It’s 80 degrees here in Southern California in the middle of winter, which means a white Christmas is highly unlikely. But our proximity to the ocean means that we are afforded a unique holiday experience. Along the coast, our popular harbors are aglow as boats and ships of all sizes are adorned with holiday lights. A boat parade can be likened to neighborhood Christmas light displays and have become a popular tradition in Southern California. From Los Angeles to San Diego, here are the most most popular boat parades in Southern California.
Boat Parades in Southern California
L.A. Harbor Boat Parade
Image: LA Harbor Boat Parade
This year, the L.A. Harbor Boat Parade celebrates its 56th anniversary with a Holiday Magic themed event. The boat parade features more than sixty vessels including powerboats, sailboats, tall ships, and harbor-working craft decorated with lights. You can watch the boat parade sail by from the decks of the Battleship IOWA, then visit with Santa Claus, sing along with the carolers, enjoy face painting, hot cocoa, and more. For more information, visit LAHarborAfloat.org and PacificBattleship.com. December 1, 2018 6 pm to 10 pm.
Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
Image: Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
Each year, more than 25,000 people view the Marina del Rey Boat Parade. Along with viewing the decorated vessels, guests enjoy real snow, sledding, arts and crafts, face painting, a live DJ, and food trucks during Snow Wonder. Fireworks commence at 5:55 pm, ushering in the parade of festive boats. Families can choose to view the boat parade from Fisherman’s Village, Burton Chace Park, a waterfront restaurant, their own home balcony, or an adjacent hotel room. For additional information, visit MDRBoatParade.org/. December 8, 2018 6 pm to 8 pm.
King Harbor Marina Holiday Boat Parade
Image: King Harbor Marina Holiday Boat Parade
The King Harbor Yacht Club’s Annual Holiday Boat Parade features brightly decorated boats and paddle-craft which parade through the marina. Each vessel competes for an event trophy. Learn more at KingHarbor.com. December 8, 2018 6 pm.
Naples Holiday Boat Parade
Image: Naples Holiday Boat Parade
The theme of this year’s Naples Holiday Boat Parade is Star Spangled Christmas, and will feature small and large boats lit up for the season. The boats compete for prizes and the event is attended by more than 60,000 people each year. The best place to view the boat parade is along the Naples Canals and outer walks. For more information, visit NaplesCA.com. December 8, 2018 6 pm
Boat Parade of 1,000 Lights
Image: Boat Parade of 1,000 Lights
This must-see boat parade celebrates its 36th anniversary this year and will take place along Shoreline Marina, Island White, Shoreline Marina, Rainbow Harbor, Pine Avenue Pier and to the Queen Mary. Additional holiday events at Shoreline Village include free live holiday music, photo ops with Santa Clause, carolers, costumed characters, and more. You can help give back with coffee and or sock donations which will go to the Long Beach Rescue Mission. Visit ShorelineVillage.com for additional information. December 15, 2018 6:00 pm.
Huntington Beach Boat Parade
Image: Huntington Beach Boat Parade
This year’s theme for the 55th Huntington Beach Boat Parade is A Space Odyssey. Participating boats can enter to win one of 16 trophies including Most Religious and Best Commercial Entry. During the annual Cruise of Lights, families can join a narrated boat tour through the waterways of Huntington Harbor and view the display of lights on homes, docks, decks, and boats. Visit HHBoatParade.org for additional information. December 8 & 9, 2018
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Image: Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Over one million people view the festively decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes along the harbor during the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. This year, the parade will start and end at the Tip of Lido Isle and will begin at 6:30 pm each night from December 19-23, 2018. The first boat parade viewing begins at Marina Park, which will feature special activities, entertainment, and food vendors. On opening night, the Young Americans will perform to help ring in the holidays. There will also be an LA Chargers football toss area, face painting, caricatures, and more. For more information, visit ChristmasBoatParade.com.
Image: Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights
Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights
The 44th annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights will feature the theme A Western Wonderland and feature holiday activities to inspire your little cowboys and cowgirls. Each of the four nights will include boats decorated with lights evoking this year’s theme. On-site activities include carolers, superheroes, games, crafts, free photos with Santa and more. Additional information on holiday activities can be found at DanaPointHarbor.com. December 7, 8, 14, 15, 2018.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Image: San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Each year, more than 100,00 residents and visitors view the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. This year’s theme is Tropical Island Christmas and the approximately 80 participating boats will be decorated to reflect the theme. Visit sdparadeoflights.org for additional information. December 9 and 16, 2018.
Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade
Image: Mission Bay Boat Parade
This free boat parade features dozens of vessels decorated for the season. These boats sail around Mission Bay and the parade begins at Quivira Basin, The best place to view the boat parade is crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island, or the west side of Fiesta Island. Learn more by visiting SanDiego.org. December 8, 2018 6 pm to 9 pm.
Tips for Visiting the Boat Parade
As you can imagine, the boat parades across Southern California can be very crowded. Be sure to allow sufficient time for parking and walking to your viewing location. If your local boat parade does not offer food options, be sure to eat first or pack snacks. Many restaurants book months in advance of the local boat parade. Consider viewing your local boat parade from a hotel, if that is an option.