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Holiday lighted boat parades

A local tradition

The Gig Harbor Lighted Boat Parade. Photo credit: City of Gig Harbor

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Living along the Puget Sound affords us a few coastal traditions. One coastal tradition is a lighted boat parade. Often sponsored by local yacht clubs, these parades of boats are annual events, which helps to kick off the holiday season. Here are three lighted boat parades in our area.

"The lighted ships parade is a fun way to bring the community together to kick off the holiday season ... family friendly, carolers performing, Santa & Mrs. Claus passing out candy canes, and possibly hot chocolate for anyone interested in staying warm," said Marty Graf, Commodore, Olympia Yacht Club. The 2018 Parade of Lighted Ships is Saturday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. and Port Plaza Park is considered one of the best places to watch the event. "We have worked with the city to try and make this more of a community event rather than just a yacht club event," Graf added. "The singing of Christmas carols starts around 5 to 5:30ish and the parade is not limited to yacht club boats. The parade is open to anyone with a boat who is willing to decorate. We average about 25 boats in the parade but we hope for more this year." This year's theme is Seas the Holidays and you can find more information at

The Gig Harbor Lighted Boat Parade will take place Saturday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m. This parade is sponsored by the Gig Harbor Yacht Club. The parade is a long line of fishing vessels, pleasure boats and even kayaks decked out in their holiday finest and lighting up the harbor. The parade route begins at Arabella's Marina and makes two loops of the harbor. There are many waterfront restaurants lining the harbor which make a great base to watch the parade. For more information, email

If you are willing to travel further afield to Seattle, you can enjoy the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Parade of Boats. For this parade you can actually buy a ticket to ride in the lead or follow boats or you can watch from the shore. According to Addie Davis, Senior Public Relations Coordinator, Visit Seattle, the parade is now in its fourth year and will take place Friday, Dec. 14, beginning at 7 p.m. "The lead boat will include photos with Santa, live choir performances at waterfront communities, a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas, kids' holiday crafts and activities, full bar and box meals available for pre-purchase. The Shore Experience includes up-close views of the Christmas Ship and follow boats, live choir performance broadcast from the Christmas ship, and an onshore community bonfire. All festival proceeds are donated to the Seattle Times Fund for the Needy," she shared.

The best part of these events is that they are all on separate dates which means you can visit all three. So plan a new holiday tradition and attend a holiday lighted boat parade, just make sure you bundle up as it can get chilly along the waterfront. 

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