If Santa lived in a warmer climate, he’d trade in his sleigh for a boat before you could say “ho, ho, ho” – sorry Rudolph! It’s just that everything is better on the water, and that includes holiday parades. November and December are magical months for boaters, and landlubbers alike, as holiday boat parades light up waterways across the country.
Last year, due to COVID-19 precautions, most holiday boat parades were canceled. The good news, is they are back! This year, once again, vessels of all shapes and sizes will adorn their decks and hulls with festive lights and decorations. Then they’ll cruise along, brining holiday joy to onlookers, as their lights reflect off the water adding even more sparkle to the light show. For many boat owners, decorating their boats and participating in a holiday boat parade is something they look forward to all year long.
Whether you’re a spectator, oohing and aahing, or you’re at the helm of a bedazzled vessel, you can’t help but get caught up in the spirit of the season. So, where are the best holiday boat parades? We know exactly where they are, and we’re going to tell you. Here is a list of the best holiday boat parades guaranteed to stir up a swell of holiday spirit:
The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach is the highlight of Thanksgiving week in North Carolina. This 38-year tradition attracts an estimated 50,000 visitors. Their illuminated maritime parade features beautifully decorated power yachts, sailboats, and small watercraft. Then, following the parade, there is a magnificent 21-minute, 4,000-round, fireworks display – touted as one of the best fireworks displays in the nation. It lights up the sky and showers the water in color. We just want to warn you that they are limiting the parade to 30 boats this year, so if you want to enter your vessel, do it early to assure you get a spot.
The Savannah Harbor Boat Parade of Lights is a holiday parade Savannah style! This annual event features 40 lighted boats parading up both sides of the waterfront. This grand event is accompanied by live music performances, a tree lighting ceremony, and a fireworks extravaganza you won’t forget. And if you can’t attend, but don’t want to miss out on the fun, your holiday wish has been granted. You can view it all via live stream from savannahcams.com.
A Jacksonville holiday tradition, the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade, is making its return to Thanksgiving weekend. For more than 30 years, vessels of all shapes and sizes have embellished their hulls with cheerful decorations as they floated along the north and south banks of the St. Johns River. The riverbanks will be overflowing with residents and visitors alike, anxiously anticipating the grandeur of this magical event.
Holiday cheer abounds at the Tarpon Springs Illuminated Boat Parade. Boats, festooned with miles of holiday lights, will proceed down the Anclote River and into the bayous, where Santa himself will give out treats to the children. There will be electricity in the air as vessels cruise by with holiday music playing and their boat horns blasting. And the delightful town of Tarpon Springs also added an in-town street festival – they go all out. Manufactured snow is even blown from marquees to fall on the people below. Add the vendors lining the streets and dancers in holiday outfits, and the whole town look just like a snow globe come to life.
The Manatee River Holiday Boat Parade is the county’s largest holiday event of the year. This area of our country may not have snow, but it does have plenty of cheer and a love for everything nautical. That’s why this holiday boat parade features dozens of decked-out boats touring up the Manatee River, while thousands of area residents and visitors flock to the river to experience the magic for themselves. This memorable annual event will surely be the heart of your holiday season.
An event over 100 years in the making, is the 113th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights . It’s a maritime happening that is now one of the largest decorated boat parades in the country. Hundreds of bedecked boats of all sizes will be viewed by 1.5 million people – it’s a “must see” event for the holiday season. What makes it absolutely over the top are the extravagant yacht owners known to spend tens of thousands of dollars on decorations. Now that’s festive!
We know it’s not holiday time yet, so unhand the cranberry sauce and stow the presents below deck. However, it is time to make plans to be part of the festivities. We hope we’ve inspired you to get out and enjoy one of these holiday boat parades. Better yet, we hope we’ve moved you to pull out the decorations and be in one yourself! If so, check out Snag-A-Slip’s Boat Decoration Ideas for the Holidays Blog. You’ll learn just how to make your boat stand out from the rest.