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What to Know Before You Go To the Christmas Boat Parade

December 11, 2017

109th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade – What to Know Before You Go

Who’s Invited? 

You! Plus your family, friends, and neighbors. Best of all, it’s free! Each year over one million spectators enjoy the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which has been named as one of the “Top Holiday Events in the Nation” by The New York Times.

What’s this parade all about?

Newport Beach’s first boat parade in 1907 consisted of one gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns, followed by eight canoes. What started out as a small procession has grown into a real showstopper. This year, upwards of 100 yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes festooned with twinkling lights and sparkling holiday decorations will sail through Newport Harbor in the 109th Christmas Boat Parade, hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Prizes go to the best overall boat, with separate winners for categories including Humor & Originality and Animation & Special Effects. Even the shores of Newport Harbor and Balboa Island will be aglow this holiday season with a separate “Ring of Lights” waterfront-decorating contest.

When is the parade?

This year, the Christmas Boat Parade will be held each night from Wednesday, Dec. 13 until Sunday, Dec. 17. The parade starts at 6:30 pm on the tip of Lido Isle and completes the route around 9:00 pm. Your viewing location determines when the parade will pass, so review the schedule to make sure you don’t miss it!

Where to watch the parade?

The parade sets off from the tip of Lido Isle and makes its way around the entire harbor before ending back at the starting point. It is free to watch the parade from any public space on shore, and the first and largest public viewing area along the route is Marina Park. See the map for the parade route and a list of viewing areas.

Ten harbor-side restaurants offer the opportunity to dine while you watch the parade, including The Winery, The Lighthouse Café, and A&O Kitchen and Bar. Seating is extremely limited and spots fill up quickly, so check out the complete list of restaurants and book your table today!

You can completely immerse yourself in the experience by booking a Holiday Lights Cruise with Davey’s Locker, where you’ll travel along the parade route on one of their decorated boats. Or, simply rent a boat and view the parade from the water.

Where to park?

As we all know, parking around Newport Harbor is always tight, and you can expect it to get even trickier with everyone coming to join the holiday fun. If you are planning on driving, come early (at least an hour before the parade start time of 6:30 pm) or consider carpooling or using a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft and avoid the stress completely. And if you plan to peruse the decorated houses on Balboa Island, insiders recommend taking the ferry (just $1 per person) from Balboa Village on the peninsula over to the island. Besides free and metered street parking, there are several paid public parking lots on Balboa Peninsula. See a parking map of all lots here, which includes the 177-space parking lot at Marina Park.

Are there special events on opening night?

Yes! The park will be a fantastic location for families to watch the parade, especially on opening night, Dec. 13, with festivities that include an appearance by the Los Angeles Charger Girls (5-6 p.m.), a Los Angeles Chargers football toss area, photo opportunities with Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, a performance by Orange County School of the Art’s Performance Ambassadors MONTAGE!, caricature artists, face painters and a variety of food vendors. The parade should pass Marina Park just after 6:45 p.m. each evening and on opening and closing nights, spectators will have an ample view of the fireworks from the park.

Who is this year’s Grand Marshal?

Each of the five nights will be hosted by a different Grand Marshal. Check the line-up to pick your favorite and plan which night to attend.

What about the weather?

The parade goes on rain or shine (only cancelled in the case of severe weather). The weather forecast shows mild temperatures this week in Newport Beach with lows in the 50s. The temperature feels a bit cooler near the water, so dress in layers, bring a cozy blanket, and maybe even some hot cocoa!

Written by Kelly Barcus.

Kelly is a travel writer and photographer. Over the past five years, she has lived in Los Angeles, Cambridge, England and Lisbon, Portugal. She now calls Newport Beach home along with her husband and young son. When she’s not enjoying the outdoors in Southern California, she’s traveling somewhere new and writing about it on her travel blog, No Man Before.

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