‘Gray Friday' at Dana Point Harbor

Find an epic after-Thanksgiving diversion off the Orange County coast.

WHEN THE RELATIVES ARE DUE... on the Tuesday or Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving, you're typically apprised of their every move. You know when they're boarding the plane, and what row they're in, and you know when they're finally at baggage claim, or, if they're traveling by car, when they've finally found the right freeway to connect to your town. Modern communication has been a wonder for relative-to-relative dialogue, and especially around the holidays, when travel gets hectic. Gray whales also travel around the holidays, during their annual migration, but they typically do not send any of we landlubbers a play-by-play of their routes or journeys ("just ate some krill, now passing Encinitas"). But what we do know is December is when the gray action starts to heat up, or stay as cool as ocean water, along the California coast. And while a number of boat companies and port towns host whale-watching kick-off days around the end of the year, Dana Point Harbor gets the party going early, on the day after Thanksgiving, which the yacht-filled burg is dubbing "Gray Friday."

FRIDAY, NOV. 27... is the date, and if you don't feel like Black-Friday-ing it up at your nearest store, you can go the Gray Friday path by heading out into open, or at least fairly-far-from-land, water. Dana Wharf Whale Watching'll be out looking for the beautiful behemoths as they make their watery way to the waves near Mexico, where they'll winter, and you and your houseful of visitors can stand on deck and enjoy some spray. And even if you don't see any breaching action or a fluke or a blowhole, bet sea lions and gulls will be out in foam-lovin' force, and the occasional pod of dolphins, too. And you never know when another whale might cameo, like a minke or fin whale (we're not saying they get jealous of the spotlight grays get during the colder California months, but, you know, they're mammals, and we mammals rather like attention now and then). 

THE CAPTAINS... of Dana Wharf Whale Watching are certified as naturalists, so whatever you and your out-of-towners do encounter on Gray Friday, bet you'll get some good back story on the species you're encountering. It's a fine and bracing way to spend the day after Thanksgiving, a warm 'n stuffing-packed day when people tend to feel a little stuffed together in the same house. There's no wider place you can all head on Nov. 27 then the Pacific, pretty much, so count on everyone getting a bit more breathing room.

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