I have lived in Southern California my whole life, but in true local fashion, I had never visited Dana Point Harbor for their holiday lights until last year. We tend to head to colder places for the holidays, but I cannot emphasize how beautiful it is to spend the holidays along our beautiful Southern California coast. Last year, Dana Point offered a limited number of holiday experiences due to the pandemic. This year marks the return of the Dana Point Harbor Holiday Lights, the Dana Point Turkey Trot, and the popular Boat Parade of Lights. Here is everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays in Dana Point.
Dana Point is one of the most beautiful coastal cities in California, located between Los Angeles and San Diego. Across the country, the city is known for its incredible whale-watching adventures, world-class boating, pristine beaches, eclectic boutiques, and cliffside dining. This holiday season, Dan Point harbor will feature under-the-sea winter wonderland decor and festive community experiences and events, making it an idyllic winter destination.
Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights
One of the highlights of celebrating the holidays in Dana Point is the Boat Parade of Lights. This fiesta-themed event features boaters from around Orange County who have decorated their boats by theme and compete for awards during this spectacular display. The 46th Annual Boat Parade of Lights runs from December 10th through 12th, 2021.
Harbor Lights Cruise
This 60-minute excursion features close-up views of boats and their light displays, holiday music, and drinks. The cruise is different from the Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights and is offered throughout November and December 2021.
Boat Rides With Santa
Take a boat ride with Santa around Dana Point Harbor on December 4th and 5th, 2021! This 20-minute boat ride runs from 10 am to 2 pm and proceeds benefit the Soroptimist of Capistrano Bay.
Dana Point Harbor Holiday Lights
Every night during the holiday season, families can enjoy the holiday lights display, which features more than 700,000 LED lights. The themed light exhibits located throughout the harbor include a giant whale sculpture, decorated palm and Christmas trees, Candy Cane Lane, and the Instagram-worthy “Merry Kiss Me” arch. The lights are free to enjoy throughout the harbor. Be sure to check out the carolers and Santa while strolling Dana Point Harbor.
Dana Point Turkey Trot
Work off those Thanksgiving calories with the Annual Dana Point Turkey Trot on November 25th, 2021. Presented by the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, this family-friendly event includes 10K, 5K, and a kids’ one-mile Gobble Wobble trail races.
Dana Point Hotel Packages
if you plan make a vacation out of your visit to Dana Point, be sure to check out the hotel packages which include holiday storytelling with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, a holiday tea, and more.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
During the holidays, the Ritz-Carlton will offer two packages including Inspirations of the Season, which includes daily breakfast, a complimentary resort fee, overnight valet, and a surf-inspired ornament and a Luxury Shopping Experience at South Coast Plaza. The package includes a $100 gift card, a complimentary photo session with Santa Claus, access to the Plaza’s VIP Hospitality Suite ACCESS, and complimentary valet parking.
Guests of the resort can enjoy the following activities:
Surfing Santa Contest: The holiday season begins with the 10th annual Surfing Santa Contest at Salt Creek Beach Novemer 20th and 21st, 2021. The event brings surfers and stand up paddleboarders together as contestants battle out the waves dressed up as Santa. The contest benefits Surfers Healing, a nonprofit providing free surf camps for children with autism.
Holiday Surfboard Auction: This auction will also benefit Surfers Healing and is on display in the lobby until December 31. The online auction features more than a dozen surfboards crafted by artists and professional surfers and shapers, including professional surfer Kelly Slater, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead singer Anthony Kiedis, Firewire surfboards, Hobie Surf Shop, and local artists Damian Brawner, Steven Wan, and Carolyn Johnson.
Tree Lighting Ceremony: On November 21st, families will enjoy the lighting of the resort’s live 48-foot tree complete with live music, hot cocoa, cookies, carolers, and a visit from Santa. The event is free and guests are encouraged to donate to Miracle for Kids, Orange County Rescue Mission, and local pet shelters.
Holiday Dining: Don’t miss the resort’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Day buffets from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Families can also enjoy dinner at Raya on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and at enoSTEAK on New Year’s Eve.
Holiday Tea at RAYA: Enjoy an elegant afternoon tea with ocean views Monday through Thursday, November 29-December 16th, 2021. The tea includes holiday-inspired treats, savory canapés, sweet bites, and champagne.
Sand-Sational Display: This year, the resort’s lobby will once again feature their holiday-inspired Sand-Sational Extravaganza November 20th through January 2nd, 2022. This large-scale sand sculpture was created by local sand architects at Archisand Professional San Sculptors, Inc. with a theme that highlights the resort’s key community footprint partners.
Gingerbread house and cookie decorating classes: These holiday classes are offered on Dec. 5 and 12 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., where guests can decorate their own large-scale gingerbread house and holiday cookies. Tips and tricks are provided by the resort’s expert pastry team.
Holiday storytelling with Santa: Located at the Eco-Adventure Center and free to attend, children and families are invited to enjoy holiday storytelling with Santa, Dec. 10-11 and 17-18 at 5 p.m. Donations of new children’s books will be collected and provided to Miracles for Kids.
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club
This holiday season, the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club will offer two seasonal packages. The Thanksgiving getaway includes an $80 daily breakfast credit to use at one of the resort’s restaurants or for in-room dining. Additionally, guests will be treated to a leisurely breakfast in bed, and can spend the morning enjoying sweeping ocean views at AVEO Table + Bar or stop by Part & Parcel for a specialty coffee and breakfast sandwich, before beginning the day’s festivities. The Christmas getaway includes 15,000 Hilton Honors bonus points per night, a $150 resort credit, complimentary resort fee and valet parking, and late check-out.
Holiday Dining: For Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, AVEO Table + Bar and Bourbon Steak Orange County offer exclusive menus that feature an array of traditional holiday dishes with seasonally-inspired flavors. Bourbon Steak’s Thanksgiving dinner presents a four-course prix fixe menu served family-style; and steps away from the Pacific Ocean, the Monarch Bay Beach Club offers exceptional holiday dishes for overnight resort guests and members.
Private Holiday Dinner Celebration: This exclusive dining experience is designed for large families or groups. Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach guests can host their own Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner celebrations with family and friends while indulging in a full-service, multi-course holiday meal, prepared by the resort’s executive chef, in the intimate setting of a private dining room.
Custom-Order Holiday Desserts: Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach allows locals and visitors to enjoy sweet creations prepared by the resort’s talented pastry team, from the comfort of their own home or guestroom. The desserts, pies and other treats (classic pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, flaky Dutch apple pie, red velvet Yule log, Tiramisu Yule log and brownie praline chocolate Yule log) are available for pick-up at Part + Parcel, located off the resort’s main lobby.
Seasonal Spa Specials: Guests can unwind with a rejuvenating 60-minute holiday-inspired spa treatment, including a Pumpkin Enzyme facial or Rosemary Peppermint pedicure. Seasonal spa treatments are available beginning Nov. 22.
Holiday e-bike Tour: Guests can embark on a festive and historic excursion with knowledgeable guides from Expert Active. Cruise over to the Dana Point Harbor on an e-bike and explore the illuminating light display that fills the harbor with holiday spirit. Complete the experience at the resort’s private beach club for an exclusive Veuve Clicquot tasting experience, available to add on to any e-bike tour.
Blue Lantern Inn
The Blue Lantern Inn overlooks the Dana Point Harbor and features a Christmas tree with festive decorations. Their California Dreaming package includes 20% off standard rates and a signature breakfast for two, an afternoon wine and cheese selection with freshly baked cookies, and bicycles to borrow for leisure. The package is available through March 12, 2022 and includes Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Beachfront Inn & Suites
Located steps from Capistrano Beach, the resort is offering their Fall for Beachfront special which offers savings up to 20% off the best available rate for a four-night stay or longer, up to 15% off a three-night stay, and up to 10% off a one or two-night stay. Offer valid through November 30, 2021.
Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa
The resort is decorated with sparkling lights for the season and offers live weekend entertainment including caroler performances on Saturdays at overVue Lounge and Deck with spectacular ocean views.
You can find additional information on how to celebrate the holidays in Dana Point at VisitDanaPoint.com.