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Sleigh rides on water? 5 Southern California holiday boat parades you’ll want to see

Sleigh rides aboard the Dreamer

Holiday “sleigh rides” in Ventura Harbor.

(Dan Harding/Ventura Harbor Village)

Who says holiday sleigh rides have to be on terra firma? Ventura Harbor has decked out boats with lights and decorations to take you on a horse-less ride. Boat parades are scheduled at Southern California sites to keep the seagoing tradition afloat.

1. California Sleigh Ride in Ventura Harbor

la-trb-ventura-boat-sleigh-rides

California Sleigh Rides in Ventura Harbor.

(Dan Harding/Ventura Harbor Village)

One-hour cruises take you on a tour of decorated boats and homes in the harbor and the Ventura Keys area. While on board, you’ll sip hot chocolate while listening to holiday music.

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Rides aboard Ventura Boat Rentals start at the floating dock with a giant gingerbread house and candy canes.

You can reserve a spot on nightly rides at 6 and 7:30 p.m. through Dec. 31, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve; there’s only one 6 p.m. sailing on Christmas Eve. Tickets cost $16 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. Reservations required.

There’s a parade too: The Ventura Harbor Boat Parade of Lights and Fireworks starts at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 19.

Info: Ventura Harbor Village, (805) 642-7753 

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2. 41st Boat Parade of Light at Dana Point

The theme this year is “A Galactic Holiday,"  giving a nod to the newest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie that’s set to open Dec. 18.

About 90 boats dress up their vessels with lights and parade around Dana Point Harbor. They compete for awards for best theme, best use of lights, best animation and most colorful. The parade runs 7 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and 12 and Dec. 18 and 19.

Info: Dana Point Harbor

You can watch from any point in the harbor. If you want to be in it (and don’t have a boat), Dana Wharf Sportfishing offers rides for $25 for adults and $15 for children. Call to make a reservation. Info: Dana Wharf Sportfishing, (949) 496-5794.

3. Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach 

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

(Christina House / For The Times)

This is the granddaddy of all boat parades in Southern California. Celebs will turn out for the watery parade, now in its 107th year. Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, will serve as grand marshal for the kickoff at 6:15 p.m. Dec. 16.

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The parade floats by from roughly 6:30 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 20.

In addition to the decked-out boats, there’s a roster of performers too: Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team will appear Dec. 17, and five contestants from “The Voice” (Season 8) will perform Dec. 18. Fireworks close the season at 9 p.m. Dec. 20.

Info: Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

4. Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade in Long Beach

It’s a wonderful holiday treat to see the holiday lights on houses around the canals at Naples Island. The show starts at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 with large boats followed by smaller crafts.

This parade website describes the route that begins on the Appian Way Bridge and continues around the island.

Other ways to see the lights: Take a holiday Gondola Getaway ride along the canals  ($130 for one to four passengers) or a Long Beach Trolley Tour of Lights ($30 for adults, $20 for children) that visits Naples Island, the floating Christmas trees in Alamitos Bay and other decorations.

5. Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade in Marina del Rey: This boat parade’s grand marshal is actress Florence Henderson, or as most people know her, Mrs. Brady from the ‘70s TV show  “The Brady Bunch.”

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The parade starts at 5:55 p.m. Dec. 12 with fireworks, followed by the lighted boats as they sail around the harbor. The best viewing spot is from Burton Chace Park near Admiralty and Mindanao ways.

Info: Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade

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