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Turn Shopping Into a Holiday

Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Why not turn your last-minute Christmas shopping into a mini-vacation? You can if you start early in the day and head out to one of Orange County’s nautically themed waterfront shopping centers.

At Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach, between gift-buying at one of the 20 or so shops, you can relax on a bench, breathe in the bracing salt air and watch sailboats glide by as sea gulls swoop overhead. You can treat yourself to breakfast, lunch or dinner at a variety of waterfront restaurants and stroll along the boardwalk admiring dozens of pricey yachts.

You can even take a free ride in a horse-drawn carriage over the center’s cobblestone streets. Carriage rides are available today from 4 to 7 and 8 to 10 p.m., Sunday from noon to 3 and 5 to 7 p.m. The rides will be offered again Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.

There will also be visits by Santa from 4 to 7 p.m. today through Friday and strolling carolers decked out in Victorian finery today, Sunday, and Friday. There will also be a pushcart wandering the village streets selling roasted chestnuts.

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And today through Friday the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights will cruise by the waterfront center each evening at 7:30 p.m.

If you begin your day early, you can have breakfast at the waterfront Camelot Restaurant, a small, elegant continental cafe offering tasty omelets and croissants. Linen-covered tables all offer views of the bay. Or you can eat outside on the patio for a close-up view of the harbor and the boats tied up in front of the restaurant. Camelot opens at 8 a.m.

Parking is easy. There’s a covered garage that offers validated parking for village shoppers.

But what about the shopping? For the fashionable men on your list, you might try Paolo Giardini Boutique. If you’re looking for something less personal, more intellectual, there’s Lido Book Shoppe with the latest in magazines, best-sellers and specialty books.

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For a novelty gift, try Newport Hologram, where you can buy a spinning disk for as little as $5 or three-dimensional hologram art for as much as several hundred dollars. For more of the unusual, Pagliacci Clown Art, which specializes in the art of comedian Red Skelton, offers clown-related art and gift items ranging from $6.95 dolls and $29 Emmett Kelly figurines to $110,000 Red Skelton oil originals.

For women’s wear, five village shops offer a variety of fashions ranging from the affordable to the extravagant. In addition, there are three jewelry shops and four art galleries. Most shops are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The waterfront shopping village in Dana Point Harbor is home to more than 20 specialty shops, including a children’s store, a chocolate shop, several women’s wear boutiques, a pearl shop and a store specializing in American Indian art. Most shops are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At Boys and Girls Ahoy you can buy a toddler-sized sailor suit for $32 or a pint-size red velvet party dress for $29. A few doors down at the Chocolate Soldier, you can buy a box of Courvoisier-filled chocolates for $27.

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“We really have everything here,” says Dee Bower of the Dana Point Harbor Association information office.

What’s more, Bower says, the marina center is never as jampacked as the county’s more popular malls. “The parking will not be anything like at the malls,” she says. “It is more leisurely plus we have nice places to take a break, eat and enjoy the view. We have lots of people who just love to spend the day down here, to walk through the harbor.”

Combining that walk with your Christmas shopping is a good way to beat the rush and take some time for yourself, she says. “There’s tranquility here. You can enjoy the clean air and views of the ocean.”

At Peter’s Landing in Huntington Beach, you’ll find fewer shops from which to choose, but a waterfront setting similar to the one in Lido Village and Dana Point Harbor. And there’s ample free parking, including free valet service.

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Peter’s Landing, located on Pacific Coast Highway near Warner Avenue and Anderson Street, offers two women’s clothing stores; a specialty store featuring clothing, cards and gifts; an art gallery, and a marine store that carries nautical items.

Like Lido Village and Dana Point Harbor’s shopping village, the center has a selection of restaurants, including Reuben’s, The Red Onion and Cafe Bristol, which serves breakfast and offers patio dining. Shops are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Special yuletide activities include visits by Santa and strolling carolers from 7 to 9 p.m. today and Dec. 18. In addition, the 26th Annual Cruise of Lights through Huntington Harbour will continue each evening through Dec. 22. Boat tours depart from Peters Landing at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. and pass elaborately decorated homes.

The tours are sponsored by the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Society. Tickets are $7. Information is available by calling (714) 840-7542.

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