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.
Last year, 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.
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!
In Berkeley, a similar event, the Lighted Boat Parade, gets enhanced by the city's Parks and Recreation department installing family-friendly activities onshore to be enjoyed before the parade gets started. Face painting, music, arts & crafts, and carnival games are planned for the daylight hours. At dark, the boats will emerge from their docks at the Berkeley Yacht Club.
When to see the lighted boat parades in Berkeley and Oakland
Oakland's Lighted Yacht Parade
Watch from the shore in Alameda or Oakland. Starts at about 5.30.
See parade route to pick a place to watch from >
Berkeley's Winter on the Waterfront and Lighted Boat Parade
Watch from the shore. Festivities start at 2 pm, Lighted Boat Parade at 5 pm
Be in the Parade. Tideline sells tickets, including a boat ride and a beverage. Family friendly.
$40 per person. Buy tickets here >
[Photo credits indicated above]