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A Perfect View of the Christmas Boat Parade

December 4, 2018

A little planning goes a long way to find a spot to see the parade

Whether it’s from the shore or on the water, enjoying exquisitely prepared food or quick snacks, in a group or on your own, viewing the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is unforgettable. Since reservations fill quickly for the top spots, planning ahead for that special meal with a front-row seat is essential. But plenty of options remain for those seeking a night of holiday fun. Dine, float or park: You can design your own way to experience one of the country’s iconic Christmas events.


In Marina Park on the Balboa Peninsula is Lighthouse Bayview Café, where waterfront dining is extra special on parade night. The $60 menu includes chili-citrus spiced popcorn to start; appetizers; entrées bouillabaisse, grilled Duroc pork chop, crispy-skin trout, Korean-style braised short rib or Moroccan spice chicken roulade; and desserts. (

For more than three decades, Newport Landing Restaurant’s upscale casual atmosphere and unparalleled view of the harbor have made it the place to be during the parade. Its upstairs Oyster Bar serves “The Longest Happy Hour in Town.” (

Gourmet pizzas and fresh pasta are the specialties at Pizza Nova, which has 5 p.m. (open menu) and 7:30 p.m. (prix fixe) seatings. The later seating is $55 per person for the dining room, $65 for seats against the window and $15 for children. (

The fresh seafood and tender steaks of Rusty Pelican beckon on parade night. The prix fixe menu includes swordfish, shrimp scampi, mahi mahi and filet mignon. Prix fixes prices are $67, $72 and $77, depending on the seating. (

Seating times are available every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for a special boat parade menu at the Hawaiian-inspired Billy’s at the Beach. Prices are $100 for adults and $45 for kids Wednesday and Sunday; $125 and $50, respectively, Thursday through Saturday. Entrées include panko-crusted chicken, filet mignon, Chilean sea bass and sautéed mahi mahi. (

At Balboa Bay Resort, Waterline has elegant indoor and outdoor seating options that overlook the harbor. Its three-course dinner includes Dungeness crab salad, braised beef cheeks and sticky toffee pudding. Adults dine for $80, and children dine for $40. Reservations are strongly recommended. (

A&O Kitchen+Bar, another waterfront dining option at Balboa Bay Resort, will offer its regular dinner and drink menu. The California Distilled menu features cocktails made completely from a farm or distillery in California. Reservations are a must. (

King Salmon “a la Plancha,” herb-crusted rack of lamb and New Zealand venison loin are just some of the special dinner entrées at The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, where the parade is expected to pass at 8:30 p.m. Prices are $169, $130, $119 or $99 per guest, depending on location. There is also a kids’ menu for $50. (

The parade passes Nobu’s two floors of outdoor dining at Lido Marina Village about 9 p.m. Nobu features yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, baby artichoke salad, fish and chips and sushi. Thursday through Saturday, the Grand Cordon Bar offers is Cocktail Omakase Menu, a five-course pairing. Reservations are strongly recommended. (

Lido Bottle Works boasts an extensive list of craft beers, a trendy cocktail program and a splendid array of California wine varietals. Its menu includes charred eggplant hummus with sweet pepper caponata and house-made lavash crackers; short-rib croquettes with goat ricotta and cucumber relish; and Jidori chicken wings with Oaxaca chili and apple salad. Lido Bottle Works is also the place to relish what you’ve just seen with a special bites menu after the parade from 9-11 p.m. (

Whether you’re attracted to its contemporary interior or its dockside patio with a firepit, Zinqué’s French fare abounds with great choices. No food and beverage minimum is required to reserve a table. (

Circle Hook, from the team behind Orange County’s favorite taco spots, Bear Flag Fish and Wild Taco, and Malibu Farm, the vision of Sweden-born model turned private chef Helene Henderson, are other superb choices at Lido Marina Village. (


Among the many ways to watch the parade from the water, Davey’s Locker festively decorates all its vessels and has three 75-minute cruises per night throughout the five-day event, $36 for adults and $32 for juniors. Davey’s Locker also has pre- and post-parade cruises and private charters. (

Newport Landing Cruises has a robust schedule of opportunities to view holiday light displays during the week of the parade and throughout December. You can be part of the parade or if the timing is just not right, still experience what all the hype is about in the days that follow. (

A boarding glass of Champagne or cider is just one of the many amenities on a dinner cruise from Hornblower Cruises & Events. For $135 a person, guests sit down for a four-course menu and a close-up view of the parade Saturday and Sunday. There is also a preview cruise set for Tuesday, Dec. 18. (

In addition to its year-round charters for sunset and harbor cruises, trips to Catalina Island and whale and dolphin watching, Captain Newport Luxury Yacht Charter lifts anchor for three-hour parade cruises for groups up to 12 people. Fees range for $915 to $1,515 and include the vessel, captain, fuel and cleaning. You bring your own merriment, food and drink to enjoy the festivities without a worry. (

East Meets West Excursions’ beautifully decorated boats and professional captains cater to those who want an up-close, personalized seat for all the pageantry on the water. Private charters start at $395 and accommodate up to six passengers on each boat. Departures are at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night of the parade. (

A group of clients you’re trying to impress? Want a special night for friends and family? Whatever the reason, Newport Beach Sailing Charters has a package for you. Every yacht comes with a friendly captain so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the three hours amid the lights. You can bring your own cookies, cider and Christmas playlist; food and beverage service is available. Prices start at $700 for up to six people. (

Newport Coastal Adventure offers parade viewing on two of its small-boat platforms. Trips on the 15-passenger 36-foot Zodiac are $65 per person, while private charters for up to six people are offered on a 24-foot Zodiac for a flat rate of $349. (

View the parade and Ring of Lights from your private Duffy Electric Boat for up to 12 people at Balboa Boat Rentals. Prices vary depending on capacity and boat type, starting at $400 for a four-hour rental from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (

Italian gondolier John Scarpa lit a boat with Japanese lanterns and took a group across the bay in 1907, gliding into the event we have today. What better way to experience what he did than with Gondola Adventures? The 90-minute Christmas Boat Parade Cruise departs at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and starts at $225 for two guests. The Winter Lights Cruise, Nov. 26–Dec. 31, starting at $205 for two, meanders around all the decorated homes and businesses Scarpa could scarcely imagine. (

Other options to float and watch include: Newport Pontoons (, which has spacious, versatile options; and if you don’t want to lift an anchor, you can reserve a docked boat from Newport Beach Boat Rentals. Food and beverages are allowed, and boats’ capacity ranges from eight to 12 guests. Call 714-263-3912 for reservations.


Arrive early, dress warmly, and bring chairs and a blanket to stray away from your car. Most of all be flexible when perusing Balboa Peninsula’s many free vantage points of the spectacle. In Balboa Village, consider areas along Edgewater Place, Marina Park and at the Balboa Fun Zone.

Spontaneity has its rewards, but Balboa Island fills up fast, so remember to grab a spot early.

Boats pass directly in front of China Cove Beach, and Lookout Point offers an amazing view. For park settings, West Jetty View Park and Via Lido Park can’t be beat.

Reserved seating is featured at the Newport Boy Scout Sea Base (1931 West Coast Highway), which opens at 6:45 p.m. each night. Entertainment including magic, comedy and carolers complement the family-friendly tone, and parade passes about 8:35 p.m. Food and drinks are available (cash only). Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, are $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 2 to 15. Parking is $20 per car. (

Written By Paul Szydelko

Written by Visit Newport Beach

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