Guide To 2012 Holiday Boat Parades In Tampa Bay

November 18, 2012 8:00 AM

Holiday Boat Parade. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

There’s nothing that beats the pleasures of Florida living like enjoying a boat parade in sports shirts, shorts and flip-flops while the rest of the nation is just digging in for a long, cold winter. Two of the biggest and best boat parades in the Tampa Bay area are set for December 8 and are only a few miles apart with one in St. Petersburg and another at the beach community of Treasure Island.

St. Petersburg Illuminated Boat Parade
Vinoy Park
701 Bayshore Drive N.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 822-3277

Date: December 8 at 6 p.m.

Getting there is easy indeed from either north out of Tampa or from the south out of Bradenton. Take Interstate 275 to the I-275 exit (#23A) and continue on to 4th Avenue North. Look for the iconic inverted pyramid that caps the St. Petersburg Pier. There are numerous parking spaces available in the immediate area with garages and surface lots along the waterfront that offer easy access to the best viewing spots around the north yacht basin. Of course, the earlier the better when it comes to snagging the nearest spot. The Rotary Club of St. Petersburg started the city’s official boat parade 26 years ago. Since then, the parade has seemingly grown to be bigger and better every year. While the parade itself starts at 6 p.m., there’s a whole boatload of places to have fun in and around the area before and after the parade.

The Dali Museum
1 Dali Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 823-3767

The largest collection of the Spanish surrealist master outside of Europe resides in the appropriately psychedelic museum on St. Petersburg’s Bayboro waterfront. The permanent collection includes thousands of Dali’s works including oil paintings, watercolors and sculptures. However, the museum holds seven of Dali’s 18 “masterworks” including the breathtaking “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” and “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” The museum opens its doors at 10 a.m., giving anyone who wants to sample some of the most breathtaking works of art in the world ample time before watching the boat parade.

Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill
1320 Central Ave.
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 822-4562

For 20 years, Mark Ferguson and his friendly staff have been playing host to sports fans looking for a cold drink and the best in sports bar-style food. Starting off as not much more than a “hole in the wall” across from St. Petersburg Police headquarters, Ferg’s has grown into a two-story enterprise covering almost two city blocks. It’s the perfect spot for parade goers to grab a late lunch and watch some football before staking out a viewing spot along the north yacht basin parade route.

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Mahaffey Theater
400 1st St. S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 892-5798

For after-parade entertainment, there are any number of watering holes and party destinations to seek out in downtown St. Petersburg. But for a different kind of entertainment, the fabulous Mahaffery Theater is just a few blocks south of the prime boat parade viewing areas along Bayshore Drive. With a little planning, a day at the Dali, dinner at Ferg’s and a splendid boat parade could be capped by the Florida Orchestra’s performance starting at 8 p.m. Under the baton of Maestro Julian Kuerti, Schubert’s majestic “Symphony Number 9” might be the way to round out an evening of culture and fun mixed together in a way that only St. Petersburg can offer.

Treasure Island Holiday Boat Parade
The Club at Treasure Island
400 Treasure Island Causeway
Treasure Island, FL 33706
(727) 367-4511

Date: December 8 at 7 p.m.

What Treasure Island lacks in size, it more than makes up for in community spirit, especially when it comes to its annual boat parade. The brilliantly decorated boats remind some people of the glittering Las Vegas Strip. This may be an exaggeration but why not come out and judge for yourself? Coming from the north or the south, Interstate 275 is your main drag. Look for the Florida 595 exit (#23B) and head west, turn right on Central Avenue and keep going when it turns into Treasure Island Causeway. The parade arrives at the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge at 7 p.m. and ends at 8:15 p.m. at Johns Pass. Treasure Island offers a number of great places to watch the parade and maybe hoist a frosty beverage.

Gators Cafe & Saloon
12754 Kingfish Drive
Treasure Island, FL 33706
(727) 367-8951

Gators Cafe & Saloon has been the go-to spot on Treasure Island for 20 years. Constantly remodeled and expanded, Gators now boasts of having the world’s largest waterfront bar. Whether it’s watching a holiday boat parade, watching sports or just enjoying the world-class waterfront view, Gators is a true Treasure Island landmark. As the boss says, “Ya gotta go to Gators!”

Johns Pass Village
12901 Gulf Blvd.
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
(727) 394-0756

The Treasure Island Holiday Boat Parade ends at Johns Pass Village. With more than 100 merchants offering shopping, fishing tours and plenty of places for your eating and drinking pleasure, you might just want to get there in time for lunch, wander the village and find a place to people watch while you wait for the parade to start.

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Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at

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