Newport Beach Boat Parade: Everything You Need to Know

December 20, 2018 in California, Travel - No Comments

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The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the epitome of the saying, “save the best for last.” A holiday boat parade steeped in tradition celebrates its 110th year.

Considered “one of the nation’s top ten holiday happenings” by the New York Times, this is the boat parade you don’t want to miss.

Thankfully you won’t have to because the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade kicks off its five-night event, December 19 and continues through December 23.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas until the boat parade circles our shores.”

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the Newport Beach Boat Parade, from all the ways to watch the parade and more. The parade is one of the ways you can experience Newport Beach on a budget.

Newport Beach Boat Parade: Everything You Need to Know

From humble beginnings of a single gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns followed by eight canoes, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has evolved into a multi-night event with over 100 yachts, sailboats, electric boats, kayaks, and canoes that attracts almost 1 million visitors each year.

This free event will be the highlight of your holiday.

The parade gets “bigger and better each year. With LED Christmas lights, the parade has a magnificent and wonderful look, ” stated David Beek, grandson of Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade co-founder Joseph Beek.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas until the boat parade circles our shores.”

This year’s parade starts at 6:30 pm to 9 pm each evening from December 19 to December 23.

Fireworks lit up the sky to celebrate the start of the boat parade event. A second firework display will close out the event at 9 pm on December 23.

Pro-tip: Don’t want to keep the little ones up past their bedtime? You can see the entire holiday boat parade in 45 minutes if you watch from Marina Park.

The Newport Beach Boat Parade is a family-friendly event that will help you “make memories that will last their lives,” declares Steve Rosansky, President and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Rain or shine the holiday boat parade sets sail. On the rare occasion that the water is too rough and the Coast Guard issues a small watercraft advisory notice, the parade will be canceled. Be sure to check the parade website at 6 pm each evening.

How to Get to the Newport Beach Boat Parade

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is in Newport Beach. The route follows the 14-mile protected harbor.

You can reach Newport Beach from these freeways:

  • 405 via Jamboree Road
  • 55 via Newport Blvd
  • 1 via Pacific Coast Highway

Pro-tip: Get there early. Especially on the weekend.

Consider spending the day in Newport Beach. Scroll down to the what to do in Newport Beach section for fun tips on how to spend a day or weekend in this little-known paradise where the rich and famous spend their time away from Hollywood.

Christmas Boat Parade Grand Marshals

Each night, the parade hosts different Grand Marshals chosen because of their ties to the community.

  • December 19: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, First Baseman
  • December 20: Hometown Heroes – Newport Beach Police Officer of the Year, Sergeant Jason Blakely; Firefighter of the Year, Joseph Harrison; Lifeguard Supervisor of the Year, Mark Herman; and Seasonal Lifeguard of the Year, Trent Cozza.
  • December 21: The Young Americans
  • December 22: Olive Crest
  • December 23: Corona Del Mar High School Drum Line

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade Route

The 14-mile course starts and ends at the tip of Lido Isle and circles the Newport Harbor.

Pro-tip: It’s free to watch the parade from any of the public viewing areas. These areas are indicated in red on the route map.

Where to Watch the Newport Boat Parade

There are so many options to watch the Newport Boat Parade. From a vantage point along the Christmas Boat Parade route, a waterfront restaurant, boat, or bay front hotel.

Free Locations to Watch the Boat Parade

1. Edgewater Place

Find your favorite spot along Edgewater Place from Lido Avenue to the Balboa Fun Zone to watch the holiday boat parade.

2. Balboa Fun Zone

Ride the giant Ferris wheel and grab a bird’s eye view of the decorated boats from the Balboa Fun Zone.

3. China Cove Beach

For those who prefer a more private location with free access to watch the Newport Boat Parade, head to China Cove Beach on Cove Street at the bottom of Fernleaf Avenue.

Pro-tip: Park on Ocean Boulevard and take the stairway down to the beach.

4. Lookout Point

Take in the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from Corona Del Mar at Lookout Point Park. The park is located on Ocean Boulevard between Goldenrod and Helitrope.

Pro-tip: There are no restrooms.

5. West Jetty View Park aka the Wedge

Enjoy unobstructed views of the holiday boat parade with the ocean at your back at West Jetty View Park, known to locals as the Wedge.

6. Lido Park

For quick escape after the Christmas Boat Parade stake out a spot at Lido Park.

7. Marina Park

The new 10.5 acre Marina Park is one of the best free locations to watch the Newport Beach boat parade.

Pro-tip: Arrive early to stake out a spot.

With 177 parking spaces, a nautical-themed playground, and plenty of space to watch the Christmas boat parade, you’ll want to come every night. Parking is $2.10 an hour. You can pay with a credit card.

Pro-tip: Metered parking is free after 6 pm.

Newport Boy Scout Sea Base

Don’t want to worry about having to arrive early and stake out a good spot? Reserve seats at the Newport Boy Scout Sea Base in advance for $12 (adults), $10 (kids ages 2 to 15). Parking is $20 per car.

Pro-tip: Tickets include entertainment such as magic performances, comedy, and carolers.

Food and drinks are available for purchase. Bring cash because credit cards aren’t accepted.

Dine and Watch From a Waterfront Restaurant

A great way to enjoy the parade is to dine and watch from a waterfront restaurant.

Several offer a fixed price menu during the holiday boat parade. Restaurants are listed from least expensive to most expensive.

1. Newport Landing

Happy Hour Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm and Sunday from 2 pm to 7 pm.

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

2. Pizza Nova

$55 in the dining room, $65 for window seats, and $15 for kids.

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

3. Lighthouse Bayview Cafe

$60 set menu

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

4. Rusty Pelican

Fixed priced meals from $67, $72, and $77 depending on seating times.

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

5. Waterline

$80 (adults), $40 (kids)

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

6. Billy’s at the Beach

$100 (adults), $45 (kids) Wednesday and Sunday; $125 and $50 Thursday to Saturday.

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

7.  The Winery Restaurant

$169, $130, $119, an $99 depending on location; $50 (kids)

Check the menu and make reservations and read reviews.

For locations, more restaurants and exact time the boats will pass by each restaurant visit the Christmas Boat Parade website.

Watch From a Boat


Be part of the fun and watch from a boat during the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

When you’re on a boat you can see the festively decorated bay front homes and businesses. Participants compete for bragging rights in the Ring of Lights competition.

1. Davey’s Locker

$36 (adults) and $32 (children)

Book your spot, read reviews.

2. Newport Coastal Adventure

$65 per person; $349 six person-charter

Book your spot, read reviews.

3. Boat Rentals of America

$75 to $125 per person; charters available

Book your spot, read reviews.

4. Hornblower Cruises & Events

$135 per person includes a 4-course meal

Book your spot, read reviews.

5. Gondola Adventures

$225 for two people

Book your spot, read reviews.

6. East Meets West Excursions

$395 six person-charter

Book your spot, read reviews.

7. Balboa Boat Rentals

$400 for 12 person charter

Book your spot, read reviews.

8. Newport Beach Sailing Charters

$700 six person-charter

Book your spot, read reviews.

9. Captain Newport Luxury Yacht Charter

$915 to $1,515 to charter

Book your spot, read reviews.

10.Newport Landing Cruises

Book your spot, read reviews.

11. Newport Pontoons

Book your spot, read reviews.

12. Newport Beach Rentals

Book your spot, read reviews.

Read more about additional options to watching the parade from a boat.

Pro-tip: Come enjoy the parade for two nights. On the first night watch from Marina Park. Then on the second night, watch from a boat.

Watch From a Bayfront Hotel

Relax in your PJs and watch the Christmas Boat Parade from the comfort of your room at the Balboa Bay Resort.

Pro-tip: Ask for a waterside, bayfront room.

What to Do in Newport Beach

Make the most of your time at the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade by spending the day in Newport Beach.

Play

Have fun in the Balboa Fun Zone playing arcade games or riding the giant Ferris wheel.

Take a Duffy boat tour around the harbor to get a preview of the route, enjoy the decorated homes, and see the Ring of Lights winners.

Shop

Explore the cute one of a kind shops in Balboa Village. Step back in time with a visit to the Balboa Island Museum.

Eat

Grab some lunch at Free Range. The Moroccan carrots and Original Fried Chicken Sandwich are a must!

Be sure to stop by Dad’s or Sugar N’ Spice for a Balboa Bar or frozen banana. Two favorite Newport Beach treats.

But don’t ask who came up with the idea first! It’s a long-running controversy that dates back almost as far as the chicken and the egg.

Pro-tip: I won’t reveal the secret. But get your Balboa Bar from Dad’s and your frozen banana from Sugar N’ Spice.

After a fun day on Balboa Island and an evening watching the holiday boat parade, consider settling in for the night at one of the local hotels.

Luxury hotels:

  • Pelican Hill
  • Balboa Bay Resort
  • Lido House

Moderately priced accommodations:

Conclusion

If you can only attend one Christmas boat parade a year, you should choose the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

The fun-filled five-night event for the entire family starts December 19 and ends December 23.

The 14-mile parade begins at 6:30 pm each evening and ends at 9 pm and circles the Newport Harbor. If you watch from Marina Park you can see the entire parade in 45 minutes.

Don’t miss out on what Newport Beach Mayor Diane B. Dixon describes as a “community based homegrown event that brings holiday cheer and magical artistic decoration.”

What’s your favorite holiday boat parade?

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Featured image courtesy Visit Newport Beach.

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Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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