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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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Labor Day: 5 free (or low-cost) So Cal Staycations

Palisades Park Santa Monica is a popular spot for a walk, workout or picnic.

Staying in town over the Labor Day Weekend? There are plenty of fun places to explore across Southern California, without spending much money. And, with gas prices at their lowest levels in months, why not hit the road? Here are five free (or nearly free) So Cal day-cations.

Palisades Park: Santa Monica

Palisades Park stretches several blocks across a bluff overlooking the Santa Monica shoreline and Pacific Coast Highway.  Stroll along the tree-lined pathway from San Vicente to the Santa Monica Pier or Third Street Promenade as you take in the gorgeous views. Pack a picnic, or choose from a variety of restaurants to enjoy a meal. The famous Santa Monica Pier is an easy walk from Palisades Park, and admission is free to the pier amusement park.  Tourists from around the world visit Santa Monica and the Malibu coast, so it’s definitely worth the drive across town.

Related: Parking in Santa Monica

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.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointdumemalibu.jpg]7420
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointmugunavalairstation.jpg]7610
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointmugulookoutpoint.jpg]7490Point Mugu Lookout Point
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucampingthornehillbroomebeach.jpg]6310Beachside Camping Malibu
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!
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymart.jpg]5570Malibu Country Mart
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymartcourtyard.jpg]5060
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibustarbucksralphshoppingcenter.jpg]5120
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_santamonicabaygettyvilla.jpg]5530Getty Villa, Santa Monica Bay
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve_0.jpg]4800
[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.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchwindyroad.jpg]4080

Malibu Coast

Pacific Coast Highway will likely be very busy over the holiday weekend, but if you’re patient and feel like a scenic road trip, the PCH drive through Malibu (Santa Monica to Oxnard) offers some of the most stunning views of the California Coast. North of Point Dume, to Ventura County, the coast is undeveloped. You might even recognize the view since it’s a popular location for new car commercials.

A cascading fountain greets visitors at the entrance of Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, CA

A cascading fountain greets visitors at the entrance of Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, CA

Gardens of the World

Soak up botanical beauty at this best-kept Conejo Valley secret, located across the street from the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center.  Admission is free to Gardens of the World, a stroll through the grounds will take you on a tour of lush landscapes from around the world.

Balboa Island, Orange County

Balboa Peninsula and the Fun Zone arcade are a quick ferry ride away from Balboa Island.

A stroll on Balboa Island will have you feeling like you’re in New England. The quaint streets and bayfront homes are surrounded by water, which will help to keep you cool.  Parking is tight on the island, especially on a holiday weekend. You might want to park in Newport Beach, and walk  across the small bridge that leads to Balboa Island.

Hollywood Bowl

It’s a Los Angeles landmark, but a lot of locals have never been to The Hollywood Bowl.  Movie music takes center stage this weekend, with a concert by John Williams ( Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc) and a tribute to the Henry Mancini and director Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) fans will enjoy the tribute to Henry Mancini and director Peter Sellers.

I recently attended a Hollywood  Bowl show at the last minute and was surprised to get a ticket for well under $20. You don’t need the best seats in the house to enjoy the experience. This weekend, tickets start at just $15, and you can avoid online ticketing fees when you buy tickets on site at the box office, just call ahead to make sure it’s not close to a sell out.

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

The McGrath Irish farming family is grand marshal of the 2013 Ventura St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The McGrath Irish farming family is grand marshal of the 2013 Ventura St. Patrick's Day Parade.

You can enjoy plenty of fresh air, sunshine and pretty green  hillsides when you hit the road across So Cal this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. There are plenty of things to see and do as you celebrate all things Irish.

The Ventura St. Patrick’s Day Parade rolls down Main Street Saturday morning at 10 AM. Afterwards, you won’t have to go far to enjoy an Irish Coffee or corned beef & cabbage feast, Dargan’s Irish pub is right on Main Street. (from L.A. take the 101 North to California Street).

South Bay Los Angeles is also hosting a parade: Saturday at 11AM the Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade  goes from City Hall and down Pier Avenue.  There will be three stages with entertainment to enjoy all things Irish by the Sea. Hennessey’s Tavern on The Strand is at the epicenter of the festivities.

Feel the Luck of the Irish all weekend in Santa Monica with live music at  O’Brien’s Irish pub on Main Street.  A few miles away, Brennan’s in Marina del Rey you can toast to their famous turtle races.
Sunday night, the L.A. Philharmonic is hosting the traditional Irish group The Chieftans at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
San Francisco may be the birthplace of Irish Coffee. But, the best Irish Coffee in Southern California may just be at Tom Bergin’s Tavern on Fairfax in mid city L.A.

In Orange County, check out Durty Nelly’s, Haven Gastropub, or Muldoon’s in Fashion Island. All popular spots to wear your Green.

If you’ll be celebrating with some green beer or Irish Whiskey, be sure to bring your designated driver!

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