Get ready to set sail — and set a place setting — for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, held nightly Dec. 18-22.
Nearly 100 elaborately decorated boats will circumnavigate the perimeter of Newport Harbor, cruising past a handful of waterfront restaurants that offer prime viewing areas. Many more restaurants are just a short walk from the parade route.
The parade begins near the tip of Lido Isle at 6:30 p.m., cruises past Marina Park and Lighthouse Café at 6:52 p.m., continues past the Fun Zone and on over to Balboa Island. It passes Balboa Bay Resort at 8:34 p.m. and then on past a slew of restaurants along Coast Highway and Lido Marina Village. It concludes back at the starting point at 9 p.m.
PARADE ROUTE DINING
Marina Park is a great spot to watch the parade, especially if you dine at Lighthouse Café. They have plenty of tables inside, but the patio offers the best parade views, and you can hear the music and cheers form the boats as they pass by.
Harborside and Newport Landing in Balboa’s Fun Zone will each have a prix-fixe Boat Parade menu available. For Harborside reservations call (949) 673-4633 or visit Harborside-Pavilion.com. For Newport Landing reservations, call (949) 675-2373 or visit Newport-Landing.com.
Waterline at the Balboa Bay Resort is featuring a special three-course menu served from 5 to 8 p.m. The prix fixe price is $80 for adults and $40 for children. To make reservations, call (949) 645-5000 or visit BalboaBayResort.com.
A&O Kitchen + Bar at Balboa Bay Resort has a waterfront patio, fire pits, and creative libations. Seating is first come, first serve. There is a minimum charge for boat parade viewing of $75 per person. For more information, visit BalboaBayResort.com.
The new Mama’s Restaurant on Coast Highway has a wall of windows that make watching the boat parade from this cozy Italian restaurant fun and easy. For more information, visit mamason39.com/newport-beach.
The new Guac Amigos, co-owned by skateboard legend Tony Hawk, has views of the harbor from the warm confines of the dining room, a terrific taco menu, and tableside guacamole. For more information, visit guacamigos.com.
The Rusty Pelican has spectacular waterfront views and an eclectic seafood menu. For more information, visit RustyPelican.com.
Billy’s at the Beach offers great views of the parade from inside the restaurant and on its waterfront patio. For reservations, call (949) 722-1100 or visit BillysattheBeach.net.
The new Louie’s by the Bay, which opened earlier this year, has a fine Italian menu, an impressive wine list, and 180-degree harbor views. For more information, visit louiesnewport.com.
The Winery Restaurant & Bar will have a prix-fixe dinner menu every night of the parade. Cost varies from $99 to $169 depending on seat location (how far do you want to be from the floor-to-ceiling windows?). First course is a Chef’s Amuse Bouche. The second course offers a choice of six items including sautéed wild white shrimp. The main course offers a choice of seven selections, including the fabulous New Zealand venison loin wrapped with Applewood smoked bacon. There are four selections for dessert, including the signature warm vanilla beignets. Reservations are required. For more information, call (949) 999-6622 or visit TheWineryNewport.com.
Lido Marina Village (Nobu, Zinque, Circle Hook, Lido Bottle Works, Malibu Farms): Lido Marina Village is a terrific spot to catch the Christmas Boat Parade before it completes its journey around the bay. The restaurants have a prime viewing spot. You can also dine and then walk to the Lido Marina Village patio (between Nobu and Zinque) for an unobstructed view. For more information, visit lidomarinavillage.com/shopeat.
Balboa Village and the Fun Zone offer a multitude of dining options that are a short walk to the waterfront and prime boat parade viewing.
Cruisers serves a mean stuffed pizza, while local fave Great Mex offers terrific tacos and cerveza. Mint Leaf and Balboa Lilly’s are also popular spots.
Balboa Island is another nice area in which to dine prior to or after the parade. The restaurants, most of which are on Marine Avenue, are not directly on the parade route, but they’re a short stroll to easy parade viewing from almost anywhere on the perimeter of the Island. Some of my favorites: Crocker’s the Well Dressed Frank (superb hotdogs), Ciao Italian Restaurant, The Village Inn, Wilma’s Patio, Basilic, Royal Hen, and of course Shanghai Pine Garden. Grab a Balboa Bar at Sugar ‘N Spice or Dad’s Donut.
On the other side of Coast Highway but just steps away from the waterfront is A Restaurant, which offers classic steak house dining (try the New York block cut steak).
Some restaurants such as Bluewater Grill, and The Cannery don’t offer direct viewing, but they’re a short walk from the waterfront and are usually less-crowded than restaurants along the parade route.
SOL Cocina and neighboring Tavern House are also not on the parade route, but walk past SOL through the parking lot to the waterfront and you can watch the parade as it makes its turn at the Coast Highway bridge.
I have dined at Bayside Restaurant for the Boat Parade and love the cuisine, and the proximity to Balboa Island. Dine at Bayside, leave your vehicle there, stroll to Balboa Island, and watch the parade from the shore, of the Balboa Island bridge.
Parking can be challenging on Boat Parade nights (especially weekends), and many restaurants directly on the parade route often sell out, so your best bet might be those just off the route yet easily accessible to parade viewing.
Click here to read more about the Christmas Boat Parade and view a route map with estimated times.
For more information, visit ChristmasBoatParade.com.