The Coast News Group
Hit the Road

Holiday shows light up the night

It may have been 80-something degrees on the day after Thanksgiving, but that didn’t seem to diminish holiday enthusiasm at Dana Point Harbor after the sun went down. Black Friday in this southern Orange County town was pretty bright.

Thousands of residents and visitors came to take in the sights and sounds of IlluminOcean, a sea-themed light show staged throughout the harbor.

People of all ages were out pushing strollers, walking dogs, carrying kids on their shoulders — all making their way down the mile-long walk from one end of the harbor to another. They came to see the light tunnels, glittering trees and fanciful sculptures — all created with a half-million LED lights.

“The tallest is our GlowMotion Tree, which is 50 feet tall,” said Matt McNally, spokesman for IlluminOcean, also a member of the planning committee formed less than a year ago. “We also have a whale that is 27 feet tall, 20 feet wide and about 35 feet long. The entire display cost about $1.2 million and is developed around our devotion to the ocean.”

The IlluminOcean path includes brightly glowing mermaids, surfers, octopi, crabs and a sea serpent. At the west end of the pier, visitors can walk through three light tunnels created by thousands of flickering and blinking strings of light.

The biggest challenge in creating the light show, McNally said, “is working with all the land owners — the city, the county, the state and Dana Point Harbor. There were a lot of people involved and impacted … ”

Sightseers also wore Illumin-Eyes, similar to 3D glasses. They transform ordinary street lamps into whirling whales and are available for free at merchants at the west end of the harbor.

The celebration includes the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 12 and Dec. 13. For more information, visit

IlluminOcean is sponsored by The Resorts of Dana Point and runs through Jan. 4. Participating hotels are the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel;  Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa; DoubleTree Suites, Doheny Beach-Dana Point; and St. Regis Monarch Beach.

A free shuttle runs from these hotels to the harbor from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. For special holiday packages, visit

A perfect day at Dana Point Harbor includes a whale-watching cruise with Dana Wharf Whale Watching. General Manager Donna Kalez reports exciting stuff happening in the waters just off the coast.

“We had two crazy shows (over Thanksgiving) — a killer whale pod and a continuing humpback show. The greatest spectacle involved a juvenile humpback whale that breached 30 times, at one point launching completely out of the water, close to shore off Laguna Beach.”

The whale show was especially thrilling because orcas haven’t been spotted near Dana Point since March 2013, Kalez said. Visit, or call (949) 496-5794.