Christmas lights on outriggers, Santa's elves and brightly lit deck displays are some of the festive decorations used by captains and skippers to illuminate their boats in the traditional lighted boat parades that take place throughout the Florida Keys during the holiday season.
From Key Largo to Key West, visitors can view the parades from land, bridges, watering holes or excursion boats, or even become part of the festivities by decking out their own vessel in dazzling lights and eye-catching decorations.
Saturday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Key Largo Boat Parade (Key Largo)
Boats will be the "mega-stars" on Key Largo's Blackwater Sound as the parade theme of "Hooray for Hollywood" shines a spotlight on the lively holiday procession of vessels ranging from 55-foot yachts to single-person kayaks. The grand marshal is to be film favorite "Elvis Presley," leading the parade aboard the Coral Princess skippered by local dive legend Captain Spencer Slate. The parade is free to enter; one grand-prize winner and one randomly selected lucky boat are to receive $500 each. Great viewing spots can be found at Sundowners, Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill, Senor Frijoles, the Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort and Caribbean Club at mile markers (mile markers)103-104. Sundowners is to host the Winner's Party at 10 p.m. after the parade. Visit www.keylargoboatparade.com or call (305) 451-4502.
Saturday, Dec. 13, dusk
Boot Key Harbor Boat Parade (Marathon)
At this Middle Keys holiday event that has been a tradition for 18 years, dinghies, mega-yachts and vessels in between are to cruise the harbor in a sparkling procession. The best viewing sites include Lazy Days South, Marathon Marina, Sombrero Dockside Lounge, Sombrero Resort and Burdines Waterfront around MMs 47-50. Post-parade awards and a party are held at Dockside Lounge. Visit www.bootkeyharbor.com/christmas_parade.htm.
Sunday, Dec. 14, 6 p.m. (sunset)
Key Colony Beach Holiday Lighted Boat Parade (Marathon Area)
Open to all boats, the parade is set to start at the 7th Street canal and wind its way through canals and cuts, visiting city hall three times. The best viewing spots include the Sadowski Causeway at MM 53.5 and the dock area behind city hall and the post office. An after-party with awards and a free buffet and cash bar for captains and crews is to be held at Key Colony Inn. Visit www.kcbca.org/kcbca-events/holiday-lighted-boat-parade/ or call (305) 743-7214.
Saturday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m.
Lower Keys Lighted Boat Parade (Lower Keys)
All boats are welcome to participate in this favorite Lower Keys holiday event sponsored by the Lower Keys Rotary Club and News-Barometer. Santa and Mrs. Claus are to lead the parade, which begins at Kiki's Sandbar on Little Torch Key. The best viewing spots include Kiki's Sandbar or roadside from the Pine Channel Causeway. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Steve at (305) 923-5370.
Saturday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m.
Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley/Absolut Vodka Lighted Boat Parade (Key West)
Festively decorated kayaks, fishing and pleasure craft, small yachts and schooners are to glitter in Key West's Historic Seaport during the 24th annual Schooner Wharf Bar Lighted Boat Parade. The Gerald Adams Elementary School Steel Your Heart Band kicks off the festivities at 6 p.m. singing holiday favorites, followed by popular family band The Doerfels. Spectators can view the dozens of participating vessels from Schooner Wharf as well as resorts, bars and restaurants in and around the Historic Seaport. Visit www.schoonerwharf.com or call (305) 292-3302.