2022 Parades on Land & Sea: Holiday Events throughout the Nature Coast
“I love a parade,” is one of my favorite song-pieces to belt out… others near me may look in shock at my brazen joy, but, truthfully, “I love a parade.” Fortunately, there are many organizations in Florida’s Nature Coast that feel strongly enough about it to put on holiday parades from New Port Richey to Inverness and all points in-between – by land and by sea.
Boat parades are magic to me. The community gathers in late afternoon, where local boaters have decorated their craft for a holiday theme. Around dusk, the parade along the river or bay begins, with each entry glowing – many broadcasting favorite songs to go along with their décor – and their owners and friends waving and dancing away.
Usually there are judges for the parades. It is a true honor to be chosen as a parade judge. Community service is a definite requirement for these coveted positions. As each entry glides past, the judges mark their sheets and then a winner is announced after the last watercraft has gone by.
This weekend begins Christmas Parade season. To help you plan, we have compiled a list of parades and other festive events throughout the Nature Coast that we feel are worth making part of your holiday traditions. Read on for more…
2022 Christmas Parades and Events throughout the Nature Coast
Tonight, December 1, at 6pm kicks off a month of events in downtown Brooksville with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Patricia’s Windows Come to Life, santa photos, children’s crafts and much more. Read about the month of Christmas in Brooksville here.
Friday, December 2 is Floral City’s Annual Candles and Carriages event, where luminaries are set up along Orange Avenue (also known as Avenue of the Oaks), see the historic homes from your horse-drawn carriage ride, and stop by the Duval-Metz house for a rare tour of Citrus County’s oldest home. You can read more about that here.
Saturday, December 3 Holiday Events
Saturday, December 3 offers many options to get your holiday spirit in gear. In fact, there is celebration from the north to the south, east to the west, so get out and enjoy some!
Dade City and Zephyrhills celebrate from Morning to Night
Although it’s not a parade, the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City is holding its Pioneer Christmas event from 10am to 4pm, with some unique vendors, a petting zoo, children’s activities, games, arts and crafts, live entertainment with the Geared-Up Band, traditional craft demonstrations (blacksmith, chair caning), model trains, great food, a gnome hunt with prizes, and the historic museum buildings decorated for Christmas by the Dade City Garden Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Docents, many in time period attire, will be guiding visitors. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free for under 5. There is free parking.
Later, Downtown Dade City’s 38th Annual Christmas Stroll provides a night of festive activities to share with family and friends with a tree lighting ceremony, local merchants open late, vendors, and downtown restaurants open (reservations recommended), as well as horse-drawn carriage rides and wagon rides (for a fee). A children’s area and Christmas décor add to the fun of this free event from 5-9pm.
The Festival of Lights and Christmas Parade in Zephyrhills will be from 4-9pm, with the parade starting at 7pm along 5th Avenue and 7th Street. This year’s Christmas Parade theme is A Storybook Christmas from A Christmas Carol to Mensch on a Bench, the entries promise to be fun for the whole family. Vendors, food trucks, downtown merchants staying open late are all part of the festivities. This event is put on by Zephyrhills Main Street and the City of Zephyrhills.
New Port Richey shines with the Cotee River Christmas Boat Parade 6-8pm
Join New Port Richey Main Street for the 2022 Cotee River Christmas Boat Parade.
This popular parade is open to all boats capable of legal night-time operation with a holiday theme – the more holiday lights the better! Hundreds of people gather along the banks of the river enjoying the decorated boat parade from Miller’s Bayou in Port Richey to Sims Park. Free. 6-8 p.m. Vendors are in Sims Park. Tour the Historic Hacienda Hotel. Visit the downtown merchants, craft breweries, and restaurants.
Crystal River Christmas Parade – 6 -9 pm
Deck the Halls from the South Pole to the North Pole and every land in between with parade floats celebrating Christmas Around the World as they drive up US 19. This year’s new parade route begins just south of SR44 between Walgreens and Sara’s Diner and ends at Paradise Point, just past the Truist Bank. US 19 will be shut down from 3pm to approximately 9pm south of SR 44 and US 19 with spectators able to watch from both sides of the highway! Enjoy the downtown restaurants, pubs and storefronts.
Inverness Light Up the Lake Boat Parade 5-9pm
Downtown Inverness begins its holiday events Saturday, December 3 with Light Up the Lake Boat Parade. A night of holiday fun for the whole family includes tree lighting, a lamp post decorating contest, the boat parade, visiting with Santa, children’s activities, holiday shopping, and food vendors. It is free to attend. Free parking in public lots.
Christmas Train through Crews Lake Wilderness Park Dec. 3-4 and 10-11
The Central Pasco & Gulf Railroad puts on a wonderful Christmas Train ride with their scale trains through this beautiful park. Each day offers rides from 10am-4pm for $6 each, children under 12 months free. There are vendors, food and drinks, and pictures with Santa, as well as a small museum. For more about the Central Pasco & Gulf Railroad, click here.
Friday, December 9 Holiday Events
Dade City Christmas Parade
The Dade City Christmas Parade is Friday night in downtown Dade City. The theme is a small-town Christmas, with the emphasis being on children & families. It is free to attend. There are many merchants open for holiday shopping, as well as restaurant choices. Reservations are always a good idea on event nights.
Nights of Lights at Fort Cooper State Park
Experience the magic and mystery of the holiday season during Nights of Lights from 6-8 pm on December 9 and 10 at Fort Cooper State Park. The trails, trees, pavilion, and social hall will be decked out in colorful holiday lights and decorations. This is a walking event with plenty of free parking. Pets on a leash are welcome in Fort Cooper State Park. No entrance fee will be charged. Instead, visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or an unwrapped toy for the Citrus United Basket of Inverness or pet food for Citrus County Animal Services.
Saturday, December 10 Holiday Events
Downtown Brooksville’s Christmas Parade by Brooksville Kiwanis Club – 10am-2:30 pm
Brooksville’s 48th Annual Christmas Parade sponsored by Brooksville Kiwanis Club. Come early and line the streets to see floats from local churches, nonprofits, fire trucks, dignitaries, high school marching band, mounted police and more. Afterward, have a bit at one of the local restaurants, shop in the cute boutiques, or try the Mermaid Trail. Read more about the Mermaid Trail here. Main Street closed from Hernando High School through Broad Street. Broad Street closed from Main to Bell Ave.
Weeki Wachee Boat Parade 6:30-9:30 pm
The annual Weeki Wachee Boat Parade is back. It is a great time for the community to get together, showing off unique decorations on boats, kayaks, canoes and just about anything that floats. The parade will follow the Weeki Wachee river to Bayport, turn around and return to Rogers Park. The Kayak Shack is offering $10 parking with all money matched by its owners and donated to local animal shelters and rescues! Please bring unwanted and new blankets, dog and cat food, bowls, leashes etc. Other parking will be available at the Upper Deck Cafe and Rogers Park, and possibly Mary’s Fish Camp and Bayport, pending tide and route.
Inverness Christmas Parade – noon – 4pm
Deck the Halls from the South Pole to the North Pole and every land in between celebrating Christmas Around the World theme. Beginning on Hwy 44 near Pizza Hut, the parade will follow the highway toward downtown Inverness ending at Grace Street by Mama’s Kuntry Kafe. The parade will then follow Grace Street to Highlands Blvd where it will turn right and end at the entrance to Citrus High School.
Nights of Lights at Fort Cooper State Park
This is the second night of this wonderful, relaxing holiday tradition where you can bring your pet and walk through decorated forests on the trails. Bring a pet food donation. 6-10 pm
Music in the Park Homosassa Christmas Boat Parade – Old Homosassa 6-10pm
Come enjoy Live Christmas music and watch the annual Homosassa Boat Parade from the Shores of the Old Homosassa Heritage Park, 5380 S Boulevard Dr, Homosassa, FL 34448. Cocoa and Cookies, bonfire, and friends. Bring your chairs or golf cart and join us. Live holiday music begins at 6:30pm with the Nature Coast Winds. The parade begins at dark. There is great viewing from the park, so bring a camp chair or golf cart. Park along the local streets and walk over.
Saturday, December 17 Christmas Events
Cotee River Christmas Paddle – 5-8:30 pm
This night-time paddle up the Pithlachascotee River by the Cotee River Paddler’s Club, launches from and returns to Sims Park paddling up to Francis Park and back – There will be prizes awarded for “Most Creative”, “Most original”, and “Best Overall” decorated paddle craft. Some paddlers will be giving out candy canes along the route for those on the banks who are watching.
December 17-23 Celebration of Lights
Celebration of Lights at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park
The Celebration of Lights will feature the visual and audio talents of Sebastian Hawes through a unique synchronized light and sound extravaganza, turning the park’s Garden of the Springs into a spectacle of dancing light after dark. Glittering holiday lights, ornate decorations, and festive music will set the perfect atmosphere for creating a lasting holiday family memory. In addition, there are nightly live music acts sponsored by local businesses. Learn more here.
December 2-23 Weekends
Drive through the Celebration of Lights at The Concourse
Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from December 2-23, there is a Celebration of Lights at the Concourse in Port Richey. For $20/car visitors can drive through over a mile of magical, larger than life lights! Then park and board the train for a ride ($3 per person) or walk over to Safety Town to enjoy the miniature town decorated with lights. Santa and his elves are likely to be around.
Church Street Christmas in Dade City
Church Street Christmas 2022. Make plans to attend one of three magical nights. This low-key event features a luminated candle-lit street filled with blocks of entertainment. Churches and homes are adorned with lights and decorations. Live musicians on several porches. Walk the cobblestone street and take in the historic homes and churches decorated for the season. Free. Just park in downtown Dade City and walk over from 7 to 9 pm December 21-23.
So, there it is. There are many, many more holiday events throughout Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties. Special music groups, club events, family events and fundraising events to help you get into the spirit of this wonderful season. If we missed an event that is special to you, please add it in the comments. Feel free to visit our Events Calendar for more and, no matter what you choose to do, be blessed as you are a blessing to others. Slow down a bit. Think about all you have to be grateful for and share that bounty with others… even just a smile or a kind word can mean so much to our fellow humans.