Monday, 9 January 2012

A Holiday Walk Around Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California

The Christmas season is over, but the beautiful memories linger on. After enjoying the Newport Holiday Boat Cruise, a walk around Balboa Island to see how this quaint town was transformed was next on our holiday agenda. Just before new year's eve, we took that walk for about two hours, with lots of time spent stopping to admire the details of some phenomenal Christmas light shows and decorations. 

Coming from the mainland, driving down on Jamboree Road leads directly to Balboa Island...
through this two-lane bridge.
 Once you pass the bridge, take the  steps going down to the left or to the right, to get onto the pathway on the beach level, that wounds around the island. We took the set of stairs on the left side, facing the bridge.
 Here, the Balboa Island holiday walking tour began for us, just as the sun had began to set.
What a sight it was to see young kids having fun playing in the sand, with their winter jackets on.
The Balboa Island Improvement Association (B.I.I.A.) was organized back in 1918. This association of homeowners, which was incorporated in 1956 as a non-profit corporation, aims at promoting the common good for the residents and the public, by attending to the issues that concern Balboa Island. One of the events  it sponsors is the annual Holiday Home Contest for the island's residents. We had watched most of these decorated homes  from a distance, in our boat cruise on Newport Bay.

Here are some of the homes that were judged as winners for their Christmas lights and decorations. Only a few could be declared winners, but I added other homes that also looked like winners to us.

"Angels we have heard on high..."

On Agate Avenue - near the ferry station where we took off from, for our Newport Holiday Boat Cruise.
A Christmas message of JOY

A festive train theme...

with a Christmas village meticulously set-up, outdoors, with two rail tracts for the two sets of train going around the village. This was loved by both the young and the adults.

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce covers the whole area of Newport Beach, including Balboa Island, as it promotes the economic opportunity through business and  the social and civic affairs of the city. In existence since 1907, its emphasis is in creating a sense of community among local businesses. To accomplish its mission, the chamber relies on the efforts of their members from every industry, their board of directors , their volunteers and the companies who generously sponsor their events.

One of the biggest events hosted by the chamber of commerce is the spectacular Christmas boat parade, a holiday tradition which is now considered as the biggest holiday boat parade in the whole world. Complementary to this is the Ring of Lights Waterfront Home Decorating Competition which is an annual invitation to the bayside home and business establishments to bring out the best of the holiday spirit in their decorations - lights, themed designs, and animations. Decorated homes and yacths on Newport Bay are a delightful vision on the boat cruise. A walk around Balboa Island is an enjoyable, festive bonus during the Christmas season.

The Gingerbread House theme...
 on the house frontage...
and carried over to the opposite side of the walkway, facing the harbor.

 Seals on a holiday parade

A BEARy merry Christmas theme...
with the special participation of this trio, singing Christmas carols all night long.

An animated display of Santa and his reindeers
Mr. Snowman was standing guard and he was made of real snow.
Here's a short clip of this animated display.
This is the dock in front of this house.

Strands of lights - clear and colored, fixed and twinkling - plus some ornaments and fantasyland characters, create holiday magic. From the simplest to the most ornate designs, the homes and the surroundings looked prettied up for the season. 

At this point, we decided to go back to the main street. We had walked half around the island's perimeter.
On Marine Avenue.

This can be another sort of tour - a walk up and down the street has many options: a food trip in one of several restaurants for a fine-dining experience, a drink at a snack shop or at a full-bar pub, and shopping for unique and fashionable things. Window shopping is enjoyable, as well, and inexpensive. 

This island is set up as a stand-alone community.
The Balboa Island fire station

On the main street, the restaurants and shops were just as festively lit up.
Wilma's Patio was the winner in the restaurant category. 
This is one of several markets located on the island.

If you are in a shopping mode, or, feel like eating, there are over a hundred places to visit, offering some products that may be unique to this place only. Here are some of them:

Prominently situated, almost in the center of town, is the St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

Visiting Balboa Island was like going to fantasyland.

The decorations have been taken down. Life goes on. In the spring and summer, this town will be bustling with art lovers, sun and beach lovers, and tourists on vacation from the daily grind of life. 

There is a monthly calendar of events for this island. Going fast forward to the next Christmas season, I hope to join the 16th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour, featuring eight beautiful homes, all glammed up with holiday decor. Then, I can dream about my home all decked up for the holidays 2012. But, between now and then, let's work at making 2012 a good year.

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