Southern California beaches in December may be sunny, but it's a liittl too cold for the bikini. But don't despair, there are many annual holiday events and festivals to enjoy, many of which are boat parades in the various harbors. Boat owners deck out their vessels with beautiful colorful light displays. So bundle up, grab some hot cocoa and find a good spot to view the dazzling display (made even better by all the colorful reflections in the water). Best yet, these parades are free to spectators.
I've divided the festivals and events by county to make it easier for you to quickly find fests and events in the area you are interested in.
Santa Barbara Annual Parade of Lights
This annual event takes place at the City Pier. A Santa's Village event starts at 3pm and will include not only Santa, but ten tons of snow! The boat parade starts at 530pm, followed by fireworks. The whole event ends at 8pm.
Seal Beach Christmas Parade
This annual parade runs down Main Street from Ocean Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway. Starting time is 7pm, finishing at 830pm.
King Harbor Boat Parade
King Harbor, Redondo Beach
The annual parade starts at 530pm, but there is a stand up paddleboard segment starting at 415pm.
Naples Island Annual Holiday Boat Parade
Naples, Long Beach
There is a large boat parade at 6pm, and a small boat parade at 645pm. There is free parking at Alamitos Bay Marina. You can view the parade from restaurants at Seaport Village.
New Year's Eve Gala
Casino Ballroom, Catalina Island
This annual celebration happens in the Casino Ballroom in Avalon. There is live music, dancing and the traditional balloon drop. catalinachamber.com
Sawdust Winter Fantasy Festival
Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
The famous summer festival has a winter version also. See the works of nearly 200 artists, enjoy holiday entertainment, food and crafts. sawdustartfestival.org
Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights
Dana Point Harbor
This annual boat parade in the harbor starts at 730pm on 4 nights over 2 weekends (Friday/Saturday). Many awards are handed out in various categories for the boats decorated with light displays. If you come down on Friday On an earlier date, you can enjoy the Holiday In The Harbor Open House from from 430 to 730 (just before the parade). In addition, there will be boat rides with Santa on one of the weekends from 10 to 2 at the Dana Wharf Sportfishing Docks. Parking is free. www.danapointharbor.com
Huntington Harbour Boat Parade
Huntington Harbour, Huntington Beach
They also have an annual Boat Parade. www.hhboatparade.org
Christmas Boat Parade
Newport Harbor, Newport Beach
This is the granddaddy of holiday boat parades. Happening for over 100 years, this annual Newport Beach parade happens over 5 nights from 630 to 9pm. It starts and ends at Bay Island, doing a large loop throughout the harbor and around Balboa Island and Lido Isle, offering many vantage points. An added bonus is all the waterfront homes that are beautifully decorated for the season. christmasboatparade.com
North Park Toyland Parade
North Park, San Diego
This is an annual Toyland Parade and Festival. The parades starts at 11am and the festival runs until 430pm. The parade route goes along University Avenue between Iowa and Utah Streets. Santa plans to make an appearance. www.toylandparade.com
San Diego Bay Parade Of Lights
The Annual Parade Of Lights is held on 2 Sundays and passes from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the ferry landing at Coronado. Starting time is 530pm. www.sdparadeoflights.org
Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
The parade runs from 6 or 7 to 9pm on Mission Bay, San Diego. They start at Quivira Basin. Afterwards, there are fireworks and then the SeaWorld SkyTower Tree of Lights is illuminated.
Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights
This holiday boat parade runs from 7 to 9pm.
Port Of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade
Downtown San Diego
This televised parade has floats, marching bands, and huge balloons. It begins at 10am. The parade starts at the County Administration Building and goes down Harbor Drive and ends at Pacific Highway near Seaport Village. www.holidaybowl.com
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