Thanksgiving in Destin and The Emerald Coast

Thanksgiving is the unique 147 year old American holiday, set aside to give thanks for God's blessings. It was established by Abraham Lincoln during one of America's darkest times in 1863, shortly after the devastating Gettysburg battle during the Civil War. In both good times and in bad, Thanksgiving has always been a gathering to celebrate our biggest blessing, that of beloved friends and family. Here along the Emerald Coast, Ocean Reef welcomes many who venture here for this annual, traditional celebration. Due to our climate and location, this holiday usually coincides with a sunny, warm beach ambiance and the peak of “fall foliage” for this part of the Tropics!

Thanksgiving in Destin

The routine along the Emerald Coast usually goes like this: Eat and drink. Go to the beach. Feast. Go golfing, boating, fishing, shopping and play tennis. Eat and drink some more!  Since feasting is obviously the biggest part of the Thanksgiving celebration, Ocean Reef Resorts is pleased that our many private rental accommodations often come with big dining rooms and large, fully equipped kitchens. The choices range from beach side mansions to charming cottages to luxury Gulf front condominiums. Whether you feast in or dine out it's great to have a “home away from home” to enjoy visiting with family and friends.  (Don't worry, there are also a huge amount of feasts available if you don't want to do the shared cooking option from scratch!)

If you do want to cook you can pick up prepared gourmet entrees from Sarah Ks Gourmet caterers. They do all the work and have a wide variety of delicious food, having won the Best of the Emerald Coast Awards here in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. These dishes “are each twenty minutes till ready in a 450 degree oven.” (You can take all the credit!) Be sure to try their half pound, award winning crab cakes which are the size of a baseball. You also receive a free dish of their famous seafood sauce as an Ocean Reef guest. They also plan to do a local Southern favorite this year...fried turkey! Another tasty “warm up” option includes any local Publix grocery store which prepares a readymade traditional turkey meal and/or the Honey Baked Ham Store in Destin providing their delectable, spiral rolled specialty.

A free Thanksgiving dinner will be provided for the sixteenth year in a row by Harbor Docks Restaurant overlooking the Destin Harbor. Volunteers provide this free meal to anyone who comes in, with donations requested which go to Habitat for Humanity. This charitable event has raised tens of thousands of dollars over the years, so you can feast here, all in the name of a good cause! Meals begin at 11 am on Thanksgiving morning and are served throughout the afternoon.

For a nautical, memorable feast, you may wish to take a Thanksgiving Buffet Dinner Cruise on the SS Solaris which isThanksgiving Dinner Cruise anchored at the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin. This 5,300 square foot, three tiered yacht, complete with an open sky deck, boards at 12:15 pm on Thanksgiving Day for a 1:00 launch. The two hour Bay Buffet Cruise includes herb roasted turkey with cornbread dressing, pineapple-brown sugar glazed ham, and pan seared grouper with a champagne butter sauce along with delicious side dishes as well as desserts. A full bar is available for drinks upon boarding with the buffet starting thirty minutes later. On line reservations run about $59 for adults and $27 for kids 10 or younger. (Remember that on regular dinner cruises, as a guest of Ocean Reef Resorts, your first dinner is on us with two or more. So if you like this go back again!)

Although there are many Thanksgiving Buffet Feasts available up and down the Emerald Coast, one of the most opulent, deliciously decadent settings will be at the Baytowne Village Conference Center in Sandestin. Held in the Magnolia Ballroom, it offers the following “eats”travaganza: Chilled Seafood including local fresh Oysters, Shrimp and Rock Crab Claws on Ice Sculptures; Smoked Salmon; Carved Turkey, Roast Beef and Ham Stations; Seared Salmon, Lemon Thyme Chicken and Short Ribs; Assorted Salads, Fruits, Cheese, Vegetables, Special Casseroles, Breads and Soup; and finally the Chef's Signature Desserts which include a huge assortment, of cakes, pies, puddings, tortes, crepes, mousse, pastries and holiday cookies.  Wow! This is located near many of our Ocean Reef Resort properties so you have the option of walking it off if need be!  Tickets are $35 for adults and $16 for kids 11 or under.

Don't forget that besides the buffets, if you want some great seafood, steaks, Mexican, Asian, or Italian you have great restaurants available congregated along with shopping venues. Check out charming Baytowne Village or the Chic Grand Boulevard in Sandestin, the shopper award winning Destin Commons near the Mid Bay Bridge in “new” Destin or picturesque Harborwalk Village in “old” Destin and the almost brand new million square feet of Pier Park in Panama City Beach. Then there are always the restaurants on Scenic Gulf Drive or Scenic 30A in the Beaches of South Walton! Decisions, decisions.

Besides feasting, another Thanksgiving tradition starts the very next day. It's called power shopping! This significant Friday (Black Friday) is usually the biggest shopping day of the year due to the start of gift buying for the next big holiday...Christmas!  Besides the shopping villages mentioned above, another star of attraction for this day is the Silver Sands Designer Outlet with over 100 stores. Discounts can go up to 75% off for designer names in both adult and kid's clothing, shoes, leather goods, linens, sheets and towels, crystal, china, jewelry, colognes, candles, soaps and even kitchen ware. It is the largest Designer Outlet in the nation and attracts huge amounts of shoppers from the southeast and increasingly beyond. A free Christmas concert is held every night, beneath a forty foot tall tree near the Off Saks Fifth Avenue courtyard. Christmas carols play choreographed music to an ever changing display of over 70,000 red, green and white holiday lights which shimmer, sparkling on the tree!

Besides shopping and feasting, there are other events and activities to choose from during your Thanksgiving get away.  Events include a “Run the Panhandle 5K Race” which kicks off November 27th on Saturday morning at 7:30 at Ft. Walton Beach Landing. All proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army projects.

A “Magical Night of Jazz” will be held on Saturday, November 27th from 6:30 pm to 11:00pm at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Hwy 98 in Ft. Walton Beach.

In Panama City Beach from November 24 thru the 28th, there is the 42nd annual “Snapper Bowl Thanksgiving Classic” which features young football athletes from all over the nation to compete in this long running tournament.

On Saturday, November 27th at 5:30 pm, the 24th annual “Boat Parade of Lights” launches from old Panama City.  This floating Christmas light parade, travels from the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club and goes over to the St. Andrews Marina with lots of viewing spots in between!

Remember too that as an Ocean Reef guest you get one complimentary round of golf on us at both the Bluewater Bay Golf Club in nearby Niceville over the Mid Bay Bridge and the Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach! (There 20% off discounts for our guests at Seascape in Miramar Beach as well as Emerald Bay.)

Whatever Thanksgiving celebrations you choose during your stay with us, Ocean Reef wishes you an annual beach tradition filled with fun family memories, friendship and many blessings!