There aren’t many things more unique to Florida than a lighted boat parade. They may not get snow, and the temperatures may not be considered “cold” for most of the country, but decorate a boat with holiday lights and you have yourself a holiday tradition like no other.
How To Watch A Boat Parade
There are dozens of boat parades for you to catch in the Sunshine State. From coast to coast, you can find a city or town getting ready to hit the water this season. Some are on the Intracoastal Waterways, some take place on rivers, and others through channels.
Once you pick a parade, check out the route map so you can figure out how to get the spot with the best view. Most parades pass by parks, restaurants, and docks, so you can grab your lawn chair — a blanket if needed — and set up for an evening of holiday cheer.
Here are 20 holiday boat parades you don’t want to miss in Florida.
1. Jacksonville Light Boat Parade
This 30-year holiday tradition takes place on November 26 at 6 p.m. on the St. Johns River. Everyone gathers along the river walks downtown, including Riverfront Plaza, to watch vessels of every shape and size decorated for the holiday. The parade is followed by a fireworks show with a one-of-a-kind waterfall fireworks display from Main Street and Acosta Bridge.
2. Palm Valley Boat Parade
The Annual Palm Valley Boat Parade is known as the “Mardi Gras of lighted boat parades.” It sails 7 miles of Palm Valley’s Intracoastal Waterway with a more traditional parade experience with hundreds of uninterrupted docks, restaurants, and established public viewing areas. It gives you an up close and personal view of the boats. The parade is Saturday, December 3 at 6 p.m.
3. Regatta Of Lights
From sailboats to shrimp boats, yachts to trawlers, the Regatta of Lights in St. Augustine takes its world-famous “Night of Lights” to the water. On December 10, see the amazing sights in Matanzas Bay starting at 6 p.m.
4. Holiday On The Harbor And Boat Parade Of Lights
Head to downtown Carrabelle along Florida’s panhandle for the Holiday on the Harbor and Boat Parade of Lights. From 1–8 p.m. on December 10, enjoy a street festival with kids’ activities, food, drinks, live entertainment, a boat parade, and a fireworks show.
5. The Destin Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade
The annual Destin Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade is on Sunday, December 11 at 6 p.m. The Destin Harborwalk and Boardwalk Docks are two of the best spots to catch tour boats, dolphin cruise boats, fishing charter boats, and private boats all decked out in their holiday best.
6. Panama City Boat Parade Of Lights
The 30th Annual Christmas Boat Parade of Lights takes place on Saturday, December 10 at Panama City Marina and St. Andrews Marina. The parade begins at sundown, but before, there will be family-friendly activities, shopping, food, and drinks.
7. Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade
The Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade starts at 6 p.m. at the Seabreeze Bridge and will travel south along the Halifax River. Proceeds benefit the Veterans Support Fund.
8. Alafia Lighted Boat Parade
The Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview presents the 38th annual Alafia Lighted Boat Parade and Chili Cook-off on Saturday, December 3. Watch the decorated boats as they sail up the Alafia River.
9. Bradenton Beach Holiday Boat Parade
The 4th annual Bradenton Beach Holiday Boat Parade sets sail on December 3 at 6 p.m. along the Intercoastal Waterway. If you want to be a part of the fun but don’t have a boat, you can be a part of the parade on the Anna Maria Princess Paddle Wheel Boat.
10. Clearwater Yacht Club Boat Parade
The Clearwater Yacht Club is hosting its 47th annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 10. The largest boat parade in Pinellas County starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Mandalay Channel north of the bridge. It will make its way through the waters ending up at the Clearwater Yacht Club.
11. The Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade Of Lights
The Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights started in 1986. Thousands of people line the shores from Centennial Park to Bayfront Park along Sarasota Bay each year. Features include small boats, medium-sized boats, and even yachts! The boats set sail at 6 p.m. on December 10.
12. City Of St. Pete Beach Holiday Boat Parade
The City of St. Pete Beach Holiday Boat Parade is back with lots of festive fun on December 2 from 6–9 p.m. Watch the holiday-decorated boats from Horan Park where there will also be live music, a tree lighting, and a special visit from Santa.
13. Tampa’s Largest Lighted Boat Parade
The Saturday before Christmas, December 17, the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa will be lit up with holiday-decorated boats. The parade will start at 6 p.m. from Davis Islands and into the Convention Center basin, up the river, and then back to Sparkman Wharf for judging.
14. Tarpon Springs Boat Parade
On Friday, December 2, the 33rd annual Tarpon Springs Boat Parade will launch from the sponge docks at 8 p.m. and end at Spring Bayou around 10 p.m. There are plenty of spots along the shore to enjoy the lighted boats along the bayou.
15. Venice Christmas Boat Parade Of Lights
Each year, on the first Saturday of December, the Venice Christmas Boat Parade of Lights kicks off on the Intracoastal from Albee Farm Bridge to the Circus Bridge. The parade begins at 6 p.m.
16. Holiday Boat Parade & Sunset Cruise With Pure Florida
Take a sunset cruise and enjoy a Holiday Boat Parade from waters in Naples on Saturday December 10. The parade starts at 5 p.m. from the historic Tin City docks. The cruise is about 2 hours and takes you through Naples Bay and Port Royal canals.
17. The Boynton Beach Holiday Boat Parade
Every year on the second Friday of December, the annual Boynton Beach Holiday Boat Parade celebrates the season with privately- and commercially-owned boats decked out in holiday decor. The boats will take off at 6:30 p.m. on December 9.
18. Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade
The 28th annual Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade kicks off on Saturday, December 3. The parade starts at 6 p.m. in North Palm Beach led by a Zambelli traveling fireworks display. It travels up the Intracoastal to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, arriving around 8 p.m.
19. The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
More than a million people will be out for the 51st annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on December 10. It begins at 6 p.m. with a pre-show of non-motorized vessels on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The 12-mile trip takes about 2.5 hours. See private boats, giant showboats, and corporate megayachts decked out with thousands of lights, music, decorations, and celebrities.
20. Schooner Wharf Bar/Absolut Vodka Lighted Boat Parade
Head to the southernmost city to kick off the holiday season at the 31st annual Schooner Wharf Bar/Absolut Vodka Lighted Boat Parade on December 10. The parade starts at 8 p.m., but at 6 p.m., there’s lots of family fun at Harbor Walk with steel-drum bands, Christmas carols, and activities.
Final Boat Parade Checklist
While the weather is pretty consistent in Florida during the winter months — because it’s the dry season — keep in mind some parades could get canceled or rescheduled for rain. Most parades have a rain date selected, so check the website to see if there is a plan.
Temperatures in December range from the lower 60s to the mid-70s, depending on which part of the state you’re in. For example: The Panhandle will be colder than South Florida. Check the forecast before you hit the parade route.
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