Each year during everyone’s favorite holiday season, coastal California has a unique and magical set of Christmas events: boat parades! Sailors deck out their boats of all shapes and sizes with lights, wreaths, garlands and more to create Christmas memories like no other. Whether viewing by land or by sea, check out this list of all the best Christmas light boat parades this year.
Where to Find the Best Boat Parade of Lights in California
Mission Bay, San Diego
The annual Mission Bay Parade of Lights features more than 100 boats and yachts decorated with lights. The parade at Quivira Basin at 6 p.m. on December 10. The event is totally free! The organizers recommend watching from Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island.
San Diego Bay
A holiday tradition brought to San Diego by the boating community, the Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights features about 80 lavishly decorated boats. This year’s theme is FantaSEA on the Bay. A free event, the parade begins at 5:30 p.m. on December 11 and 18 at Shelter Island.
About 100,000 San Diego residents and visitors are expected to attend, so plan to get there early to secure your viewing spot. The parade will proceed to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado. This gives spectators another chance to view the parade.
Dana Point, Orange County
Newport Beach, Orange County
The 113th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade features million-dollar yachts, small boats, kayaks and canoes at 6:30 p.m. nightly from December 14-18. The parade starts at the east end of Lido Island. The first public viewing destination is at the 10.5-acre Marina Park. The park offers 177 parking spaces and a nautical-themed playground. There’s also a picnic area and a sailing center.
In addition, Newport Landing offers Holiday Boat Cruises from December 2-31. The 75-minute cruises are a festive way to see harbor Christmas lights. During the five nights of the boat parade, the cruises travel in the parade. Rates start at $20.
Marina del Rey, Los Angeles
This year’s Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade is back and ready to float your Christmas boat on December 10.
The event begins at 5:55 p.m. with a fireworks display to kick off the annual Christmas Boat Parade that cruises through the main channel. Narration on a PA system is available at Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village. These are the best spots for parade viewing. Arrive early to find parking for this free popular event. The parade lasts about two hours.
In addition, the Marina Lights usually glow all month long in Burton Chace Park. Free entertainment and holiday movies on Saturdays.
Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County
Check out Nights of Lights in Half Moon Bay this year. This festive event includes a range of activities every Friday night from November 25-December 16, including a Christmas tree lighting, a holiday movie night, a visit from Santa himself, and the return of the lighted boat parade after an extended hiatus! Event dates and times vary. Check the schedule for more details.
Half Moon Bay is located about 35 minutes south of San Francisco.