Join in the Holiday Fun — On the Water

Byline: The Log Staff

Join in the Holiday Fun -- On the Water

Participating in boat parades is a holiday tradition in Southern California — and some boaters spend all year making preparations for these harbor events. Bringing together the right holiday decorations, lights and onboard spirit to “wow” the crowds of fellow boaters on the water and spectators on shore takes planning, cleverness and a lot of creativity.

However, even if you haven’t been working on your decorations since July, there’s still time to join in the fun of this month’s annual holiday boat parades. String some lights, bring along some friends and family, and make your plan now to take part in one of the season’s top boating activities.

Regardless of whether this is your first year heading out to join in the festivities on the water or it’s an annual outing, you’re sure to find something new and exciting to see and do. From participating in a decorated boat parade to checking out all the waterfront homes decked out for the holidays on a moonlight cruise, boaters have many opportunities to make the season bright.

Bring a thermos full of hot spiced cider, a plate of fresh-baked cookies — and friends. You and your family will enjoy a fun-filled evening on the water, and warm holiday memories to treasure forever.

Here’s where to find this year’s holiday fun, from San Diego to Santa Barbara:


San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 8 and 15, 5-9 p.m.

Details: More than 80,000 spectators are expected to view this year’s event, in which participating boaters will decorate their vessels to the theme “The Big Bay Toy Parade.”

Route: Starting at 5:30 p.m. at the south end of Shelter Island, boats will cruise to the north end of Shelter Island, across the entrance to America’s Cup Harbor to the west end of Harbor Island, to the east end of Harbor Island, to just west of the Maritime Museum’s ferry Berkeley. Parade boats will proceeds past Berkeley and Star of India, parallels the Embarcadero to the “G” St. Mole, proceeds past Seaport Village and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina, pass Marina Park, and turn south to cross the bay to the Marriott Coronado Hotel. The parade boats will then proceed west to the Coronado Ferry Landing and finish at Buoy 22a. The approximate times of the parade’s arrival at each of at the following locations are: Shelter Island: 5:30 p.m., Harbor Island: 6 p.m., the Embarcadero: 6:30 p.m., Seaport Village: 7 p.m., Coronado Ferry Landing: 7:30 p.m.

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. The Maritime Museum of San Diego will host a holiday dinner event from 5-9 p.m. Dec. 15 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 or by calling (619) 234-9153, ext. 101


Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 14, 7 p.m.

Details: Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the boat parade at Mission Bay Park. The parade is scheduled to conclude with a fireworks display and the lighting of the SeaWorld Skytower Tree of Lights at 9 p.m.

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;

Oceanside Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

When: Dec.14, 7-9 p.m.

Details: Hosted by Oceanside Yacht Club, this is the parade’s 37th year. The decorated boat entry deadline is 2 p.m. Dec. 14. Entry forms are available at the club, at 1950 N. Harbor Drive. A skippers’ meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Judging and awards presentations are scheduled at the conclusion of the parade, at Oceanside YC.

Route: Boats will cruise along Oceanside’s inner harbor.

Viewing: Between the harbor beach and boat ramp area.

Information: (760) 722-5751.


Dana Point Harbor Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14; 7:30 p.m.

Details: The 39th annual Parade of Lights will carry the theme “Here We Come a’Caroling.” 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. 6 at Mariner’s Village/Alley and Dana Wharf, strolling junior carolers from 4:30-6 p.m. Dec. 6, and 13 Boat Rides with Santa Dec. 7 and 8 at Dana Wharf Sportfishing docks.

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 $25; $15 for children. For reservations, call (949) 496-5794.


105th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

When: Dec. 18-22, 6:30-9 p.m.

Details: Called “one of the top 10 holiday happenings in the nation” by the New York Times, the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade will start nightly off Bay Island. This year’s theme is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Fireworks, launched from the Balboa Pier, are scheduled at the end of the parade’s first and last night — beginning at 9 p.m. Dec. 18 and Dec. 22.

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 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;

Huntington Harbour Boat Parade

When: Dec. 7-8, 5:15 p.m.

Details: The theme for the 51st annual parade is “Music Around the World.” Boats of all sizes and types will participate. Boats will line up at 4:30 p.m. Boat parade judging will take place on Dec. 7, and a trophy presentation and brunch is scheduled Dec. 8 at Huntington Harbour Yacht Club.

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

Viewing: Public beaches around the main channel edges of Trinidad, Humboldt and Davenport islands.


Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee Cruise of Lights

When: Dec. 14-15, 19-23. Narrated tours are scheduled at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.

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 $10 per child age 2-12.

Information: (714) 840-7542;



Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade, Long Beach

When: Dec. 21, 6 p.m.

Details: The theme of the 67th annual boat parade is “Vintage Christmas.” Streets will close at 5 p.m. on parade night. Three groups of carolers will stroll throughout the island, singing holiday songs by the bridges. A skippers meeting for participants is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 18 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.



Long Beach Parade of 1,000 Lights

When: Dec. 14, 5:30 p.m.

Details: The theme of the 31st annual boat parade is “Sand, Surf and Santa.” The event is hosted by Shoreline Yacht Club, but club membership is not required to participate. Boat parade registration, however, is required. The entry fee is $15 for boats that enter by Dec. 8; $20 for boats that enter Dec. 9-14. The registration deadline is 11 a.m. Dec. 13. A mandatory skippers’ meeting is scheduled at 11 a.m. Dec. 14. An awards banquet will follow the parade at 8 p.m. at Shoreline Yacht Club.

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;


King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade

When: Dec. 14, 4:45 p.m. for stand-up paddleboards; 5:30 p.m. for boats

Details: The theme of the 22nd annual King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade is “Dive into the Season” and will be a tribute to the late Bob Meistrell, founder of Body Glove. The grand marshals will be the Meistrell Family — Bob’s wife, Patty; and sons Randy, Robbie and Ronnie — and the grand marshal boat will be The Disappearance. All boats, stand-up 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 a charity of the grand marshals’ choice.

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.

Information: (310) 376-2459; or


Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade

When: Dec. 14, 6-8 p.m.

Details: Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss and former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson are the grand marshals of Marina del Rey’s 51st annual Holiday Boat Parade. The event starts off with a fireworks show at 5:55 p.m., with the boat parade following immediately afterward. This year’s parade theme is “Holiday Magic.”

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;


Los Angeles Harbor Holiday Afloat Boat Parade

When: Dec. 7, 6 p.m.

Details: This year’s parade theme is “Holidays Around the World,” in celebration of the Port of Los Angeles’ status as the nation’s largest international trade gateway. State Sen. Roderick Wright is the grand marshal. Officials and community leaders will take part in the parade as judges and passengers on approximately 60 boats. Boats of all sizes and types will participate, including tall ships, harbor workboats, recreational powerboats and sailboats. Pre-parade events are scheduled at 4 p.m. at the Banning’s Landing Community Center. A post-parade holiday program is planned at 8 p.m. at the Gateway Plaza Fanfare Fountain.

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, the Cruise Ship Promenade, SS Lane Victory and Cabrillo Marina.

Information: Call Donna Ethington at (310) 549-8111 or visit




Channel Islands Harbor Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 14, 7 p.m.

Details: The theme of the 48th annual boat parade is “Jingle Bell Rock.” Prior to the parade, a full day of activities is planned — starting with Snow Play at noon at Harborview Park, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus from noon-4 p.m. Arts and crafts and food vendors will be on hand, and live entertainment will begin at 3 p.m. At 7 p.m., Santa is scheduled to fly across the sky, marking the start of the boat 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;


Ventura Harbor Holiday Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 20-21, 7 p.m.

Details: This year’s boat parade will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ventura Harbor. The theme is “Seaside Tinseltown.” Prior to the parade, a Winter Wonderland and Holiday Marketplace is scheduled to take over Ventura Harbor Village from 1-5 p.m. It will include faux snowfall every 15 minutes, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, two live reindeer and carolers. A fireworks display is scheduled each night following the parade.

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;





Santa Barbara Parade of Lights

When: Dec. 8, 5:30 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 28th annual event kick off at 3 p.m. at Santa’s Village on the City Pier in the harbor. Boats will be decorated to this year’s “Rock’n and Roll’n Holiday” theme, with a short fireworks display by Bay Fireworks scheduled to follow the boat parade. Boat judging will take place in front of Conway Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf.

Viewing: Stearns Wharf and the breakwater.

Information: (805) 897-2588;


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