What better way to take in the festive holiday lights than by boat! Communities across the country come together this time of year using events like a holiday boating parade to not only get in the festive, holiday mood – but to also have some “light” competition to see who can decorate their boat best.
From chilly Maine and New Hampshire, to the ever-sunny coasts of California, we compiled the definitive list of holiday events taking place over the next few weeks.
Ogunquit’s Christmas by the Sea (Dec. 10): This annual holiday celebration kicks the weekend off with a tree lighting, Christmas parade, beach bonfire, polar plunge, fireworks, caroling and much more. Bundle up and bring your family and friends to experience a holiday celebration!
42nd Annual Candlelight Stroll Under the Stars (Weekends in Dec.): Each weekend in December, the grounds at the Banke Museum are lit with the glow from hundreds of lit candle lanterns. Visitors can take a stroll along numerous candlelit pathways and are greeted along the way by costumed performers who recreate traditions of times past.
Lake Wylie Holiday Boat Parade (Dec. 11): One of Lake Wylie’s favorite traditions, the Holiday Boat Parade starts at Papa Docs and spans both sides of Buster Boyd Bridge. A pro tip – the best viewing is from the deck at T-Bones Restaurant.
Boynton Beach/Delray Beach Holiday Boat Parade (Dec. 10): The Boynton Beach Holiday Boat Parade is hosted annually on the second Friday of December. Each year, private and commercial vessels deck out their boats with dazzling lights and holiday décor, while their costumed captains compete to see who has the most festive boat.
The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (Dec. 11): As one of the most well-known holiday boat parades in Florida, visitors come by the hundreds to take part in the festivities. Starting on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale and moving east to the Intracoastal Waterway, and then north on the Intracoastal to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach, the parade has miles of unparalleled viewing and holiday fun.
The Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights (Dec. 11): Established in 1986, The Annual Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights draws thousands of spectators who line the shores of Sarasota Bay to get a glimpse of the brightly decorated boats. Starting from City Island, and cruising across Sarasota Bay to Centennial Park, over 25 decorated and lighted boats sail on the water, getting people in the festive mood to spread holiday cheer.
Christmas On the Bayou Boat Parade (Dec. 11): Christmas On the Bayou is the only waterfront parade in Gulfport and one of the most popular events of the year. Since the first boat parade in 2000, Christmas On the Bayou has grown from only 20 boats, to being recognized as a “Top Twenty Event in the Southeast United States” by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Portland’s Christmas Ship Parade (Dec. 3–21): Portland’s Christmas Ship Parade began in 1954 with one lone sailboat, and today spectators are likely to see more than 50 boats. Running from December 3-21, each of the boats in the parade are brightly decorated for the holiday season.
Fiesta Boat Parade of Lights (Dec. 10): Take in the twinkling bright lights during the 46th Annual Boat Parade of Lights! Come aboard any of the decorated boats and sing your favorite holiday music while mingling with boaters from all over parading Dana Point Harbor.
Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights (Dec. 11): Grab a blanket and your favorite warm drink while you watch this year’s Parade of Lights celebration in quaint Oceanside Harbor. Fishing boats, sail boats, yachts, and more all deck out their boats in holiday swag, circling Oceanside Harbor. Many of the boats even feature people dressed up like Santa waving to the crowd!
Don’t worry if you’re not able to attend one of these events - there are dozens of cozy coastal towns to explore this holiday season. Here are just a few:
Kennebunkport, ME: There is no better coastal town to celebrate the holiday’s than Kennebunkport. This cozy, seaside town goes all out in December, decorating streets and putting up a signature lobster trap Christmas tree – you’ll feel like a Mainer while visiting.
Nantucket, MA: The quintessential New England town, Nantucket is the perfect place to spend the holiday season. Popular events include the annual Festival of Lights and the Nantucket Christmas Carol.
Cape May, NJ: Called “America’s Original Seaside Resort,” the city of Cape May is perfect for those looking to be near the ocean, but still feel like they are in a winter wonderland. Visitors can check out the Old-fashioned Christmas Exhibit in the Carroll Gallery, the Holiday Lights Trolly Ride and more.
Marina del Rey, CA: Head to Marina del Rey this December and get the best of both worlds – sandy beaches and holiday festivities. The holiday season in Marina del Rey offers locals and visitors a number of activities including Marina Lights at Burton Chace Park, the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade and the annual New Year's Eve fireworks show.
Did we miss an on-the-water event that you and your family look forward to each year? We’d love to hear about it and we’ll make sure to include it in our list next year.