The parade doesn’t have to make its way down Main Street to be a parade.
Folks near water like to deck their vessels out in holiday fashion and assemble a fleet to celebrate the time of year. It’s a tradition all across the United States!
One of the classics, done California style, is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. The legend is that an Italian gondolier started the tradition when he attached Japanese lanterns to the gondolier and gathered together 8 lighted canoes to follow him around Newport Harbor. Now, over a hundred years later, the Newport Beach boat parade is a Christmas event, with more than a million viewers watching up to 100 holiday-themed watercraft cruise by. Firelights light up the sky for the occasion, too!
And while cooler temperatures may prevail in Annapolis, MD, the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade still lights up Annapolis Harbor every year. The celebration is more than thirty years old, and attracts spectators in warm winter wear to the Maryland shoreline to welcome in the holiday season. Probably with a crab dinner afterwards!
Back to California and America’s “Finest City,” for the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. It’s a themed celebration each and every December, with upwards of 80 vessels lining up in hopes of winning the award for the most festive. There’s a catch, though: participants will be judged on a different theme each year, ranging from “Christmas Around the World,” to “Arrrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas”
Moving down south, it’s the Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats.
It’s a family-friendly affair brimming with southern hospitality and food—meaning you get Carolina-style barbecue. It’s a comfortable place to watch it all, too: the event is hosted at the Charleston Maritime Center, with sweet treats and caroling to enhance the event. Of course the kids can’t wait for the arrival of Santa—in his own boat, of course!
The Florida shoreline on the Emerald Coast hosts Holiday on the Harbor Destin Lighted Boat Parade. This light show borne by boats travels along the docks in Destin, or you can try to grab a seat at one of the restaurants in Harborwalk Village. Santa makes an appearance of course, but the fun doesn’t stop there—there’s an entire performance of “The Nutcracker,” and fireworks once night has fully fallen.
If you like San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, this one’s for you: the Fisherman’s Wharf Holiday Lights & Sights Boat Parade.
And what a backdrop! Boats travel from Pier 39 to Crissy Field on San Francisco Bay, so there’s lots of places to watch the event. You can even set out along Marina Boulevard and see the parade on one side and the swell mansions on the other.
The Seattle Christmas Ship Festival gives everyone a chance to participate rather than just watch. The parade is led by the three-deck cruiser Spirit of Seattle and folks hop on-board to be participants. If you miss out on that, there are dozens of smaller boats that follow along the parade route waterway, all offering food, fun, and perhaps even a hot toddy to keep the chill ‘at bay,’ if you will.
And finally, the big one, the fabled Fort Lauderdale Winterfest Boat Parade. Fort Lauderdale isn’t called the “Venice of America” for nothing: 165 miles of waterway fits right in with this water parade. The motto of the event is the “Greatest Show on H2O” and more than a million viewers watch along a 12-mile route. The event is sponsored by South Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and on-board may of the impressive vessels are live entertainment events, music, and celebrity appearances– doesn’t disappoint, attracting more than a million viewers along its 12-mile route. Sponsored by the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Casino, the parade is a party on floatation, with boats often featuring live entertainment, music, and celeb appearances…. Past Grand Marshals have included Pitbull, Big & Rich, Flo Rida, and Barry Gibb to name just a few.
The holiday season is a time for being thankful for what you have, and also a time to celebrate. Is only natural that where boaters are, that these celebrations happen on their favorite place: the water.
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