The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is from December 14 to December 18 this year (2011). Now, Christmas season is out in full force, even in parts of the country that don’t get blanketed by snow in December. Newport Beach, California, makes for a gorgeous day trip from Los Angeles. The Newport Beach holiday light displays alone make it worth the drive. You know they’ve got something good when almost a million people travel to see over 200 boats — from simple kayaks to million-dollar yachts — decked out in Christmas regalia.
The 103rd Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been called one of the “Top Ten Holiday Happenings in the Nation” by the New York Times, and Frommers named it #7 of the “World’s Best Holiday Lights.” No wonder people come to Newport Beach from Los Angeles (and much further away too). Newport Harbor is virtually lit aflame with twinkling lights on the boats; merriment and the spirit of the season come easily with such a visual display. Locals of Newport Beach come out in full force, needles to say. Visitors from elsewhere line up as well to enjoy this family-friendly and free event.
Richard Luehrs, President and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the “boat parade is Newport Beach, California’s Christmas Card to the world. Since its inception in 1908 when the first ‘tournament of Lights’ was established by Italian gondolier John Scarpa.”
That initial parade consisted of only nine boats: Scarpa’s gondola, and eight canoes. The parade has grown incredibly in the past century, and is now a premier event during the holiday season. To quote Luehrs, it “is truly a magical holiday tradition for all ages.” It’s more than just one of the most glorious displays of Christmas lights in the region, it’s nationally recognized for it’s historical significance as well as its contemporary wonders.
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is actually older than the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center — and unlike this NYC counterpart, the Boat Parade lasts a few days rather than a few minutes!
Now, here’s some questionable news: this year’s theme is “Feelin’ Christmas-sea in Newport Beach!” Hmm…Apparently, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce finds pun-making as irresistible as the Christmas season itself, but hopefully the groans upon hearing this pun will be far, far outweighed by the cheers, oohs and ahhs of the Southern California crowds as they see the beautiful displays in the harbor.
Some of the yachts and larger boats will sport animated holiday scenes, while the more humble canoes and kayaks also reflect the colorful joy of the winter holiday season. Get this: Some boat owners spend over $50,000 to decorate their vessels! Some include music and costumed carolers. Pretty amazing.
The final night of the Boat Parade (December 18, 2011) culminates with a special fireworks display. Visitors can see the fireworks from all around the harbor, as they are being launched from central Balboa Pier. Anyone anywhere near Los Angeles should consider making the day trip down to Newport Beach for the Christmas Boat Parade. It’s bound to be a highlight of the winter holiday season.