This winter, there will be plenty of chances to get on or near the water to celebrate the season with our list of Chesapeake holiday destinations. For a full list of lighted boat parades around the Bay, along with details on spectating, click to our lighted boat parades
On the Northern Neck, Kilmarnock
hosts an annual Christmas parade, which just so happens to be the longest-running parade in Virginia and the only lighted Christmas parade on the Northern Neck. The 39th annual event will begin at 7 p.m. December 8 down Main Street and lasts approximately one hour. Pre-parade events kick off at 5:30 p.m. with games, music, and prizes. All are free.
The town of Yorktown
kicks off the season with the annual tree lighting ceremony, December 1 at 7 p.m. along Riverwalk Landing. This free event will also feature festive music, a performance by the Fifes and Drums of Yorktown at the Victory Monument, a procession of lights through the historic village, and the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus. On December 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., stop by Christmas Market on Main to get a jump start on holiday shopping. The Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade will also take place on December 2.
Just 30 minutes south, Hampton
will host its Lighted Boat Parade on December 8, followed by the Hampton Holly Days Parade, the largest illuminated parade on the peninsula, on December 9. The parade begins around 7 p.m. in downtown Hampton and features over 70 units, including elaborate floats, marching bands, military honor units, and of course, Santa.
Washington Metropolitan Area
Old Town Alexandria
will keep the festivities rolling throughout December, beginning with the 47th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, December 1-2. Hundreds of Scottish clansmen will march through town with their bagpipes December 2 at 11 a.m. Throughout the weekend there will also be a tour of historic homes, children’s tea party, a Celtic concert, and Christmas marketplace. The annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of lights, held in collaboration with The District’s Holiday Boat Parade, will be held December 2.
New this year are celebrations at The Wharf
, a waterfront destination along the Potomac River that recently opened in October. From 5 to 8 p.m. on December 1, come out for the official lighting of the Christmas tree, while enjoying hot chocolate, s’mores around the fire pit, live music, and holiday crafts. During the Holiday Boat Parade on December 2, enjoy skating on the ice rink, winter drinks at the Waterfront Wine and Beer Garden, and fireworks at 8 p.m.
And we can’t forget the Waterskiing Santa
, a Christmas tradition on the Potomac River since 1986, when a group of friends drew straws to see who would go out on the water and water ski in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve. After more than 30 years, it continues today, with this year’s event beginning at 1 p.m. December 24. Best views will be from Old Town Alexandria, VA. Be on the lookout for Santa’s friends, the flying elves, jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman. After the show, Santa and crew will greet children in the pavilion along the waterfront and behind the Torpedo Factory.
Baltimore and Annapolis
The SPCA Lights on the Bay
runs November 18 through January 1 from 5 to 10 p.m. at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Admission is $15 per car, $30 for large passenger vans/mini buses/trolleys, and $50 for buses. Don’t forget to purchase 3D glasses upon admission to the park to make the light show truly come alive. The two-mile scenic drive along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay features approximately 70 animated and stationary lighted displays.
If you’re in Annapolis
, you can’t miss the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade, which was voted the Best Holiday Parade in 2016 by USA Today. It will be held December 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. The annual Annapolis Chocolate Binge Festival takes place December 3 from noon to 5 p.m. to help chocoholics get through the holiday season, featuring holiday shopping, family-friendly entertainment, and the lighting of the West Street Holiday Light Canopy. December 7, 14, and 21 select stores in downtown Annapolis will remain open until midnight for midnight madgiving bargain-hunters and last-minute shoppers an excuse to get out and shop well into the night.
Up in Baltimore
, Olde Tyme Christmas in Fells Point is held December 2 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Santa will arrive by boat in the morning to greet visitors, and the neighborhood will be decked out in fragrant green garlands, red bows, and twinkling lights. The Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats will begin around 6 p.m., circling Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.
The 33rd annual Solomons
Christmas Walk runs November 30 to December 2. Homes and businesses will be decked out in holiday décor to compete in the “Best Dressed” contest. The Christmas Craft Market (December 1 from 2 to 9 p.m.) will include a wide range of vendors of arts and crafts, food, and clothing, and the Lighted Boat Parade will be held December 2 at 6:15 p.m. Apart from events, the town will be transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with luminaria lit streets.
There will be several holiday events in St. Mary's County
the month of December. From December 1 to January 1, the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Historic Park will feature lighthouse-themed exhibits in a holiday setting. Find dates and times online
(closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Admission to the museum is $7 adults; $3.50 senior citizens military personnel, and students; Free for children 5 and under. The annual Tall Timbers Parade of Lights
will be held December 2 at Tall Timbers Marina. Boats depart at 5 p.m. From November 23 through December 31, head to Great Mills for the Flat Iron Farm Christmas Village and Light Display
. A visitor favorite is the Christmas Doll and Train Exhibit
, December 1 through January 1 at the St. Clement's Island Museum in Coltons Point.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Christmas in St. Michaels
lights up the town December 8-10 with events and festivities for the whole family, including the signature Tour of Homes event (December 9-10). Tickets for the tour are $25 until December 8 and $30 after. Proceeds from ticketed events have raised more than one million dollars to directly benefit local, non-profit organizations in the community. Browse for gifts in the Marketplace and Sweet Shoppe, have breakfast with Santa, build a gingerbread house, and much more. The annual Talbot Street Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. on December 9, and the Tree Lighting is that evening from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Inn at Perry Cabin.
On December 6, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
in St. Michaels invites the public to celebrate the holidays with an open house that includes caroling, children’s holiday crafts, wine bar, store discounts, and free gift wrapping. Free and open to the public.
From November 16 through December 31, Northside Park on 125th Street in Ocean City
, MD, will be transformed with hundreds of animated, lighted displays. Board the Winterfest Express ($5 adults, 11 and under free) for the one mile journey through 58-acres of lights. In the heated Winterfest Pavilion you can sip hot chocolate and take a photo with Santa. This holiday event runs Sundays through Thursdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Just 20 minutes outside of Ocean City is the quaint town of Berlin
, MD, which will hold its Christmas Parade on December 7. From 7 to 9 p.m., marching bands, dance teams, fire companies, and floats will parade down Main Street.