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14 Fun Holiday Boat Parades in Southern California

Updated for 2020

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There’s nothing better than watching a parade during the holiday season.  Wait!…maybe there is.  It’s a boat parade!  You can’t help but get into the spirit of the season with lights gleaming off the cool ripples of the water and the holiday sounds coming from the lavishly decorated vessels.  

That’s why at SoCal Field Trips, we have created an extensive list of Holiday Boat Parades in Southern California for your enjoyment!

Check out this list of 14 astonishingly beautiful holiday boat parades in Southern California! From Los Angeles to Orange County to San Diego, you can enjoy thousands of sparkling lights on board hundreds of boats on the water.

From Santa Barbara to San Diego, we have listed over 14 spectacular events.  You can either attend a large one like the L.A. Harbor Holiday Afloat Parade with over 100 boats or a smaller one such as the Naples Island Annual Boat Parade, which has a hometown feel.  So spend the evening with your family and friends down at the water front enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season!



Holiday Boat Parades in Orange County

Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights, Dana Point 

December 4, 5, 11 & 12 @ 7:30 pm

This year’s parade theme is “Fiesta Holiday.”  100 boaters compete in the categories of style, intricacy and outlandishness.  Past years’ entries have featured towering light displays and inflatable snowmen riding motorcycles and planes. In 2008, one boater even outfitted his craft with rotating wooden attachments that gave the appearance of dolphins swimming alongside.  The parade starts by the water’s edge at 7:30 pm.

Dana Point Harbor Holiday Boat Parade


Huntington Harbor Boat Parade, Huntington Beach (returning in 2021!)

A “Rock and Roll Fantasty” is this year’s theme which means decorators will have a wide list of songs and start to choose from. Besides the fun and excitement, they have 16 trophies to award in categories ranging from ‘Most Religious’ to ‘Best Commercial Entry’.  Unlike many other boat parades, the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade is an entirely volunteer effort.

Holiday boat parades Orange County

credit: Huntington Harbor Boat Parade

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, Newport Beach

December 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

The Christmas Boat Parade is one of the oldest and most popular holiday traditions in southern California and even the nation.  In 1908, a gondola and eight canoes decked out in Japanese lanterns started the tradition, which has grown into a spectacle expected to draw more than a million viewers over its five nights.  The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. with boats leaving from Bay Island, making their way around the harbor, and returning at 9 p.m.  In all there are just under registered 100 boats taking part in the contests.

For the first time in its 112-year history, the parade will also be streamed to viewers, giving the world a front-row seat to the annual Southern California spectacular. The virtual viewing experience will take place on multiple platforms including web, social media and the city’s local broadcast channel NBTV and will run all five nights of the parade.

The show will include the parade’s entirety, the Ring of Lights home competition, entertaining interviews with participants and spotlights on the Grand Marshal frontline heroes and local charities.

QUICK LINKS: Discount Tickets for Newport Beach Light Displays with Newport Landing Cruises

Newport Beach Holiday Boat Parade


Holiday Boat Parades in Los Angeles

Venice Christmas Boat Parade, Venice

December 5 @ 6:00 pm

A truly local holiday tradition returns with the 38th annual Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade!  Gondolas, row boats, kayaks and other mini vessels are decked out in twinkly lights and paddled by locals in Santa suits and pointy hats to the theme of Jingle Bell Rock.  The parade route begins at Eastern and Sherman Canals—to catch a glimpse of everyone at the start, arrive by 3:30 p.m. when they all line up.

Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade


L.A. Harbor Holiday Afloat Parade, Los Angeles (returning in 2021)

Sponsored by the Port of Los Angeles, the parade starts in the East Basin near Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington and takes approximately 90 minutes to cover the entire parade route up the Port of Los Angeles Main Channel. Viewers are invited to enjoy festive pre-parade events at Banning’s Landing Community Center and aboard the Battleship IOWA in San Pedro.  Spectators may view the procession from several points along the Main Channel, including:

  • Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water Street, Wilmington
  • Battleship IOWA, 250 S. Harbor Blvd, San Pedro
  • Ports O’ Call Village, 1100 Nagoya Way, San Pedro
  • Cruise Ship Promenade, Harbor Boulevard and Swinford Street, San Pedro
  • Downtown Harbor, between Fire Station 112 and LA Maritime Museum, San Pedro
  • 22nd Street Landing, 141 W. 22nd Street, San Pedro
  • SS Lane Victory, Berth 46 at the end of Miner Street, San Pedro
  • Cabrillo Marina, Holiday Harbor and Cabrillo Way Marina, San Pedro
LA Harbor Holiday Boat Parade


Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, Marina del Rey (returning in 2021!)

Numerous boats decorated with holiday themes parade through the marina to participate in a contest.  The vessels are judged for Best Theme, Best Music, Best Lights, Best Animation, Best Spirit, Best Live Band and other categories.  A traditional fireworks display kicks off the evening at 5:55 pm on the jetty near the entrance of the main channel.

You can view the parade from anyone of the many restaurants in Fisherman’s Village or stake your place along the channel.  Arrive early to grab the best seat!  Spectators will be able to park in any one of the ten county public parking lots in the Marina  Parking fees for all county lots are waived.  No street parking is allowed.

Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade



Long Beach Parade of 1000 Lights, Long Beach (retuning in 2021)!

Shoreline Yacht Club presents the 36th Annual Parade of 1,000 lights from 5 to 7 pm.  The best places to view the decorated vessels will be at Shoreline Village, Rainbow Harbor and from the Queen Mary.  The parade route will begin 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, Gladstone’s departing Rainbow Harbor passing by the Queen Mary.  The public is invited to participate as a spectator or by entering a boat in the parade.

Paid parking is available at Shoreline Village, the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Pike.  Metered street parking and pre-paid ticket boxes are available at the Downtown Marina.

Long Beach Parade of 1000 Lights

credit: Rachael Moore, Flickr

King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade, Redondo Beach (TBD)

Boats decorated in a festive holiday spirit will circle the marina 3 times and be judged in a variety of categories.  The event kicks off with a Holiday Concert and Santa on the Pier from 2 – 4 pm.

Redondo Beach Holiday Boat Parade

credit: King Harbor Marina

Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade, Long Beach (TBD)

The large boat parade starts at 6 p.m. with the small boat parade following at 6:45 pm.  The parade begins off Naples Plaza Park, with the large boats cruising along the outside of the islands and small boats navigating the canals.

Free parking is available at Alamitos Bay Marina off 2 Street and Marina Drive, just over the Davies Bridge from Naples.  Mothers Beach off Ravenna and Appian Way has metered parking, while Bayshore and Ocean Boulevard offers paid beach parking.

Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade


Holiday Boat Parades in San Diego

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights, Oceanside (TBD)

Fishing boats, sail boats, yachts, kayaks and dingys dressed up in holiday swag circle the Oceanside Harbor to enchant onlookers at the harbor, restaurants and beach.  Many of the boats feature people dressed up like Santa waving to the crowd!

One of the best viewing spots is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station. From this vantage point, you can see the parade twice.  The concrete walkway that surrounds much of the harbor is also good for spectating the event.

Oceanside Holiday Boat Parade


San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, San Diego

December 13 & 20 @ 5:30 pm

The annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has been a holiday tradition in San Diego since 1971.  The procession of approximately 80 lavishly decorated boats is also one of the most iconic events in the region.  This year’s theme is “The Twelve Day of Christmas”.  The parade starts at 5:30 pm and follows a predetermined parade route.

The procession takes around two hours and the best spots to get a good view are Shelter Island (at the start of the route), Harbor Island, The Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the Ferry Landing on Coronado.

credit: sdparadeoflights

Holiday Boat Parades in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Annual Parade of Lights, Santa Barbara (returning in 2021!)

The 33rd Annual Parade of Lights festivities begin with a Santa’s Village event at 3 p.m. on the City Pier.  There will be a visit from Santa and tons of snow for kids to play in.

At 5:30 p.m. the annual boat parade will begin with approximately 25-50 boats motoring, sailing, and paddling the Santa Barbara Coastline.  The event culminates with a 5-7 minute fireworks display at approximately 7:00 p.m.  The best viewing locations include Stearns Wharf and the breakwater.

Santa Barbara Annual Parade of Lights


Holiday Boat Parades in Ventura

Santa & Elf Parade, Ventura

December 12 @ 11:00 am

In the festive holiday spirit and now in its fourth year Ventura Harbor Village welcomes one and all, big and small, to participate in the Annual Santa & Elf Paddle.  This delightful family-fun event is free to participate. Visit Ventura Boat Rentals in Ventura Harbor Village to rent a kayak, stand-up paddle board, or electric boat or bring your own equipment to launch.

Oxnard Annual Boat Parade of Lights & Festival, Oxnard (returning in 2021!)

The Channel Islands Harbor Parade of Lights is a time-honored tradition that kicks off the holidays with a full day and evening of family fun, thousands of sparkling lights dancing on the water and the magical moment when Santa flies across the sky marking the beginning of the parade.

Children’s activities and artists market will take place at Marine Emporium Landing, meet Santa, enjoy snowplay in the morning and strolling carolers mid-afternoon.  The parade begins at 7 p.m. and can be viewed from parks and walkways that line the route as well as from most Harbor restaurants.  Boat charters are available for those who want to watch the parade from the water.  The parade starts in front of Peninsula Park and heads to the Main Channel, turns at Hobie Beach, loops in front of the launch ramp then heads back to Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club and repeats the route for second run.

Oxnard Holiday Boat Parade


Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights, Ventura (TBD)

Ventura Harbor celebrates the season with its 43rd Annual Holiday Parade of Lights. Enjoy a festive outing for the whole family with a parade of more than 30 boats lit up for the holidays with this year’s theme of Rockin on the DOCK side of the Moon.  There are harbor cruises, a carnival and all culminating in Fireworks!

5pm – Carnival & Festivities | 6:30pm – Parade | 8:00pm – Fireworks.  Make your reservations to dine seaside or arrive early.  Onsite parking is free or instead, ride the Downtown –Harbor Trolley to the event.

Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights


Happy Field Tripping!


More Holidays Events in Southern California:

30+ Best Christmas Lights in Los Angeles

40+ Best Christmas Lights in San Diego

50+ Nutcracker Performances in Southern California

20+ Drive Thru Nativity Scenes in Southern California

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