Sailing into the holiday season in Frederick, MD

Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Photo credit: Jeffrey Socha (Jeffrey Socha)
Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Photo credit: Bill Adkins (Bill Adkins)
Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Photo credit: Downtown Frederick (Downtown Frederick)
Attaboy Beer Photo credit: Matthew Sprague, Visit Frederick (Matthew Sprague, Visit Frederick)
Tenth Ward Distilling Company Photo credit: @MichaelMasonStudios (@MichaelMasonStudios)
The Wine Kitchen Photo credit: Visit Frederick (Visit Frederick)
Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Photo credit: Downtown Frederick (Downtown Frederick)
Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Photo credit: Visit Frederick (Visit Frederick)
South Mountain Creamery Ice Cream Shop Photo credit: Turner Photography (Turner Photography)
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This content is provided by the Tourism Council of Frederick.

Tucked away in the heart of Frederick, Maryland, you’ll find one of the most unique winter light displays in the United States. A stroll along Carroll Creek Park in the city’s historic district will bring you alongside more than two dozen lighted and decorated sailboats, moored in the cold waters of the man-made canal. Sailing Through the Winter Solstice has become a beloved winter tradition in Downtown Frederick, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each winter. Yet, this winter light show is much more than just a fleet of adorable boats. 

Let’s start with the origin story. How did sailboats end up in this narrow strip of water about 50 miles west of the nearest access to the Chesapeake Bay? 

It starts with two men in 2016. Peter Kremers and Kyle Thomas began work on the first boat, the USS Hamster, in a garage. They floated their small vessel in the canal that winter and Sailing Through the Winter Solstice was born. In 2021-22, more than 25 boats plied the shallow waters of Carroll Creek. The boats are connected to a volunteer-led effort to beautify this urban park. Color on the Creek fills Carroll Creek with beautiful water plants and flowers during the summer. Now, the winter has become the time of the boats. 

The boats themselves are as varied as the organizations who have sponsored their construction. You’ll find mechanical row boats, a pirate ship, an aircraft carrier, boats inspired by Frederick’s famous steeples, and a trio of boats inspired by a cartoon of Frederick County’s own mythical creature – the Snallygaster (think dragon meets dinosaur with feathers and wings).  Each boat includes its own lighting display as well – a brightly colored array of lighted rigging, masts, and spars beacons visitors to explore this attraction.

Not only is this a mesmerizing display of light in the darkness of winter – it’s also a fundraiser. Each boat is tied to a non-profit organization in Frederick County. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite boats, with each vote costing $1. The money raised on the voting goes directly to support the non-profit affiliated with that boat. In 2021-22, the fleet raised more than $100,000 for these non-profit organizations and charities. Giving back to the community has never been this fun and creative. 

So you’ve decided to come down to see the boats and vote for your favorite – what’s next?

You’ll be right at the heart of Downtown Frederick – a thriving 50-block historic district with more than 200 unique shops, locally-owned businesses, and restaurants. This is an ideal place to come for holiday shopping. From independent bookstores, to battery-free toy shops, to clothing boutiques, spice and tea shops, and much, much more, you’ll find opportunities to purchase one-of-a-kind gifts that support local store owners and the Downtown Frederick community. 

A journey to see Sailing Through the Winter Solstice is also an opportunity to sample the delicious food options available right along the park. The Wine Kitchen offers a fine-dining experience overlooking the winter light display on the Creek. Savor a taste of Mexico at either La Casona or La Paz. Have a unique experience at Frederick Social, where you can grab a vending card and pour yourself a pint or a glass of wine. They also offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan dining options. And don’t let the cold ward you off ice cream – grab a cone at Sweetie’s or at the South Mountain Creamery Ice Cream shop. 

Looking for something to shake off the cold? Grab a hand-crafted cocktail at McClintock Distilling Company’s Back Bar, just steps away from the Sailing Through the Winter Solstice. Or take a few steps farther over to East Patrick Street and visit Tenth Ward Distilling Company’s Cocktail Lab for a warming beverage. 

Beer-lovers can rejoice that the city’s emerging brewing district is only a five-minute walk from the boats. Head east through Carroll Creek Park and you’ll find five breweries open and serving a variety of brews. Check out Idiom, Steinhardt, Smoketown – Creekside, Attaboy, and Attaboy Barrel House for a wide array of beer and cider. You’ll also find a rotating group of food trucks serving hungry brewery visitors. 

All of this activity is centrally located in Downtown Frederick. Make a truly memorable holiday experience in hip and historic Frederick, Maryland this holiday season.  

Plan your trip today at visitfrederick.org

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