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Holiday Happenings! Lighted Boat Parades in the Mid-Atlantic

Brightly colored holiday lights, twinkling, shimmering, and swirling like a massive impressionist painting. The artists? A flotilla of ingeniously decorated boats parading proudly on the water for a dazzled holiday crowd, bundled up and fortified by the spirit of the season and – perhaps – delicious adult beverages (or maybe warm mugs of cocoa and apple cider). That’s what lighted boat parades are all about.

Remember when you were a child, driving around with the family, enchanted by the neighborhood homes sporting seemingly millions of colored lights? Well, holiday boat parades are the opposite. You don’t go to the lights. The lights come to you. Ideally, you watch the show from an outdoor table at a cool waterfront bistro. From a great date night to tremendous family bonding time, boat parades are the perfect environment to capture that elusive holiday spirit.

And the boats? They include every size and every style boat imaginable, all decorated to the nines. They light up the river or the harbor, with creative ways to make Santa and his gang nautical. Rumor has it, the owner of one Mid-Atlantic pro sports team spends five figures decorating his yacht for one very high-profile boat parade. Other boats take a more fiscal, but still spectacular approach, adorning their dinghies with lights that stand up to the big boys on the water. Each and every one of these boats is part of the grand nautical promenade! Much like the boats, the lighted boat parades are all different sizes too. The huge, high-profile holiday events with significant crowds of viewers are the traditional downtown events: 

The Wharf Marina, 2022

1. The District Holiday Boat Parade in DC is the largest parade on the Potomac! With 65 boats participating this year on Dec 3, this year marks the event’s 30th Anniversary! The Wharf is the area’s hippest neighborhood with its countless opportunities for fun, food and holiday-themed merriment. This year, there will live music and special holiday cocktails at the famous Beer Garden. an intricate part of the District Boat Parade. The Wharf Marina , an Oasis managed marina, is the proud sponsor of the Captains party, and an intricate part of the District Boat Parade.


2. The Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade on Dec 3 is the feature event of Alexandria’s big Holiday Weekend. Over 50 boats light up the Potomac River on the historic Old Town Alexandria shoreline. There are plenty of dockside holiday activities in Waterfront Park, and plenty of marinas to visit on your way, like the beautiful and lively National Harbor Marina and The Yards Marina .


3. The Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats on Dec 3 highlights impressive boats visible all along the Inner Harbor from Canton to Fells Point to Harbor East to Federal Hill and Locust Point. The parade is a Christmas dream come true for boaters against the urban backdrop of beautifully lighted buildings like the Baltimore Aquarium and The Science Center. This is a signature event of Baltimore’s charming Inner Harbor Christmas celebrations. Boaters can visit and watch in and around the Inner Harbor from nearby marinas:

  • Oasis Marinas at Inner Harbor
  • Harbor East Marina
  • Baltimore Yacht Basin
  • Port Covington Marina


4. The Eastport Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade on Dec 10 is the official Christmas parade of Annapolis, boating capital of the Chesapeake Bay. This parade is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in the waters of Annapolis Harbor. It is widely recognized that the jolly crews of this boat parade are supremely fortified with… shall we say holiday cheer ? This beloved Annapolis holiday tradition can be viewed from Annapolis Town Dock and easily accessible from The Marina at Nautilus Point and Gingerville Marine Center .

There are several other lighted boat parades in the Mid Atlantic. Beautiful holiday lights make the waters shine in such charming locations as St. Michaels, Crisfield, and Salisbury on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There’s a renown boat parade in Solomon’s in Southern Maryland plus three others in Baltimore suburbs: Bear Creek (Dundalk), Middle River and Pasadena. A little further south in Virginia it’s well worth experiencing the famous Colonial themed Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade on the York River near Williamsburg. Ditto for Colonial Beach in Virginia’s Northern Neck. And Tidewater’s grandest, the Downtown Hampton Lighted Boat Parade in Hampton Roads Harbor.


Here’s wishing you experience nautical beauty and catch the holiday spirit at a lighted boat parade this year. Here’s the complete rundown:

Middle River Boat Parade                           Nov 26      5pm
NEARBY MARINAS: Oasis Marinas at Gunpowder Cove
                                    Sunset Harbor Marina

Salisbury Christmas Boat Parade Party   Nov 26       5-10pm
NEARBY MARINAS: Cambridge Yacht Basin
                                    Hyatt River Marsh Marina

Colonial Beach Lighted Boat Parade        Dec 4        5:30-8pm
NEARBY MARINA: Coles Point Marina 

Lighted Boat Parade                                    Dec 11       6pm
NEARBY MARINA: Cape Charles Yacht Center

Deale Parade of Lights                                 Dec 15        5-7pm
NEARBY MARINA: Rod ‘n’ Reel Marina

Christmas in St. Michaels Lighted Boat Parade      Dec 10   6pm

Pasadena Lighted Boat Parade                  Nov 26       5pm

Crisfield Christmas Boat Parade                 Dec 3         6-11pm

Solomons Lighted Boat Parade                  Dec 3         6:30pm

Bear Creek Lighted Boat Parade                Dec 3         5:30pm

Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade                   Dec 3         6pm


by: Gary Jordan