Lighted Boat Parades: The Bay Does it Best

A lot of people across the country have similar childhood memories of the holiday season: putting up a Christmas tree, shopping in crowded malls, and the festive holiday tunes that play around the clock from November to January. 

But those who live around the Chesapeake get to enjoy a special tradition each year: the beloved lighted boat parades, held in a dozen places on the Bay. Yes, it’s cold, especially if you’re on a boat entered in a parade or you’re spectating from the water. But the creative ways that boat owners “deck the hulls” bring us back every year.

One of the best-known holiday boat parades in the country is the one held in Annapolis, hosted by the Eastport Yacht Club for more than 30 years. This year it’s happening Saturday December 9, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  35+ boats will parade through Annapolis Harbor and Spa Creek above the Spa Creek Bridge (a great vantage point, if you’re bundled up).

Eastport’s Lights Parade is nominated for USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Contest for Best Holiday Parade. It was ranked number one in the nation last year, and if you want to see it take the top spot again, you can vote every day until December 4 by clicking here. Old Town Alexandria’s Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is also high on USA Today’s leaderboard, for the Virginia parade enthusiasts among us. 

Wherever on the Bay you spend your time, there’s a festive boat parade waiting for you. Here is Chesapeake Bay Magazine’s comprehensive list:


Dec. 9, Annapolis harbor and Spa Creek, 6–8 p.m.

Dec. 2, Fells Point to the Inner Harbor, 
6 p.m. 410-675-8900

Middle River
Nov. 25, starts at Riverwatch Marina 5 p.m.

Potomac River

Dec. 2, Tall Timbers Marina, 
Tall Timbers, Md. 301-994-1508;

Dec.2, Patuxent River, Solomons, Md. 6:15 p.m.

Dec. 9, The Narrows, Tilghman, Md.

Wicomico River
Nov. 25, Downtown Salisbury Riverfront, 6 p.m.


Dec. 2, Alexandria Marina, Alexandria, Va., 
5 p.m., 703-838-5005

Colonial Beach
Dec. 2, Potomac River, Colonial Beach, Va. 6–8:30 p.m.

Hampton River
Dec. 8, Downtown Hampton waterfront. 6–9 p.m.

Dec. 2  Yorktown, Va., 7 p.m., 757-890-4970


The Wharf
Dec. 2, The Wharf Marina, 6 p.m.

Do all these lighted boats make you want to get in the game? Maybe you’re an old pro, and you’ve entered your boat in parades for years, or maybe you just want to add a little holiday cheer to your boat while it’s sitting at the dock. Either way, it’s a good idea to check out these pointers and safety tips from BoatU.S.

-Meg Walburn Viviano