The glittering spectacle of the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade, they say, is enough to make even homesick northerners stop dreaming of a White Christmas.
This year more than 200 entrants, from rowboats to yachts, will deck their bows with holly and thousands of lights for the 82nd annual festival that turns Newport Harbor into the biggest outdoor party of the season.
Boat owners spend up to $10,000 to create blinking, floating works of Christmas art, said Richard Luehrs, president of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce. Competition for the weeklong contest of decoration is fierce and designs are zealously guarded.
Last year a giant Grinch riding atop a locomotive made of computerized lights and puffing steam took the contest's top prize. Entries with the best animated lights, sound and "spirit" also win awards.
This year an estimated 1 million spectators will view the "granddaddy" of boat parades. With that many visitors, parking can be a problem.
The Newport Harbor Jaycees offer one solution with their shuttle from Newport Dunes Park to the Sea Scout base on Coast Highway. Tickets, which include the shuttle and grandstand seating at the Scout base, are $6 for adults, $5 for those over 55 and $4 for children 12 and under. Other viewing spots suggested by the Chamber of Commerce are the Balboa Peninsula Fun Zone or from the parking structure near Lido Marina Village.
The 8 1/2-mile boat parade begins nightly at 6:30 p.m. at Collins Island, Dec. 17 through 23. Information: (714) 644-8211.
For information on grandstand seating and shuttle service, call the Newport Harbor Jaycees: (714) 721-0637.
Newport may boast the oldest floating parade in the county, but Dana Point and Huntington Beach also host holiday boat festivals.
"Christmas in the City" is the theme of the Dana Point event this year, scheduled Dec. 14 and 15 at 6 p.m. in Dana Point Harbor. Information: (714) 496-6040 or 496-1555.
The Huntington Harbor Boat Parade and Cruise of Lights, sponsored by the Huntington Harbor Philharmonic Committee, benefits school music programs throughout the county. The parade of boats decked out for the holidays launches from Huntington Harbor and heads south toward Warner Avenue on Dec. 8 and 9 at 5 p.m.
The Cruise of Lights runs Dec. 13 through 21 and offers a 45-minute narrated tour of waterfront homes with seasonal decorations. Ships depart at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. from Huntington Harbor. Tickets are $8 for adults; $5 for children 2-12. Information: (714) 840-7542.
And if waterfront extravaganzas don't spark your holiday interest, there are plenty of other options:
SONG AND DANCE
The Forum Dance Ensemble presents "The Nutcracker" tonight through Dec. 9 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Performances are at the Forum Theater, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda. Tickets: $7.50. Information: (714) 779-8591.
Hirschl's Dance Repertory Theatre presents its first production of "The Nutcracker" Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, at the Curtis Theater in Brea. Show times are Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 5:30 p.m. The Curtis Theater is at 1 Civic Center Drive, Brea. Tickets: $12. Information: (714) 990-7722.
The Coast Ballet Theatre of Orange County performs "The Nutcracker" on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 1 and 5 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theater of Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Tickets: $6.50 for adults; $4.50 for seniors and children 12 and under. Information: (714) 432-5880.
The company also performs Dec. 13-15 at 8 p.m. at Saddleback College's McKinney Theater, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. Tickets: $10 general admission; $9 seniors and students; $8 children under 13. Information: (714) 582-4656.
The Villa Park School of Ballet dances its version of "The Nutcracker" Dec. 7-9 the Curtis Theater, 1 Civic Center Drive, Brea. Tickets: $10. Information: (714) 990-7722.
Ballet Pacifica presents "The Nutcracker" Dec. 18-23 at the Moulton Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for children and seniors. (714) 642-9275.
The Golden West College Chorale and Orchestra usher in the holidays with the fifth annual performance of Handel's "Messiah" Sunday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. in the First Christian Church, 1207 Main St., Huntington Beach. Admission is free. Information: (714) 895-8367.
The Crystal Cathedral presents Part I of the "Messiah" plus "Hallelujah," "Worthy Is the Lamb," and "Amen" on Monday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. Crystal Cathedral Arboretum, 12141 Lewis St., Garden Grove. Free nursery care. Information: (714) 971-4150.
If you enjoy singing, you could join with the Pacific Chorale in their performance of Handel's "Messiah." John Alexander leads the chorale, soloists, orchestra and audience in a presentation of this choral masterwork Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets: $10, $15. Information: (714) 556-2787.