The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a spectacular holiday tradition in San Diego where boats are lavishly decorated in holiday themes with art, colour, and of course, lights. This festival brings over 100,000 people to the bayfront area of the city every year and has become a staple of holiday celebrations in this city.

In addition to boats on the bay, boats are paraded through the streets in a procession of about 80 vessels. It's a wondrous and unique take on the holiday lighting tradition that's sure to entertain and thrill adults and kids of just about any age.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights - one of the highlights of 7 Best Things to Do This Winter in San Diego (Read all about San Diego here)

photo by Port of San Diego (CC BY 2.0) modified

The Story and Highlights of the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

The San Diego Bay of Lights has been dazzling and entertaining locals and visitors alike for over 50 years. It launched for the first time on December 14, 1970, with the original flotilla featuring Santa Claus, and a procession of carol singers from local youth and church choirs. It preceded the more well-known San Diego Harbour boat parade by several years.

Today, it has grown to feature over 80 watercraft, with carollers on the boats and amplified by microphones, and it winds through the entire city in a procession that takes nearly an hour to pass any given point. It ends with the lighting of the city's 2,000-bulb Christmas Tree display.

photo by Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) modified

What to Know About the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a family-friendly event that's completely free, with major viewing points all across the city. The full route changes every year but can be found on the city's website. It usually begins around 5 p.m. It's a long parade, so be prepared if you have little ones.

Parking is difficult during the parade, and attendees are encouraged to travel on foot or to use the public transport system like San Diego's iconic trolley lines. This is one boat event where it's better to view from land, as most of the boats concentrate decorations on the port side that is tricky to see from the Bay.

photo by Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) modified

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Phone: +1 858-488-0501