Snowy destinations may come to mind when you think of ultra-festive locations to get in the spirit for the winter holidays. But sunny Newport Beach, California, pulls out all the stops with upbeat seasonal activities and events for the whole family.
In particular, the coastal vacation spot is known for its stunning light displays around the city and on the water. If you’re in Newport Beach for the Christmas holidays, consider these fun attractions.
5 Holiday Events To Celebrate A Newport Beach Christmas
1. Christmas Boat Parade Of Lights And Ring Of Lights
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a beloved local tradition that has taken place during the holidays for more than a century. Visitors can watch as hundreds of beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes sail along the harbor competing for awards.
The parade occurs nightly for 5 days during mid-December; in 2023, that’s December 13–17. This year, Hallmark Channel stars Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach are leading the way as grand marshals on opening night.
More than 100 dazzling boats light up the night with over-the-top décor. Featuring pyrotechnics, synchronized light shows, moving displays, singers, dancers, and much more, the parade can be viewed from nearly 50 locations along the parade’s 14-mile route around Newport Harbor.
Simultaneously, waterfront homes are decked out to the hilt for the Ring of Lights decorating competition, so it’s also fun to walk around the residential neighborhoods. Or you can book a cruise to see the stunning light displays.
2. Fashion Island’s Nightly Tree Lighting
Gather around the 90-foot, white-fir Christmas tree at the Fashion Island shopping center for the Nightly Tree Lighting Experience. Watch as the area transforms with snowfall, festive music, and a brilliant light display. The show takes place several times in the early evening in the Neiman Marcus/Bloomingdale’s Courtyard, from mid-November through just after New Year’s Day.
This holiday season, the event takes place from November 17, 2023 to January 5, 2024, every half hour from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Also, kids can share their Christmas list and snap a photo with the jolly old man himself in Santa’s Coastal Cottage at Fashion Island.
3. Once Upon A Christmas
For young children (and their grown-ups), Once Upon A Christmas is a must-do on Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. A small cottage is magically transformed into a festive wonderland with all sorts of neat interactive experiences.
Children ride an elevator to the North Pole where they land in Santa’s reindeer barn and can meet Comet. Then they activate a magical portal to enter Santa’s toy factory, where they can make an actual toy themselves. Another amazing stop on this journey is Santa’s very own living room, where St. Nick amazingly knows kids’ names as he greets them (thanks to reservations made in advance).
Tickets are required for this popular attraction and daily tours through the magical cottage sell out quickly. Once Upon A Christmas is open from November 18 to December 24, 2023.
4. Fire & Ice Festival At Newport Dunes
At its seasonal Fire & Ice Festival, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina hosts winter- and holiday-themed activities for children and adults. Go ice skating on the huge rink, stroll through a garden of colorful inflatables, and sit by the fire pit to roast s’mores and sip hot cocoa. The Igloo Bar offers snacks and drinks, and on Friday and Saturday nights, fire dancers entertain the crowds.
The festival also entails the annual Lighting of the Bay, where more than 50 lit creations — many in the shape of sailboats — are set on the serene and wakeless bay fronting the Newport Dunes property. This year, the Fire & Ice Festival takes place from November 24, 2023 to January 1, 2024.
5. Nights Of 1000 Lights At Sherman Library & Gardens
If you grew up with the board game Candy Land, or enjoy playing it with the little people in your life, you don’t want to miss the themed lights at Sherman Library & Gardens. The 2023 displays evoke all the creative Candy Land locations, from Molasses Swamp and Lollipop Woods to Gumdrop Mountains.
Kids can have fun with a variety of carnival games and then make s’mores at the fire pit. If you have some last-minute shopping to do, visit the Garden Shop brimming with locally sourced gifts and goods from area artisans.
The dates for Nights of 1000 Lights in 2023 are December 9, 10, 14, and 22. Choose from three entry times per evening.
The Bottom Line
Newport Beach is one of the most festive coastal areas in the United States during the holiday season. Here are a few more ideas for things to do to help you get in the spirit:
- Corona del Mar Christmas Walk
- Roger’s Gardens Christmas Confections Holiday Boutique
- Eight Nights of Hanukkah at Pendry
For even more special events from mid-November through early January, check out 50 Days of Festive Fun.