The Spirited History of the LA Harbor Holiday Afloat Parade Carries On

  • 11/30/2018
  • Melina Paris

By Melina Paris, Staff Reporter

As far back as 1934, the Los Angeles Harbor has participated in spirited holiday festivities. On Dec. 24, 1934, United States naval ships in San Pedro were transformed into a fairyland of giant trees and scenery for the annual Christmas fiesta. On the 25th of December, 1934, Santa Claus traveled by seaplane between the ships in a Navy benefit for 1,500 low-income youth.

Since that time, the passing years have been bestowed with plenty of festive activities. In the 1950s, Christmas carolers sang to crew members aboard ships throughout the harbor. In December of 1962, boat owners cruised through the port’s Main Channel with their decorated boats shouting holiday greetings to each other and any passers-by on the waterfront.

The first official Christmas Afloat parade was Dec. 23, 1963. An estimated 40,000 people came to see 57 boats competing for awards.

The 2018 holiday boat parade sponsored by the Port of Los Angeles celebrates 56 years with a theme of Holiday Magic, to mark the start of the holiday season in Los Angeles Harbor.

David Arian, vice president of the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, is this year’s Grand Marshal. The Exy and Irving Johnson,  the official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles  will participate, along with vessels of all shapes and sizes, including power boats, sailboats and harbor working craft.

The entries will be judged and trophies awarded for a variety of classifications, including originality, theme, and type of entry. The parade will be televised via LA36, Los Angeles Community Television cable channel 35. Visit for air times.

The parade will be in the port’s East Basin. Viewing locations along the parade route include Wilmington, the San Pedro Waterfront, San Pedro Fish Market, Warehouse #1, California Yacht, Cabrillo Way, and Holiday Harbor Marinas, offering spectators unencumbered views of elaborately-decorated boats. Prime locales for taking advantage of the many restaurants and clubs, or even an evening picnic.

Officials and community leaders will be judges or passengers on approximately 50 parade boats.

You can view the parade map at

Join in making the 56th LA Harbor Holiday Afloat parade magical and celebrating the holiday season in the nation’s largest international trade gateway.

Usual parade route and view spots:

Starts at East Basin near Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington and takes approximately 90 minutes to cover the entire parade route up the Port’s Main Channel. Several viewing points along the Main Channel, include the Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington; the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, 600 Sampson Way, San Pedro; the Cruise Ship Promenade at Harbor Blvd. and Swinford St. in San Pedro; 22nd Street Landing, 141 W. 22nd St., San Pedro; and Cabrillo Marina, 200 Whalers Walk, San Pedro.

Time: 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 1

Cost: Free


Venue: Los Angeles Waterfront, 504 Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

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Melina Paris

Melina Paris is a Southern California-based writer, who blends her passion for writing and connecting people to their local community into pieces centered music, cultural events, the arts, and most recently, the intersection of art and social justice.