By: Taylor Hill and Eston Ellis / The Log / December 6, 2012
Holiday boat parades are a treasured tradition in Southern California — and some boaters spend all year getting ready for them. Bringing together the right holiday decorations, lights and onboard spirit to “wow” the crowds of fellow boaters on the water and spectators on shore takes planning, cleverness and a lot of creativity.
But even if you haven’t been obsessing over your decorating scheme since July, there’s still time to join in the fun of this month’s annual holiday boat parades. String some lights, bring along some friends and family, and make your plan now to take part in one of the season’s top boating activities.
Whether this is your first year heading out to join in the festivities on the water or it’s an annual outing, you’re sure to find something new and exciting to see and do. From participating in a decorated boat parade to checking out all the waterfront homes decked out for the holidays on a moonlight cruise, boaters have many opportunities to make the season bright.
Bring a thermos full of hot spiced cider, a plate of fresh-baked cookies — and friends. You and your family will enjoy a fun-filled evening on the water, and warm holiday memories to treasure forever.
Here’s where to find this year’s holiday fun in San Diego County:
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 9 and 16, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Details: The Port of San Diego’s annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights will begin with a fireworks display. More than 80 boaters will decorate their vessels to the theme of “Our 41st Anniversary, USS Santa Claus.” The parade will also serve as the official launch to the port’s 50th anniversary. A pre-parade event for the whole family is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, 1000 North Harbor Drive. There will be a performance by the Navy Region Southwest Band, food trucks and craft-making activities for children — plus two inflatable bounce houses, a train ride, and a sleigh for photo opportunities.
Route: Boats will cruise from the south end of Shelter Island to the downtown waterfront and the Coronado area. The parade takes between one to one-and-a-half hours to complete.
Viewing: Spectators are reminded to arrive early, since parking at Harbor Island is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Boaters can get the best views where the parade turns west for Coronado, near the 10th Street Terminal. Less crowded shoreside viewing areas include the north and south ends of the Embarcadero, the bayside pathway along Coronado and the waterfront park behind Seaport Village. The port will provide bleachers to seat 250 in the Port Pavilion’s view court, as well as chairs for 400 people. Spectators can also bring their own chairs. Seating is first-come, first served. Paid parking will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal for $10.
Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 8, 7-9 p.m.
Details: More than 60,000 spectators at Mission Bay Park are expected to watch the boat parade, which has been cruising through the bay since the 1970s. The parade concludes with a fireworks display and the lighting of the SeaWorld Skytower Tree of Lights at 9 p.m.
Route: The parade begins at the Quivira Basin and follows a 5-mile route along the shore of Mission Bay.
Viewing: Best shoreside viewing spots include Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island and the west side of Fiesta Island.
Information: (858) 488-0501.
Oceanside Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 8, 7-9 p.m.
Details: Hosted by Oceanside Yacht Club, this is the parade’s 36th year. The decorated boat entry deadline is 1 p.m. Dec. 8. Entry forms are available at the club, at 1950 N. Harbor Drive. A skippers’ meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Judging and awards presentations are scheduled at the conclusion of the parade, at Oceanside YC.
Route: Boats will cruise along Oceanside’s inner harbor.
Viewing: Between the harbor beach and boat ramp area.
Information: (760) 722-5751