Winterfest Boat Parade Brings Holiday Cheer to Fort Lauderdale Waterways

Photo Credit: Winterfest Boat Parade Facebook Page

Have you ever wanted to watch a holiday parade on the water? Come to Fort Lauderdale and you can!

The Winterfest Parade in Fort Lauderdale has some of the best displays of lights on the water in Florida. The Parade is an annual tradition held every December in Fort Lauderdale since 1970. Many native Floridians know it as the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Boat Parade. 

Recently, the Parade has been sponsored by the  Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Boats of all shapes and sizes display themselves for all to see. More than 100 boats from 20 feet long to huge mega yachts get dressed up in all kinds of lights and decorations. The vessels cruise along the New River and Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.

The self-proclaimed “Greatest Show on H20” is an event that has been judged as one of the top 10 parades in the world among 50,000 parades. The boats all make their way in by gathering along the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale to begin their slow procession down the waterway. The boats sail a total of 12 miles down the New River to the Intercoastal Waterway. They then proceed north along the ICW past Bahia Mar and end in Pompano Beach.

Many Hollywood actors and celebrities have lent their time to appear or perform in the parade over the years. Recently Barbra Streisand appeared in person to sing the night away live. Another year film star George Hamilton was the parade marshall. Hamilton is best known for his role in the 1960 Fort Lauderdale classic movie, “Where the Boys Are.” NBA star Shaquille O’ Neal was the Grand Marshal in 2004. Kim Kardashian and Alonzo Mourning were both the Grand Marshals of the parade in December 2009. 

Past celebrity Grand Marshals have been Huey Lewis, Big & Rich, PITBULL, Flo Rida, Deborah Norville, Barry Gibb, Brooke Burke, Jim Belushi, Lorraine Bracco, Frankie Valli, Randy Jackson and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

This year, Bret Michaels, lead singer of the rock band Poison, has been given the honor of being the 2019 Winterfest Boat Parade Grand Marshal. 

The best way to view the parade is to make a reservation (well in advance) at one of the local waterfront restaurants and bars. There is also a grandstand viewing area inside of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park just north of Sunrise Boulevard. You can also be in the parade with your own boat. Entry fees begin at $35.

Winterfest is the largest live event in the State of Florida. It is also the seventh largest one-day spectator event in the United States.

The parade has won many awards and accolades. In 2017, it won USA Today’s 10 Best Readers Choice Travel Award Contest for Best Holiday Parade. This past year in 2019 Winterfest won 10 awards from Florida Festival and Events Association. The International Festival and Events Association has named Winterfest to its top 20 Parades in the World. This places the parade in the ranks of prestigious companies such as Macy’s Mardi Gras, Rose Bowl and Disney Parades.

The Winterfest parade has been designated as a not-for-profit, 504 (c) (4) organization by the Internal Revenue Service. This means it “is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements. It is exempt from taxation as a “social welfare” group civic league or organization not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. Its net earnings are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.” 


Ticket information can be found here: You may find out more information about the parade on Winterfest’s official website: