2011 marks the 103rd annual boat parade in Newport Harbor. The parade starts off Bay Island at 6:30 pm and finishes at the same site at approximately 9:00 pm each evening. On the final night of the parade a special fireworks display will close out the parade at approximately 9:00 pm.
If you can find a parking spot near/around Balboa island for this family tradition type of event, you have hit the jackpot! We found parking via valet at a nearby restaurant. So, although we paid for parking, the entertainment of the parade was free. We sat on a blanket, snuggled in our scarves and I brought a thermos of hot chocolate and cookies. We rated the boats passing us and waved at the cheerful boat riders. We are definitely going to go again next year!
We finally made it to this super fun holiday parade (after living here many years)! We bundled up the kids with jackets and even took towels (to sit on) and blankets to snuggle in. We parked in a residential neighborhood on the mainland side of Balboa Island and found a way down to the docks to watch the parade. We held on tight to the kids (so they didn't fall in the water) and found a place to sit and watch the parade float by.
The best part was shouting "Merry Christmas" to the passing boats and hear them echo back to us. We were surprised with some of the really decked out boats that seemed huge to us and were very impressive, but even the small boats with little lights were great too.
Best advice: check the website and print the map of the parade route so that you know when the parade starts where you are going. We actually got there late and caught the tail end of the parade (the last 20 minutes) but we still had a great time.