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Save the Date: Top Holiday Boat Parades Across Opal Destinations

Florida’s waterways light up like Rockefeller Center for the Sunshine State’s spin on the classic holiday boat parade. From Sarasota to Key West, and many stops along the way, there’s a parade waiting for you at some of your favorite Opal destinations this season!

Venice Christmas Boat Parade – December 3 [Venice Beach, FL]

A procession of glowing candy canes that tower over masts, pontoon boats tricked out with light-up Rudolphs, and enough lights to show the Griswolds how to deck the halls – that’s what’s in store at the Venice Christmas Boat Parade.

Where to watch: Locals set up lawn chairs days in advance for the best spots along the three-mile route of the Intracoastal Waterway, so our advice is to get there early. As an alternative, join the Venice Area Beautification, Inc. for a fund-raiser dinner, live entertainment, and waterfront viewing at the National Waterway Park trailhead.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club

Fort Myers Beach Christmas Boat Parade – December 3 [Fort Myers, FL]

Over 30 decked out boats will float through Fort Myers during the 33rd annual Fort Myers Beach Christmas Boat Parade this holiday season. The parade begins at Salty Sam’s Marina and passes by several other popular waterfront eateries. Take note of your favorite vessels as they pass, viewers can cast their vote online for Best Decorated Boat. 

Where to watch: The string of waterfront restaurants on the back bay, like Bonita Bills or Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, offers front-row seats to the holiday spirit paired with your cocktail of choice.

Where to Stay Edgewater Beach Hotel

Boynton Beach Holiday Boat Parade – December 8 [Boynton Beach, FL]

This annual parade features the astounding efforts of local boaters with Christmas-hued fireworks displays serving as one of the biggest attractions. All vessels festooned with multi-colored Christmas lights, giant inflatable holiday icons, and even Christmas-hued fireworks displays, and as is the case with each of the last 50 years, you can get a terrific view of the pre-parade lineup by hanging out near the Lantana Bridge near the Old Key Lime House. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped gift to donate to Toys for Tots.

Where to watch: If you’re in the mood to sit and dine while you watch, your best choices are eateries Two Georges and Banana Boat right on the water, while Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue has unfettered views of the route for those willing to stake out ground early. Be sure to also journey down by the docks to get an up-close look at the boats and donate a gift for Toys for Tots.

Where to Stay Opal Grand Resort | Delray Sands Resort

Winterfest Boat Parade – December 10 [Fort Lauderdale, FL]

Pitched as “The Greatest Show on H20” and considered the Macy’s Day Parade of these events, Winterfest Boat Parade is Fort Lauderdale’s holiday pride and joy. The 51st-anniversary theme for 2022 is “Neon Nightlife Under Sea.” In addition to watching the boats that range from private fishing boats to corporate mega-yachts adorned with hundreds of thousands of lights and decorations make their way down 12-miles of the Intracoastal Waterway, the celebration is complete with a weeklong build up of events that include a black-tie ball, live music, and celebrity sightings from Joey Fatone to Chris Kirkpatrick.

Where to watch: If sitting in the grandstand ($25) isn’t your style, we’d suggest Blue Moon Fish Co., a local favorite that offers a delicious dinner during the show. 

Where to Stay Delray Sands Resort

Key West Lighted Boat Parade – December 10 [Key West, FL]

Christmas is just a little different in Key West, so it’s no surprise that palm trees (not evergreen trees) are what you’ll likely see decorated aboard the eclectic 31st Annual Schooner Warf Boat Parade. The festivities begin two hours before the boat parade at 6pm with the Harbor Walk of Lights. Though the boat parade is most definitely about getting in the fun and festive holiday spirit, this one takes it up a notch by giving entrants plenty of incentive to go big or go home with the chance to be entered to win prizes. Brilliant displays of holiday lights, conch shells, gingerbread men, jumping dolphins, and even a few Grinches make this holiday boat parade worthy of historic Key West’s reputation as being delightfully weird.

Where to watch: Considering that you’ll find not only live entertainment, but also the judges stand, at the Schooner Wharf Bar, it’s a logical choice for many who want to celebrate the festivities and not miss a single one of the boats decked out in their holiday finery.

Where to Stay Sunset Key Cottages

Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on Sarasota Bay– December 10 [Sarasota, FL]

The southernmost stretch of Sarasota Bay under the famous John Ringling Causeway brings some of the largest parading boats in Florida, including mega-yachts wrapped to the gills with Christmas lights. At the Sarasota Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, twinkling Grinch heads are an annual sighting.

Where to watch: Most take it in from Bayfront Park, but recently, the route was extended to include waterfront Centennial Park, so that’s a great option that may be less crowded. The portside patio of Marina Jack’s restaurant is always a good choice for catching the show.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club

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