FLORIDA KEYS — Santa is likely to arrive in the Florida Keys by sailboat instead of by sleigh, pulled by a team of dolphins rather than reindeer — at least during the festive lighted boat parades that enliven the Keys’ holiday season.
Boat parades from Key Largo to Key West are to illuminate the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay as the island chain celebrates the holidays. Vessel decorations typically range from traditional lights and greenery to offbeat salutes to the season.
Visitors can view the processions from shore or excursion boat, or even deck out their own vessels and become part of the merriment.
Following is a roster of boat parades slated throughout the island chain.
Saturday, Dec. 11, dusk
Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade
At this favorite Middle Keys holiday event, dinghies, mega-yachts and vessels in between cruise the harbor in a sparkling procession. Best viewing sites include Lazy Days South, Marathon Marina, Sombrero Dockside Lounge and Burdine’s Waterfront. For details, call 305-743-9629 or visit www.bootkeyharbor.com/christmas_parade.htm.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Key Largo Boat Parade (Key Largo)
Decorations, music and animation are to entertain celebrants during the holiday boat parade on Blackwater Sound. The theme is “Under the Sea,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Best viewing and libations are to be found at Sundowners, Señor Frijoles, the Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort and the Caribbean Club, all near mile markers (MM) 103-104. For information, call 305-451-4502 or visit www.keylargoboatparade.com.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 8 p.m.
Schooner Wharf Bar/Cruzan Rums Lighted Boat Parade (Key West)
Lighted and decorated vessels from rowboats to tall ships proceed around Key West’s Historic Seaport and harbor areas. Before the boat parade, at 6 p.m., the Gerald Adams Elementary School Steel Your Heart Band will welcome spectators with songs of the season. Holiday revelers can watch and applaud from bars, restaurants and resorts in and around the Historic Seaport. For details, call 305-292-3302 or visit www.schoonerwharf.com/10boatparade.htm.
Sunday, Dec. 12, 6 p.m. (dusk)
Key Colony Beach Lighted Boat Parade (Marathon area)
Christmas lights on outriggers and displays on boat decks are part of the beautiful festivities during the Key Colony Beach Boat Parade, set to begin at the 7th Street canal. Open to all boats, the parade visits canals and cuts, and passes city hall three times. Great viewing spots include Sadowski Causeway at MM 53.5 and the area behind city hall. The event is open to the public. For information, call 305-743-7214.
Saturday, Dec. 18, 7 p.m.
Lower Keys Lighted Boat Parade (Lower Florida Keys)
All boats are welcome to enter the parade including deep-sea cruisers, dinghies, kayaks and canoes. Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to arrive and hand out candy to the kids. The best recommended viewing is from Pine Channel Causeway or Parrotdise Waterfront Bar & Grille, 183 Barry Ave. on Little Torch Key. For details, call Holly at 305-872-0106.
For more information about the Florida Keys & Key West, including a comprehensive schedule of holiday events, visit www.fla-keys.com. Florida Keys information also can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest and on Twitter at twitter.com/thefloridakeys.