Boat parades are a very Southern Californian way to celebrate the holidays. These floating processions are a treasured tradition throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties, lighting up the shores from Dana Point to Marina del Rey. Some even take place over multiple evenings. Restaurants along the waterfront often offer dining specials on parade nights, but be sure to make reservations or arrive early to your preferred viewing spot, as these popular displays tend to attract big crowds.
In 2020, many holiday events have been altered or canceled. Check the websites of the organizers for updated information.
Marina del Rey Boat Parade
The Marina del Rey parade features fireworks and special programming—including a real snow play area, sledding, arts and crafts, a DJ, and food trucks— at Burton Chace Park. The park itself is where longtime announcers Lisa Osborn and Mickey Cegledy provide commentary and judges choose the best decorated. The parade can be viewed there or at Fisherman's Village, where you can watch from one of the waterfront restaurants. County parking lots are located at Burton Chance Park, and pay stations take credit card or cash. There is no street parking. In 2020, the Marina del Rey parade has been canceled but a boat decorating contest will still be held and the event will host a live-streamed look back at previous years on December 12 at 6 p.m.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
The 112th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been canceled and replaced by a Ring of Lights Waterfront Home Decorating Competition. Typically, every yacht, boat, canoe, and kayak would be decorated to the nines for this five-night procession, starting and ending at the tip of Lido Isle. Popular free public viewing areas include the bayside of Balboa Peninsula, from 18th Street to the end of Bay Avenue; along the Pacific Coast Highway between Balboa Bay Club and Riverside Drive; along the water on Lido Isle; and—the largest—the 10.5-acre Marina Park. You can also pay to watch it from the American Legion Post 291 at 215 15th Street or the lawn at Newport Sea Base, at 1931 West Coast Highway. A map of the route can be found online. The 2021 parade will take place from December 15 to 19.
Long Beach Parade of 1,000 Lights
Long Beach's Parade of 1,000 Lights is a Shoreline Marina tradition. The colorfully lighted boats and yachts sail past the Pine Avenue Pier, then across the bay and past the famous Queen Mary, making for a spectacular sight. The best viewing locations are in Shoreline Village, where there's also a bounty of shopping and dining opportunities, Rainbow Harbor, and the Queen Mary. Paid parking is available at Shoreline Village, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Pike. You can also look for metered street parking or the prepay ticket boxes at the Downtown Marina. In 2020, the Parade of 1,000 Lights has been canceled, but Shoreline Village is open.
Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights
At the southern end of Orange County, you can participate in the near 50-year tradition that is the Dana Point Parade of Lights. Every year has a theme that influences the decor, such as Tiki Holiday in 2019. The event typically takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout December, with live music and other festivities kicking off at the harbor at 4:30 p.m. You can also view it from one of the restaurants lining the water. Free trolleys run all evening long to transport spectators around the harbor. In 2020, however, the Dana Point Parade of Lights has been canceled.
Los Angeles Harbor Holiday Afloat
Decorated boats parade through the Port of Los Angeles Main Channel in the annual Harbor Holiday Afloat along the San Pedro waterfront. The official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles, Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, are joined by powerboats, sailboats, and harbor working craft. Viewing locations along the route include the Banning Landing Community Center, Port of LA Cruise Ship Promenade, Battleship IOWA, Los Angeles Maritime Museum, Downtown Harbor, Ports O' Call Village, 22nd Street Landing, SS Lane Victory, and Cabrillo Marina. In 2020, the parade has been canceled.
King Harbor Boat Parade in Redondo Beach
The King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade takes place in Redondo Beach and features a theme every year such as 2019's Surfing the Yule Tide. Held by the King Harbor Yacht Club, this showcase of creative light displays can be seen anywhere from the King Harbor Marina itself to the Redondo Beach Pier. Try snagging a window seat at one of the restaurants for a cozy show. Paid parking can be found in the Pier Parking structure, at the Redondo Beach Marina, and on the street. In 2020, the event has been canceled.
Naples Holiday Parade in Long Beach
The Naples Island Holiday Parade kicks off with large boats at 6 p.m. along the peninsula, followed by small boats at 6:30 p.m. from the Appian Way Bridge. Large and small boats travel in opposite directions to create a choreographed two-way display. As a bonus, the houses around Naples Island are usually bedecked with some of the region's most elaborate Christmas and Hanukkah lights, too. You can view the parade along the canals, or from the Second Street Bridge, Appian Way Bridge, or along Alamitos Bay Marina, where the larger vessels that don't fit in the canals are on display. Parking can be found in the lots east of Davis Bridge or at metered spots at Mothers' Beach lot off Appian Way. Surrounding streets close at 5 p.m. In 2020, the Naples Holiday Parade has been canceled.