Last Chance for the 2017 Holiday Boat Parades

Throw on a sweater, find some shore in Dana Point, Newport Beach, or Ventura, and be dazzled as vivacious, well-decorated vessels swan by.

Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade
Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade

What to Know

  • Dec. 16 for Dana Point and Ventura; Dec. 16 and 17 for Newport Beach
  • Free to see
  • Times vary, but arriving early, before sundown, is a good bet

When we visualize the shimmery holiday boats that sail in many California harbors come the second and third weekends of December — and visualize we often do, especially in the toastier days of August — we tend to picture the picturesque site from our vantage point on the shore.

For that's where most people stand to see the bulb-lined, decoration-pretty show, an on-the-water line-up of vessels absolutely blanketed in blinky, wondrous glimmer.

Consider, though, seeing the shimmer from out in the ocean, looking in at the land. What must our whale friends, and the seals, and the gulls, think of all of this over-a-top-a-tude that sails near the shore each December?

Do the denizens of the ocean wonder at our human whimsy, our festive fun, or why a bunch of singing people on a yacht are all dressed like Santa?

Ask the next gull or seal you encounter for their opinion on the merry matter, but, in the meantime, there are a few more boat-stravaganzas to go before the super-festooned canoes and kayaks and dinghies sail off for another year. 

The 43rd Annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights glides on Saturday, Dec. 16, and the theme for 2017 is as cape-tastic as they come: A Superhero Holiday. Best keep an eye out for odes to favorite characters and stories while watching the boats go by.

In Ventura, the 41st Annual Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights will cruise around the harbor on Saturday, Dec. 16. A carnival and marketplace is happening earlier in the day, and groups will be raising money for fire relief. Stop by and give some support to our friends in the area, all while enjoying the long-running tradition.

And if you've seen every Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade since the boat parade began, well, count 'em up: You've watched it 108 times. We're in year 109, so best keep the count going, for your own personal record, but even if you haven't watched it from the beginning, that's cool: This is your moment to see one of the best-known boat processions around. It delights (and lights the night) through Sunday, Dec. 17.

And while Dec. 16-17 is the last major weekend of 2017 for our major SoCal boat parades, do keep in mind that boat companies up and down the coast are still taking ticketed passengers out to admire the Christmas lights on land.

Check with your favorite harbor cruiser to see if and when they're running as the close of December draws near.

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