The annual parade where boats sail around Annapolis sparkling with holiday lights has returned to Annapolis.
Eastport Yacht Club hosts a competition for both sailboats and power boats that deck-out in Christmas cheer. Up to 40 boats are expected to participate this year.
Boats circle through Ego Alley, Spa Creek and the Annapolis Harbor, showing off their latest designs.
An Insider’s Guide to Parade of Lights in Annapolis
Second Saturday in December – Dec. 11, 2021
6pm – 8pm
MOST IMPORTANT TIP… Get There Early
The event starts at 6pm. By that time, you won’t be able to get close to downtown. Traffic bogs down with late arrivals trying to find parking, which is practically impossible by 6pm. So even if you have a special, secret parking spot in Annapolis, you’re going to have a very tough time getting to it.
Also, the Spa Creek Bridge will be closed to vehicles crossing between downtown Annapolis and Eastport from 6pm to 8pm, bogging up traffic even more.
Annapolitans made a day of it, spending daylight hours shopping or at the bars and restaurants. Usually, a combination of both.
But if you’re just coming for the lights, get there by 5pm. 4pm is better.
WHERE TO WATCH
All boats do two routes. They circle each route several times before switching to the other route. The routes are separated by the Spa Creek Bridge, which has to raise to allow the sailboats to change routes. One route is in Spa Creek, the other is through Annapolis Harbor.
Downtown spots will be the most lively. However, if you want to get away from crowds, try one of the many side streets that end at the water.
Spa Creek Bridge: If it’s a warm or still night, the bridge between Downtown Annapolis and the neighborhood of Eastport is the best vantage point. You can see the fleets both above and below the bridge and get a close-up look as they pass through the bridge. But you have to move off the bridge when boats are passing. The bridge needs to raise up for sailboats to get through.
Naval Academy: The length of seawall bordering Spa Creek offers a long, unobstructed viewing area. But you have to go through Naval Academy security and walk to the seawall. It’s a bit of a walk from parking and can be breezy. Check Naval Academy security regulations that will be in effect.
City Dock: This is a perennial favorite spot for viewers, and it has public restrooms at the marina.
Ego Alley: The Alley spot offers the closest possible look at the decorations. It’s where the boat turnaround by Downtown Annapolis.
Harbor Queen: One fine vantage point at City Dock will be Watermark’s Harbor Queen, moored at the end of the dock and conducting the “Queen of All Food Drives” during the parade. Bring a bag of non-perishable food, pet food items, or a cash donation ($10 recommended) and you’ll be welcomed aboard. Beverages and snacks available for purchase and proceeds benefit the Anne Arundel County Food Bank.
Waterfront Restaurants: You have to book ahead for many of these restaurants and it’s pricey, but you don’t have to worry so much about weather. Pusser’s Caribbean Grill has outside seating, but if you get a seat inside, you’re allowed to take turns walking outside to see the boats. There’s also the Chart House and Carrol’s Creek Cafe in Eastport.
Other Spots: Annapolis has several small parks at the end of streets. Be be aware, that parking near those parks is limited to street parking and they’re a long walk from the parking garages. The Eastport neighborhood is a bit better for walking to the neighborhood parks and they have several restaurants/bars where you can duck in to warm up.
MAP OF PLACES TO WATCH & PARKING GARAGES
Parking away from the very crowded downtown assures a quicker getaway. There’s not a lot of parking spots downtown and once people start arriving it’s likely to get crowded, slowing traffic to a crawl.
- Free parking is available at Calvert Street Parking Garage (19 St Johns Street) 6pm to 6am
- $2 parking is available from 4 pm to 6am at Whitmore Parking Garage (25 Clay Street).
- $5 parking is available at Knighton Parking Garage and Park Place Parking Garage.
- Parking Meters will be free for short-term 2 hour parking. Use the Code ParkDTA on Parkmobile App and get an additional one hour bonus time at parking meters.
- Free Circulator buses run along West Street, Calvert Street, State Circle, and Main Street and will pick you up and bring you back to any downtown Annapolis Parking garage.
Don’t count on Annapolis to be generous and not ticket during Christmas season. They want to circulate shoppers through so watch your meter time and don’t park where the curb is painted red. Pull in your rear view mirror when parked on those narrow streets.
Wear comfy shoes, you’ll be walking a bit. The distance from the free garage to the bottom of Main Street is just under a mile.