Fireworks are for the Fourth of July, right? Not anymore. These days when someone says “Holiday fireworks,” they could very well be talking about December. If you’re the type that likes to ring in your holiday season with the addition of pyrotechnics, read on.

P.S. We also have a roundup of the best holiday events not featuring fireworks (we’re not giving too much away by revealing that most of them include water; it is California, after all).

Southern California

Marina del Rey

The Marina del Rey Boat Parade is an L.A. staple, now in its 51st year and featuring Grand Marshals Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson. The fireworks from the jetty near the main channel kick off the event, leading into the parade of decked-out boats that sail through the marina.

  • Saturday, December 14
  • Fireworks 5:55pm
  • Parade 6-8pm
  • View from: Burton Chace Park or the restaurants in Fisherman’s Village

Newport Beach

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is one of the premier So Cal holiday events, with spectators coming out over five consecutive nights to see the glitz and glam of boats that have been decorated in tens of thousands of dollars of lights and holiday décor. Fireworks mark the culmination of this five-night-long boat parade, a Southern California tradition for 103 years.

  • Balboa Pier
  • Parade, Wednesday, December 18 through Sunday, December 22, 6:30 pm
  • Fireworks, December 22, 9pm

Manhattan Beach

The Manhattan Beach Holiday Fireworks Festival is one of the most famous So Cal holiday celebrations around (this is the 25th annual celebration). The day of fun includes a kids’ snow park and live music, and culminates in, you guessed it, a festive fireworks display.

  • Manhattan Beach Pier
  • Sunday, December 8
  • Event, 3:30pm
  • Fireworks 7:30pm


Believe…In Holiday Magic  is Disneyland’s holiday-themed fireworks spectacular, going off every night after dark through the first weekend in January 2014. Set to holiday music, the fireworks show is 14 minutes long and is accompanied by enough twinkling lights (80,000 to be exact, along with “sparkling icicles and shimmering snow-capped turrets, as snow falls gently over Main Street, U.S.A.,” as Disneyland puts it) to infuse anyone with holiday spirit.

  • Disneyland
  • Nightly through January, 7:30 pm

Laguna Beach

The iconic artist’s retreat celebrates the holidays with the Sawdust Art Festival’s 23rd Annual Winter Fantasy, featuring unique holiday shopping, live holiday entertainment, art classes and demonstrations, petting zoo, and a visit from Santa.

  • Weekends
  • Now through Sunday, December 15, 10am-6pm

San Diego

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is an annual event on San Diego Bay featuring more than 80 boats all decked out for the holidays. Held on two consecutive Sundays in December, the two-hour parade goes from Shelter Island to the Ferry Landing in Coronado, passing through Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, and Seaport Village along the way.

  • Sunday, December 8, 5:30pm
  • Sunday, December 15, 5:30pm
  • Best View: From water, Coronado near the 10th Street Terminal; On land, north and south ends of the Embarcadero, the pathway along Coronado, the park behind Seaport Village, Harbor Island and Shelter Island

Mission Bay

Similar to the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, the 2013 Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights features more than 100 decorated boats on parade, followed by fireworks and then the lighting of the SeaWorld Skytower Tree of Lights.

  • Saturday, December 14
  • Parade, 7pm at Quivira Basin
  • Tree Lighting 9pm
  • Best view: From Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island

Central California


The Ventura Harbor Holiday Parade of Lights and Fireworks has extra incentive to be spectacular this year as it commemorates 50 years of Ventura’s Harbor over two days of events including a carnival.

  • Ventura Harbor Village
  • Friday, December 20, Parade, 7 pm, Fireworks, 8:30 pm
  • Saturday, December 21, Winter Wonderland festivities with live reindeer, crafts, a visit from Santa and “faux snowfall” 1 to 5pm; Parade, 7 pm; Fireworks, 8:30 pm
  • Tip: Stop by the Ventura Harbor Village booth near Coastal Cone Ice Cream and grab a pair of 3-D glasses to watch the fireworks.

Northern California

San Francisco

Head to the wharf for the oldest and largest holiday Lighted Boat Parade on San Francisco Bay. More than 60 boats from the St. Francis Yacht Club, Fisherman’s Wharf Fishing Fleet, Golden Gate Yacht Club, PIER 39 Marina, and the Sea Scouts parade along the waterfront during this two-decade-old holiday tradition.

  • Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Friday, December 13, 5:30pm
  • View from: Aquatic Park, PIER 39, the Marina Green, Crissy Field and the restaurants along the Wharf


The 16th Annual Vallejo Holiday Tree Lighting is followed by the Vallejo Yacht Club’s Lighted Boat Parade, and this year it’s all part of the first “Mad Hatter Holiday Festival.” A longtime favorite event in the city and one of the more unique holiday celebrations, the Mad Hatter parade includes Alice in Wonderland rides and costumed characters (and don’t forget the Mad hatter Costume Ball).

  • Historic Downtown Vallejo
  • Saturday, December 7
  • Mad Hatter Parade, 4:30pm
  • Tree lighting ceremony, 6pm
  • Lighted boat parade, 6:30pm
  • Tree lighting program for children, 7pm
  • Mad Hatter Costume Ball, 7:30pm

Redwood City

Between the carnival, the snow, and the Caltrain holiday train, it’s hard to figure out what the kids will love most at The Annual Children’s Festival and Fireworks Show. Perhaps it’ll be the fireworks.

  • Downtown Redwood City
  • Saturday, December 7
  • Ice sculptures, 10am
  • Snow, photos with Santa, 11am to 4pm
  • Carnival throughout the day
  • Caltrain Holiday Train arrival, 6:15pm
  • Children’s parade, 4:30 to 5:30pm
  • Tree lighting, 5:45pm
  • Fireworks, 5:50 to 6pm

One more thing…

If you’re going to be anywhere near San Simeon over the holidays, make a reservation to tour Hearst Castle and get a glimpse of how the main house and guest house may have been looked in the see the main house and guest houses may have been decorated for the holidays in the 1920s and 30s. A trip to the Castle is a spectacle year-round; just imagine what you’ll see ay Christmas.

  • San Simeon
  • Now through the end of December