While homeowners are decorating their houses and lawns for the holiday season, boat owners and human powered craft aficionados have been busy stringing lights on bows, sterns and paddles.
Participating in boat parades is a holiday tradition in Southern California — and some boaters spend all year making preparations for these harbor events in order to impress boat parade spectators, judges and fellow boat owners.
It’s that time of year again when harbors along the coast host festive holiday boat parades and decorated shoreside home contests.
Grab some friends and family, and make plans to take part in one of the season’s top boating activities.
Here’s where to find this year’s holiday fun from San Diego to Santa Barbara:
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 13 and 20, 5:30-9 p.m.
Details: Continuing its long-standing San Diego tradition, the 44th annual Parade of Lights promises to amaze and entertain bayfront crowds. Participants in this year’s parade will adorn their boats to fit this year’s theme, “Christmas Around the World.” More than 100,000 San Diego residents and visitors are expected to come out to see at least 80 lavishly decorated boats.
Route: Starting at 5:30 p.m. at the south end of Shelter Island, boats will cruise west past Harbor Island then south along the embarcadero and Seaport Village before turning back north pass the Ferry Landing in Coronado. The parade takes about 2 hours to pass any given point.
Viewing: Boaters can get the best views where the parade turns west for Coronado, near the 10th Street Terminal. Shoreside spectators are advised to arrive early, since parking at Harbor Island is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Less crowded shoreside viewing areas include the north and south ends of the embarcadero, the bayside pathway along Coronado and the waterfront park behind Seaport Village. Viewers can watch the parade from near the announcers’ areas located at the Maritime Museum and Coronado Landing. As each boat passes these viewing points the announcers offer a brief history and description of the participating vessels. The Maritime Museum of San Diego will host a holiday dinner event from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 20 aboard the vessel Berkeley, where viewers can enjoy a buffet and view the decorated boats up close. Tickets are $50 for adults, $25 for children and can be purchased at sdmaritime.org or by calling 619-234-9153, ext. 101
Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 12, 6 p.m.
Details: Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the boat parade at Mission Bay Park as dozens of decorated vessels will take to the water.
Route: The parade begins at the Quivira Basin and follows a 5-mile route along the shore of Mission Bay.
Viewing: Best shoreside viewing spots include Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island and the west side of Fiesta Island.
Information: 858-488-0501; mbyc.org.
Oceanside Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
When: Dec.12, 7-9 p.m.
Details: Hosted by Oceanside Yacht Club, this is the parade’s 39th year. Fishing boats, sailboats, kayaks and dinghies dresses up in holiday gear will circle Oceanside Harbor to enchant onlookers at the harbor, restaurants and the beach.
Route: Boats will cruise along Oceanside’s inner harbor.
Viewing: Between the harbor beach and boat ramp area.
Dana Point Harbor Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 11, 12, 18, 19, 7:30 p.m.
Details: The 41st annual Parade of Lights will carry the theme “A Galactic Holiday.” Boaters from throughout Orange County are expected to join the parade and compete for awards in a variety of categories. Additional related activities will include a Holiday in the Harbor Open House from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Mariner’s Village/Alley; Boat Rides with Santa from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6 at Dana Wharf Sportfishing docks. Santa Paws will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the El Torito Courtyard on Dec. 5.
Route: The parade route will begin at the harbor entrance. Boats will head north to the Embarcadero and turn around, go right to East Marina, turn around at the bridge, exit and head along the outside of the harbor before heading into West Marina, turn around at the bridge and head back toward the starting point.
Viewing: Anywhere in the harbor, for free. Reservations are required for viewing at local restaurants. Dana Wharf Sportfishing will offer parade-viewing boat rides. For reservations, call 949-496-5794.
107th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
When: Dec. 16-20, 6:30-9 p.m.
Details: Drawing millions of visitors annually, the parade is one of the longest-running, lighted holiday boat parades in the nation and the largest harbor parade in California. For the first time in its history multiple nights of the parade will include Grand Marshal appearances by athletes, entertainers and distinguished members of the community. More than 100 boats will participate in the parade decorated to the theme “Seas the Holidays.” Fireworks, launched from the Balboa Pier, are scheduled nightly with a special finale at 9 p.m. on Dec. 20.
Route: The parade will start in the Balboa Village area, at the Bay Island channel. Parading boats will go around Balboa Island, north to the Upper Bay channel, west near Mariner’s Mile, around Lido Isle and alongside Balboa Boulevard, before heading back to the Bay Island channel. A map of the parade route is available online.
Viewing: The best shoreside viewing spots are around the Balboa Fun Zone, where spectators can also catch a glimpse of the harbor’s decorated homes. Reserved seating is offered at a variety of places along the harbor, including American Legion Yacht Club and the Newport Sea Base. Charter boat operators, such as Newport Landing, are also taking reservations for parade night cruises. Local traffic is heavy on all parade nights and parking is extremely limited, so it is wise to show up early.
Information: Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce at 949-729-4400; christmasboatparade.com.
Huntington Harbour Boat Parade
When: Dec. 12-13, 5:15 p.m.
Details: The theme for the 53rd annual parade is “Songs from the Silver Screen.” Boats of all sizes and types will participate. Boats will line up at 4:30 p.m.
Route: The parade route will run down the main channel of the harbor and loop back at the fuel dock. The complete route, skippers’ information and additional details are available at hhboatparade.org.
Viewing: Public beaches around the main channel edges of Trinidad, Humboldt and Davenport islands.
Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee Cruise of Lights
When: Dec. 17-23.
Details: The Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee will present the Cruise of Lights, its annual narrated holiday boat tour through Huntington Harbour, showcasing the area’s many decorated waterfront homes. The event raises funds for music education in Orange County. Tickets are $17 per adult and $12 per child ages 2-12.
Information: 714-840-7542; cruiseoflights.org.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade, Long Beach
When: Dec. 23, 6 p.m.
Details: The theme of the 69th annual boat parade is “Island Holiday Celebration.” Streets will close at 5 p.m. on parade night. A skippers meeting for participants is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Long Beach Yacht Club. Boats must have official parade numbers to participate.
Route: The large boat parade will begin at 6 p.m. Large boats will assemble along Lido Lane and in front of Naples Plaza. The large boats will parade from Naples Plaza Park, head west along Vis del Golfo, continue along Corso dei Napoli toward Belmont Shore and the Second Street Bridge, then turn around to pass Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, proceed down the main channel toward Seal Beach, turn in front of Koury’s Restaurant, pass the Marine Bureau, continue toward Davies Bridge, turn and pass the Sea Scout Base, pass Long Beach Yacht Club and finish at the end of Appian Way. The small boat parade will begin at 6:45 p.m. Small boats will assemble in Marine Stadium. The parade will begin at the Appian Way Bridge and travel south along Bayshore Drive. The parade will enter Naples Canals through the main entrance in front of the Colonnade and travel clockwise around the main canal. Upon exiting, boats will finish in front of Long Beach Yacht Club.
Viewing: Any public area around Naples.
Shoreline Yacht Club Parade of 1,000 Lights
When: Dec. 19, 5:30 p.m.
Details: The 33rd annual boat parade is hosted by Shoreline Yacht Club, but club membership is not required to participate. Boat parade registration, however, is required. This year’s theme is “Boats in Toyland.”
Route: Boats will line up outside Shoreline Marina, move toward Island White, circle near the beach, move into and through Shoreline Marina and on to Rainbow Harbor past Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant, Pine Avenue Pier and Gladstone’s, departing Rainbow Harbor and passing by Queen Mary.
Information: 562-435-4093; shorelineyachtclub.com.
King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade
When: Dec. 12, 4:30 p.m. for standup paddleboards; 5:45 p.m. for all boats
Details: The theme of the 24th annual King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade is “Tropical Holidays.” The Grand Marshal will be Denise Austin, former member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. All boats, standup paddleboards and outrigger canoes are welcome to participate, and decorated entries will compete for awards in a variety of categories. Proceeds from the parade will benefit the King Harbor Youth Foundation, Sea Scouts Ship 618 and P.S. I Love You.
Route: The main channel of King Harbor.
Viewing: Fisherman’s Pier, the seawall and all along the harbor, wherever there is a view to the main channel — from King Harbor Marina to the Redondo Beach Pier.
Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
When: Dec. 12, 6-8 p.m.
Details: This year’s event marks the parade’s 52nd year complete with a fireworks show at 5:55 p.m., with the boat parade following immediately afterward. This year’s parade theme is “Adventures on the Sea” with Florence Henderson serving as Grand Marshall. Enjoy a Winter Wonderland in Burton Chace Park from 1-5 p.m. the day of the parade.
Route: The parade will cruise through the main channel of the harbor and circle at least three times. The south turn will be parallel to Pacific Avenue in Marina del Rey and the jetty bridge in Playa del Rey. The north turn will be at the end of “F” Basin.
Viewing: Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village.
Information: 310-670-7130; mdrboatparade.org.
Los Angeles Harbor Holiday Afloat Boat Parade
When: Dec. 5, 6 p.m.
Details: Boats of all shapes and sizes will participate in the 53rd annual parade, which is set to the theme of “Santa’s Minions.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is the Grand Marshal and 15th District Los Angeles City Council member Joe Buscaino is Commodore of the Fleet. Pre-parade events are scheduled at 4 p.m. at the Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington. A post-parade holiday program is planned at Downtown Harbor in San Pedro.
Route: The parade will begin at 6 p.m. in the Los Angeles Main Channel. The parade route will start at the East Basin near Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington and will take approximately 90 minutes to proceed through the main channel.
Viewing: Spectators can view the parade from Banning’s Landing Community Center, USS Iowa, the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, Ports O’Call Village, Warehouse #1, 22nd Street Landing, SS Lane Victory and Cabrillo Marina, Holiday Harbor Marina, and Cruise Ship Promenade and Downtown Harbor.
Information: Call Donna Ethington at 310-549-8111 or visit laharborholidayafloat.com
Channel Islands Harbor Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 12, 7 p.m.
Details: The theme of the 50th annual boat parade is “Celebrate the ’60s.” Prior to the parade, a full day of activities is planned — starting with children’s activities and an artist’s market at Marine Emporium Landing. Santa will fly across the sky marking the beginning of the parade.
Route: The parade begins in front of Peninsula Park and heads to the Main Channel, turns at Hobie Beach, loops in front of the launch ramp, and then heads back to Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club, where the route repeats for a second run.
Viewing: Parks, walkways that line the route, most harbor restaurants and harbor charter cruise boats.
Information: 805-382-3001; channelislandsharbor.org.
Ventura Harbor Holiday Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 18-19, 6:30 p.m.
Details: This year marks the boat parade’s 39th anniversary. The theme is “Surf, Sand & Santa – Celebrating 150 years of Ventura.” Prior to the parade, a Winter Wonderland and Holiday Marketplace is scheduled to take over Ventura Harbor Village from 1-5 p.m., including faux snow every 15 minutes, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and two live reindeer.
Route: Around the edge of the harbor near Spinnaker Drive.
Viewing: Anywhere in the harbor around Spinnaker and Navigator drives. The best views are from the promenade, harbor view restaurants or the water. Ventura Boat Rentals and Island Packers will offer public cruises.
Information: 805-477-0470; venturaharborvillage.com.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Santa Barbara Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 6, 3-7 p.m.
Details: While the boats hit the parade route — starting between Santa Barbara Yacht Club and East Beach — at 5:30 p.m., the festivities for the 30th annual event kick off at 3 p.m. at Santa’s Village on the City Pier in the harbor, where visitors will enjoy 10 tons of snow and meeting Santa. The first 200 children receive free goody bags from Santa’s helpers. Approximately 30 boats will be decorated for this year’s event set to the theme of “A Red, White & Blue Holiday.” A short fireworks display is scheduled to follow the boat parade.
Viewing: Stearns Wharf and the breakwater.
Information: 805-897-2588; santabarbaraca.gov.