Holiday Bowl Parade: What You Need to Know

The big parade begins at 10 a.m. along the north Embarcadero area in downtown San Diego

Port of San Diego

A procession of big, colorful balloons will fill San Diego’s north Embarcadero area Wednesday morning as the 2015 Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade makes its way through a scenic route.

The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. at the San Diego County Administration Building at West Cedar Street and North Harbor Drive, near the bay side of Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego.

Organizers say the route runs south along North Harbor Drive, past the G Street Mole area and ends where North Harbor Drive curves around to meet West Harbor Drive, near Pacific Highway and Seaport Village.

The Port of San Diego expects more than 100,000 spectators to line up along the route to watch the big show, which includes performances from 15 marching bands, 21 specialty units, seven floats and 25 enormous balloons.

The parade will also feature marching bands from the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin – the universities playing against one another in the Holiday Bowl football game, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.

The parade is the highly-anticipated precursor to the annual gridiron game.

This year, the Holiday Bowl Parade theme is “Bay Dreamin’” and the grand marshal is Bruce Binkowski, the retiring executive director of the Holiday Bowl, who will also serve as honorary chair at the big football game.

Streetside viewing of the parade is free but with the large turnout that's expected, parking will be limited. Spectators are encouraged to take the MTS trolley service to the Harbor Drive and Embarcadero areas and leave their cars parked at trolley stations in Fashion Valley, Old Town and One America Plaza. Get the full trolley service schedule for the event here.

Organizers say Harbor Drive will be closed off to traffic at 7 a.m. on the day of the parade, and should reopen by noon. Residents will be allowed limited access to the area until 10 a.m., so if you live around the route, plan accordingly.

A popular spot for spectators to take in the big show is Waterfront Park (1600 Pacific Hwy.). Again, public transportation to Waterfront Park is encouraged, as parking is limited. The County Center/Little Italy trolley station is located just one block east of the park.

If you’re watching from Waterfront Park, keep in mind that no alcohol or smoking is allowed there, and neither are glass containers or barbecues. Spectators can, however, bring picnics, lawn chairs, blankets and canopies to the park while they take in the parade. The water fountains at the park will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and are available for public use.

The Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade is one of many events happening downtown leading up to the Wednesday night Holiday Bowl game at the stadium. Other noteworthy happenings include the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals at 9:30 a.m. near the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and the Bumble Bee Seafoods 5K at 9:45 a.m. There’s also a Battle of the Bands set for 11:45 a.m. at Broadway Pier.

Those who can’t catch the parade live can watch it on TV locally on Cox Channel 4. It will also be televised nationally on Jan. 3 at 8 a.m. on Universal HD.

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