2010 Award Winner "Seafarer" (San Diego Bay Parade of Lights)
In Southern California - land of surf and sand - it’s only fitting that holiday parades take to the water. Dressed up in colorful lights with amazing animation and original themes, boats large and small glide along the bays, channels and marinas to delight holiday onlookers. Here are four aquatic light fests worthy of a mention. Admission is free to all.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights – Dec. 11 & Dec. 18, 5:30pm – 9:00pm
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights celebrates its 40th year with the theme “Our 40th Anniversary, Back to the Future.” Held on two consecutive Sundays, it features more than 80 decorated vessels. Festivities begin with fireworks at 5:30pm, immediately followed by the parade. The parade takes approximately one hour to one and one-half hours to pass any given point along the parade route. The approximate arrival times of the parade at various locations are: Shelter Island (start of parade): 5:30pm, Harbor Island: 6:00pm, The Embarcadero: 6:30pm, Seaport Village: 7:00pm, Ferry Landing on Coronado: 7:30pm
Santa Barbara Parade of Lights – Dec. 11, 5:30pm
A magical day awaits those attending the Santa Barbara Parade of Lights. The merriment starts at 3pm at Santa’s Village on the City Pier where children can play in 10 tons of snow and have their photo taken with Santa Claus. Holiday elves will delight the little ones with goody bags from the Maritime Museum. Starting at 5:30pm, boats decorated to the theme of “Candy Cane Holidays” will cruise the waterway. The boat parade concludes with a short fireworks display launched from West Beach. Best viewing locations include Stearns Wharf where holiday music accompanies the announcement of boats as they pass by.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade – Dec. 14 through Dec.18, 6:30pm – 9pm
The granddaddy of all boat parades may very well be the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Attracting more than a million viewers, it’s been a holiday tradition for over 100 years. You’ll see brilliantly decorated yachts, boats, canoes and other watercraft wind their way through the harbor, starting and ending the 14-mile journey at Bay Island. The parade takes place over five consecutive nights beginning Wednesday, December 14. A fireworks display closes out the parade on the final night, Dec. 18, starting at 9pm. As an added bonus, the celebrated “Ring of Lights” decorating contest treats spectators to an eyeful of beautifully decorated homes and businesses surrounding the harbor. The competition is robust, featuring everything from roof-top animated scenes to dancing Christmas trees.
Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights – Dec. 16 & Dec. 17, 7pm
The Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights is more than just a boat parade. It’s a two-day celebration dipped in holiday cheer. In addition to the boat procession each night, there will be a Winter Wonderland on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 1-5pm complete with live reindeer, Victorian Carolers, holiday characters and boutique shopping. Fireworks follow the parade of lights each evening with “Santa and his sleigh crossing the sky” on Saturday evening. This year’s theme, “California Dreamin,” is sure to generate imaginative ideas for the lighted boat displays. Parking is free in Ventura Harbor Village and along Spinnaker Drive.