The gorgeous Newport Beach coast

A Long Weekend in Newport Beach, California


Where to Stay-Play-Wine-Dine

by Don Sonderling

The gorgeous Newport Beach coast

Looking for a weekend or mid-week getaway, with lots of fun (and usually sunny), places to explore? Newport Beach and vicinity is the perfect anytime getaway!

Easily accessible from San Diego, the Inland Empire, or Ventura County, you can be in this coastal paradise within a few hours, and there is SO much to do! Our recent 48-hour mini-cation couldn’t have been a better way to start the New Year out. Here are some suggestions to plan your next SoCal (anytime) getaway.

Where to Stay

Newport Beach Marriott is the perfect luxury lodging choice in Newport Beach.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to lodging in the Newport area. For our stay with our Seattle cousins, Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas was the perfect choice. The spacious 1200 square foot, 2-bedroom units were ideal, and perfect for the eight of us to hang out together in the evening after dinner. And, the location, sitting above PCH, overlooking the Pacific, couldn’t have been better.

Where to Play

The Villas are located about a two-minute drive, (or a few minutes’ walk), from beautiful Crystal Cove State Beach Park. With about 3 miles of pristine beaches to explore and numerous hiking trails, this was the perfect morning “warm up” (after meeting in our condo for a casual breakfast). Our Seattle cousins couldn’t resist dipping their feet in the inviting Pacific, on this beautiful Southern California winter sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-60s, a relief from the 22-degree weather they had left behind in Seattle.

Newport and nearby Laguna Beach offer choices for just about every interest.

Visit the unique and beautiful Sherman Gardens

A few minutes drive down PCH is the Sherman Library and Gardens. They describe themselves “as a 2.2-acre horticultural oasis, however the description doesn’t do justice to this garden delight. Take an hour or two and just stroll through the various nooks and crannies of the gardens. You will come upon cactus gardens, koi ponds, fountains, and hidden corners where you may just sit and commune with nature for a few minutes. You may even want to have lunch or high tea in the restaurant. Be sure to check out special events before your visit. There are watercolor classes, wellness workshops, special tours, talks, events, and displays appropriate for all ages. This is a special sanctuary.

Classic cars at the Newport Marriott

Laguna Beach, easily accessible and just down the highway is, world-famous for its art galleries, beaches, and of course the Sawdust Art Festival and Pageant of the Masters during summertime. There is lots to do here at any time of the year.

Following our visit to Sherman Gardens, some of the Seattle group elected to hang out by the resort’s pool, simply enjoying the warm Southern California sunshine, while a few others went into Laguna Beach for a few hours to wander and explore and enjoy the Laguna Art Museum.

Laguna has not changed much in the 60-some-odd years I have been visiting the area with all the art galleries, specialty stores, small restaurants, and pretty tempting ice cream stores. Just walking along the beach, sitting down, and enjoying the ocean view and breezes is totally relaxing.

Newport, Balboa and Newport is simply your quintessential Southern California ideal beach town vacation destination.

Where to Wine

Two brothers welcome you to try their well made and sassy wines at Artisan Uprising.

For wine aficionados, stop into Artisan Uprising, an intimate wine-tasting room, located in Balboa. Open five days a week (check website for days/hours), Billy and David Vondrasek have been producing small lot, artisinal wines for over 20 years. With fruit sourced from Paso Robles, you can sip back and enjoy a selection of single varietals such as Malbec, Merlot, Petite Sirah plus other selections from this quality boutique producer. An added bonus is that the wines being poured are library vintages, which truly express the quality of the grape, terroir, and age ability. This is a great way to spend an hour or so before dinner to excite your palate, and maybe take a bottle to dinner!

Where to Dine

From burgers and dogs at the beach to fresh seafood, there is no shortage of places to dine at. On this trip, we enjoyed the following dining experiences:

Avila’s El Ranchito (2515 East Coast Highway, Corona) was the perfect place for our group of 10 on night #1. This family restaurant “chain” which started over 55 years ago has over a dozen restaurants In Los Angeles and Orange County, each one being family-run. The recipes are based on the founder’s (Mama Avila) family recipes from Guanajuato, Mexico. Portions are plentiful and very tasty. Start your meal with warm chips, homemade salsa, and guacamole, maybe accompanied by one of their many tasty Margaritas (especially the Cadillac Margarita)! Avila’s El Ranchito reflects the best of service, hospitality, fun, and great flavors that Southern California’s South of the Border influence is famous for.

Italian food is elevated at this Newport Beach favorite.

Modo Mio Rustic Italian Kitchen was where we had our next night’s dinner. This upscale, white tablecloth restaurant is simply fun, relaxed, unpretentious and serves up excellent Italian fare. From soups and salads (the mixed green with apple and blue cheese was especially yummy) to the tasty pastas and main dishes (so glad I split the chicken parmesan), you can’t go wrong. But whatever you have, be certain to leave room for dessert! The chocolate shell-covered spumoni (definitely a 3–4-way split) is the sweet way to end the evening. And for wine lovers, Modo Mio has an excellent and varied wine list, featuring many select wines from the US and Italy by the glass; I was delighted to find (by the glass) a Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis! To your health!

Getaway Day

No visit is complete without a visit to Las Brisas for the coastal seafood fresh from the Pacific.

An ideal way to end our 48 hours in Newport was to have lunch at Las Brisas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, overlooking the pristine coast. From the patio and dining room, look out at what is possibly one of the most elegant ocean views in any Southern California beach community. Dine while you are mesmerized by the shoreline and the sun shining off the sparkling blue Pacific.

Savor Coastal California Cuisine which is influenced by the flavors of our Southern neighbors. Fresh, creative, and artfully created you will be pleased with any decision. One of my all-time favorites (as a starter or a shareable) is the tuna poke, with avocado, mango, and almonds.

Newport Beach and vicinity has something for everyone. Be it sea, sand, swimming, biking, hiking, exploring, art, food, or plain relaxing in Southern California’s coastal wonderment, the Newport Coast is a perfect place for recharging body and soul.

Don Sonderling is a freelance writer, covering the wine, food, and travel lifestyle from Southern California up through Northern California. He may be reached at:

Don Sonderling
No visit is complete without a visit to Las Brisas for the coastal seafood fresh from the Pacific.