Plan Your Family Trip to the San Diego Parade of Lights

One of the most festive parts of the holiday season is enjoying the copious spread of dazzling, colorful lights.

That’s why the Parade of Lights is the pinnacle of the holiday spirit for many San Diegans. The beloved tradition featuring dozens of decorated boats returns on December 8th and 15th for another year of delighting families across the county!

Here is how to plan your family’s fun, stress-free trip to witness the captivating light parade on San Diego Bay:

  • Pair it with another fun holiday event: To avoid traffic – as well as avoid battling for a parking spot or great place to view the parade – why not plan to arrive early for a whole afternoon of holiday family fun in Downtown San Diego? Check out the free Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade, catch a matinee of The Nutcracker or schedule in some holiday shopping time at Horton Plaza or Seaport Village. You’ll be finished well before the Parade of Lights begins, and can take your time strolling down to stake out your best spectators’ spot.
  • Aim for less crowded viewing areas: The parade’s route begins at Shelter Island and ends at the Coronado Ferry landing, giving folks lots of opportunity to view the parade from numerous locations. But you’ll have the best chance of setting up your chairs at the less crowded north or south ends of the Embarcadero, or along the pathway at Coronado. Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Seaport Village and Marina Park are all typically packed.
  • Make dinner reservations afterward: Instead of getting right back in the car and into traffic the minute the parade ends, make dinner reservations near where you’re planning to view the spectacular caravan of lighted boats. This way, your family can enjoy a delicious, relaxing meal together and debrief about your favorite lighted displays!
  • Bring a folding step stool and binoculars: It can be hard for kids – or even adults of shorter stature – to enjoy the parade if they can’t see much through the crowd. To make sure everyone in your family can witness first-hand the glittering boats sailing across the bay, bring a lightweight folding step stool and a pair of binoculars.
  • Have a picnic dinner at Cesar Chavez Park: For the third year in a row, the Parade of Lights will be stopping at one of San Diego’s premier waterfront parks, Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan, before turning on to the Coronado Ferry Landing. The park offers a beautiful pier, large picnic area with grills, an expansive playground, parking and public restrooms – all of which makes it a great family-friendly spot for a casual picnic dinner and fun before the parade floats by.
  • Come prepared with blankets, sweaters and snacks: When you’re out by the water for several hours after the sun goes down, you will get cold. Be sure to bring sweaters, fleece-lined jackets and/or warm blankets for you and the kids to cozy up in while watching the decorations sail by. And don’t forget a bag of healthy snacks to tide over any hunger that may arise!

Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ articles offer San Diego families the best tips for affordable, quality holiday fun throughout the county.

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