From canoes to million dollar yachts, holiday boat parades feature a dazzling variety of vessels all dressed up for the yuletide season. Whether viewing from shore or onboard a vessel, holiday boat parades are family-friendly events that often include fireworks, music and other festivities along the California coast.


Photo Courtesy: Dana Wharf Whale Watching

Where to find the Best Boat Parade of Lights in SoCal

With miles of coastline and picturesque marinas, it’s no wonder that boat parades are a popular holiday attraction in California. Decked out with sparkling lights and decorations that include palm trees, inflatable reindeer and Santa, a boat parade is certainly a merry sight to behold. Viewing from the shore is free or you can book a cruise on one of the participating parade boats or even ride with Santa.

Mission Bay San Diego


Photo Credit: Spring Mountain Gallery

The Christmas Boat Parade of Lights features more than 100 boats and yachts decorated with lights. They sail along the edge of Paradise Point Island from 6 – 9 p.m. Dec. 10. View the parade and fireworks from the waterfront Tidal restaurant or find a spot along Riviera Shores, Crown Point, Santa Clara Point, the east side of Vacation Island and the west side of Fiesta Island.

 San Diego Bay


Photo Courtesy: San Diego Tourism Authority

Presented by the Port of San Diego,  the 45th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights features more than 100 private boats. they are decorated to fit this year’s theme, It Began with a Roar – San Diego Zoo Celebrates 100 Years. The kid-friendly boat parade begins at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. About 100,000 San Diego residents and visitors are expected to attend, so plan to get there early to secure your viewing spot.

Dana Point Orange County


Photo Credit: Mike Altishin


The 42nd Annual Holiday Boat Parade – Under the Sea – features up to 90 decorated boats vying for awards of Best Theme, Best Use of Lights, Best Animation, and Most Colorful. The boat parade starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at the Dana Point Harbor. Find a good spot to watch or join the parade aboard the Dana Wharf Whale Watching cruise boats for close up views of the vessels. More family fun includes Boat Rides with Santa from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4, and Santa Photos Dec. 2, 8 and 15.


Newport Beach, Orange County

The 108th Newport Beach Boat Parade features million dollar yachts, small boats, kayaks and canoes for five dazzling nights from 6:30 – 9 p.m. Dec. 14 – 18. The boat parade starts and ends off Bay Island. But the fun doesn’t stop then. Ring of Lights offers holiday cruises for families Dec. 2 – Jan. 1. Cruise through Newport Harbor and see multi-million dollar estates and vessels all decked out with thousands of lights.

Venice, Los Angeles

Expect to see about two dozen creative vessels, such as canoes with lights, a raft with a six-piece electric band and boats at the Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade, which starts at 6 p.m. Dec. 3. The eclectic parade navigates the historic Venice Canals.

Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County


Photo Credit: Half Moon Bay

The Pillar Point Harbor Lighted Boat Festival is a holiday highlight in this small coastal town, located about 35 minutes south of San Francisco. Stroll along Pillar Point Harbor to view boats festively adorned with holiday lights and other trimmings throughout the month of December. The Annual Boat Decorating Contest takes place from 6 – 9 p.m. Dec. 2.


Holiday Lights Displays Around the World

Holiday Lights Displays in the Northeast U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in the Midwest U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in Texas and the Southwest U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in California, Hawaii and the Northwest U.S