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3 Christmas Boat Parades in San Diego (Dec. 2022)


photo: San Diego Maritime Museum


Christmas Light Boat Parades are a San Diego tradition, some going back over 50 years! There are 3 different boat parades in San Diego: 1 on Mission Bay, 1 on the Big San Diego Bay and 1 in Oceanside Harbor.


The longest running and most popular one (ie. crowded) is on the San Diego Bayfront; they have two parade nights. A smaller one but still popular is on Mission Bay. The least crowded is along the Oceanside Harbor. Scroll below to find tips on best places to watch the parades from, hotel viewing parties and where to park and where not to park.


Contents:


 

Re: Kids 

I may be the only one to admit this...these are kind of boring for kids. Or for mine at least. It can take several minutes in between each boat and my kids lose interest in this really quickly after only seeing 3-4 boats and they're ready to leave. If you're set on doing this with kids, bring some activities to keep your kids busy.


Lately some hotel resorts along the parade routes have opened up viewing parties with food, drinks, (bathrooms!) and lots of fun activities for kids. This would be the way to go if you're able to spring for this.


Re: Logistics

BYO chairs & blankets or else you'll sit on the pavement, wet grass or hard rock jetties. Dress warmly because it WILL be cold. Bring food, drinks, hot cocoa and potties or pee bags for the kids...there's no telling if you'll end up near a bathroom or not.


One last tip is to be prepared for long wait times to park and to leave. I don't recommend going to Shelter or Harbor Islands because we waited ONE HOUR just to get out of the parking lot. That's when I said I'll never do this again. So that's my take on these. But if you enjoy these, then here's all the info you need below. ;)



 

⛵️ MISSION BAY BOAT PARADE

📆 2022: Sat. Dec. 10 at 5:30pm


The Mission Bay Boat Parade is a fun one to watch if you're trying to figure out which one to attend. This year they have some super fun viewing parties at various hotel resorts all around the bay! Enjoy the best views of the decorated boats while you enjoy Mission Bay hospitality, including food & beverage service, holiday music, bonfire seating, entertainment for kids, giveaways, and even a visit from Santa at participating resorts! website 


PARADE ROUTE (approx. times):

It starts in front of SeaWorld and circles counter-clockwise around the bay, times are very approximate noted below.

  • Fiesta Island/SeaWorld, 5:30pm

  • The Dana on Mission Bay, 5:45-6:15pm

  • Paradise Point Resort, 6-6:30pm

  • Bahia Resort, 6:15-6:45pm

  • Mission Bay Yacht Club

  • Catamaran Resort, 6:30-7pm

  • Ski Beach, 6:45-7:15pm

  • Fiesta Island, 7-7:30pm

  • Mission Bay Beach Club, 7:15-7:45pm


WHERE'S THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH FROM?

Every spot along the route will be great! Depends on your timing...so get to the first spots for an early evening or end at the later spots for a later evening. Some hotels noted above are having super fun viewing parties. Click here to read all about them.


  • The Dana Viewing Party: An all-ages experience, the Winter Wonderland will have exciting food and beverages including a holiday picnic menu from the Firefly Eatery and a Snow Cone Truck. Cash bars are available throughout the resort. A DJ will set the mood with a dance party, playful winter activities, craft-making and a snowball fight with special appearances by Buddy the Elf, Princess Elsa, and a Winter Fairy.


  • VIP seating for purchase is available for hotel guests and the public, and includes a heated seating area, a signature picnic blanket, hot cocoa, apple cider and picture perfect parade views. In addition, general viewing is available – bring your own blankets and chairs!


  • Paradise Point Viewing Party: Perfect for families, you will be able to conveniently order festive food and drinks for kids and adults straight from your phone. Plus enjoy S’mores, bonfires, a hot cocoa bar and a special appearance by Santa! Seating available on a first come first serve basis. Bring blankets for extra ground seating.


  • The Bahia Resort: There'll be lots of fun happening over here. Visit their Air Stream out front (next to the harbor seals ;) for holiday music, burgers & fries, holiday cookies accompanied by a full bar with cozy holiday-flavored coffee options available for purchase. High Top Tables. Bring your own blankets and chairs for beachside viewing!

  • You can also view the parade from the Bahia Belle Sternwheeler's Holiday Cruise. Come aboard an illuminating holiday cruise for an up-close experience set to festive holiday party music, with cash bars available onboard. The Bahia Belle boarding begins at 4:45pm and returns to the Bahia at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.bahiahotel.com/parade-lights. $35 for Hotel Guests and $50 for General Admission. Reservations Required. Views of parade boats expected between 5:35pm and 7:30pm during bay cruise.


  • The Catamaran Resort: They'll have holiday treats for purchase as well as cash bars featuring special seasonal hot cocoas, hot toddies, mulled wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Holiday music will surround you as you arrive and find your seating. Beach chairs will be available on a first come first-served basis. The holiday movie will begin following the parade.


  • Mission Bay Beach Club: Get there early for the Candy Cane Lane Holiday artisan market with food and beverages available for purchase. Hot Cocoa and Cider Stations, S’mores fire kits, Cookies and Panini Pop Ups. Santa will be there from 1:30pm – 4:30pm (NOTE the boat parade won't pass by until approx. 7:15pm). View the parade from coffee shop tables or bring your own blankets and chairs!




 


⛵️ SAN DIEGO BAY BOAT PARADE

📆 2022: Dec. 11 & 18 from 5:30-7:30pm

starts at Shelter Island, ends at Coronado Ferry Landing


The 52nd annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights promises to dazzle and entertain bayfront crowds. Boats will be decorated to fit this year’s theme: "FantaSEA on the Bay". The procession of approximately 80 lavishly decorated boats has become one of the most iconic events in the region. website 


PARADE ROUTE (approx. times):

  • Shelter Island, 5:30pm

  • Harbor Island, 6:00pm

  • The Embarcadero, 6:30pm

  • Seaport Village, 7:00pm

  • The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park, 7:15pm

  • Ferry Landing on Coronado, 7:30pm


The parade takes about an hour to pass any given point and there are many comfortable waterfront viewpoints along the route. Due to increased traffic and parking demand, observers are encouraged to plan ahead or take the trolley. (It WILL be crowded and parking will be hard to find. When the parade is over, it WILL take a while to exit to be patient.)


The announcers will be located at the Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero and at Coronado Landing. As each boat passes these viewing points, the announcers offer a brief history and description of the participating vessels.



WHERE'S THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH FROM?

  • Shelter Island & Harbor Islands are the best viewing spots in my opinion; there's a playground on Shelter Island, both have free close-by parking...BUT these are the hardest places to get out of when it's over because they only have one way on and one way off the islands. So I would avoid these spots just for this reason.


  • The Embarcadero will be tricky to find a good spot unless you go early. You'll have to pay for a parking lot or feed the meter until the time ends and you'll likely have to walk 2-4 blocks over.


  • Seaport Village has great viewing spots, paid parking lots aren't too far away and it's the easiest place to exit with multiple roads to choose from. There's lots of good food options here so you can grab dinner and go find a spot to sit and watch from. If you can't find a parking spot at Seaport Village, I like the parking garage at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel (pull into the hotel's main entrance and look for the Self-Parking entrance on the left) because it's the closest parking garage to Seaport Village.


  • The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park - sorry I don't have any insight for this location.


  • Ferry Landing on Coronado can be busy because the roads and parking are limited. You'll likely have to walk several blocks over to the waterfront BUT there is a playground nearby (about 10 minute walk south of the ferry dock!) and there are some good food options to choose from nearby. You can always find a spot on the beach, but you know what that means...sand everywhere. It may take some time to exit and get over the bridge to head home.



 

⛵️ OCEANSIDE BOAT PARADE

📆 2022: Dec. 10 at 7pm


A fun spectacle with boats of all shapes and sizes decorated in their finest holiday attire, including lights, ornaments and lots of holiday trimmings. In addition many of the captains and boat crews dress up in their holiday best, with a few jolly Santas joining to take part in the festive parade celebration. website 


PARADE ROUTE:

I couldn't find this info.


TIP:

There are several restaurants and shops located within Oceanside Harbor if you would like to dine and watch the event, please call for availability. View Oceanside Harbor Merchants.


WHERE'S THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH FROM?

One of the best viewing spots is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station. From this vantage point, you can see the parade twice! The concrete walkway that surrounds much of the harbor is also good for viewing the parade.


Where to Park? 




 

⛵️ HAVE FUN! ⛵️

 


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