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Dazzling lights and nautical delights: Exploring the best holiday boat parades across the US

by Sailfish Boats 23 Nov 2023 22:08 UTC
Discover the rich history of Christmas boat parades © Sailfish Boats

The first Christmas boat parade is alleged to have taken place in Newport, Harbor, CA, in 1907.

At the time, the founder of the Balboa Island Ferry, Joseph Beek, along with gondolier John Scarpa, arranged for nine vessels to be illuminated by Japanese lanterns - a gondola followed by eight canoes - and ferry across Newport Harbor.

With the electrification of the US and the technological advances of the next 115 years, Christmas boat parades have become a fantastic spectacle in many city and national waterways. Here is a sampling of some of the best:


The Key West Lighted Boat Parade
One of the most anticipated Christmas boat parades in Florida is the Key West Lighted Boat Parade. Taking place in the southernmost city in the continental United States, this parade features boats of all shapes and sizes adorned with colorful lights and festive decorations. The procession begins as the sun sets, allowing the lights to create a stunning contrast against the twilight sky. Spectators can line the shores of the historic Key West Bight to witness this captivating event.

The Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale
Another must-see Christmas boat parade in Florida is the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale. This grand spectacle attracts many participants and spectators each year. The parade route takes boaters through the scenic Intracoastal Waterway, where the lights and decorations reflect beautifully on the calm waters. From elaborate yachts to small family boats, the procession boasts a variety of vessels all decked out for the holiday season.


Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a true spectacle to behold. This long-standing tradition, which has been running for over a century, fills the harbor with boats adorned with intricate light displays. The parade route stretches for several miles, providing ample opportunities for spectators to catch a glimpse of the festive boats. The grand finale features a dazzling firework display that illuminates the night sky and adds an extra touch of magic to the event.

San Diego Parade of Lights
The San Diego Parade of Lights is another incredible Christmas boat parade in California. This two-night event features a procession of boats sailing along the San Diego Bay, with their decks shimmering with festive lights. The parade follows a unique theme each year, adding an element of surprise and creativity to the event. Spectators can choose from various vantage points along the bay to catch the parade, from popular parks to waterfront restaurants.


Austin's Lake Travis Holiday Boat Parade
Austin's Lake Travis Holiday Boat Parade is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Boats of all sizes, from kayaks to luxurious yachts, deck themselves out with lights and decorations for this festive event. The parade takes place on the picturesque Lake Travis, providing a truly scenic backdrop for the procession. Spectators can choose to watch from designated viewing areas along the shoreline or even join in on the fun by decorating their own boats and participating in the parade.

The Clear Lake Christmas Boat Lane Parade in Houston
Clear Lake, located in the Houston area, is home to the Clear Lake Christmas Boat Lane Parade. This vibrant event showcases boats of all types, from sailboats to powerboats, all aglow with shimmering lights. The parade winds its way through the Clear Lake channel, offering spectators ample opportunities to catch a glimpse of the beautifully decorated boats. The energy and enthusiasm that surround this parade make it a must-see event for anyone in the Houston area during the holiday season.

The Carolinas

The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach
One of the most popular Christmas boat parades in North Carolina is the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach. This festive event features a variety of beautifully decorated boats navigating their way through the Intracoastal Waterway. The highlight of the parade is the famous fireworks display that lights up the night sky, delighting both young and old. Spectators can gather along the shoreline to cheer for their favorite boats and soak in the holiday spirit.

The Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats
South Carolina's contribution to the Christmas boat parade scene is the Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats. This charming event showcases a wide array of boats, from traditional fishing vessels to elegant yachts, all adorned in their holiday best. The parade begins on the Ashley River and then winds its way through Charleston Harbor, passing by iconic landmarks and historic sites. The beautifully lit boats create a mesmerizing display that perfectly complements the city's quaint charm.

Christmas boat parades offer a unique and enchanting way to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you find yourself on the sunny shores of Florida, the awe-inspiring coastlines of California, the heart of Texas, or the charming Carolinas, there is sure to be a Christmas boat parade that will ignite your holiday spirit.

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