It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Balboa Island, and perfect timing because the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade is just weeks away. The Parade of Lights will be shining bright from Wednesday December 19 to Sunday December 23.

The parade begins after dark at 6:30pm and continues to 9:30pm. The parade both starts and ends at the tip of Lido Isle.

The Christmas Boat Parade has a long history dating back to 1907. John Scarpa, an Italian gondolier, had taken his gondola out decorated in lighted Japanese lanterns. He was touring Newport Harbor in his gondola with visitors from Pasadena. His decorated gondola sparked a tradition that followed the next year in 1908 with even more lighted boats.

Balboa Island is the perfect place to be to view the Christmas Boat Parade. On any given evening the island is filled with holiday cheer from locals and visitors who have taken a front row stance on the North or South Bayfront.

The best views are from the public docks located around the bayfront. This is the most up close view you can get without actually being on the boat.

This year the Newport Harbor Boat Parade will feature over 100 boats. It is the largest Christmas Boat Parade on the West Coast.

Parking for the Boat Parade can be found for free on Balboa Island on the residential streets. It’s best to arrive as early as possible as parking does fill up. Metered parking on Balboa Peninsula is available on E. Bay Street on the Peninsula or there is a parking lot on the Balboa Island Pier that usually has parking available on the weekdays of the parade. If you find metered parking after 6pm, it’s free.

For the best chance at finding parking and a great viewing spot on the Bayfront arrive early and dine at one of the fine restaurants on Marine Ave. The Royal Hen, Mr. G’s  and Ciao restaurants will be open during the boat parade and feature international cuisine perfect for a holiday meal before the show.

You will find that Wednesday and Thursday night of the boat parade are the best nights to view it as it is the least crowded of the five consecutive nights.

Bundle Up! Since the Boat Parade is an evening festivity in December you will find year after year kids and adults layered in scarves, mittens and coats to keep warm from the frosty island air. Keep warm with hot chocolate from Starbucks located on Marine Ave. Or bring a thermos to poor drinks throughout the event!

Join Newport Landing for holiday cruises. Each cruise is in the Balboa Christmas Boat Parade and not only views the parade but travels in the actual  parade.  Each cruise gets the full parade experience. If you can’t make the parade be sure to check out the holiday cruises that will be offered each night for all of December.