For over half a century, the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade has illuminated L.A. waters with boats decked out in glowing, over-the-top holiday lights and displays. It’s California, so naturally, you’ll find Santa’s captaining yachts, motorboats and other aquatic modes of transport, not just sleighs. This beloved tradition began in 1963 when Marina del Rey had only 100 boats, no breakwater and there was only one restaurant, Pieces O’ Eight (now Shanghai Red’s).
With nothing more than a few docks and a total of $60, a close-knit group of locals decided to host a humble Christmas parade. Around 20 of the boats entered and the annual tradition was born. Everyone pulled up to keep the seasonal joy afloat. Kids wrapped up boxes in ribbons, dressed up as elves and danced across a special deck fashioned for the event, there was a glowing tree on a raft and plenty of food along with music. It drew hundreds of spectators from neighboring towns to the harbor, putting Marina del Rey on the map.
Years later, 100 boats grew to 6,000 and it’s become a wholesome, neon carnival on water and a dazzling feast of creativity. While the name has officially changed to the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, the spirit of the first circle around the port lives on—and so do some of the original entrants.
There is a new theme every year and this year it’s “What Winter Is All A-Boat” along with a fireworks display. You can expect about 25,000 people to turn out for the highly-anticipated water procession.
Catch the magic on Saturday, December 9, 2023. The firework show is from 5:55 pm to 6:00 pm and the boat parade kicks off at 6:00 pm, ending at 8:00 pm. It’s all completely free to watch and the best viewing spots are Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village. Burton Chase Park will showcase community booths, delicious food vendors, and live performances before the show starting at 10am.