The Annapolis Boat Show is one of the three biggest in the U.S. The other two are Miami and Newport, Rhode Island. Which is biggest depends on what you count and how you count it.
Annapolis actually has boat shows in the Fall and Spring. But the Fall show is massive compared to the Spring. The two week event consumes Annapolis.
The Boat Show begins first full weekend of October through 2026. It consists of two one-week shows, Thursday through Monday: Powerboats and Sailboats. They alternate which goes first each year. In 2021, power boats were first.
1) Boats! Lots of Boats.
The Annapolis Boat Show fills the Annapolis waterfront with boats. Floating docks are stretched throughout Ego Alley and the Annapolis Harbor.
Boats ranges from 65-foot Regency & Palm Beach yachts to an under 20-foot Mahogany Heart Throb. Boats range from around $20,000 for a small runabout to over a couple million for the over-60-foot yachts.
And the cool thing is that you can walk on the boats and see what’s inside. This is your chance to envision a dream of owning a boat or just check out what’s inside the boats that are docked at the marinas you stroll by.
Yacht brokers require info before you can board the big boats: name and contact info. Some require reservations and proof of credit. That’s for the high-high end yachts.
The sailboat show is a bigger. More boats. More vendors.
You’re not likely to see mega yachts for sale at the Annapolis Boat Show. The area is too small and that part of the harbor isn’t deep enough. But a lot of yacht owners swing by to check out the latest boating gadgets. You’ll see them docked outside the boat show area in the Annapolis harbor.
2) Boat Vendors
The Annapolis Boat Show has massive tents filled with vendors. These are booths selling boat parts, boating clothes, boat accessories and just about anything else boat related.
They also give out fun freebies (until they run out). The vendors don’t all focus on boating. Many sell stuff that would be interesting to outdoorsy and athletic folk.
They offer special boat show pricing. Many people come just for the bargains.
Shopping tip: a lot of items are marked down significantly on the last day of the two-week event.
3) Food – Both Inside & Outside
Churches and fundraising groups are grilling away outside the Annapolis Boat Show. They offer breakfast, lunch & dinner options. The food is typically homemade and delicious.
Inside the Boat Show, the Fleet Reserve opens up its usually “members-only” doors to the public. This organization of former Navy personnel specializes in pit beef.
The waterfront restaurant, Pussers Carribean Grill, is also cooking away on Boat Show specials.
Food vendors can get very busy on weekends, so be aware it might be challenging to find a table. But they’re used to large crowds and have a system to feed people quickly
4) Outside the Boat Show Shopping
The entire downtown Annapolis kicks into gear for the boat shows. They buy special goods to sell and they offer deals. Ask for boat show pricing if you don’t see it.
The boat show was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but vendors had already purchased their specials and were in town. They set up booths along Main Street and it was a street full of buyers’ bargains.
Sellers have been known to sell off their leftovers at great prices on the last day of the show, and after the show, in shops throughout downtown Annapolis.
5) The After-Show Party
Certain types of cocktails are expected during the Annapolis Boat Show, and they usually involve rum.
Pussers has their own rum for “Painkillers,” a boat show tradition. They open their rooftop for dining overflow during the day, and a DJ brings in party-goers later in the day.
The Fleet Reserve specializes in the beer crowd and has a wide selection on the roof and along the dock.
A boat show tent has been set aside for tastings. In 2021, they have hard seltzers, bourbon, vodka, tequila and New Zealand wine.
Walking around with a cocktail is no longer allowed. They do card and you must stay in the venue with your drink.
6) The Breakdown
On the last day of each show, the Annapolis Boat Show must remove all the boats and the floating docks surrounding them.
It’s a challenging feat and they do it quickly.
People gather along the water edge to watch. Pussers and the Fleet Reserve Club stay open for the public to watch the unofficial show.
Boat crews often toss out candy on their way out. Sailboats that sail out (without power) usually get a crowd cheer. That’s a tricky sailing manuver.
The show ends each day at 6pm. The breakdown begins at 6:30pm.
Here’s a link to a Facebook time-lapse video of the breakdown and set up.
Other Things to Know About the Annapolis Boat Show
Tickets are available online.
Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days. Thursday is the lightest day, but that’s VIP day and the most expensive day to attend. The crowd builds from 10am to 12pm, with the busiest time being the afternoon. The crowd tends to filter out about 5pm, but that doesn’t leave you much time to see anything since the show ends at 6:30pm.
The best place to park is the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium ($20 for the day), then take a shuttle to the stadium. It’s the cheapest parking and an easy in-and-out of Annapolis. The town has historically narrow streets and close-in parking is snatched up early by vendors and locals. If you want to brave driving in closer, some schools and private residents turn their grassy grounds into parking. But that’s pricier, in the $30 range and they fill quickly. The city has two downtown parking garages that charge hourly and also fill quickly.
You’re going to do a lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes.
You must remove your shoes before stepping onto a boat & leave them on the dock. Make sure they’re easy to get off-and-on.
Cash Might Be Required
Food vendors and other small vendors aren’t set up for debit or credit cards. Bring some cash. There are ATMS at the Annapolis Boat Show, but the fees may be a bit high.