December 26, 2023

Photo Essay: A Trek Around the Naples Island Christmas Decorations, Along Rivo Alto Canal

"But Sandi, you've done everything in LA!" my friends tell me. Not true, I say. I still have so much more to do. 
Take the Naples Canals in Long Beach, for instance. Although I'd ridden a gondola and even kayaked through them, I'd always wanted to check out the Christmas lights there or even attend the annual holiday boat parade—but until this year, I hadn't actually made it there yet.

I'd just been intimidated by the crowds and the traffic and the possible lack of parking. Although I battle that at least on a weekly basis in SoCal, it just seems different during the holidays (and at night in a relatively unfamiliar territory). 

So my ears perked up when a friend asked if I'd be interested in meeting in Long Beach and walking the canals this past Saturday night, two nights before Christmas. She even offered to drive. 

The prospect of having a guide to accompany me made the invitation impossible to turn down... we parked on East The Toledo (named after Via Toledo in Napoli), crossed the bridge to the central island (the second-largest of the three islands of Naples), and headed clockwise along the Rivo Alto canal. 

Naples Island is an exclusive, affluent neighborhood of multi-million-dollar homes—many of which get all dressed up for the holidays. 

Everybody has got their own style, from kitsch and vintage... modern and elegant, like the Edward Killingsworth-designed Frank House (a.k.a. Case Study House #25), built in 1962. 
There's a steady stream of foot traffic walking past each house, catching only brief glimpses—but our group of three decided to risk the bottleneck and pause to admire and point out details to each other. 

"See that giant Santa in the window? It's not a cake, is it?"

Many of the homes along the canal have their own private docks, whether or not they actually have any vessels to launch. And there were boats running through the public waters of the canals that night, too, which seems like another great way to spectate the goings-on.

The annual boat parade I mentioned earlier—the one I seem to miss every year (partially because its date changes yearly, depending on the low tide calendar)—is also associated with a home decorating contest whose theme changes every year. In 2023, it was "Christmas Around the World."

For some, that simply meant welcoming a surfin' Santa to the front porch. 
Both sides of the canal were all a-glitter...

...with lights shining brightly from beyond the pontoons and speedboats...

...but on the side we chose, we got to see the 2023 winners of "Most Humorous" (above) and recipients of the "Award of Merit."
At the teddy bear house (at least, that's what we called it), the international theme brought a British bear standing guard outside the front picture window...

...while nutcrackers stood watch at one of the neighboring houses. 

It's California, so there weren't many Christmas trees in sight—and certainly pine trees aren't native to the Alamitos Bay area of Long Beach. But residents hung ornaments on whatever they could find, be it bush or branch, cactus leaf or palm frond. 

Most people who have heard of canals in the Los Angeles area may only know about the Venice ones, established by Abbott Kinney in 1905. But the gondolas are gone from Venice, and most of the canals have been filled in.

Not so in Naples, which predated the Venice of America canals by two years—the creation of speculator Arthur Parson 120 years ago. 

It's a really special place any time of year, but especially at Christmastime.

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