Off the Menu OC

Covering the dining scene in and around the OC

Dining at the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Boat Parade photoOne of the largest holiday celebrations in the country is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people each year. This year’s parade takes place December 18 – 22.

And only in Newport Beach could you enjoy a gourmet dinner by the bay and then watch the Christmas Boat Parade before, during or after your meal.

The parade begins and ends at Bay Island, which means the Fun Zone restaurants offer early parade viewing. Two of them – Newport Landing and Harborside Restaurant – are perfect spots to dine while the parade cruises by. Others in the area are just off the waterfront yet steps away from easy parade viewing. One of those, The Sliding Door (Balboa Village’s newest restaurant), is charming and intimate, and offers an impressive menu at reasonable prices. So does Mint Leaf Thai Cuisine and Great Mex (a local favorite). All three restaurants are around the corner from the Fun Zone.

The Fun Zone itself offers a handful of small eateries including Balboa Barbie Q (a terrific BBQ spot) and several hot dog and pizza joints.

Once the parade travels around the harbor near Coast Highway, a handful of restaurants provide excellent viewing, including Balboa Bay Resort (their restaurant and

Catherine with the short rib entrée at Sliding Door

Catherine with the short rib entrée at Sliding Door

lounge are both great options for dining and watching the parade), Chart House, Rusty Pelican, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Billy’s at the Beach. And don’t forget Garlic Joe’s and JackShrimp, which are across the street from the waterfront but great spots to dine before the parade.

Some restaurants such as Bayside, 3-Thirty-3, Bluewater Grill, A Restaurant, SOL Cocina and The Cannery, don’t offer direct viewing, but they’re a short walk from the waterfront and can be less-crowded than restaurants along the parade route.

Lido Village has several restaurants on the parade route, but others (such as Pescadou, one of Newport’s best French restaurants) on Newport Blvd. are a short walk to the parade route. Crab Cooker, The Old Spaghetti Factory, and others along Newport Blvd. on the Balboa Peninsula are also a short walk from the parade route.

Balboa Island is another terrific area in which to dine prior to or after the parade. The restaurants are not directly on the parade route, but they’re a short stroll to easy parade viewing from almost anywhere on the perimeter of the Island.

Amelia's on Balboa Island

Amelia’s on Balboa Island

We recently performed a dining reconnaissance mission on Balboa Island and noted the many excellent dining options along Marine Avenue, including Amelia’s, an Island staple since 1961 that specializes in Italian and seafood. They have a simple selection of pastas and plenty of sauce and meat choices for each one.

Two more Italian restaurants line Marine Avenue: Barolo by the Sea, which has a fantastic pear and gorgonzola ravioli with pancetta and walnuts, plus polenta with wild mushrooms, vodka sauces, and gnocchi; and Ciao, which is more family-style with traditional Italian dishes.

Also on the Island: Basilic, renowned for Swiss-French cuisine; Wilma’s Patio, which has been delighting diners for decades; Village Inn, which has a new chef and impressive cuisine (the short ribs are amazing); Trattoria, a Mediterranean restaurant; Shanghai Pine Garden, another Island staple; Picante Martin’s Mexican Restaurant; and of course, Sugar and Spice, and Dad’s, both decades old dessert boutiques specializing in frozen bananas and Balboa bars.

Parking can be challenging on Boat Parade nights, and many restaurants directly on the parade route often sell out, so your best bet might be those just off the route yet easily accessible to parade viewing.

Remember—dress warm, drive safe, and happy dining!

For more information, including a parade route map, visit

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