The Winterfest Boat Parade is an annual tradition that has been held every December in Fort Lauderdale since 1970.
It is still known by many native Floridians as the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Boat Parade.
In recent years the event has been sponsored by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
More than 100 boats from 20 feet long to huge megayachts dress up in all kinds of lights and decorations and cruise along the New River and Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.
The event has been judged as one of the top 10 parades in the world among 50,000 parades, so you know it has to be good.
The parade begins at 630pm when all of the boats entered in the parade gather along the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale to begin their slow procession down the waterway.
The parade route runs a total of 12 miles beginning downtown on the New River to the Intracoastal Waterway, then proceeding north along the ICW past Bahia Mar and ending in Pompano Beach.
The extravagantly lighted vessels quite often also have musical groups; recently the real live Barbra Streisand was on one yacht singing away.
Another year the movie
star George Hamilton was the parade marshall. He is famous for his role
in the Fort Lauderdale classic movie "Where The Boys Are". I think back then it was still called the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Boat Parade.
One year NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal was the Grand Marshal. Other parades have featured Jim Belushi, Kim Kardashian and Alonzo Mourning.
The best way to see the parade is to wangle a ride on one of the parade boats, or find a friend with a boat who is willing to tag along with the parade and watch. You can also enter your own boat for a fee of $35.
There are plenty of spots along the river and waterway to watch the parade, but it is best to get there early. Many thousands of people will be competing for the same seats.
Many of the waterfront restaurants and bars along the parade route have great seating for watching the parade. You should make reservations well in advance because Winterfest always results in a sellout.
This is the way I enjoy viewing the parade, comfortably seated in Shooters or some other friendly watering hole.
There is also a grandstand viewing area inside of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park just north of Sunrise Boulevard.
More than 1,000,000 people gather along the parade route during Winterfest.
It is the largest live event in the State of Florida, and is the seventh largest one day spectator event in the United States.
Check it out and add this parade to your bucket list. If you have an hour or so, you can enjoy the 2013 parade on YouTube by clicking on the video link below.
More information is available at the Winterfest Boat Parade Website.