The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade started in the early 1900s when Venetian gondolier John Scarpa put lights on eight canoes and his gondola. Scarpa might be surprised at what his simple act has spawned, with some entrants in today's Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade spending more than $50,000 to decorate their vessels for the event. It's a popular local tradition, but the New York Times has also rated the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade as one of the country's top holiday happenings.
These days, Newport boasts the largest harbor parade in Southern California, with more than 100 boats, canoes and kayaks cruising the harbor decked out in enough lights to almost turn night to day.
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from LandThe Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade starts at Bay Island at 6:30 p.m. each evening and finishes at the same spot 2.5 hours later. It runs for five days in mid-December, Wednesday through Sunday.
The bayfront is a great place to watch the show of passing lights reflecting off the water. The parade route goes generally along the inner edges of the bay and circles Balboa Island. These are some of the places where you can watch it:
- On the bay side of Balboa Peninsula from 18th Street to the end of Bay Avenue
- Anywhere along the water on Balboa Island
- Along Pacific Coast Highway between Balboa Bay Club and Riverside Drive
- Along the water on Lido Isle. Boats go into the channel on the west end of the island only on weekends
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade by BoatIf you own a boat, you can join the parade, but even if you don't, you can book a seat on one of the party boats that park themselves in the middle of the action.
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from a Local RestaurantAnother enjoyable way to watch the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is from a waterside table at one of Newport Beach's fine restaurants:
- Along Pacific Coast Highway:
- Rusty Pelican, 2735 W. Coast Highway
- Billy's at the Beach, 2751 W. Coast Highway
- First Cabin Restaurant at Balboa Bay Club, 1221 West Coast Highway
- On Balboa Island
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from Your HotelWaterside rooms at the Balboa Bay Club offer a front-row seat.
Getting to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat ParadeNewport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Newport Beach, CA
If you're driving, go early. Traffic gets quite busy starting about two hours before the parade begins.
Some local hotels and accommodations offer free shuttle service. It doesn't hurt to ask.