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Christmas Date Ideas: Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Mystic, CT

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

We are really excited that we’re just three weeks away from my favorite holiday: Christmas. Ok, I should rephrase that. I am really, really excited. I tend to go a little overboard and my poor husband is caught in the wake. We made a deal that there would be no mention of Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. So naturally, the day after Thanksgiving, my husband woke up to a fully decorated house and two days after the turkey day, we were headed to a double date with some friends in Mystic, Connecticut to kick of Christmas festivities watching boats covered in bright little lights float down Mystic River.

This is our second time heading to Mystic and as usual, we were enchanted by its charm and beautiful water fronts. Don’t be fooled by its small town feel though. When it comes time to celebrate fall and winter, they know how to do it right. From Clyde’s Cider Mill and corn mazes in the fall to their Holiday Boat Parade and Christmas tree lighting, there’s plenty to do and see in the holiday seasons.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

For this date, we met up with a couple who live in Mystic. We picked out a spot in a park right next to the river a few minutes early and waited for the boats to come in with warm coffee in hand. A word to the wise: this is a popular event and there will be traffic coming in. When the boat show happens, the town pulls up its draw bridge adding to the mess of traffic for the poor souls that didn’t arrive on time. We unfortunately missed the Christmas tree lighting so we highly recommend coming early to avoid the traffic and find parking.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

When the boats started coming in, the crowds started cheering. Boats of different sizes, types and decorations floated by. Each one had a different theme like Star Wars, gingerbread houses, sleigh rides or were decked out with an abundance of lights. The boats are actually judged on creativity and team spirit and receive awards like Most Charismatic Crew, Innovative Vessel, Best Dressed Vessel, and Miss Mystic Vessel of Grandeur. Each of us had our favorites but we were too far up the river to hear the results.

Once the boat show ended, we headed off to dinner. We originally had plans to go to the Engine Room – a restaurant with locally sourced, creative American comfort food and views of the river. However, due to how packed the town was, we were not able to make a reservation. Make reservations the day before! C’est la vie. It just gives us another reason to come back to this cute little town. Our friends brought us to an excellent Italian place instead and we still had just as much fun with good food and even better conversation.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

We said good night to our friends and decided to take some “us” time. Because we didn’t see the tree lighting, we headed over to the Mystic Christmas tree. If you like to avoid crowds, coming to see the tree after the parade is over is a great idea. No one was there! We took photos in front of the tree and then crossed over the river to enjoy it from a distance with the reflection of it on the water – a beautiful sight!

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

After enjoying the Christmas tree, we walked down Main Street and enjoyed the pretty little decorated shop windows and the decked out buildings. And of course, when passing by the Patagonia store, we gave each other ideas for Christmas presents. We took our sweet time and when we got our fill of the sights, we headed back home with no traffic thanks to leaving so late.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade - Mystic Connecticut

We loved the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Mystic, Connecticut. It was a perfect way to kick off the beginning of winter with lots of Christmas spirit. It’s also a perfect Christmas date night idea.


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