For more than 40 years on the Chesapeake Bay, boat owners have been rigging their vessels up with Christmas lights and parading them around on cold winter nights. And the lighted boat parades you can find in so many Bay port towns just seem to continue to grow in popularity.
New boat parades have been established in recent years. In addition to the long-established parades, Middle River started one up six years ago. Bear Creek, off the Patapsco River, began a parade four years ago. The Bohemia River Boaters Lighted Boat Parade in Chesapeake City, Maryland, began last year and is returning for its second annual event.
And on Deep Creek off the Magothy River, nearly two dozen boats will participate in the very first running of the Deep Creek Parade of Lights—an event that distinguishes itself as the earliest lights parade to kick off the holiday season on the Bay. It’s scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m.
It was the brainstorm of local community leader Jack Bahen in Arnold, Maryland, just north of Annapolis. Teaming up with waterfront restaurant Donnelly’s Dockside, Bahen has organized 22 boats and counting into a parade that will start in the Lake Placid Channel, go to the mouth of Deep Creek, and end at Donnelly’s for an ugly holiday sweater party afterwards.
Bahen says the early date was chosen in hopes of milder weather, making the parade more doable for smaller boats and center-consoles. He also hoped to avoid conflicts with the Bay’s many other parades.
Donnelly’s Dockside has 22 slips, and organizers ask that outside slips be saved for the larger boats participating in the parade. Inside slips are for boats up to 25 feet. Chesapeake Bay Magazine recently tried out Donnelly’s for a Dock & Dine you can see here.
Whether you’re inspired to kick off lights parade season on Deep Creek, or you’re looking for a new parade to cruise to this year, here’s our full list of lighted boat parades on the Chesapeake.
Let us know if we’ve missed your favorite parade of lights by emailing [email protected].
Deep Creek Parade of Lights, Nov. 11, 6pm beginning at Lake Placid.
Details are above. For a map and notes on where participants should go, see Magothy River Association’s Facebook post.
Middle River Parade of Lighted Boats, Nov. 25, 5:30-8pm at Stansbury Yacht Basin.
Touted as one of the five largest lighted boat parades in the country and the largest in the mid-Atlantic, up to 90 boats are expected to participate in Middle River’s 35th parade.
Pasadena Lighted Boat Parade, Nov. 25, 5-9pm beginning on Nabbs Creek. The annual boat parade starts in Nabbs Creek, near the Broken Oar Bar & Grill, goes up and down Stoney Creek, and ends on Rock Creek at PYY Marine.
Bohemia River Boaters Lighted Boat Parade in Chesapeake City, Dec. 2, 5-11pm at Chesapeake Inn & Marina.
In this second annual parade, boats will run down the C&D Canal headed into the basin at approximately 5:30pm. A heated tent will be set up for an after party at the Chesapeake Inn where prizes will be awarded. If you come, canned goods will be collected for a local church’s food pantry.
Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats, Dec. 3, 6-8pm at Anchorage Marina.
Baltimore’s 35th annual lights parade will be visible along the waterfront promenade from Canton to Fells Point and the Inner Harbor. The parade is sponsored by Anchorage Marina and Sail Baltimore. Free dockage for participants is included at Anchorage Marina.
Bear Creek Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 2, 5pm at Hard Yacht Cafe.
Organized by the Bear Creek Sailing Association, this parade is back for its fourth year. It 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. 9, 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, 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. 9, 6-8 pm at Spa Creek Bridge, Annapolis.
See the more than 40-year tradition 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 Christmas Walk events including a new vendor village in 2023.
Deale Parade of Lights, Dec. 12, 6pm, at Rockhold Creek.
This Tuesday night event puts lighted boats on display in a parade beginning at Hidden Harbor (or Happy Harbor or Shipwright Marina, for the boats who can’t fit under the bridge). For the first time, the community will choose the best in show by submitting their favorites online, so be sure to watch the whole parade.
The District’s Holiday Boat Parade, Dec. 2, 6-9pm at The Wharf District Pier
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.
Colonial Beach Lighted Boat Parade, Nov. 25, 5-7pm at Potomac River Marker #2.
This lighted boat parade organized by Colonial Yacht Club begins at Marker #2, just off of the Colonial Beach Point. An after party will be held at Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar, with winners announced at 7:30 p.m. and cash prizes handed out.
Lights on the Creek Parade, Nov. 25, 5-6:30pm, on the Rappahannock River in Irvington.
The Rappahannock River Yacht Club hosts this parade open to members and non-members, no registration required. A BYOB after party will start at the club at 7pm (registration required) which includes chili, cornbread, salad and dessert.
Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 2, 6-8pm at the Yorktown Waterfront.
This year marks the 27th annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade. Pre-parade festivities begin at 6 p.m. and include caroling around the lights, a musical performance by the Fifes and Drums of York Town, and complimentary hot cider.
Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, Dec. 2, 5:30-8 pm
Old Town Alexandria’s historic waterfront will shine for the 23rd 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. Watch boats arriving from the North Waterfront at Canal Center and Oronoco Bay Park parade assembly and take in artist vendors, music, food and drink, interactive demonstrations and kids activities.
Downtown Hampton Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 16, 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.