To get in the holiday spirit Southland-style, just head to a nearby harbor and watch illuminated Christmas trees glide across the horizon.
Ship masts draped with twinkling lights have become symbolic tannenbaums that are part of traditional boat parades all along the coast of Southern California.
Thousands of vessels, from dinghies to sleek yachts and commercial fishing craft, put on the season's brightest show with flotillas of colorful lights. They reflect the festive times that take place this month in marinas from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Next Saturday are parades in Oxnard, San Pedro, Marina del Rey and Dana Point. The following weekend offers waterborne shows in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Naples, Long Beach, Oceanside and San Diego.
Arrive Early for Viewing
For an outing to celebrate the season in nautical style, here's a summary of parades in each harbor. Dress warmly and arrive early to find a good viewing spot.
Los Angeles Harbor, San Pedro--Fireboats will lead the Port of Los Angeles Christmas Afloat parade up and down the main San Pedro Channel next Saturday. Starting time is 7 p.m. and a popular spot for viewing is Ports O'Call; take Harbor Boulevard to the port area.
Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard--The Twelve Days of Christmas is this year's theme for Oxnard's Parade of Lights that starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Head to viewpoints off Victoria Avenue, Peninsula Road and Harbor Boulevard to watch the boats make two cruises around the harbor. Earlier in the day the harbor will be site of an arts and crafts show.
Marina Del Rey--To celebrate Marina del Rey's 25th birthday, Saturday's Christmas Boat Parade will celebrate Sentimental Journeys with a bright display of vessels along the main channel. Starting time is 5:30 p.m. Among the best places for viewing are Burton Chace Park on Mindanao Way and Fisherman's Village on Fiji Way.
Dana Point Harbor--About 100 boats are expected to participate in a Christmas Fantasy that winds through Dana Point Harbor, off Interstate 5 at Pacific Coast Highway. You can see it on both Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, children will be given free boat rides with Santa.
Huntington Harbour, Huntington Beach--This is the 25th anniversary of this sailing community's show, sponsored by the Huntington Harbor Philharmonic Committee. Because of very limited public parking and viewing places, most folks bypass the parade next Saturday and Sunday (starting at 5:15 p.m.) for the Cruise of Lights that runs nightly Dec. 14 to 22.
Viewers become a part of the parade by boarding 60- to 120-passenger vessels and cruising by homes and boats in their slips that have been decorated with a blaze of lights. This year's theme is A Celebration of Music.
Advance-purchase tickets are required for the 45-minute boat tours that begin at 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Cost is adults $6, children 12 years and under $4; proceeds will go to the Orange County Philharmonic Society.
For details call (714) 840-7542 weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Viewpoint Map Offered
Newport Harbor, Newport Beach--From Dec. 17 to 23, Newport's popular Christmas Boat Parade of Lights begins nightly at 6:30 p.m. For a map of good viewpoints around the vast bay, call the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce during office hours, (714) 644-8211.
The Newport Harbor Jaycees erect a grandstand and offer reserved seating; (714) 644-6701 for recorded information. Parking and shuttle service is included in the cost: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children. The two-hour parade also can be enjoyed from several bayfront restaurants, but make reservations now.
Long Beach--On Dec. 19 and 20 the Floating Parade of 1,000 Lights cruises past the Downtown Marina and Shoreline Village beginning at 7:30 p.m. There's free parking at the Shoreline Village complex, where Christmas carolers also will entertain on Dec. 19.
Naples--Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 19, boats will parade around the picturesque Naples area of Long Beach, in Alamitos Bay. The island's narrow canals and low bridges keep most of the vessels restricted to outer channels, but visitors can have fun strolling the sidewalks to view all the decorated homes.
And Walking Tours
For a guided look at Naples' neighborhoods you can follow Brenda Hinton, who gives hour-long walking tours. They begin at 7 p.m., Dec. 15-23 (except boat parade night). Call Long Beach Tours at (213) 432-3103.
Ventura Harbor--Dec. 19 is the date for a Once Upon a Time parade around Ventura Harbor with Alan Thicke as the grand marshal. It gets underway at 7 p.m. Good viewing from Ventura Harbor Village, the public launch ramp and the South Beach area.
Oceanside--Thirty or so boats will give a glow to Oceanside Harbor during its Parade of Lights that starts at 7 p.m. on Dec. 19. Merchants at the mock Cape Cod village bordering the marina offer free parking, hot chocolate and coffee.