It will be a while before the general public knows what glittering designs are set to don this year's Newport Harbor Christmas boat parade Dec. 17 through 23. But there is one thing we can foresee: Reservations at restaurants with parade-view seating always fill up fast. A few of the more popular places to call:
On Balboa peninsula, Newport Landing restaurant is already "pretty well booked, upstairs and down," according to a spokesman there. Entree prices run from $15.95 to $35.95. Dinner service is from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., and the parade is scheduled to pass by at 7:49 p.m. 503 Edgewater Ave., Balboa. (714) 675-2373.
You might consider dining early at Newport Landing and booking a boat trip into the harbor from the nearby Newport Landing Sportfishing. The two-hour cruises will depart twice nightly, at 6 and 8 p.m. Reservations will be accepted starting Dec. 1; tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for kids up to age 12. A few charter dates are also available on boats that accommodate between 30 and 114 people. 309 Palm St., Suite F, Balboa. (714) 675-0550.
Some other after-dinner cruise options are run by the Catalina Passenger Service in Balboa Pavilion. The Pavilion Patty boat runs from 6 to 7:30 each night of the parade, while the Pavilion Queen will cruise the harbor from 5:30 to 7 p.m. nightly. The Catalina Flyer, the largest passenger-carrying catamaran in the country, will make two trips nightly, 5:30 to 7 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m. The cost on all these boats: $12 prepaid, with no exchanges or refunds. Other boats are available for private charter. Information: 673-5245.
From Davey's Locker, also at Balboa Pavilion, you have a choice of two nightly sailings: 6 to 7:30 p.m. and 8 to 9:30 p.m., on four boats. The fare is $15 for adults, $6 for children 4-12, free for age 3 and under. All boats have food and beverages available for purchase. Group rates are available for 15 or more, and private charters for groups of 6 to 148. Davey's Locker is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. (714) 673-1434.
At the Cannery, a package allows you to dine in comfort in the restaurant before departing for a 1 1/2-hour cruise during the boat parade. Select from eight entrees, including two fresh fish selections, a 10-ounce New York steak, chicken champignon and pasta primavera. Dessert and coffee will be served on the boat. Choose a 4:30 dinner with a 6 to 7:30 p.m. cruise, or a 6 p.m. dinner followed by an 8 to 9:30 p.m. cruise. The cost for the evening is $55 per person, with bar service extra. 3010 Lafayette Ave. (714) 675-5777.
The Warehouse gives you many boat-parade-watching choices: indoor or outdoor seating, upstairs or downstairs; a buffet with four different hot entrees, salads and desserts for $24.95, or meals ordered from the menu (items priced at $7.95 to $25). There will be entertainment, with dancing upstairs. Limited seating remains inside, and tables are still available on the heated patio. The Warehouse serves dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday until 11. 3450 Via Oporto. (714) 673-4700
On the Pacific Coast Highway side of the harbor, Barbacoa will be closed Dec. 17, 18 and 19 for private parties, but reservations are still available for Dec. 20, 22 and 23. (The restaurant is closed on Mondays.) You'll order from the regular menu of island cuisine, served from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and till 10 p.m. on weekdays. Prices range from $10.95 to $21.95. 3333 W. Pacific Coast Highway. (714) 646-6090.
John Dominis also will serve from its regular menu, emphasizing seafood, but offering steak, chicken and pasta as well. There will be a $40 minimum per person for food and beverages during the boat parade, and just one seating, at 6 p.m. (Boats go by the restaurant at about 6:45.) 2901 W. Coast Highway. (714) 650-5112.
A few tables for small parties remain at the Villa Nova, which will be serving its regular menu from 5 to midnight on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends. The parade passes by about 7 p.m., while inside traditional Victorian carolers entertain between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Look for some new, healthful items on the Italian menu, which offers entrees from $9.95 to $22. 3131 W. Coast Highway. (714) 642-7880.
Because the Chart House has experienced so many no-shows in the past, reserved seating this year will be limited, with the remainder of tables open to walk-in guests. The restaurant will accommodate parties of no more than eight people. Dinner hours are from 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays; till 11 on Friday and Saturday. They'll serve the regular menu--seafood and prime rib will run about $18. 2801 W. Coast Highway. (714) 548-5889.
Last-minute types might also check out the Tail of the Whale restaurant in Balboa Pavilion, which doesn't take reservations. Dinner is served from 4 to 11 nightly, ranging from $12.95 to $25.95. 400 Main St. (714) 673-4633.