An entry in the last year's Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Holiday boat parades are dazzling, glitzy affairs that remind me of what the Rose Parade might look like if it were held at night and took place on water. Christmas, tiki and even Elvis themes are depicted in strings of colored lights along masts and bows as boats glide along marinas and channels.
Parades are free, but do require some advance planning to get a good viewing spot. Check out these upcoming light shows; click on the websites to find details and parade routes.
Newport Beach: The 103rd Christmas Boat Parade is one of the oldest and longest in Southern California. The parade takes place five nights from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 14 through Dec. 18. Yachts to kayaks light up along 14 miles of the harbor starting and ending at Bay Island.
To watch, you can dine at a waterside restaurant, find a favorite bridge or stand anywhere from Pirate's Cove to Lido Park. Or better yet, rent a boat or a spot on a boat from Newport Balboa Boat Rentals to see the show from the water. Fireworks are shot off from Balboa Pier the final night (9 p.m. Dec. 18). Directions: Take the 55 Freeway to its end at Newport Boulevard.
Marina del Rey: The 49th Holiday Boat Parade begins with fireworks at 5:55 p.m. Saturday with the parade starting five minutes later. Boats circle the main channel of the Marina del Rey Harbor three times, so restaurants or outside spots near Fisherman's Village, Mariners Village and Burton Chace Park offer good views. Directions: Head for the harbor via Lincoln Boulevard, Via Marina or Washington Boulevard.
Ventura Harbor: The 35th Ventura Harbor Boat Parade of Lights and Fireworks features a parade and fireworks at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17. The theme this year is California Dreamin', so maybe there will be light decorations in the shape of poppies or surfers. Bonus event: a Winter Wonderland from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 17 with live reindeer, Victorian-style carolers and "Santa crossing the sky in his sleigh." Directions: Take Spinnaker Drive to the harbor.
Oxnard: The 46th Parade of Lights at Channel Islands Harbor runs from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, but celebrations start earlier in the day. Snow play starts at 10 a.m. with Santa on hand from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Directions: Access the harbor via Channel Islands or Harbor boulevards.