Everything You Need to Know about the 54th annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade

By Joe Piasecki

A grand fireworks display kicks off the parade at 5:55 p.m. Saturday Photo by Mike Yokotake

A grand fireworks display kicks off the parade at 5:55 p.m. Saturday
Photo by Mike Yokotake

What is the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade?
The boat parade is an indispensable community tradition. Individual boaters and local organizations put loads of creativity and energy into turning their watercrafts into floating holiday spectacles. Some of the more sophisticated entries feature computer-animated LED light displays.

How did this tradition begin?
On a sunny December weekend in 1962, a small group of pioneering boaters thought it would be fun to decorate their vessels with Christmas lights and parade around the newly dredged main channel of the not-quite-finished harbor. Community volunteers have kept it going ever sense.

When is this year’s parade?
The parade runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, but you’ll want to catch the 5:55 p.m. fireworks display over the marina’s main channel. Arrive early to snag a spot.

Where are some good places to watch?
Burton Chace Park (13650 Mindanao Way) is where the announcers set up, but anywhere with a clear view of the main channel should be fine. Fisherman’s Village is always a hotspot, and a lot of locals hang out on the jetty alongside Ballona Creek.

How many boats participate?
We won’t know for sure until show time, but recent parades have featured 60 or more.

How much does it cost?
Watching the boat parade is free and open to locals, tourists and landlubbers alike.

How about parking?
Parking is available for $8 in several county-operated lots and $15 at Fisherman’s Village, but spaces disappear fast. Come early or consider using a rideshare service such as Lyft or Uber.

How do I enter my boat in the parade?
For parade rules and entry information, visit mdrboatparade.org.

What’s there to do before the parade?
Bring the whole family to the second annual Snow Wonder festival, a free public holiday celebration happening from noon to 6 p.m. at Burton Chace Park. They call it Snow Wonder because there’s real snow for kids to play and sled in.

This is Southern California. How much snow?
Sixty tons of snow! The snow play area is roughly 25 feet by 25 feet, plus the 6-foot steel deck sledding hill.

What if I get hungry?
This is Southern California — there will be food trucks. So far the roster includes the Richeeze grilled cheese truck, Blast Ice Cream and the new Heritage L.A. coffee truck.

What else?
Some pretty cool stuff for kids and adults: carousel and snowboarding simulator rides, a winter-themed crafts table and a deejay playing family-friendly Top 40 hits.

I’ll already be in the marina, but how do I get from one place to another without losing my parking space?
You heard it here first: The Marina del Rey Convention & Visitors Bureau is debuting a new electric shuttle service from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in conjunction with Snow Wonder and the boat parade.

Called “The Free Ride,” this new service is a fleet of four six-passenger electric shuttles circulating from Fiji Way to Admiralty Way to Via Marina — a route that includes Fisherman’s Village, the marina’s six hotels, the Waterside at Marina del Rey shopping center, Mother’s Beach and local restaurants.

And yes, The Free Ride is free to ride, though tipping the driver is appreciated.

How do I catch a Free Ride shuttle?
Keep your eye out for the extra-long golf carts with the Marina del Rey logo, and just flag one down or text your pickup location to (323) 435-5000.

That’s awesome. Is The Free Ride just for Snow Wonder and the parade?
Starting Dec. 15, The Free Ride will operate from noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Where’s the after party?
Lots of people party on boats or in yacht clubs before, during and after the parade, but local restaurants are also going to be swinging. Whiskey Red’s is already booked for a private event, but expect Killer Shrimp, The Warehouse, Tony P’s Dockside Grill, Café Del Rey, SALT and Cast + Plow to keep the waterside cocktails flowing until at least midnight.

For more information or to contact parade organizers, visit mdrboatparade.org.