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Exploring the Balboa Fun Zone

Located on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, the Balboa Fun Zone is a family-friendly destination offering an ocean and harbor experience for those who wish to visit.

The History of the Balboa Fun Zone

Built in 1036 by Al Anderson, the Balboa Fun Zone originally consisted of a small beach and a 45-foot Ferris Wheel. 50 years later, Jordan Wank rebuilt the entire area and reopened it. Two years later, ownership changed hands to Doo & Sons. They walked away, however, when they were unable to obtain zoning permits to develop the property as a mixed-use retail and housing project. The property then languished for several years as the quality began to decline.

Things turned around for the property in 1994 when former employee Joe Tunstall purchased the property. The property then consisted of a newly restored Carousel that was purchased in 1985 along with a #5 Eli Ferris Wheel, Drummer Boy, bumper cars and the Scary Dark Ride. The property was also home to a few souvenir shops, restaurants and tour boat companies that offered boat rides and narrated cruises. The Balboa Fun Zone was later purchased by NHNM Property in December 2005. Eight years later, the company made some major changes and additions to the property.

Enjoying Time at the Balboa Fun Zone

Today, tourists and residents can still enjoy many attractions at the Balboa Fun Zone. Among these is the Ferris Wheel, which is a frequently photographed night landmark on the Peninsula. Visitors can also enjoy playing the old-fashioned arcades located on the boardwalk of the Balboa Fun Zone, while recent additions include three rides known as Fish Pipe, Ocean Motion and Burt the Bull Shark. Fish pipe is an 11-foot in diameter ride in which riders get wet as they slide inside a giant transparent sphere as it rotates at 45 rpm. Ocean Motion is an 18-foot tall bungee ride that allows people to jump and flip in the area, while Burt the Bull Shark is a 12-foot long bull shark weighing 200 pounds that tries to buck riders off of its back.

The Balboa Fun Zone also features a handicap accessible raised patio that is open to the public for views of Newport Harbor, while the Balboa Village area where the Balboa Fun Zone is located features restaurants, retail shops, several saloons and a boutique hotel. The Balboa Pier, the beach and boardwalks along the harbor and the beach are also in the area. The Balboa Theater is also located nearby, while the Balboa Fun Zone itself is home to a boardwalk, several stores and many restaurants. Among these is the iconic Cape Cod style Balboa Pavilion, which was built in 1905.

ExplorOcean is also located in the Balboa Fun Zone, where it occupies one city block. With a mission to educate children about Ocean Literacy, ExplorOcean offers hands-on activities, field trips and summer camps. At the Ocean Literacy Center, visitors can touch tide pool sea creatures such as sea cucumber and starfish, build and pilot advanced underwater submarines, and learn about the ocean through a variety of hands-on activities based in science, technology, engineering and math.

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