It may seem counterintuitive to have boat show season ramp up just as our time on the water grows short but that’s the nature of the marine industry. As boaters start to winterize their craft for the cold deep sleep heading into 2020, they also start dreaming about their adventures in the following season. Boat builders and marine equipment manufacturers know this so they launch their new models as the leaves start to fall to whet the appetites of those who will be dreaming (and spending) big during the chilly winter.
Here are some of the finest shows around the country that will tempt boaters over the next 12 months, from the end of 2019 up until the following boat show season begins in 2020.
United States Powerboat Show
Dates: October 3-6 2019
The historic seaport of Annapolis, Maryland attracts major powerboat builders each October and it’s the place to be whether you’re looking for a yacht, a center console fishing boat or a kayak. You can also shop electronics, angling gear, apparel, tenders, accessories and engines, all at the City Dock in the heart of downtown, next to the world-famous Annapolis Naval Academy.
Speak with industry representatives and climb aboard hundreds of boat models. For those looking at pre-owned vessels, brokerage boats will be on display as well. Free seminars on topics like docking and navigation will be available 11:00-5:00 on Friday and Saturday however, the very popular fee-based Cruisers University classes have sold out for 2019. Those purchasing tickets online will be entered to win a six-day charter vacation in the British Virgin Islands. For more information, visit annapolisboatshows.com.
United States Sailboat Show
Dates: October 10-14 2019
Normally held right after the powerboat show, the Annapolis sailboat show has switched places this year so boaters and buyers can take advantage of the long weekend. Celebrating 50 years in 2019, the show is touted as the most comprehensive sailboat show in the country and the camaraderie of this sailing community creates a buzz like at no other venue. Pussers will be hopping as Pain Killers flow and contracts for new boats are signed.
A large focus every year is on multihulls, which are emerging as very popular platforms, and also Vacation Basin, set up in Ego Alley where an unmatched number of charter companies will offer to whisk you away to destinations around the world. New boaters can learn to sail via two-hour workshops while experts learn even more at Cruisers University (also sold out for 2019). Of course there’s never a shortage of great crab cakes and friendly faces so Annapolis is more than a boat show, it’s a boating destination. For more information, visit annapolisboatshows.com.
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS)
Dates: October 30 – November 3, 2019
South Florida’s fall flagship show is celebrating its 60th year. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is the largest in-water show in the world and entices a clientele from around the globe. The five-day event showcases more than 1,500 vessels so if you’re shopping for a powerboat, whether a tender, a cruiser or a superyacht, this is the one show you must attend.
The show hosts 110,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors from 52 countries each year and spreads out across seven venues showcasing vessels from skiffs to superyachts. Tickets start at $34 but if money’s no object, you can splurge on the Windward VIP Club experience. For $300 per person per day, you’ll have access to an exclusive climate-controlled tent with outdoor terraces and an open bar with gourmet food as well as complimentary transportation by water taxi. Numerous activities include kids’ fishing clinics, the Yacht Chef Competition and free seminars. For more information, visit flibs.com.
St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show
Dates: December 5 - 8, 2019
For a totally laid back affair with a great vibe, set course to the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, the largest combination show on the Gulf Coast. The show is both affordable and manageable so you can really take your time and visit both power and sailboats to get the feel for boating’s entire spectrum. Then enjoy lunch with a rum punch and tropical tunes in an on-water lounge tent.
Dozens of seminars are offered so you can rest your weary feet and learn something at the same time. In the evenings, St. Petersburg serves up dozens of excellent restaurants in a compact downtown with a college town feel. For more information, visit stpeteboatshow.com.
Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show
Dates:January 8-12, 2020
Chicago in the dead of winter may seem like a strange venue to hold a boat show but don’t worry, you’ll be toasty since the entire show is indoors at McCormick Place. It may be snowing out but inside you’ll find sailing seminars, virtual reality docking demos, trout pond fishing, kayak and board paddling, a hands-on dinghy sailing simulator and even remote sailboat racing. Relax a while at the Corona Beach Bar & Cantina that’s complete with a sandy floor to transport you to a tropical paradise.
If you want to keep your vacation options open, check out both boats and RVs and book up you entire summer right at this show. For more information, visit chicagoboatshow.com.
Seattle Boat Show
Dates: January 24-February 1, 2020
The longest boat show in terms of the number of days, the Seattle Boat Show offers attendees plenty of chances to visit so if you’d rather avoid crowds, there’s a way to do that mid-week. The show is both indoors at CenturyLink Field and outdoors in the water at South Lake Union’s Chandler’s Cove. Each year, the show offers over 230 seminars so if it’s boating education you seek, this is the place to find it.
With all the days of the show, you can take time to visit local attractions like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. And of course, there’s no better place for fresh seafood so why not make a vacation of it in January? For more information, visit seattleboatshow.com.
Miami International Boat Show
Dates: February 13-17, 2020
Possibly the most renowned show in North America, the Miami International Boat Show is a spectacle to behold. Now centralized in one location at the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, this behemoth show offers just about everything boating related including sail and powerboats, demo docks, seminars, on-water training and huge tents of vendors showcasing gear, engines and services. For anyone in search of a catamaran, this is the preeminent show for multihulls on this side of the Atlantic.
Transportation is via water taxis and shuttle buses since there are no hotels on Virginia Key so leave the driving to someone else and enjoy Miami’s rocking nightlife as well. For more information, visit miamiboatshow.com.
Miami Yacht Show
Dates: February 13-17, 2020
Running concurrently with the Miami Boat Show, the Miami Yacht Show has moved south from its previous location on Collins Avenue and brings dozens of large yachts to One Herald Plaza in downtown. Enjoy views of Biscayne Bay while browsing new and pre-owned vessels and if you’re looking for a superyacht, a sister venue called SuperYacht Miami can be found at nearby Island Gardens Deep Harbour on Watson Island.
In 2019, for its inaugural evening at the new venue, the show hosted a celebration featuring an exclusive evening dock experience including entertainment, cocktails and food for $50 per couple with proceeds benefiting the Frost Museum of Science. Stay tuned to see if they will repeat this posh affair. For more information, visit miamiyachtshow.com.
Palm Beach International Boat Show
Dates: March 26-29, 2020
The 35th annual Palm Beach International Boat Show will be held at the end of March, a time when the weather is just about perfect in South Florida. The show is located in West Palm Beach and will feature more than $1.2 billion worth of yachts and accessories, including vessels ranging from eight to nearly 300 feet. Lounges on floating docks, live music and refreshments will welcome visitors who are encouraged to come by boat and tie up at free docks located south of the in-water displays.
The Palm Beach show is gaining popularity and is described as the relaxed cousin of some of the other big shows. Although you’ll likely see many powerboats, sailors may find what they’re looking for as well. For deep-sea anglers, four days of seminars on sportfishing will provide plenty to see and learn. For more information, visit pbboatshow.com.
Pacific Sail & Powerboat Show
Dates: April 16-19, 2020
Brisk breezes usually welcome show goers to Richmond in Northern California where the Pacific Sail & Powerboat Show holds its annual marine sports expo. Over 100 exhibitors take over the Craneway Pavilion (a 45,000 square-foot facility in an old Ford assembly plant) and Marina Bay Yacht Harbor (an easily-accessible marina in the protected inner waters of San Francisco Bay.) The open design of the show hosts dozens of seminars and there’s plenty of nearby parking (1,200 spaces) so visiting is a breeze.
Free shuttles offer fast transit throughout the entire venue. For more information, visit pacificboatshow.com.
Newport Boat Show
Dates: April 23-26,2020
All the big boat show fun isn’t centralized in Florida and just to prove it, the Newport Boat Show draws thousands in April to the Lido Marina Village in beautiful Newport Beach, California. The show will be celebrating its 47th year as the premier big boat show on the West Coast. Serious cruisers can board more than 200 motoryachts, trawlers and sailboats as they plan their escape to Alaska or Mexico.
With kids under 12 free and no-charge parking available, this show is one of the city’s best and most affordable attractions. Lido Village has undergone a complete facelift so there are top-notch eateries and bars just at the top of the dock ramps, making this show a destination for everyone. For more information, visit newportinwaterboatshow.co.
Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival
Dates: September 11-13, 2020
For pure charm and an unbeatably magical old-world feeing, Port Townsend is a major draw for those enthralled by the beauty of wooden boats and the rich maritime culture. Collectors and classics aficionados bring families for the entire weekend to Point Hudson to appreciate old world craftsmanship and to celebrate the longevity of sailing with this unique community.
Each year on the first day, the show honors members of the community with “The Wooden Boat Foundation Lifetime Achievement in Wood Boat Community and Spiri” award. The even is held at the Maritime Center and is open to the public. The next day, the annual “Race to Alaska” bash is held and sea stories flow freely. Tickets are $30.
Over the three days, you can visit 300 wooden boats, listen to 100 presenters and check out the wares of 50 exhibitors. Show organizers also welcome volunteers for special duties. For more information, visit woodenboatshow.org.
Newport International Boat Show
Dates: September 17-20, 2020
There’s hardly a more boating-infused venue than Newport, Rhode Island that hosts the Newport International Boat Show and kicks off the North American boat show season. Passionate sailors join the blue blazer yacht crowd at the 13-acre waterfront venue in downtown Newport that bristles with all things nautical.
The fun Newport For New Products program highlights gear and equipment making their first-ever debut in the United States. Newport’s coastal scenery, national historic sites including the renowned mansions, and world-class restaurants combine with the fall foliage in New England for a perfect getaway for the whole family. Don’t forget to visit Newport Shipyard for an offering of pre-owned brokerage boats and grab a lobster roll while you’re there just to enjoy the full New England experience.
Fun Year Round
These are just the highlights of US shows and there are dozens of regional, local and specialized boat shows you may want to check out in your area. However, even with just this list, dedicated boaters have no shortage of boat shows to attend over the next year so if you want to see what’s new, hot, exciting and classy, start making reservations now. You can enjoy all things boating through the winter and right into next autumn if you play your cards right.