Big Bay Balloon Parade
Port of San Diego

Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade

The Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade on Harbor Dr is one of the most exhilarating parades in San Diego. If you love marching bands, larger than life helium balloons, and lovely young ladies, this is the parade for you!

Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade This parade is estimated to bring in over 100,000 spectators and rightly so because it is one of the most dynamic parades in town. "Why so?" you may ask. The answer is simple, the participants of the parade are young and young at heart. These folks know how to have a good time and their enthusiasm shows.
What to Expect

First and foremost, expect to see huge helium characters floating down Harbor Drive. Some of our favorites are Horton of Horton Hears a Who, Clifford the Big Red Dog, JJ Jet Airplane, Giant Panda, Orca Whale, Blue Whale, Cat in the Hat, Mr Potato Head, Woody, and other cool dudes. Over 20 giant helium floats - click here for more photos.

Equally impressive are the marching bands. It seems as if the best of the bunch have come forward to strut their stuff. Included are lovely ladies cheering with their pom-poms; twirling with their batons; or waving with their flags (by the way, swinging flags in sync is not as easy as it looks).

Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade
Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade Pepper into this some culture: in the balloon parade are Spanish, Irish, Asians, and Polynesians in their native attire.
Why not invite some interesting characters such as Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vadar and a couple of Imperial Clones? Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade
Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade
Just when you think you've seen it all, the people holding the helium balloons will wow you by spinning. What's spinning? That's when the participants run in a circle causing the helium balloon characters to turn in the air. It's pretty astounding. Sometimes they will pull the strings so the helium balloon tilts down at you as if it was giving a bow. Can you imagine Mother Goose coming down to peck you?

After the balloon parade, be sure to drop by the Family Festival at the Broadway Pier. Here, you can line up for freebies and games (basketball, jumpie). Bands perform and the marines give nautical demonstrations.

This end-of-the year holiday parade is a tradition to many San Diegans and has been ongoing for over 20 years. Before the parade is the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals and the Bumble Bee Foods 5K run. After the parade is the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl football game happening at Qualcomm Stadium (619-283-5808).

Location, Hours, Facilities

Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade
along Harbor Drive (starts near the Holiday Inn, ends near the Embassy Suites)
see parade route

Parade starts at 10 am (goes for about 1.5 hours).
The parade occurs after Christmas day.

If at all possible, use public transportation. Many buses take you along Broadway towards the waterfront. Or, take the Blue line on the Trolley and get off at Little Italy, Santa Fe Depot, or American Plaza then walk west towards Harbor Drive. If you must drive, then try finding metered parking or parking lots away from the waterfront.

Cost is free. If you want a better view, you can pay $20 for grandstand seating.

A few (not many) porta-potties available on some street corners.
Port of San Diego Big Balloon Parade