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The Sunshine State is home to more than 42 annual Florida holiday boat parades. With extensive waterways throughout the state, unlimited options for adventures are available. Here are some of our best Florida Christmas boat parades!
Hey there, chilly weather doesn’t have to damage your beach vibes! We’re turning up the heat in sunny Florida with some seriously fabulous Christmas boat parades. Picture this: sparkling ships lighting up the waves and spreading holiday cheer throughout the state.
But wait, there’s more! These Florida holiday boat parades are not just about the boats – we’re talking music, delicious eats, and a lot of fun. The organizers are pulling out all the stops to ensure you have a blast at the party.
So, before the year ends, catch the best Florida holiday boat parades on our list. Trust us, these boat displays are like nothing you’ve seen before, and you won’t want to miss out on the festive magic. Let’s keep the beach party spirit alive all season long!
Get ready for a day filled with holiday vibes and festive cheer at Destin Harbor! The annual Florida Christmas boat parade kicked off the season on December 10, sharp at 6:00 p.m. This dazzling event marks the start of the parade season on both the East and Gulf Coasts, hitting the hottest cities.
The Destin Harbor holiday boat parade, set against the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico, transforms the waters into a mesmerizing sea of lights. Brace yourself for an awe-inspiring fireworks show that follows the spectacular boat illumination – an experience that will leave you cheering for more.
But that’s not all – even during the daytime, visitors can explore and hang out with Santa. Live performances on stage add a lively touch to the atmosphere. As the sun begins to set, thousands gather to witness the magic unfold. There’s something fulfilling about watching boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes decked out in holiday splendor as they gracefully cruise through Destin Harbor. It’s a sight to behold!
2. The Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
December 9, 2023
Since 1986, the Sarasota Annual Boat Parade of Lights has been a major crowd-puller, and the tradition continues strong. Drawing thousands of spectators, the event transforms the shores of Sarasota Bay, with a viewing stretch from Centennial Park to Bayfront Park. Attendees come prepared – some with folding chairs, others with coolers stocked with snacks and drinks to savor the festive atmosphere. As the 38th edition approaches in 2024, there’s no doubt it will be yet another spectacle for the books.
Launching from City Island, the Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights embarks on a picturesque journey across Sarasota Bay to Centennial Park. It then heads south under the Ringling Bridge. Featuring more than 25 adorned and illuminated watercraft, this Florida Christmas boat parade adds a radiant touch to the holiday spirit for onlookers along the shore. Get ready for a dazzling display on the water!
Florida Christmas Boat Parade
Adding to the spectacle, the boat parade features a diverse array of stylish yachts and boats, creating a vibrant and dynamic display on the water. What’s more, some of these ships double as floating stages, offering live performances aboard. So, for travelers attending, it’s not just about the boat parade; it’s a full-on experience with onboard holiday music and entertainment.
For those seeking the prime spots to soak in the festivities, look no further than Centennial Park, Bayfront Park, and City Island. These locations are the go-to places for catching all the action of the Sarasota Christmas boat parade. Positioned strategically, they provide the perfect vantage points to revel in the holiday spirit unfolding on the water. Get ready to pick your spot and enjoy the show!
3. The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
December 16, 2023
On the evening of December 16, 2023, at 6:30 p.m., the 52nd Annual Holiday Boat Parade set sail, kicking off with a pre-show featuring non-motorized vessels. These uniquely adorned boats made their way to the launch site by 6:00 p.m., ready to welcome excited guests. The festivities commenced at the Stranahan House, and from there, the parade embarked on an eastward journey along the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Navigating through the Intracoastal Waterway, it then headed north, concluding near Lake Santa Barbara, close to Pompano Beach.
This exceptional Florida holiday boat parade showcased a captivating array of artistically designed ships, capturing the attention of thousands of onlookers along the 12-mile parade route. The event boasted a diverse display of watercraft, from private boats to giant showboats and corporate mega yachts, all bedecked with thousands of twinkling lights. Spectators were treated to epic live performances featuring music, musical groups, and even beauty queens aboard the ships or in proximity to the parade. With a variety of amusements, this parade truly delivered an unforgettable experience for all the festive travelers.
4. Tampa Lighted Boat Parade
December 23, 2023
‘Twas the Saturday before Christmas when Tampa hosted its grandest lighted boat parade, illuminating the Hillsborough River in the heart of Downtown Tampa. The dazzling procession set sail from the southern tip of Davis Islands, making its way through the Convention Center basin up to the Heights. As the boats and yachts gracefully turned around, their journey continued to Sparkman Wharf, marking the spot where judging unfolded, bringing the parade to a spectacular close.
Behold the Christmas-themed ships gracefully cruising the waters of Florida, creating a magical spectacle for all to enjoy.
Christmas-themed ship cruising on Florida waters.
For those eyeing the top spots, the parade’s three champions were bestowed with trophies, while all registered yachts and boats received their fair share of other prizes. Yet, Tampa’s allure extends beyond the boat parade. The Riverwalk area, renowned for its dining and entertainment, draws admiration from spectators. It’s not just about watching the parade; it’s about exploring the attractions and Holiday Islands, making the experience even more enchanting.
Meanwhile, near St. Pete Beach, holiday attire takes center stage for the St. Pete Beach boat parade and Winter Festival. The festivities continue with the attractions on Madeira Beach at the Festival of Light, offering visitors a double dose of holiday magic.
5. Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade
December 2, 2023
06:00 to 09:00 p.m.
Prepare for a delightful experience at the Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade and Tree Lighting – an event that’s not only entertaining but well worth the effort. Widely regarded as one of the best Florida holiday boat parades, this festive celebration often marks the beginning of the holiday season with its annual waterfront spectacle. Witness the arrival of stunning yachts and whimsically adorned boats, making their way to Loggerhead Marker 1 Marina on the Dunedin Causeway.
These artistic watercraft typically set sail south along the Intracoastal, reaching Union Street before making a 7 p.m. turn north to conclude at the Dunedin Marina. As the Florida Christmas boat parade wraps up, a surprise visit from Santa awaits, offering the little ones a chance for a magical meet-and-greet with Kris Kringle.
But that’s not all – before the parade, visitors can indulge in holiday music and tasty seafood, receiving greetings from city dignitaries throughout the night. The festive evening culminates with the Christmas tree lighting at Edgewater Park. Additionally, for those seeking an Americans with Disabilities Act viewing experience, head to the Marina Pier. Please note, though, that limited capacity means seating is available on a first-arrived, first-served basis. Get ready for a night of enchantment and holiday cheer!
6. Pensacola Beach Lighted Boat Parade
December 9, 2023
06:30 to 08:00 p.m.
Get ready for one of the most spectacular Florida Christmas boat parades! The enchanting journey kicks off from Sabine Marina, winding its way around the Santa Rosa Sound before reaching the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. Before the beautifully decorated boats set sail, there’s a special treat for the little ones – a kid’s party from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Shaggy’s Pensacola Beach. And after the boat parade spectacle, kids can personally greet Santa at the Quietwater Shell.
A ship that sails for the holiday cheer.
As observers line the route, they’ll witness a stunning display of beautified watercraft sailing from Little Sabine to Pensacola Beach. All sorts of boats, varying in sizes, colors, and shapes, are welcomed to join the parade and even take part in the boat and yacht decoration contest. It’s a festive affair that celebrates the diversity of the sea, making it a unique and joyful holiday experience.
7. Boot Key Harbor Lighted Boat Parade
December 9, 2023
Step into the enchanting world of the Boot Key Harbor Lighted Boat Parade – a captivating Florida Christmas boat parade that unfolds on the west side of the harbor, tracing along the 7-mile bridge side. In the previous year’s celebration, a colorful array of diverse ships and yachts paraded gracefully, curving eastward past Lazy Days, Pancho’s, Marathon Marina, and Burdines. The journey reached its pinnacle at Dockside, briefly pausing before executing a graceful turn in the basin at Yacht Haven Marina.
For those lucky enough to be at Dockside, the festivities continued with the Parade Awards Party, hosted at Dockside Café right after the boat pageant. Amidst the spectacle, spectators marveled at the participating ships, transforming the harbor into a glittering display of holiday magic.
To catch the best views of this splendid parade, consider staking out spots near Marathon Marina and Lazy Days South. Alternatively, Dockside Tropical Café and Burdine’s Waterfront provide excellent vantage points for soaking in the dazzling display. It’s a festive celebration that turns Boot Key Harbor into a winter wonderland on the water!
8. Holidays, Florida Style
December 9, 2023
The Boynton Beach Community warmly invites local boaters to join in the festive spirit of the Holiday Boat Parade, a heartwarming event that bridges communities including Delray Beach, Lantana, and Hypoluxo. Last year’s celebration took place on the Ocean Avenue Bridge in Lantana, near the Old Key Lime House, winding its way southward to the C-15 Canal in Delray Beach.
Participation in the Holiday Boat Parade is free, but organizers encourage each captain to contribute by bringing new, unwrapped toys. These items are then presented to the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation. To add to the excitement, the event recognizes the top three participating boats with well-deserved prizes.
For an ideal vantage point, the breakwater offers a stunning view of the moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean, allowing spectators to witness creatively adorned boats and yachts passing by. The official starting point for watching the parade is Boynton Harbor Marina, where visitors can engage in a multitude of activities that go beyond the typical Florida Holiday Boat Parade. Families can enjoy quality time together, listen to music, and even receive a visit from Santa. And, of course, local cuisines are on hand to savor.
For those seeking alternative viewing spots, the spectacle can be enjoyed from Jaycee Park, Intracoastal Park, and Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park. Additionally, the light show at Banana Boat, Two Georges, and Prime Catch adds an extra layer of magic to the experience. It’s a celebration that brings communities together in the spirit of joy and giving.
9. Treasure Island’s Holiday Boat Parade
December 22, 2023
05:00 to 07:00 p.m.
In a dazzling display of maritime magic, the 38th annual Treasure Island’s Holiday Boat Parade illuminated the waters last year, extending a warm welcome to observers and shipmasters from across the United States. This nautical extravaganza showcased a captivating array of boats and yachts, solidifying its position as one of the region’s largest Florida Christmas boat parades. The holiday celebration unfolded at Treasure’s Bay, casting its festive glow from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Artistic oriental-themed ship
Beyond the twinkling lights, interactive entertainers engaged the audience, and the DJ’s epic performance became a crowd favorite. The Claus couple made a special appearance, spreading joy and cheer alongside enticing food and beverage concessions. As the clock struck 6:20 p.m., the boat parade set sail, commencing south of the Treasure Island Bridge. Its picturesque route traced south of Paradise Island, leading to the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge, the Isles of Palm, and Capri, culminating in a grand finale around 8:15 p.m. at John’s Pass.
It was an evening filled with holiday magic, where the shimmering lights of boats and the festive spirit of Treasure Island converged to create unforgettable memories.
10. Schooner Wharf Bar Lighted Boat Parade
December 9, 2023
At 08:00 p.m.
As the clock struck 8:00 p.m., the 31st annual Schooner Wharf Bar Lighted Boat Parade set sail, igniting a festive spectacle that unfolded early along the Harbor Walk of Lights Bight. Spectators were treated to an unforgettable performance by elementary students, who shared the stage with the Bahama Village Steel Pan Band, creating a captivating blend of folk Christmas music that left the audience enchanted.
Adding to the charm, the event showcased incredible performances by the island’s favorite artists, treating the crowd to a mix of classic holiday tunes, contemporary songs, and timeless classics. Nestled in the Historic Seaport, this family-friendly parade made a close pass in front of Schooner Wharf, providing a front-row seat to the maritime festivities.
The sights on display were nothing short of fantastic, offering an endless supply of diverse aquatic creatures, including the awe-inspiring leaps of dolphins out of the sea, delighting onlookers. Kayaks, ships, and dinghies all vied for a spot in this aquatic extravaganza, eligible to join and compete for a plethora of prizes. It was a celebration where the magic of lights met the enchantment of the sea, creating a mesmerizing experience for all.
Finishing the Maritime Magic: A Glittering Conclusion
Watching Florida Holiday Boat Parades is an enthralling experience. Yet, to make the most out of your experience and to make it more enjoyable, consider the following tips:
Authorities close the areas for pedestrian and vehicle traffic during the parade. So, remember to plan your route and crossings ahead of time.
Outdoor eateries can be perfect spots to view Florida Christmas boat parades. So, we highly recommend making reservations at restaurants.
Public spaces and parks can also be excellent viewing areas. Try to arrive ahead of time to secure a prime spot. Likewise, discover if these areas allow chairs for sitting and viewing. After all, some establishments and other places disallow carrying portable seats.
We hope we have provided a vivid picture of Florida Christmas boat parades. They are festive events that suit friends and families. It’s also when strangers can come together and enjoy a familiar feeling of happiness. If you plan to visit the Sunshine State at the end of the year, please revisit this article. May it help you decide which location to try to enjoy the festivities. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in our next post!
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What Is the History of Florida Christmas Boat Parades?
It’s been a yearly tradition for the citizens of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Since the 1970s, illuminated boats have graced the city’s waters. Still, other places in the US have Christmas ships. For instance, there’s the Newport Beach Christmas boat parade, too. It began in 1913 with Walter Gustin establishing the ceremony. He endorsed the illuminated water parade. So, lighting up the waters has been a long American tradition.
What Are Some Valuable Tips When Watching the Festivities?
Participating in the event as a boat owner or spectator has its challenges. After all, it’s not enough to have a ship with creative ornaments attached. You still have to ensure your vehicle’s safety. Hence, it would be best to be patient when passing waterways and other boats. As an observer, you should arrive early on viewing sites. This strategy ensures securing a spot to have exceptional sights later. If you’re still waiting, please bring food and drinks whenever possible. Parades usually take a while to finish.