Parade of Lights
at San Diego Bay

San Diego Parade of Lights

Parade of Lights has been in existance for over 45+ years. This event is a tradition for many San Diegans and it is a must-see for those who enjoy boats, lights, parades, and brisk evenings. Every year, 75 to 100 seaworthy-vessels deck their decks with holiday lights and sail around San Diego Bay. For two consecutive Sundays, a total of 80,000 visitors will line the parade-route and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Bay.

San Diego Parade of Lights

The Lights
The Parade of Lights is all about decorating your boat and sailing it around the Bay for the enjoyment of the general public. Some boaters decorate their craft in subtle and tasteful ways. Some choose traditional themes. And some decorate so that they can be seen from outer space!

The Sound

It is common for the boaters to play music as they sail around the Bay. It could be something bobbity like "Rock Around the Clock". Or it could be a holiday tune like "We Wish you a Merry Christmas". But don't be surprised if you see a boat decorated like a palm tree on an island and it is blasting Hawaiian hula hula music!

San Diego Parade of Lights

The Show

The Parade of Lights is an opportunity for some mariners to show off their skills: they reversing their engines; maneuvering around buoys; and stay as close to shore as possible. With the help of megaphones, boaters may encourage the spectators to participate. For example, "On a count of three, let's all say 'Merry Christmas!'". This is immediately followed by "On a count of three, let's all jump in the water!" Ha ha, good one.

Are these enthusiastic boaters doing it because they love it? Or are they hoping to win one of the 3 awards?
  • the President's Award
  • the Best of Yacht Club Award
  • the Best in Parade - Star of India Cup
Awards are given based on originality and creative use of decorations. See winners here.

Locals will bring lawn chairs and blankets, sit back and enjoy the show along with some hot chocolate, snacks, and/or popcorn.

San Diego Parade of Lights

What Else?

The Parade of Light is pretty much boats decorated with lights sailing down San Diego Bay. There is nothing else to do since you cannot board the boats. To make the most of your evening, consider watching the Parade of Lights at Seaport Village. Here you can also.

  • browse in 70+ cool, one-of-a-kind shops,
  • ride the historic carousel for a mere $2,
  • snack in the various eateries, or
  • have dinner in one of the 4 major Bay front restaurants.

Location, Hours, Parking, Facilities

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
- occurs on the two Sundays prior to Christmas Day
- 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm

It takes 1½ hrs to complete the entire parade route
fireworks, parade begins from Shelter Island
boats are at Harbor Island
boats are at The Embarcadero
boats are at Seaport Village
boats are at the Coronado Ferry Landing
all boats would have completed the route

As is the case with major events, parking is awful. Either go early, use public transportation, or park further away from the waterfront and walk. Parking MAY be available at the Seaport Village lot, at the parking lots along Harbor Drive, or street-parking along Pacific Highway.

Seaport Village has 3 public restrooms, one in each plaza. Follow the signs or find them on this map). Be warned though, the line up to enter the washroom may be long especially the women's washroom. Some porta-potties may be available but this is not always the case. In an emergency, try to use the facilities in one of the restaurants in the area.

San diego Parade of Lights