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Boat Shows – What Are They All About?

By Captain Nitzan Levy
Published April 12, 2022

Feeling the off-season blues? Winter doesn’t mean we don’t need to think or talk about boats, just as much as we would during the summer! In fact, there is no better time to prepare for your coming boating season than the winter! Most boat shows in the US are taking place during the coldest winter months in most states - January-March. Sounds too cold? Don’t worry! Boat shows that are taking place over the winter months (With the exception of the Miami Boat Show), are actually taking place in convention centers, rather than outdoors and on the water. 

Over the years, I visited over 30 boat shows, mostly in the US. As a hardcore sailor, I felt at home in each and every boat show I went to, even those who are strictly for powerboaters. Whether you are already a recreational boater or just a “wanna-be”, most boat shows will be a great way for you to get immersed in the boating world.  

Boat shows are typically organized by industry associations and take place in almost all 50 states. The exhibitors vary based on the location and cater to the characteristics of the local boating community. For example, a boat show on a landlocked lake or a river would typically display pontoons, jet skis, Hobie cats, and other smaller shallow-draft vessels. Boat shows by the oceans or the great lakes will have much bigger vessels on display. 

The main attraction for most visitors would be to check out boats. Stepping onto the boat of your dreams is an amazing experience. Some take that dream one step further and actually buy a boat, some are getting ideas and inspiration for their next boat purchase and the rest of them are just enjoying the moment.

In addition to boats, boat shows are showcasing many other activities, attractions, and interests. Vendors are usually offering great deals on their merchandise during boat shows, and typically there are live demonstrations and seminars on different boat-related topics, such as DIY boat maintenance, rigging, boating safety, boat rides, and more. Vendors exhibiting at the boat show would-be manufacturers, sellers, or service providers that could be offering either:

  • Equipment or services designed specifically for boaters, for example, engines/motors, boat electronics, navigational instruments, navigation tools, boat accessories, spare parts, fishing equipment, marinas, maintenance products, dinghies, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, etc. 
  • Equipment or services that are complementary to the boating lifestyle, for example, cleaning supplies, clothing, fashion accessories such as bags, glasses, hats, thermal equipment, kitchen/galley ware, flags, etc.
  • Equipment or services that are more general and geared mostly for the boat show visitor demographic profile, such as travel, diving, tourism boards, art, smart life gadgets, real estate, etc. 

For those of you who love to learn new things, most boat shows will offer educational sessions around: navigation, safety, boat maintenance, fishing, docking, living aboard, planning a passage, and more. Some sessions will be theoretical and some will be hands-on. 

Whether you are already a recreational boater, or just a “wanna-be”, most boat shows will be a great way for you to get immersed in the boating world.  

Since family takes a major part in most boaters' life, boat shows typically allot a whole section for families with kids and offer activities such as kayaking, rowing, remote-controlled boats, model boat building, and more. Additionally, there will be resting areas and food and beverage vendors available for visitors who are spending the day at the boat show.

Capt. Nitzan’s favorite boat shows (to date):

Boat shows on Capt. Nitzan’s radar:

Link: list of all US boat shows and dates.


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