The 44th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights had the theme Christmas Around the World, featuring nearly 70 festive boats. Photo by Chris Stone

Locals have two chances to see the bayfront transformed into a holiday haven beginning Sunday when the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights returns after its pandemic pause.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the free parade, held over two Sundays and viewable from multiple points along the waterfront, including Harbor Island, the North and South Embarcadero, Cesar Chavez Park and Pier in Barrio Logan and the Ferry Landing in Coronado.

Dozens of vessels lit up in their Christmas best will take part, with decorations reflecting this year’s theme, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The parade is sponsored through the Port of San Diego’s Tidelands Activation Program. Michael Zucchet, chairman of the Port board, noted the significance of the anniversary and the ability to once again have “the public together outside to enjoy it in person.”

Even better, there’s two chances to enjoy the event. Here’s the basics:

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Who: The Port hosts approximately 80 local boaters, who will adorn their vessels to celebrate the holidays.

When: Be the first to see the parade at 5:30 p.m. Sunday or wait until Dec. 19, when the boats take to the route again – same time, same places.

Where: Viewing areas along the route include downtown’s Broadway Pier and the Embarcadero Marina Parks North and South, along with Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Cesar Chavez Park and Pier and the Coronado Ferry Landing.

Parade extras

Want more of a festival atmosphere? The Port is hosting extra attractions at some viewing sites. But head out early, because some of the extras are first-come, first-served.

At Broadway Pier, free bleacher seating will be available on both parade dates, along with food concessions and festive music. At Cesar Chavez Pier, there will be music and free treats.