Southern California’s guide to some of the most spectacular maritime festivities during the holiday season.
Editors note: On Nov. 29, this article was corrected to reflect the inaccurate date for Channel Island Harbor Parade of Lights printed. The parade takes place on Dec. 8. Also, the Dana Point Boat Parade is in its 44th year, not it’s 43rd.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — What is the holiday season without a boat parade? Vessel owners, in homage to the spirit of winter, get together to decorate and light up the waters up and down Southern California’s coastline.
Some of the festivities include bedecking boats in special themes, listening to music and spending much-needed quality time with friends and neighbors on the water.
One of the joys of California’s lack of changing weather (other than from mildly sunny to very sunny) is that each harbor can usually put on a beautiful boat parade for the winter holiday. Unfortunately some harbors, such as Santa Barbara, were forced to cancel their annual boat parade due to the Thomas Fires last year, and hopefully the fires this year will not interfere.
Participation in boat parades can lead to winning prizes; some will require an entry fee. Spectators can watch from the sidelines or make a reservation for a harbor cruise to take in the shows.
Whether one celebrates Christmas, Hanukah or another holiday, there is always room to enjoy the cheerful atmosphere of a local boat parade. Find all the details about local holiday boat parades here in this listing.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Date: Dec. 10 and 17
Time: 5-7 p.m.
Details: The 47th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, presented by the Port of San Diego, returns Dec. 9 and 16. The theme is “Tropical Island Christmas.” San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has classically been considered one of SoCal’s best holiday boat parade. More than 80 boats are expected to participate. Those boaters participating in both nights of the parade and viewed by the judges are eligible to win various awards and prizes; this year will include cruises, 5-star hotel stays and much more. The entry fee is $75 and a ticket for the dinner presentation is $35. There will be an awards presentation dinner at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island, Jan. 10, 2019.
Route: Beginning at 5 p.m. each night, the parade starts at Shelter Island and proceeds to Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the Pier at Cesar Chavez Park and ends at the Ferry Landing in Coronado.
Viewing: For the first time this year, the parade will proceed to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado. The parade takes about an hour to pass any given point. Spectators are encouraged to plan ahead or take the trolley to avoid traffic and parking issues.
Information: sdparadeoflights.org, 619-224-2240, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission Bay Boat Parade of Lights
Date: Dec. 8
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Details: This annual holiday parade will be held at San Diego’s Mission Bay and features dozens of decorated boats. Admission is free.
Route: Decorated boats circle around Mission Bay, starting from the Quivira Basin area.
Viewing: Best viewing is from Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island and west side of Fiesta Island.
Information: Call 858-488-0501 or go online at bit.ly/2fZCelI.
Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights
Date: Dec. 8
Time: 7 p.m.
Details: Oceanside Yacht Club presents the Parade of Lights. Boats participating must register and obtain a number to enter the contest. Deadline to enter is Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Participants can sign up at the Oceanside YC during business hours posted on website oceansideyc.net. Best time to register would be at the Skipper’s Meeting (Dec. 8, 2 p.m.). Judging and awards will take place at the yacht club after the parade.
Route: The parade will loop twice around the inside of the Oceanside Harbor.
Viewing: The best viewing location, according to an official San Diego city blog, is near the fishing dock and police station.
Information: Call Oceanside YC at 760-722-5721.
44th annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade
Dates: Dec. 7, 8, 14 & 15
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Details: The 43rd Annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights’ theme this year is “Western Wonderland.” Each night will feature carolers, games, crafts and free photos with Santa Claus. Festivities begin at 4:30 p.m. each night of the boat parade; the parade itself begins at 7:30 p.m. Viewing the parade is free. Submit an entry form online at danapointharbor.com/.
Route: A map of the boat parade route is available online at danapointharbor.com/boat-parade-of-lights/.
Viewing: The parade can be viewed for free from anywhere in the Harbor, or make reservations at one of the restaurants to view it.
Information: Call the Harbor Info line at 949-923-2255, email email@example.com or visit website at danapointharbor.com.
110th Newport Beach Boat Parade
Dates: Dec. 19-23
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Details: The Newport Beach Boat parade, hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s longest running holiday boat parade. This is also the biggest harbor parade in California. Grand Marshal of the event this year will be baseball player Albert Puljols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The New York Times hails it as one of the top holiday events in the United States. More than 100 decorated boats are expected to participate. The boat parade begins east end of Lido Island. The first viewing destination will be at Marina Park. Call 949-729-4400 for specific questions about entries. The entry fee is $35.
Route: The route of the parade can be viewed online at christmasboatparade.com/.
Viewing: Spectators can view the parade at several locations, including Marina Park, 10th Street Beach, Balboa Village Boardwalk, M Street Pier, West Jetty View Park, Lookout Point, China Cove Beach, Balboa Island and Via Lido Park.
Information: For all the details, go online at christmasboatparade.com.
56th Huntington Harbour Boat Parade
Dates: Dec. 8-9
Time: 5:15 p.m.
Details: This year’s holiday boat parade theme is “A Space Odyssey.” New and previous participants are encouraged to display music and lights from all cultures. There are 16 trophies to be awarded to boating participants from various categories including “Most Religious” to “Best Commercial Entry.” Deadline to enter: Dec. 8. The parade will be shown on Ch. 3 over the holiday season. To enter a boat in this parade, go online at hhboatparade.org/entries. Line up for the boat parade is at 4:30 p.m. Parade starts at 5:15 p.m. sharp.
Route: The parade route can be viewed online at hhboatparade.org/parade-route.
Viewing: Viewing areas are limited from outside the harbor area and parking is quite limited. Those that will have the best views are those that have a residence in Huntington Harbour or have a watercraft.
Information: Visit hhboatparade.org or call Eva Kilgore at 714-397-0002 or Mike Novak at 714-270-7109.
21st Annual Villa Park Dry Land Boat Parade
Dates: Dec. 9
Time: 5-9 p.m.
Details: While most boating parades take place in the water, Villa Park host an annual “dry land” parade. Approximately 50 boats follow a route by road with the use of trailers showing off their festive décor. Along the route are neighborhood parties, and passengers toss candy from yachts featured in the parade. According to the website, a “boat” is defined as anything that can be towed or driven at a speed of 5 mph; creative entries such as surfboards, kayaks, jet skis, gold carts, classic cars and other vehicles are encouraged. This year’s theme is “rolling into the holidays.”
Route: The parade route can be viewed online at villapark.co/dry-land-boat-parade.
Viewing: There are many viewing areas down Taft Ave. and along other streets on the route as the parade travels through Villa Park.
Information: Visit villapark.co/dry-land-boat-parade for more details.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
72nd annual Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade
Date: Dec. 8
Time: Streets close at 5 p.m. The large boat parade starts at 6 p.m. The small boat parade starts at 6:30 p.m.
Details: The theme this year’s annual holiday boat parade at Naples Island is “Star Spangled Christmas.” On the night of the parade, all large boats will assemble along Lido Lane and off the sea wall in front of Naples Plaza. All the small boats will assemble in Marine Stadium. Local streets close at 5 p.m. The Naples Improvement Association hosts this holiday parade (not a Long Beach Yacht Club event). For those participating in this boat parade, a mandatory skippers’ meeting is being held Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Long Beach Yacht Club in the Regatta Room. Only boats with official parade numbers will be allowed in the canals. The entry fee is $45 per boat and $25 per kayak. Boat entry forms are available online at naplesca.com/Parade_Entry_Form.php.
Route: Staging for boats is at Bay Shore Ave. in Marine Stadium. Boats will proceed under Appian Way towards Sorrento Drive and The Toledo, veer right to Sea Isle Drive toward Corso di Napoli, veer left into Naples Canal, right at Rivo Alto crossing under The Toledo Bridge, passes under Ravenna Dr. Bridge and 2nd The Toledo St. Bridge, passes under Neopolitan Ln. Bridge, goes left on Corso di Napoli toward Vista del Golfo past Naples Park Plaza, veer around Corso di Oro, past Lido Lane, veer left at Appian Way veers and ends at Long Beach Yacht Club and Marine Stadium staging area. A map is available online at bit.ly/2gihrgP. Entry forms are available online at naplesca.com/Parade_Entry_Form.php
Viewing: Spectators can view the parade from the Naples’ canals and various bridges as well as along the bay. Free parking is at Alamitos Bay Marina off Second Street and Marina. Metered parking is at Mothers Beach off Ravenna and Appian Way. Beach parking is at Bayshore and Ocean Boulevard. There are public restrooms at Mothers Beach and at Bayshore and Second Street.
Information: Visit naplesca.com.
27th annual King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade
Date: Dec. 8
Time: 4:30-11:30 p.m.
Details: The 26th annual King Harbor Boat, hosted by King Harbor Yacht Club, will be celebrating a “California Christmas.” The parade will have decorated boats and paddle craft circling the King Harbor Marina. This year’s Grand Marshal will be Ted Lange, who portrayed Issac the Bartender on “The Love Boat.” The theme will be “deck the hulls with love.” The entry fee is $30 for boats and $15 for standup paddleboards. Contact April Pitcairn at 310-721-1758 or Chris Schmidt at 310-918-2731 for paddlecraft information. A trophy presentation dinner will be held after the parade ($15 for adults $10 for children 10 and younger).
Route: The Parade Route is counter-clockwise with three passes in front of King Harbor Yacht Club.
Viewing: Best viewing locations are at King Harbor Marina/Moonstone Park (free bleachers for first come/first serve), Redondo Beach Marina Sportfishing Pier and Seawall, Portofino Hotel and Marina Lobby and Seawall as well as Seaside Lagoon Seawall.
Information: Visit khyc.org for more information.
56th annual L.A. Harbor Holiday Afloat Parade
Date: Dec. 1
Time: 6 p.m.
Details: Port of L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners’ David Arian is this year’s Grand Marshal. The Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, the official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles, along with vessels of all shapes and sizes will participate including powerboats, sailboats and harbor working craft. Entries will be judged and trophies awarded for various classifications, such as Originality, Theme, Type of Entry and more. The parade will again be televised via LA36, Los Angeles Community Television cable channel. Home viewers may also watch the parade on Los Angeles CityView Channel 35. For air times, visit lacityview.org. The parade will begin at the Port’s East Basin.
Route: The parade route and viewing times for various locations are available online at laharborholidayafloat.org/parade-route-2/.
Viewing: Wilmington: Banning’s Landing, Wilmington Marinas; San Pedro: Downtown Harbor, LA Maritime Museum, Battleship Iowa, Ports O’Call Village, Warehouse #1, Cabrillo Way Marina, Cabrillo Marinas (California Yacht & Holiday Harbor), SS Lane Victory (Kaiser Point).
Information: Information is available online at laharborholidayafloat.org.
56th annual Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
Date: Dec. 8
Time: 6 p.m.
Details: As many as 25,000 people are expected to attend the annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, which features Los Angeles Board of Supervisor Janice Hahn as its Grand Marshal. This year’s theme is “Holiday Water Wonderland.” Traditional fireworks that annually noted the beginning of the boat parade will be shot off the south jetty of the marina at 5:55 p.m. Paid parking is available at county lots($5 and $15), Burton Chace Park (Lots 4 and 77) and Fisherman’s Wharf ($1 per 20 minutes, $15 maximum, pay attendant upon exit).
Route: Fireworks’ site is on the jetty near the entrance of the main channel. All boats will begin circling the main channel of the Marina at 6:00 p.m.
Viewing: Spectators can view the parade and listen to live announcements at Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village. The public can also watch the parade of boats from other local venues.
Information: Visit the website online at mdrboatparade.org.
53rd annual Channel Islands Harbor Parade of Lights
Dates: Dec. 8
Time: 12-8 p.m.
Details: The Channel Islands Harbor is presents its annual Parade of Lights, themed “Heroes on Holiday,” which kicks off the holidays with a full day and evening of family fun, thousands of sparkling lights dancing on the water and the magical moment when Santa flies across the sky marking the beginning of the parade. Children’s activities and artists market will take place at Marine Emporium Landing, meet Santa (12-4 p.m.), snowplay in the morning and strolling carolers (5:30-8:30 pm). Parade begins at 7 p.m. and can be viewed throughout the harbor.
Route: A route map is available online at bit.ly/2A0eDLu.
Viewing: The parade can be viewed from parks and walkways that line the route as well as from most harbor restaurants. Boat charters are available for those who want to watch the parade from the water.
Information: Visit channelislandsharbor.org or call 805-973-5950.
42nd annual Ventura Harbor’s Parade of Lights
Dates: Dec. 14 &15
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Details: The theme for Ventura Harbor’s 42nd annual Parade of Lights is “Rocking on the Dock side of the Moon.” Festivities kick off at 5 p.m., with the Parade of Lights commencing at 6:30 p.m. The event concludes with fireworks at 8 p.m. More than 30 vessels are expected to participate. The second evening of the boat parade will feature carolers, live reindeer, faux snowfall and photo opportunities with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Route: Ventura Harbor
Viewing: Ventura Harbor Village
Information: Visit venturaharborvillage.com/parade-of-lights-2018 for more information.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
33rd annual Santa Barbara Parade of Lights
Date: Dec. 9
Time: 5-9 p.m.
Details: This year’s theme will be “A Wild West Holiday.” Family festivities begin at Santa’s Village and culminate with a 7-minute fireworks display. The boat parade is preceded by Santa’s Village activities beginning at 3 p.m. on the City Pier in Santa Barbara Harbor (by the boats). Hundreds of families will come out to play in 10 tons of snow and take photos with Santa to get into the holiday spirit. The first 200 children receive free goody bags from Santa’s helpers. At 5:30 p.m. the annual boat parade begins with approximately 30 boats motoring, sailing, and paddling the Santa Barbara Coastline to the theme of Hollywood Holidays. Judging takes place at Stearns Wharf and boats are awarded donated cash and prizes in five categories. Best viewing locations include Stearns Wharf and the breakwater. Event admission is free. Forms are available now at the Waterfront Office, Harbor Market and Fuel Dock. Complete the form and turn in to the Waterfront Administration offices.
Route: The Santa Barbara Coastline with judging taking place at Stearns Wharf.
Viewing: Best viewing locations include Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara breakwater.
Information: For more parade information contact the Harbormaster’s Office at 805-564-5531.