Festive lights illuminating the San Diego Bay can only mean one thing: the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is back – a holiday tradition upheld by the local boating community bulb for bulb, year after year.
The 44th annual Parade of Lights presented by the Port of San Diego returns to the bay on Dec. 20 with more than 80 boats decked out in bright holiday lights and decorations proceeding from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village and Coronado’s Ferry Landing.
The parade route takes the boats about two hours to complete and organizers say there are many waterfront viewpoints along the way where spectators can take in the lights. On both Sundays, the parade procession begins at 5:30 p.m. from the south end of Shelter Island. By approximately 6:30 p.m., the boats will pass through the Embarcadero area. The parade wraps up at the Ferry Landing on Coronado at around 7:30 p.m. A map for spectators can be seen on this website.
Those watching from the shore are encouraged to take public transit to their viewing destination, including the trolley. To get within a short walk of Harbor Drive, for instance, one can take the trolley’s Green Line to the Santa Fe Depot or the Orange or Blue Line to the American Plaza Stop.
Organizers say announcers’ areas will be located at the Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero and at the Coronado Ferry Landing. For spectators in those areas, announcers will provide a brief history and description of the boats as they come by.
Spectators can also enjoy the procession from the water on their boats, including at a prime viewing area near the 10th Street Terminal, right as the parade turns west toward Coronado.
Each year, the parade on the water draws about 100,000 spectators to the shores of San Diego Bay to enjoy the lights and elaborately decorated boats. Organizers say this year’s parade theme is “Christmas Around the World.” Participating vessels will incorporate this theme into their boat’s décor as they compete for a “Best in Theme” prize and other prizes before a panel of judges.
Boat owners who wish to participate in this year’s Parade of Lights can register online or in-person at the Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island Drive, or call (619) 224-2240 for more information. The entry fee is $50 per boat and covers both Dec. 13 and Dec. 20. Watercraft of all sizes are encouraged to participate.