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Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade

Jolly decorated boats light up the night at the Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights. The festive event is held every year to celebrate the holiday season and participants put on elaborate light displays for the opportunity to win cash prizes. Watch from the shoreline or cruise the harbor to take in the merry magic with Captain Dave’s, Dana Wharf, and the Ocean Institute.

48th Annual Dana Point Boat Parade

December 2024 (TBA) from 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Dana Point Harbor Map with Parking Locations

Admission Cost: Free

2023 Theme: Candyland
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Holiday Lights
November 2024
Holiday Map

Menorah Lighting/12-Foot Menorah: December 2024
Cruising with Santa: December 2024
Santa’s Jolly Trolley: December 2024
Pet Pics with Santa: December 2024
Christmas Carols & Live Music: December 2024

Boaters will decorate their vessels to the theme of the parade, for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes across several award categories. Award categories include Best Use of Theme, People’s Choice, Supervisor’s Cup, Mayor’s Cup and more. Boaters can sign up at The Marina at Dana Point office.

Dana Point Harbour Holiday Lights

The parade is three days but the holiday light display starts in mid-November and features over 700,000 LED lights that illuminate the Harbor.

You can also take the opportunity to enjoy the holiday season complete with a Candy Cane Lane, a Merry Kiss Me arch, tunnel of lights, photos and boat rides with Santa, a giant whale sculpture, lighted palm trees, giant beach-ball-like ornaments, twinkling trees and much more. These festive photo ops are perfect for capturing holiday memories.

Also, visit the harbor in December to hear holiday tunes sung by strolling carolers. Plus, Dana Point Harbor has many unique shops to find Christmas gifts for the special people on your list.

Additionally, the Chabad Jewish Center of Dana Point places a 12-foot Menorah in the Harbor for the duration of Hanukkah.

Viewing Locations: Where to Watch

From the Shore: Families can watch the parade for free from anywhere with a view of the water. Spectators can also walk around the small-boat harbor to see the decorated boats, holiday lights, illuminated walkways and much more. A great spot for viewing is the bridge to the island. The boats pass by and then do a 180, then go around the main channel, come up to the bridge again and do a 180. The Ocean Institute hosts a Holiday Viewing Party with live entertainment, holiday activities and much more.

Holiday Cruise: Guests can, for a fee, enjoy a holiday cruise on board a decorated boat. The 90 minute cruises include holiday music, cash bar, and close-up views of the decorated boats while parading the harbor. There is also a “take a boat ride with Santa” cruise.

Waterfront Restaurants: The Wind and Sea has an outdoor patio and is right on the channel where the parade starts and makes a turn, heads to the bridge, then returns. Up on the bluff, Chart House has a scenic but distant view of the harbor. Harpoon Henry’s has an outdoor patio with sweeping views of the harbor. Turk’s outdoor seating offers views of the parade. Waterman’s Harbor closed earlier this year.

Parking & Transportation

Dana Point Harbor is located at Dana Point Harbor Drive and The Street of the Golden Lantern. During the parade limited parking will fill up fast at the Harbor. No overnight parking except for  Dana Point Marina Inn, and Catalina Express customers.

For additional parking, park at Doheny State Beach and take a very short ride on The City of Dana Point’s free Jolly Trolley to the Harbor. Santa and his elves hand out goodie bags to all kids (12 or under) from the festive Trolley.

The Jolly Trolley will run from 5 – 10:30 pm on Dec. 9  and from 4:30 -10 pm on Dec. 10 & 11 (2023 schedule TBA). Trolley routes to the Boat Parade of Lights include the Visitor Center, Ocean Institute, Baby Beach, Island Way and Dana Point Harbor Drive and Golden Lantern. Here is the Trolly Route Map.

Doheny State Beach is located at 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629. Parking is $15.

Doheny State Beach is accessible from the north and south route of I-5. The entrance is located off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Once you’re traveling on PCH, turn onto Dana Point Harbor Drive and Doheny State Beach entrance will be on your left.

Frequently Asked Questions

What time does the boat parade start in Dana Point?
The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. on December 2024.

Where do you park for the Dana Point Boat Parade?
Park at Doheny State Beach and ride the free Dana Point Jolly Trolley to Dana Point Harbor.

Where can I watch the Dana Point Boat Parade?
You can view the parade free from anywhere in the Harbor, book a holiday cruise, make reservations at a waterfront restaurant or attend the Ocean Institute holiday viewing party event.

How should I dress?
Dress in layers, including a jacket, so that you can adjust to temperature changes, the cold ocean air and possible windy conditions. Gloves, scarves and caps are good too. Plus, plan for any holiday photos.

What should I bring?
Bring a camera for the many instagrammable photo spots. Bring a stroller or a wagon if you have small kids.

Are dogs allowed?
Yes, the holiday of lights and parade is a dog-friendly event.

For more holiday fun visit our Winter Events Page

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Heidi Deal
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.