Are you looking to find out about holiday lights at Dana Point Harbor 2023? I feel like IlluminOcean in Dana Point Harbor made a big impression on people. It was a holiday lights extravaganza that lasted only one year (2014). IlluminOcean was, for the most part, not a static light display. Most of the lights moved or had some sort of animated features and sounds to go along with them. They even had special 3D glasses to view the show. You can see what I mean with my video of this light tunnel. The public loved it and so did the harbor businesses. Ever since that year, there are holiday lights at Dana Point Harbor that are FREE to enjoy.
Video of the 2014 IlluminOcean Light Tunnels
Dana Point Harbor Holiday Light Displays for 2023
Local dad and CEO, Bruce Brenon, of Shine Illumination comes up with new concepts every year (while keeping the old favorites)! Follow the @shineillumination account on Instagram to get current news about their displays all over our area.
The light display will start on November 15th, 2023 and will run through mid-January.
In the past, there are static light displays that the kids will love with candy cane pillars and lighted stars hanging above. This area with starbursts overhead and the impression of snow falling is called Candy Cane Lane.
Highlights of Holiday Lights at Dana Point Harbor
Dana Point Harbor Christmas lights 2023 runs from November 15th through mid-January. The lights stay on from dusk until dawn.
The candy cane light lane is a favorite. Little kids in strollers have the best view because there are features up on the “ceiling.”
Lots of the eucalyptus trees used to be lit up with green and blue along the medians and the parks that line the harbor, but they cut down the eucalyptus in 2020. Even the big tree that used to be at the roundabout in the parking lot is now gone as of 2022. (Insert sad face!) Instead, there is a tree-sized ornament tree.
There should be themed light exhibits for 2023 including a giant whale sculpture, lit-up palm trees, a giant beach ball ornament stack, and the popular “Merry Kiss Me” arch.
There is often a HUGE welcome light display as you come to the entrance of the harbor. You can take photos in the belly of the whale.
New a few years ago were some large statues which are fun for Instagram photo opps.
What is Merry Kiss Me? Merry Kiss Me Dana Point 2023 is a holiday light display that appears in many, many Insta posts this time of year! Couples flock here like it is mistletoe. Take your photo and share with a #MerryKissMe hashtag. #HappyHarborDays and #HolidaysattheHarbor are the other hashtags for this spot at Dana Point Harbor this time of year.
Many years, you can drive down towards Baby Beach just past the Marina Inn and the harbor offices to experience blue and green lights on the trees that line the road.
How to Visit the Dana Point Harbor Lights
How much does it cost? $0! You can see these lights for free.
Dana Point Harbor Lights 2023 Location and Directions: The Dana Point lights address is the same as Dana Point Harbor: 34571 Golden Lantern Street, Dana Point, CA. If you drive down Golden Lantern towards the harbor, you will dead end right into it. If you are taking Interstate 5, exit at Dana Point Harbor/Beach Cities and follow the signs to the harbor, making a left onto Del Obispo towards Doheny State Beach.
Free parking for holiday lights at Dana Point Harbor around the shops (if you can find it). Surprisingly, one year we went on Holiday Boat Parade night and got a spot super close with no trouble!
Hours: Come in the evening on a weeknight and you’ll probably find easy parking! Maybe bring the kids in their pajamas? The lights are on from dusk until dawn. Lights are on from November 15, 2023 until mid-January.
Restrooms at Dana Point Harbor are near Dana Wharf — AND outside the old Harbor Grill Restaurant (just closed in Fall 2022) across from Beach Harbor Pizza.
Coffee Importers – Espresso Bar & Scoop Deck is a great place to get a scoop of Lapperts Ice Cream or a hot cocoa. It’s open until 9pm daily.
Harpoon Henry’s has seating downstairs on their outdoor patio which would be a fun place to watch the lights come on and people walk by. They have a Happy Hour patio menu which includes some pretty yummy appetizers and entrees on M-F from 4pm-7pm. (Also get them to go!)
More crowds on weekends and during the Holiday Boat Parade nights.
There used to be signs everywhere that said “don’t touch the lights” so you might want to prep the kids ahead of time to look, but don’t touch.
Dana Point Boat Parade & Event Information
The 2023 “Candyland” Boat Parade of Lights is scheduled for the weekend of December 8th-10th starting at 6:30pm.
Additional Holiday Happenings:
Little Folk Club returns December 15th and invites children of all ages to bring their favorite instrument for a special Christmas sing-along. To spread the holiday cheer, face painting and crafts for little ones will also be available. Little Folk Club takes place in the Clock Courtyard from 10 – 11 a.m.
The Pet Project Foundation will host its annual Santa Paws on December 9 & 10 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Clock Courtyard. Pet photos will be offered for small donations with all proceeds supporting the Pet Project Foundation.
Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching will also host the annual Boat Rides with Santa on December 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Take photos with Santa and his holiday helpers on this adventure at sea for a $5 donation with proceeds supporting Soroptimist of Capistrano Bay. Reservations will be required. Visit danawharf.com for more information and to purchase tickets.
Visit the Harbor events calendar on their website for additional holiday happenings.
If you want more inspiration for celebrating the holidays and making new family traditions, then make sure you read my post about Christmas in Orange County: Mostly Free Things to Do for Families (+ Gift Ideas).
Originally published in 2014.