Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade: Where to Watch

Every Christmas for the last 105 years the Newport Harbor has transformed into a magical Christmas world through the lavish decorations of the massive yachts and boats that participate in the annual parade. This is a very un-traditional way to get into the Christmas spirit, one that is somehow a unique representation of what California is. While the amount of money spent on creating these Christmas boats is a little overwhelming, it is a fun Southern California experience to watch them slowly parade through the harbor on a cold December night.

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  • Only 4 nights each year. The dates for 2014 are Dec 17-21
  • Free as long as you can find a place to park, or paid if you book a boat

How to view the show

boat parade map

There are many ways to view the show ranging from free to expensive and here they are:

On a Boat

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If you are interested in a more relaxing exeprience consider booking a crusie on one of the many boats that cruise through the harbor. Most cost between 30-50 dollars for an hour or two boat ride. Many also come with a free drink to sip while watching the boats as well.

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The boat slowly cruises the harbor to see the lights along the shore of Balboa Island and to see the many boats parading or sitting in their docks. This is a good way to experience the parade as you can see a lot and you do not need to fight the crowds.

Public Viewing

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If you do not want to take a boat then you can grab a seat or just walk along the harbor to get a pretty good view from most locations. You can also walk along Balboa Island itself to see both the houses on one side and the boats on the other. If you can find parking then it can be a great and relaxing way to watch the boat parade at your own pace.

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You can stay as long or as short as you like and if you bring binoculars you can get up close to the boats.

In a Restaurant

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Probably the most expensive way to see the parade is by booking a meal at one of the restaurants on the harbor. This is a great way to relax with a meal and see the boat parade, but make sure to book it way in advance as these nights fill up very fast. Also, the meals are usually pre-fixed, meaning that they range from $50-$100 a person for a couple courses. Here are a few of the restaurants that you can call to book a meal at for the parade.

  • Rusty Pelican
  • Billy’s at the Beach
  • Newport Landing Restaurant
  • Joes Crab Shack

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All in all this is a unique way for a SoCal family to get the Christmas spirit. I always enjoy going down to the parade and just getting food, walking around and watching the boats go by.

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Alternatively, if you want to just go to Balboa Island and walk around you can also see an amazing assorment of lights without even having to fight the boat parade crowds.

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If you have any tips or recommendations for how to best enjoy the boat parade I would love if you would consider leaving them in the comments below.

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