Newport Beach could have easily inspired the lyrics for “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” With its pristine harbor draped in lights, a real 90-foot Christmas tree hovering high above Fashion Island and plenty of fa la la invigorating residents and visitors alike, it’s one of the best places to ‘tis the sea-son.
Voted Yahoo! Travel’s #2 City in the Nation for Holiday Lights, the seaside city offers an array of holiday happenings from ages one to 92. Yes, this is “The Most Festive Town in America.”
Ushering in the holidays is Fashion Island’s Annual Tree Lighting taking place November 22 and 23. The 90-foot white fir made the 650-mile trek from Mt. Shasta to its final destination at the lifestyle center’s Neiman Marcus – Bloomingdale’s Courtyard. Cascading down the branches and boughs are a collection of dazzling lights with celebrities Terry Dubrow of “Botched” and his wife Heather of “The Real Housewives of Orange County flipping the ceremonial switch. Live performances by the Young Americans, a magical snowfall just a sandal-toss from the ocean and a visit by Santa officially confirm that the holiday season will soon be in full swing.
For more than a century the residents of Newport Beach have been decking the hulls of their boats and yachts in a spectacular display of lights. This year marks the 111th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade with the parade moving full steam ahead for five consecutive nights–December 18-22 starting each evening at 6:30 p.m. Touted as “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” by The New York Times, the highly anticipated parade is a seasonal spectacle that adds something special to the holiday festivities. This year’s opening night Grand Marshall is Christina Anstead, star of HGTV’s “Christina on the Coast” and “Flip or Flop,” who will be ferried on a designated vessel and visible to paradegoers along the 14-mile watery route via a deck-to-sail LED screen. The official Boat Parade kick-off begins with a firework display above the Newport Pier followed by the boat procession.
Along the parade route, make sure to keep on eye on Balboa Island for the “Ring of Lights.” Each year the waterfront properties compete in a holiday home decoration competition. Homeowners go “all-out” with their own holiday spirit, featuring everything from roof-top animated scenes to dancing Christmas trees to win the top bragging rights of the season.
Parade participants start from the east end of Lido Island navigating the celebrated route before reaching the first public viewing destination at the 10.5-acre Marina Park. The community park offers 177 parking spaces along with a nautical-themed playground, picnic area and sailing center. It’s also the largest public viewing area along the route. Grab a seat at one of the many waterfront restaurants for a Dine & Watch experience or Dine & Walk from one of the harbor-adjacent restaurants to a convenient viewing spot. Public boat cruises are also offered on parade nights and put you right in the action alongside decorated boats, kayaks, canoes, and yachts as you glide past million-dollar bayfront homes.
The Sherman Library and Garden perks up with holiday cheer to host festive evenings of seasonal merriment at the 6th Annual Nights of 1000 Lights. Nothing short of a seasonal wonderland, guests are welcomed with a complimentary cup of steaming hot chocolate or coffee. Take a holiday stroll enjoying a “Blue Christmas” with Elvis, a glistening light tunnel or an old school display at the disco inFERNo. Each night brings a fabulous theme, from a world of sugar plums and tasty sweets in Gingerbread Land to the magic of a Scandinavian Christmas with a traditional Julehjerter craft. It’s gnome sweet gnome with a resident family of trolls, a visit to Santa’s Workshop, and some s’more making around the bonfire.
And, while there is plenty of tree trimming and merrymaking taking place throughout the city, you’ll need something to put under the ol’ Tannenbaum, too. Do a little multi-tasking during Fashion Island’s Annual Tree Lighting at one of its many upscale department stores, designer boutiques, world-class jewelers or favorite home furnishing stores. To help during the busy holiday season, shoppers can utilize Fashion Island’s new personalized shopping services. At Your Service is a new automated concierge service available to guests who need immediate shopping assistance. Users can send a text to (949) 734-7364 or submit a question using an online form and At Your Service’s IBM Watson-enhanced guest services experience will instantly respond to inquiries such as “Where is Neiman Marcus located?” or “Where I can valet?” immediately.
Sunshine by day, star-filled skies by night, Newport Beach is where everyone is simply having a wonderful holiday time. For more information about holiday happenings in Newport Beach, visit https://www.visitnewportbeach.com/events/categories/holiday/ for a rundown of holiday events within the city limits of “The Most Festive Town in America.”