“Holidays on the Harbor” in Santa Cruz

The holidays are once again suddenly upon us. One of our favorite ways to ring in the season is at Santa Cruz Harbor’s Lighted Boat Parade and Lighthouse Lighting.

For 34 years, the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, founded in 1928, has hosted the parade, with boats large and small bedecked with twinkling lights illuminating the harbor in a gloriously festive display.

The event takes place on Saturday, December 7th beginning at 5:15pm in the South Harbor located on 135th 5th Street between the Murray Street bridge and the gas dock. The parade itself is kicked off with the lighting of Walton Lighthouse. Constructed in 2002, this 40 foot tall structure stands on a man made jetty, weighs 350,000 pounds, and was built to withstand a quarter million pounds of wave energy.

Santa Cruz Harbor is a landmark, known best for the Crow’s Nest Restaurant with stunning views overlooking the ocean. If you plan to enjoy a meal before or after the parade, be sure to make reservations in advance. The Harbor itself is home to approximately 1,500 vessels and offers numerous recreational activities throughout the year, the boat parade being one of its feature attractions.

Once Walton Lighthouse is illuminated, the parade of decorated sailboats, kayaks, and powerboats will circle the harbor three times, all vying for the top award of “best decorated vessel.” This year’s theme is “Holidays on the Harbor,” which, according to the entry rules, supports participants in celebrating whatever holiday they find special, be it Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other.

Funds raised through sponsorships benefit the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a not-for-profit organization that offers students hands-on learning and experimental education in marine biology, ecology, and navigation. It’s classes take place on the O’Neill catamaran in the Monterey Bay as well as shoreside at the Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center, which was founded in 1996 by legendary surfer and philanthropist, Jack O’Neill.

If you’ve never been to the Santa Cruz lighted holiday boat parade, it is a dazzling display and a wonderful tradition to ring in the holiday season, whatever that holiday may be for you and your family. The event happens rain or shine and we encourage you to make a day of it, enjoying lunch or dinner at the Crow’s Nest and then watching the parade of twinkling boats light up the harbor.

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