Forget driving around the block to look at Christmas lights. This year enjoy a lighted boat parade. We've collected a few of our favorites here. Check with your local marina to find out about festivities planned in your own backyard.
Christmas by the Sea Festival, Southport, North Carolina
This three-weekend-long celebration features the Southport Holiday Boat Flotilla on the second Saturday of December. The event caps off a full day of festivities, including a tour of historic homes. Call 910/457-7927 or visit christmasbysea.com for a complete schedule.
Christmas Boat Parade, Destin, Florida
On Sunday, December 9, Destin kicks off its Holiday on the Harbor celebration with the 21st annual boat parade. The show lasts about an hour and features more than 20 boats decorated from bow to stern. Join the crowd at the wharf or watch all the glitz from a waterside cafe. Call 850/837-6611 for more information.
Boat Parade of Lights, Savannah, Georgia
Two riverboats offer cruises on the Savannah River during the town's Boat Parade of Lights on November 24. For a front-row seat, reserve a ride on the Savannah River Queen or the Georgia Queen as they lead the annual procession, and enjoy a two-hour cruise complete with hors d'oeuvres and live entertainment. Tickets are $38.95 per person, and seats sell out fast. Call 800/786-6404 or visit savannahriverboat.com for reservations.
Oceanside (California) Harbor Parade of Lights
The Oceanside Yacht Club celebrates the holidays with a parade in the harbor on December 8. Boat owners plan months in advance, and their elaborate displays―some including music and costumed participants―attract hundreds each year. The boats never leave the harbor, so you're guaranteed to have a great view. Call 760/722-5751.
Boat Parade of Lights, Panama City, Florida
Boaters gather on December 8 at St. Andrews Marina in Panama City for the start of their parade. Vessels float along St. Andrews Bay into the City Marina, where they're greeted by thousands of spectators waiting downtown. Call 850/785-5206.
Argosy Christmas Ship Festival, Seattle area, Washington
Each night from December 1 to December 23, the Argosy Christmas Ship will sail to different waterfront communities along Puget Sound. You can choose to ride the cruise ship (or one of the many ships that participate in the procession) for an evening of caroling along the coast, or you can host a beachside bonfire and wait for the largest lighted boat parade in the world to cruise by. Ticket sales benefit the Seattle Times Fund for the Needy. For cruise dates, visit argosycruises.com.
Parade of Lighted Boats, Baltimore, Maryland
Help the Fells Point Yacht Club celebrate the 20th anniversary of their parade on December 1. About 50 boats are expected to make an appearance along the Inner Harbor this year. Awards are given for the most festive displays, and competition is stiff thanks to boaters' creativity. Call 410/591-2646 or visit fpyc.net.
Island of Lights Holiday Flotilla, Carolina Beach, North
The Island of Lights Festival attracts thousands of visitors a year. The celebration lasts the month of December, beginning with the lighting of the lake and culminating with the dropping of a beach ball on New Year's Eve. The highlight of the festivities, though, just might be the flotilla, held on December 1. Call 910/458-9023 for festival details.
Festival of Lights Celebration, Rockland, Maine
This town may not have a parade, but its holiday festival takes place so close to the water, you don't even need a boat! Festivities begin on November 23 and last the entire weekend. You'll want to catch the lighting of the Christmas "tree"―made entirely of lobster traps―and the arrival of Santa Claus―by Coast Guard boat, of course. Call 207/596-0376.