It is a holiday tradition in the boating community to deck one’s boat with boughs of holly and lots of twinkle lights. (See what I did there? No? Then you might not know that “deck” is part of a boat.) Then, the boaters bring their boats out for a nighttime parade through the waterway where onlookers can watch them go by.
In the past, I took 12 and 13-year old boys to Jack London Square to see the Lighted Yacht Parade. The huge tree is lit up in the center of the Square and families are bundled up with picnic dinners and hot chocolates, seated at the waterfront to watch the boats.
Oakland’s Lighted Yacht Parade
Saturday, December 3, 2022 beginning at 5:30 pm. Watch Oakland’s Christmas-themed lighted boat parade from the shore in Alameda or Oakland. Jack London Square is especially festive because of the giant tree. Starts at about 5.30 pm. FREE.
See parade route to pick a place to watch from >
On the other side of the estuary, Alamedans have an equally good view, as the parading boats show off for each side.
While boating draws an affluent crowd, this being the Bay Area, a few quirky characters are in the mix as well. Some have built structures from Christmas lights on top of dinghies or paddleboards. It’s fun to watch the diversity of watercraft that go by. Expect sailboats, powerboats, rowing shells, and more!
Holiday lighted boat parades worth the drive
Santa’s Riverboat Arrival, Petaluma
November 26, 2022, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm. Not a boat parade, but little ones may be excited to see Santa and Mrs. Claus sail up the Petaluma River on a tugboat. There will also be music, dancers, and visits with the big guy himself nearby at the River Plaza Shopping Center. FREE.
Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks
December 10, 2022, 6 – 7:15 pm. Watch from the Sausalito Waterfront at Gabrielson Park. Fireworks follow the boat parade. Reserved seating options may be available for purchase. This event is part of the city’s Winterfest. FREE.
Learn more >
San Rafael Lighted Boat Parade
December 17, 2022, 6 pm. Watch decorated boats and kayaks travel along the canal. Usually great viewing from Montecito Shopping Center. FREE to watch.
Learn more on Facebook >
St. Francis Yacht Club Decorated Boat Parade
December 16, 2022, 6 – 9 pm. Watch festive boats travel between Chrissy Field and Marina Green. Usually great viewing from Pier 39. FREE to watch.
[Photo credits indicated above]