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Whether you are in the market for your first sailboat or consider yourself a yachting enthusiast, there is no better place to find like-minded aficionados than at a boat show. From the moment you arrive, you can anticipate meeting yacht builders, boat designers, brokers and fans from all over the world, from Florida to Dubai. The variety of boats on display can be mind-boggling, and the opportunities to socialize and strengthen your nautical skills are in abundance.

What to Expect

While every boat show is a little bit different, each highlights a genuine love for the ingenuity and artistry behind these vessels. U.S. boat shows display everything from cutting-edge superyachts to trawlers, from ski boats to sailing yachts, from canoes to the latest sport fishers. And while many overseas shows focus only on luxury brands, many of the U.S. shows, including the highly influential Florida boat shows, cover a range of options.

If you aren’t ready to buy, there is still much for you to enjoy. After checking out the newest vessel designs, you often can browse the boating supplies and accessories, find the latest in gear and shop for gifts for your nautically-minded friends.

Many shows take this opportunity to offer skills courses, from the basics for beginning sailors to advanced training. You can learn about a variety of water sports, attend seminars on underwater photography and even explore ocean-inspired art exhibits (a particular specialty of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale show). And, of course, there is always something on the schedule to entertain the kids.

VIP experiences are also becoming more common. From private dining areas to open bars to meet-and-greet opportunities, shows are creating social atmospheres for enthusiasts, designers and brokers to network and share their love of yachting (and make a deal or two of course).

Top Boat Shows in the United States

Held every November, The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (aka FLIBS) is arguably the largest boat show in the world. It’s not just that this Florida event encompasses seven different locations or nearly 3 million square feet of exhibition space that makes it so impressive. Rather, it is the expectation of an incredible selection of brand new-to-market superyachts that will leave you dreaming of luxury voyages for days to come. And these expectations are met year after year when more than 1,500 vessels go on display – Fort Lauderdale refers to itself as the “Superyacht Capital of the World” for a reason. You can also get a glimpse of some of the world’s most exotic cars, socialize in a special VIP section which is climate-controlled and near all the action and attend skills seminars, all in a laid-back beach setting.

Also grabbing headlines in Florida is the Miami International Boat Show. Referred to as an “epic” show, this event takes over three different venues every February as it displays more than 1,300 boats on land and nearly 700 in the water. Like Fort Lauderdale, their VIP experiences are growing, and entertainment is taking on an even bigger role.

The Providence Boat Show in Rhode Island is one of the biggest winter boat shows in the United States. For the last 20 years, this mid-January show has  featured racing sailboats, cruising sailboats, fishing powerboats and more. Hundreds of boats are on display, along with inflatables, kayaks and accessories.

The Atlanta Boat Show remains the most prominent show in the South and has been for more than 50 years. This show combines the lure of the latest sports cruisers and houseboats with entertainment attractions. Come for the fishing boats and stay for the indoor Wake Park.

One of the largest indoor shows in the United States takes place in mid-January in Cleveland, Ohio. The Mid-America Boat Show reveals to enthusiasts the newest sailboats, cruisers and more. Presentations and expert speakers draw the crowds and cover everything from finance to engine repair.

The Northwest plays host to the Seattle Boat Show from late January to early February. Taking advantage of both indoor and outdoor venues, Seattle showcases more than 1,000 recreational craft. Seminars are always on the schedule, and there is a festival-like atmosphere that keeps people smiling and coming back for more.

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