Presented by Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood
Join the Crowds for Festive Holiday Fun on Saturday, December 12

The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade has been a Fort Lauderdale institution for Hard Rock Cafedecades, with the first boats being presented down the Intracoastal Waterway back in 1971. Over the years, the Winterfest Boat Parade has grown to become one of the defining holiday moments for thousands across South Florida, and for millions more watching locally and nationally on television. This year’s Winterfest is the 44th presentation of boats and will be held on Saturday, December 12, beginning in downtown Fort Lauderdale at 6 p.m.

Over a million people will be lined up along the New River and the Intracoastal to view the elaborately decorated ships (the more decorations and light, the better!). Over the past four 2015Winterfest_copydecades, the Winterfest Boat Parade has earned quite a few accolades and distinctions. Organizers say that the Winterfest Boat Parade is the largest one-day live audience event presented each year in Florida, and it even ranks among the top ten largest events in the country! It has been named one of the Top 100 Events in America by Reader’s Digest and has also been named one of the Top 20 Parades in the World by the International Festival and Events Assocation, placing Winterfest in great company alongside such legendary parades as the Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This year’s theme is “Fairy Tales Afloat” and all ships will be asked to incorporate the theme somehow into their final product. All of the boats will take a twelve-mile route, beginning on the New River. The staging area consists of the docks west of Stranahan House down to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. When the boats begin the procession at 6:30 p.m., thirty minutes after introductions, they will travel east to the Intracoastal Waterway and then north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach.

Boats in the Winterfest Boat Parade range from small private boats to corporate yachts. Some of the most-anticipated boats in the lineup include the Floridian Princess, which will carry the grand marshal; the reindeer barge, sponsored by The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale; and the Santa Showboat, sponsored by Baptist Health. If you’d like to purchase your own spot in the parade, boat entries are currently being accepted online and the price starts at just $35 for private entrants. Download your application by going to winterfestparade.com.

There are a few events leading up to the big parade, with the most important being an invitation-only Grand Marshal VIP Party, which will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 11. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler will give the key to the city to this year’s grand marshal and Riverwalk, Inc. will present the grand marshal with a brick in his name for the local Celebrity Walk of Fame, to be installed on the banks of the staging area.

NickCannonThis year’s grand marshal is comedian, actor and rapper Nick Cannon. Cannon first became famous for his role in the teenage sketch comedy show All That in 1998. As a recording artist, he has released two albums: Nick Cannon (2003) and White People Party Music (2014). He has also hosted the TV series Wild ‘n Out for MTV and MTV2 and America’s Got Talent for NBC. He has two children with ex-wife Mariah Carey.

The parade is free to view, but if you want some of the best seats, consider purchasing a seat in the grandstand viewing area inside Birch State Park. Tickets are $25 per person and include food, drinks, and a family game area with a rock-climbing wall. There will also be parade commentary provided by Big 105.9. Parking is available at The Galleria and $5 round-trip will get you to and from Birch State Park. The grandstand area opens at 3:30 p.m. and bus service concludes an hour after the parade is over. To buy tickets, visit winterfestparade.com/events/grandstand-viewing-area.

The New River will close to boat traffic at 2:30 p.m. on the Parade day and the Intracoastal will close at 5:20 p.m. south of the Oakland Park Bridge and at 6:20 p.m. north of the bridge. Any unauthorized boats will be asked to turn around.

For more information on the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, visit winterfestparade.com or visit facebook.com/winterfest.parade.

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.