You’ve cruised the boardwalk on bikes and roller blades, but have you ever tried a Segway tour? You’ve probably seen people on those space-age looking things and wondered what they’re like. Well, they’re a fast, fun way to see Newport!
Invented in 2001 as a “self-balancing, zero emissions personal transportation vehicle”, Segways are used by police departments, security companies and for tourism. They are totally quiet and can reach speeds of up to 12.5 mph. They can also turn on a dime, making them easy to navigate through narrow areas.
Balboa Fun Tours is in a prime spot for starting your Segway tour. Located at 1910 West Balboa Boulevard (in the same parking lot as 7-11,) it’s right by the Newport Pier area. Arrive a bit early to fill out paperwork and get your helmet. Your guide will train your group of up to 10 in the parking lot. There are a few important things to know about the Segway. First, the wheels are thick, about 4 inches wide on each side, so you need to allow for that. You can’t get too close to other Segways or obstacles like the edge of the boardwalk. It’s also always on, so when it’s unplugged from its base, you have to hold onto it, either with your foot or by the handlebars so it doesn’t take off on its own. As for steering, it’s all based on your balance. Lean forward to speed up, lean back to stop. Shift the handlebars from side to side to steer. Sounds easy, right? It is. But it’s no toy. And you’re not getting on an amusement park ride. You need proper training and a few minutes of practice. Once you get used to it, you’ll be totally comfortable.
The tour begins with crossing Balboa Boulevard, which feels (and looks) a little funny with the long line of single file Segways. Once you’re on the boardwalk you can breathe a sigh of of relief that the cars are behind you. The view of the Pacific and Catalina is just glorious as you pick up speed and enjoy the sun and breeze on your face. You’ll pass Newport Elementary and the kids having recess on the ocean, if school’s in session.
The tour takes you down to the Balboa Pier with its tourists and fisherman. The wide expanse of the pier and its smooth incline are perfect for navigating the Segway. Some tours will take you all the way to the Wedge and back, lasting anywhere from 1-3 hours. The guide builds in a few breaks here and there for rest. Surprisingly, your feet and ankles are working, so it’s important to flex them and keep your blood circulating.
Segway tours are a fun way to see the Newport Peninsula – great for groups large and small. The weight requirement is 60 lbs., but use caution allowing kids to drive a Segway. They’re pretty powerful and so different from bikes, scooters and skateboards. Drivers need to be calm and capable of dealing with unforeseen obstacle such as bikers and walkers with strollers. Pricing is $75 for a 1 ½ tour, but Groupons are often available for around $40. Visit ww.newportfuntours.com or call (949) 484-4307 for more information.