Nothing says “holidays on the Bay” like a lighted boat parade. It’s a chilly but rewarding tradition for boaters from the upper Bay to the mouth of the Chesapeake, and the many revelers who come out to watch. More than a dozen towns will host their own parades of twinkly, creative holiday lights between now and Christmas.
One of the largest in the mid-Atlantic region is on Middle River, traditionally held the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year, organizers say 97 boats participated, creating a 1.5-mile-long parade of decorated boats for the 5-mile route. The weather conditions were ideal for the 19th annual parade this past Saturday night, with calm winds and hospitable temperatures. Appropriately, a boat “dressed up” as Rudolph led the parade.
On the same night, just down the Bay in Pasadena, Md., the Pasadena Boat Parade brought boats out on Rock Creek, Stoney Creek and Bodkin Creek. If you missed it, you can take a peek at the recorded livestream here.
The lights parade that is best-known nationally is the Eastport Yacht Club (EYC)’s in Annapolis, which just finished fourth in a competition for Best Holiday Parade as voted by readers of USA Today’s 10Best. EYC’s lights parade finished behind America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In this month’s issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine we look back on the 40 years of the EYC Lights Parade and how it came to be.
There are other chances to see a lighted boat parade no matter which part of the Bay you frequent. Please see our full 2022 list below and let us know if we’ve missed your favorite parade of lights by emailing [email protected]
Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats, Dec. 3, 4:30-8pm at Anchorage Marina.
Baltimore’s 34th annual lights parade begins with a tree lighting and holiday cheer at 5pm on Anchorage Marina’s P pier. The boats will be visible along the waterfront promenade. The parade is sponsored by Anchorage Marina and Sail Baltimore, and toy donations will be collected on behalf of Exchange Club of Highlandtown – Canton.
Bear Creek Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 3, 5pm at Hard Yacht Cafe.
Organized by the Bear Creek Sailing Association, this parade is back for its third year. An updated parade route will start and end at the Hard Yacht Cafe, going out of the creek and through the Peninsula Expressway drawbridge. Viewing spots include Peach Orchard Park, Inverness Park, local restaurants and both Peninsula and Wise Avenue bridges.
Christmas in St. Michaels Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 10, 6pm at St. Michaels Harbor.
This lighted boats parade is part of the Hallmark Movie-esque, weekend-long Christmas in St. Michaels event. Breakfast with Santa, decorated homes tours, a 1-mile Santa Dash, musical performances, and more will get you in the spirit for this parade, visible up and down the St. Michaels waterfront.
Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade, Dec. 10, 6-8 pm at Spa Creek Bridge, Annapolis.
See the 40th EYC Lights Parade for yourself. Two fleets participate and switch places mid-event: one circling in front of Eastport, the City Dock and the Naval Academy seawall, the other circling the length of Spa Creek, inside the bridge.
Solomons Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 10, 6pm at Solomons Island Yacht Center.
Part of the Solomons Christmas Walk festivities, the lights parade begins at dusk is expected to arrive at the Riverwalk around 7:15 p.m. Coordinated by Solomons Island Yacht Club, Southern Maryland Sailing Association, Patuxent River Sail and Power Squadron, Solomons Yachting Center and Sail Solomons, this parade caps off a day of waterfront caroling, a lineup of performers, and a Christmas parade through town.
Deale Parade of Lights, Dec. 15, 6pm, at Rockhold Creek.
This family-friendly Thursday night event puts lighted boats on display in a parade route starting at Happy Harbor, going to Dockside, then circling back in front of Skippers Pier and then back to Happy Harbor. Note: Happy Harbor’s main dock area and dock bar are closed for construction. Viewing will be on the south side of the dock. $500 cash is at stake for the winning boat.
Tilghman Island Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 17, 7pm at Characters Bridge Restaurant on Knapps Narrows.
This event kicks off with a cocktail party at Characters Bridge at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lights parade beginning at 7. The parade benefits the Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Company.
The District’s Holiday Boat Parade, Dec. 3, 6-9pm at The Wharf
It’s the 30th anniversary of the District’s Holiday Boat Parade presented by Washington Gas. Celebrate the holidays with this iconic DC event that features over 60 beautifully decorated boats parading along the Washington Channel. There will be ornament decorating and face painting at Recreation Pier, s’mores at the Camp Wharf fire pit and a lighted 45-foot Christmas tree. The Wharf Ice Rink will be open on Transit Pier.
The Colonial Beach Lighted Boat Parade took place Saturday, Nov. 26 with the first-place prize going to a crowd-favorite candy-cane themed pontoon boat.
Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 3, 6-8pm at the Yorktown Waterfront.
This year marks the 26th annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade. Boats will be decorated in the spirit of the festive season, from simple to extravagant. Pre-parade festivities begin at 6 p.m. and include caroling around a beach bonfire, a musical performance by the Fifes and Drums of York Town, and complimentary hot cider.
Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, Dec. 3, 5:30-8 pm
Old Town Alexandria’s historic waterfront will shine for the 22nd Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon. Beginning at 5:30, dozens of brightly lit boats will cruise along one mile of the Potomac River shoreline. In Waterfront Park from 2 to 8 p.m., parade-goers can enjoy a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company, food, activities and more. At the same time, the Old Town North Alliance presents a family-friendly event on the North Waterfront at Canal Center and Oronoco Bay Park. Watch boats arriving in Alexandria for parade assembly and take in artist vendors, music, food and drink, interactive demonstrations and kids activities.
Downtown Hampton Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 10, 6-7:30pm at 710 Settlers Landing Rd.
The Hampton River will come to life as a fleet of decorated boats parade past the Downtown Hampton waterfront. The boats will make two laps for better viewing. The parade, presented by Towne Bank, concludes with an awards ceremony at 8:00 pm as Santa makes a dockside visit to meet with children.