“Twas the week before Christmas and throughout the harbor, Sailboats and motor yachts plowed through the water.
They all were aglow with thousands of lights, Must be the five Christmas Boat Parade nights!”
Yes, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade returns to Newport Harbor December 13-17. Hosted by The Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, the 115th annual holiday parade features nearly 100 boats of all shapes and sizes navigating a 14-mile route that starts and ends at the tip of Lido Isle. The parade begins at approximately 6:30 p.m. each night and ends around 9 p.m.
In between, the boats circumnavigate the harbor counterclockwise, cruising past Lido Marina Village, Marina Park, Balboa Island, Balboa Bay Club & Resort and other local landmarks.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to view the parade each night from various vantage points including waterfront restaurants, beaches, parks and other areas.
According to the Boat Parade website, the place to be on opening night, December13, is Marina Park. The community park offers 177 parking spaces and is the largest public viewing area along the parade route, creating an optimal location to gather and enjoy the festivities, which includes an opening ceremony, front-row parade viewing and the third-annual Holiday Market in partnership with Creative Communal.
The Holiday Market will feature three dozen local makers, food vendors, live music, entertainment, photo ops and kid activities.
The Opening Night event starts at 4 p.m. with the holiday market, which runs until 8 p.m. A spectacular fireworks show starts at 6:15 p.m. The parade sails past Marina Park at 6:45 p.m. The event is open to the public and admission is free—but get there early to nab a parking spot.
Christmas Boat Parade Grand Marshals
Leading the way as opening night Grand Marshals are Hallmark Channel stars Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach. Known for their heartwarming and enchanting roles in a variety of Hallmark Channel classics, Walker and Deloach are ready to add an extra layer of magic to the parade.
Andrew Walker has a portfolio of feel-good films including “Merry & Bright,” “Christmas on My Mind,” and this year’s “Christmas Island” plus a new extended cut of the 2022 hit “Three Wise Men and a Baby.”
Nikki Deloach, another Hallmark fan favorite, has captivated audiences in movies like “Five More Minutes” and “A Dream of Christmas.” “A World Record Christmas” will be Deloach’s forthcoming Hallmark film.
“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to be named Grand Marshals of the 115th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Just like Hallmark, Newport Beach truly embodies the magic of the holiday season, and to be a part of this cherished tradition is a dream come true,” says Nikki Deloach.
“The city’s transformation into the most festive coastal destination is truly enchanting, and we can’t wait to share in the joy and love that this parade represents,” added Andrew Walker.
On opening night, Andrew and Nikki will reportedly ride on the boat parade’s grand marshal boat, visible to parade-goers on route via the vessel’s deck-to-sail LED screen that will showcase some of Hallmark’s iconic movie moments.
“We are absolutely thrilled to honor Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach as our 2023 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade Grand Marshals, as nothing says Christmas like Hallmark,” said Gary Sherwin, President and CEO of Visit Newport Beach. “Considering Newport Beach is the most festive coastal destination in America, and Hallmark presents the ultimate Countdown to Christmas, we couldn’t think of a better partnership and duo to kick off the opening night of our cherished boat parade.”
Other Grand Marshals of the 115th Christmas Boat Parade:
- Thursday, Dec. 14: 2024 Rose Queen and her Royal Court. Visit Newport Beach is thrilled to be participating in the world-renowned 135th Rose Parade, set to dazzle spectators on January 1, 2024 in Pasadena. The city’s record-breaking float entry pays homage to the city’s iconic Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
- Friday, Dec. 15: Celebrating our Community’s First Responders. Cheer on our local Fire and Police departments, those first-responders and lifesavers who serve our communities, as they lead the evening’s festivities.
- Saturday, Dec. 16: Former Rose Queens. Five former Rose Queens who call Newport Beach home will grace the parade with their regal presence. The former queens will also be riding on Visit Newport Beach’s float during the 135th Rose Parade.
- Sunday, Dec. 17: Corona del Mar High School Drum Line. The CdM Drum Line is one of the premier performing groups at Corona del Mar High School. It serves as a musical ambassador, performing regularly in pep rallies as well as school and community events.
Marina Park is an ideal spot to watch the parade, but Balboa Blvd. can get congested on parade nights, and parking spots fill up fast, so if Marina Park is your destination of choice, get there early!
You can also consider the American Legion Post 291 on Balboa Peninsula. They are hosting a parade viewing party on their patio each night of the parade. For $50 you get a Country Christmas with a BBQ dinner and strolling country carolers, plus a prime viewing spot. Visit https://www.al291.com.
A handful of restaurants are along the parade route and offer prime viewing opportunities and even some special Boat Parade menus, but make reservations soon because they will sell out on parade nights.
- The Lighthouse Bayview Café, 1600 W Balboa Blvd. lighthousenb.com.
- Newport Landing Restaurant, 503 East Edgewater. Newport-Landing.com.
- Harborside Restaurant, 400 Main Street in Balboa, Harborside-Pavilion.com.
- A+O Restaurant | Bar at Balboa Bay Resort, 1221 W. Coast Hwy. balboabayresort.com.
- Rusty Pelican Restaurant, 2735 W. Coast Highway. rustypelican.com.
- Louie’s by the Bay, 2801 W. Coast Hwy. louiesnewport.com.
- The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar, 3131 W. Coast Hwy. thewineryrestaurant.net.
- Nobu,, 3450 Via Oporto #101, noburestaurants.com/newportbeach/home/.
- Lido Bottle Works, 3408 Via Oporto, Suite 103, http://lidobottleworks.com/.
There are a handful of restaurants near the parade route that are perfect for dining and then walking to a viewing area. Those include:
- Tavern House Kitchen + Bar, 333 Bayside Dr., tavernhousekb.com/.
- 21 Oceanfront, 2100 West Oceanfront, 21oceanfront.com.
- SOL Mexican Cocina, 251 E. Coast Hwy., solcocina.com.
- Sapori Ristorante, 1080 Bayside Dr., saporinb.com.
- Galley Café, 829 Harbor Island Dr., thegalleycafenewportbeach.com.
- Woody’s Diner, 3461 Via Lido. woodysdiners.com.
- The Porch, 508 29th Street. meetattheporch.com.
- Bayside Restaurant, 900 Bayside Dr., baysiderestaurant.com.
Bayside is an ideal location. They have valet parking and are a five minute walk to Balboa Island, where you can watch the boat parade from several viewing spots, and also view the winners of the Ring of Lights Home Decorating contest.
Ring of Lights
In addition to the dazzling boats sailing through the harbor, many waterfront homes, businesses and yacht clubs are participating in the “Ring of Lights.” In past years, many homes, businesses and yacht clubs have gone to great extents to decorate their properties and add to the festive feel of the boat parade.
Hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Ring of Lights has its own judged categories and prizes awarded.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade History
According to the Christmas Boat Parade website, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade began more than 100 years ago when Italian gondolier John Scarpa began the tradition in 1907 by taking a group of visitors from Pasadena across the bay in a gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns.
A year later, on July 4, the first lighted boat parade took place when Scarpa and fellow small boat operators put together a small parade of nine vessels lluminated by Japanese lanterns.
Dubbed the Illuminated Water Parade, it was held again in 1913 but this time the boats were judged and prizes for the best decorated and best lighted vessels were given, similar to the prizes awarded at the current parade.
The parade was held another two years until WWI broke out and the parade went dark until 1919 that Joseph Beek, who operated ferry boats to take autos and passengers from Balboa Island to the peninsula, brought it back by towing floats decorated by children. Many of these floats were built in Beek’s garage and were patterned after those in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
After that the parade was held every summer through 1949, but city officials felt the parade was drawing too many visitors so it was deemed undesirable.
However, around this time Newport Beach City employees had installed a lighted Christmas tree on a barge and had it towed around the harbor at Christmas time while its passengers sang Christmas carols to residents on shore.
Eventually other boats joined the barge, and soon the Tournament of Lights morphed into a Christmas celebration.
Now, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade features around 100 decorated boats of all sizes and is hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the 115th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, including a route map, please visit www.christmasboatparade.com.