Holiday Lights: Boat Parades in Southern California

Many road trip planners set their sights on the nearest boat parade. Floating light parades are a cherished holiday tradition along the Southern California Coast and while other states have White Winter Wonderlands at nearly every turn, Coastal California offers a different kind of winter wonder. Here, the glimmers reflect off the water rather than off snow-covered hillsides. But the twinkling lights are familiar everywhere. So either hop aboard a decorated boat or line up along the waterfront and join in the merriment.

One of the most pleasant ways to enjoy the parade is watching the boats glide by your restaurant window as you dine in warmth and comfort. Most waterfront restaurants take reservations months in advance (add the reservation number to your road trip planner and print out the itinerary and keep a copy in the car). For those laden with blankets and chairs, the goal is to park as close to the waterfront as possible and stake out a spot early. Traffic increases significantly as parade time approaches so sometimes the best choice is to “park & walk”, especially if you’re going on a road trip that takes you more than four hours from home and you’re not familiar with the side-streets.

* DANA POINT – BOAT PARADE OF LIGHTS – Dana Point is a delightful harbor city. Clean and picturesque, there are a number of nice, waterfront restaurants to enjoy before strolling out to the harbor to watch the flotilla of lights. DATES: December 5-6 and 12-13, 7:30 p.m. FAMILY BONUS: Enjoy a breakfast with Santa at the Jolly Roger Restaurant on December 13th.

* LONG BEACH PARADE OF 1000 LIGHTS in the Downtown Shoreline Marina. Some of the best views can be found along the boardwalk at Shoreline Village. Most of the parking in and around this area will be paid parking. DATES: December 13, 2008, 7 p.m. BONUS TIP: Make Long Beach the center of your road trip planning because there are lots of other cool water-themed activities you can enjoy like hopping aboard the Queen Mary or visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific.

* LOS ANGELES HARBOR HOLIDAY AFLOAT PARADE – This parade displays the boats as they cruise along the Port of Los Angeles main channel. You can view the boats from a number of locations like the Banning Landing Community Center or the Port of Los Angeles Cruise Ship Promenade on Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro. Another popular viewing spot is at the Ports O’ Call Village at 1100 Nagoya Way in San Pedro as well as the Cabrillo Marina at 200 Whaler’s Walk, also in San Pedro. DATES: December 6, 2008, 6-7:30 p.m. BONUS TIP: Consider staying at the Hilton Port of Los Angeles/San Pedro because it’s only a &#188 mile stroll from the hotel to the Cabrillo Marina.

* MARINA DEL REY BOAT PARADE – The nearby Fisherman’s Village is an excellent viewing spot for this parade. Include fireworks and boat judging. Click here to see last year’s winners. DATES: December 13th. * NEWPORT BEACH CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE – This annual Christmas event is one to definitely add to your road trip planner. Join nearly one million other spectators as you watch beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes sail along Newport Harbor. People from as far as Arizona and San Francisco have been known to make the trip to partake in this holiday custom. Viewing is free, provided you can find a vantage point. DATES: December 17 – December 21, 2008, celebrating its 100th year! The parade starts off Bay Island at 6:30 p.m. and finishes at the same site at approximately 9:00 p.m. each evening. Fireworks will start at 6:25 p.m. from the Balboa Pier just before the start of the parade at 6:30 p.m.

Your road trip planner and your car may be the “king of the road” until you get to the waterfront, but once there, the “ladies” reign, so sit back and enjoy the glide.

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