In Southern California, you don’t need a white Christmas to feel the holiday spirit. Orange County is home to some of the country’s best holiday boat parades and each year they keep getting bigger and brighter. The holiday competition heats up every year as boaters try to imagine better themes with more lights and extravagant decorations. Pack your snacks and head out to one of Orange County’s best holiday boat parades.


108th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Newport Beach is holding their 108th Christmas Boat Parade from December 14-18th. The 14-mile parade hosts hundreds of boats ranging from mega yachts to canoes and over a million people to view the holiday spectacle. This year, boats are will compete and be decked out with lights, music and even live carolers. Past winners have taken inspiration from classic christmas scenes, Disney’s Frozen and Jurassic Park.

Some boat owners have spent upwards of $50,000 on their entries!

Festivities begin with an opening ceremony and firework show at 6:15 p.m on Wednesday, December 14th off the Newport Pier. The event will be grand marshaled by Mickey Mouse and the resort’s ambassadors! They will be on a bright and beautiful Main Street Electrical Parade-themed vessel. The nights that follow will have special guest appearances by local USA Olympians who competed on the water polo team on Thursday, contestants from “The Voice” performing on a boat on Friday, and a special salute to local heroes on Saturday. Sunday’s parade closes the five day extravaganza with a fireworks show off the Balboa Pier.

The parade can be viewed from land for free at the Balboa Village and Fun Zone Boat House. Visitors can also reserve a table at one of the many waterfront restaurants like Harbourside, Joe’s Crab Shack or the Rusty Pelican. Parking is available in all the city lots for under $2 per hour.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade 
December 16th-20th
6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Newport Harbor
949.675.0551 |


Newport Beach Ring of Lights

For those who can’t make the five day Christmas boat parade in Newport Beach, the city also hosts the Ring of Lights, a decorating competition for the land lovers in the harbor. All the waterfront homes, businesses and restaurants in Newport Harbor participate in the month long event. The establishments go all out when decorating the exteriors of their buildings, the docks are lined with lights and bright signs and yards showcase special animatronic holiday scenes. You might even see a dancing Christmas tree atop someone’s roof.

Visitors can walk around the village and see the decorations up close or choose to take a harbor cruise for a guided tour at only $32 per adult. The cruises run throughout the Ring of Lights celebration except for the week during the Christmas parade when you would have to reserve a cruise for the individual event. Parking is available in all the city lots for under $2 per hour.

Newport Beach Ring of Lights
December 2nd- January 1st
Newport Harbor
949.675.0551 |


42nd Annual Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights

This year, Dana Point is celebrating their 42nd Boat Parade of Lights. The theme is “Under the Sea” and it is sure to stretch the imagination. The event will have more than 90 boats parading around the harbor decked out in out-of-this-world lights and decorations. They will be competing for coveted titles like best theme, best use of lights, best animation, most original design and many more.

The parade is visible from anywhere in the harbor and is free to watch from all locations. Reserve a table at one of the waterfront restaurants like Wind and Sea or Harpoon Henry’s. For a drink, enjoy a margarita at El Torito’s tequila bar before walking to the harbor side for the parade. However, if standing on the sidelines isn’t for you, Dana Wharf Sportfishing is also offering cruises each night. Bring the family and take the chance to join the parade for yourself. The 90 minute cruise goes for $29 per adult and $19 per child. Parking for the event is available around the harbor and at Doheny State Beach for $2 per hour. There will also be a free shuttle available to take people to and from the Doheny parking lots.

42nd Annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights
December 9th-10th and 16th-17th
7 :30 p.m.
Dana Point Harbor
949.923.2255 |


Original article published by Locale Magazine written by Molly Brooks