By Denise Ortuno Neil

When the sun goes down in the OC the party scene lights up, especially in the Newport Beach neighborhood of the Balboa Peninsula, known to locals as the Pen. To party on the Pen is standard weekend procedure for OC locals, and for all of you desert nightlife enthusiasts, a new and different way to party while escaping the desert summertime heat.

The Balboa area is actually made up of three artificial islands. It was originally a landing for exports in the late 1800’s. Then, the brothers McFadden (James and Robert) utilized the landing as a successful commercial and shipping business before selling most of the area to William Collins, who then developed the islands by dredging the silt and sand forming what is today the Balboa Islands. He basically made Newport Beach the popular wealthy oceanfront that millions enjoy today…some with their millions.

There are two ways to get to Balboa, one is through the two lane bridge that connects the mainland to the islands and the other is from the quaint ferry that deposits visitors and locals to the islands popular village only steps away from the historic Pavilion which is adjacent to the “Fun Zone”, a sea side year round carnival.


There are many things to enjoy on the islands, including the infamous surfing spot “The Wedge’. But we are not talking about surfing in this article; we are talking about partying on the Pen…so let’s get to it!
One of the best things about partying in this area is that you can do it all in walking distance, avoiding driving and those pesky DUI’s. If you’re looking to start your weekend off by checking out some sports, then Rudy’s is the place to be. With a huge selection of TV’s to watch your favorite sports from, you will be ready for any of the day’s games ( there, try your luck with the Irish at the Pens authentic Irish Pub, Malarky’s. Open since 1977, this bar has the largest sit down bar on the Pen and will delight you with good ole Irish hospitality…just beware of those flirty leprechauns (

After a couple of Irish Car Bombs (it’s just a shot of Irish whiskey, Baileys and Guinness), it’s time to grab some grub at the Pens favorite dive bar Cassidy’s. This thinly shaped bar boasts the area’s best burgers, huge cheap pours and tightest quarters. It’s easy to get cozy with the locals at Cassidy’s when the party gets started. You can even play some good natured pool…just be careful where your pool cue lands when pushed through the crowd…ouch! (Cassidy’s Bar & Grill Facebook)

Feeling your feet bumping to the music? Well, that means you could be at a couple of different places….actually, let’s make it three. First let’s peek inside Woody’s Wharf. This notorious hotspot has been causing mayhem on the Pen since 1965, making it Balboa’s number one nightlife offender with lively DJ music and a who’s who of patrons…a Pen must (! From Woody’s Wharf, make sure to stop by American Junkie (my fave). It is a spacious well thought out night spot with an awesome view of the harbor from its upstairs patio. The all-around vibe at American Junkie is a fabulous, sure to make visiting Coachella Valley partyers feel welcome. And don’t forget their bottomless Mimosa and Bloody Mary Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays for only $15…bonus (! Now it’s time to get close to the water. That means getting close to Baja Sharkeez. This newly spruced up cantina will get you going with its wide selection of tequilas, beer and tasty tacos as you dance to the rhythms of the night with some muy bonito chicas and chicos (!

But to get the surfer and true down to earth beachy texture of the Pen, try out Blackies. This no nonsense local’s favorite will give you ice cold beer and a warm Pen welcome ( Well it’s that time of night already. And there are many more bars to hang out in…but if you’re ready to call it a night and your stomach is making that “I want some drinking food” sound, then it means that it’s time for Laventinas Pizza. For over two decades, this hole in the wall pizza joint has been slinging out pizza to the Pens party patrons with cheesy enthusiasm. Hang out with the best of the Pen’s partyers street side as they cram pizza goodness into their exuberantly intoxicated faces at this take out only pizza haven (

That rounds out the best of the Pen. There are many more places to enjoy, but these are some of the most popular on the circuit. The Balboa Island area is a beautiful and charming place to visit, even if you don’t want to party the night away. But party or not, it makes for a fantastic desert heat summertime escape!