and Los Angeles.
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Point Dume is another recognizable landmark.  The flat-topped bluff jutting into the Pacific is visible from miles away.  The Point Dume Natural Preserve offers a path to the Cliffside lookout point.  It’s a relatively easy walk downhill to a pristine beach, but there’s very little parking in the Point Dume neighborhood.

Nearby Zuma Beach is popular among sun worshippers, but can be dangerous for swimmers. If your ‘parking karma’ is good, you might find free beach parking when you turn onto Busch Drive (just south of Zuma Beach).

Related: Hike Solstice Canyon Malibu

Just South of Pepperdine University is the heart of Malibu’s shopping district.  For a relaxing break, stop at the Ralph’s shopping center for a frozen yogurt or Starbucks.  Across the street, Malibu Country Mart, offers an array of dining options and can be a good place to spot celebrities.  (Cross streets are Civic Center Way or Cross Creek Road).

Related: Pacific Park Santa Monica Pier – Carnival by the Sea

Santa Monica is about nine miles away from the Malibu Civic Center area.  This is the portion of the drive where you’re likely to find the most traffic, especially on summer weekends, or during the weekday morning and evening commutes.

Related:  Santa Monica Daycations

The Malibu Coast is a fun daytrip.  If you only want to take the coast one way, hop on the 101 north to Camarillo, exit Pleasant Valley or Las Posas, then head west to the coast, and southbound along Pacific Coast Highway (toward Santa Monica).  Coming from Ventura or Santa Barbara, exit the 101 South at Rice Road, head west and you’ll wind up on California Highway 1.

Note:  The Ventura portion of Pacific Coast Highway is very dark at night, there are no street lights, so it’s not recommended if you are unfamiliar with the road, especially on evenings when there isn’t much moonlight.  Safe travels!!

See the map!  The Malibu Drive:  PCH Oxnard-Santa Monica

 

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