We'll take the ferry ($1.00 each way) across the bay and walk along the bay and into the business district.
I suggest a tripod or monopod, and a fast, wide-angle lens.
There is a large, paid parking lot adjacent to the pier -- note that this is the Balboa Pier and not the Newport Beach Pier.
Why so early? The biggest mistake most people make, when photographing Christmas lights, is they wait until it is completely dark. However, many homeowners don't turn on the lights until later, so there is the Catch 22 :-)
You can Google some techniques for getting good shots of lights, but here is a basic video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCpRrhZ7zZg
The ferry runs continuously, so don't worry if you have to be late. I'll send my cell # to everyone who registers, mid-afternoon, on Saturday.