Christmas Activities in Destin

The Beach (and everything else) is All I Want for Christmas

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Dreaming of a white Christmas? Florida may not come to mind, but here along The Emerald Coast from Destin to Panama City Beach, the shimmering white sand is as white as snow, and you don't have to shovel it! In fact on a full moon night, the lighting along the snowy white beaches and sand dunes, some of which tower up to almost thirty feet tall, makes you think some kind of freaky blizzard has occurred.  Don’t worry; it's just the beautiful white quartz crystal powdery sand that has made this part of the world famous. Many of our Ocean Reef Resorts guests choose this special time of year to visit during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Picturesque coastal villages along Scenic 30A in South Walton, as well as premier shopping destinations in Miramar Beach and Destin, are festooned with bright white lighting that decorates the stores, Live Oak trees as well as even the palms. The temperatures this time of year average around sixty degrees during the usually sunny daylight hours so you can maneuver your shopping sprees, dining and beverage stops without being freezing cold. There is a myriad of activity along the coast to provide delightful diversions for all members of the family throughout the entire month of December including the following events.

The holiday festivities kick off in nearby Ft. Walton Beach with the giant annual Christmas Parade on Monday, December 4th from 6:00 pm till 9:00 pm. There will be plenty of marching bands playing holiday salutes, festive floats, and throws of beads or candy. This makes it a perfect Christmas event for the entire family. Be sure to get there early to get a spot to watch. The parade route is on Eglin Parkway beginning at First Street and proceeding all the way out to Cinco Bayou.

The City of Destin will have their 33rd Annual Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 9th starting at 10:00 am. This year’s theme for floats and bands is “All I want for Christmas.” The parade goes down Harbor Boulevard (Highway 98) from the Downtown Destin Shopping Center where Old Time Pottery is located all the way down to Harborwalk Village, where it ends at Stahlman Avenue. Expect a fun whimsical collection of floats!

Destin Christmas Boat Parade

Image courtesy of The Good Life Destin

At Harborwalk Village on Sunday, December 10th at 6:00 pm Destin will be floating their 31st Annual Holiday on the Harbor Christmas Boat Parade. The vibrant lights on the large fleet of boats provide a unique magical shimmering event. It is a dazzling display of lights since each vessel and yacht is decorated for a promenade around the cloistered harbor. There are very few of these types of floating Christmas parades anywhere in the country, so it provides a unique and extraordinary visual experience. The Grand Finale after they reach the open harbor is an impressive fireworks display right over the bobbing boats. The main stage will also be providing a fantastic pyrotechnic event called Fire Spinning.  Santa arrives earlier at noon and will be there to visit with kids until 4:00 pm. They are encouraged to bring their letters to Santa and drop them off at a special mailbox near the main stage of Harborwalk Village. For every letter received a $1 donation will be made to the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. He will be available for additional visits at the same time thru December 17th.  

Santa Claus Pub Crawl
The Santa Clause Pub Crawl runs from Saturday, December 16th thru Sunday, December 17th from 6:00 pm thru midnight. Participants are encouraged to dress in their most festive holiday attire. (Think tacky sweaters, over the top outfits and Christmas costumes!)  Holly Jolly drink specials will be served with all proceeds going to a Junior League Children’s Clothing Drive. Spirits will be offered from 6 till 8 pm at Margaritaville and Fish Heads; 8 to 10 pm at Harry T’s and Jackacuda’s; 10 till midnight at Jester’s and Crab Island Cantina; 12 am until closing at Coyote Ugly. New Years Eve celebrations will also be held at Harborwalk Village where you may drink, dine and dance your way into the New Year at any of the beautiful waterfront restaurants or bars located there. There will be two fireworks celebrations over the harbor at 8:00 pm and Midnight. The 10th Annual Lighted Ball Drop will mark the countdown to herald in 2018 just before the fireworks extravaganza.

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort's opulent Town Center on Grand Boulevard will be awash with thousands of lights on their towering Royal Palm Trees and around the Grand Park. Multiple charities decorate individual Christmas trees on the lush lawn in a competition every year. Folks get to vote for a favorite, and the winning charity receives a donation. Santa will be there every Saturday up until Christmas to hear children’s wish lists between 2 pm and 3 pm. The upscale clothing specialty shops, boutiques, and galleries along the boulevard are a pleasure to shop in. Every Friday and Saturday night throughout December a free horse-drawn carriage takes shoppers around the Town Center from 5 pm till 8 pm while faux snow falls on the Festival of Trees Display. The Emerald Coast Theater Company’s costumed Dickenson Carolers stroll around singing charming Christmas favorites on these same evenings from 5 pm till 7 pm adding to the festive flair. Grand Boulevard has a nice selection of restaurants to choose from after completing your holiday shopping. All are within easy walking distance on the boulevard that is only four blocks long. Your drinking and dining options include Grimaldi’s Italian Restaurant, the Ovation Dining Club at the movie cinema, Tommy Bahama's Tropical Café, Cantina Laredo’s, Fleming's Steakhouse, PF Chang's,  Emeril’s Coastal Italian and The Wine Bar.

Sandestin’s charming Village of Baytowne Wharf nearby has lots of festivities planned. This delightful village was inspired by the architecture in the New Orleans French Quarter. This version is clean, picture perfect, safe and family friendly. A wide assortment of restaurants, bars, specialty stores and amusements for all ages are located here. A seasonal ice rink is available for all skaters and a holiday Ice Skating Extravaganza is planned for Friday, December 1st with two shows performed by US National Pairs Medalists Jennifer Don and Themi Leftheris at 6:00 pm and 7:30 pm. A Twelve Nights of Lights festival occurs around the village green every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night leading up to Christmas. This ultimate Christmas light show is choreographed to holiday music, and Santa is on hand as a VIP guest. Shows on each evening occur at 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm. The Wednesday night light festival coincides with live holiday music performed at the Events Plaza stage on the village green. They play favorite holiday classics at 6 pm on December 6th, 13th, and 20th. There is a fun Holiday Tuba Concert scheduled at the Events Plaza for Saturday, December 9th at 5 pm.  Baytowne Wharf ends the year with a big bang with an extravagant display of fireworks over the bay marina on December 31st at 8 pm and of course Midnight. The first part of the evening is very family friendly from 6 pm until the early fireworks show at 8 pm. Face painting, kid’s games, and live music will be performed. Bars will be open after midnight so you may dance, drink and be merry well into the New Year.


The Seaside Rep Theater in this famous coastal village off Scenic 30A will be performing at the Seaside Meeting Hall for their 8th annual smash hit comedy production of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told…And Then Some”. The delightful comedic cast performs a high energy romp for laughs and appeals to all ages. They take on every holiday classic with their own rendition of well known Christmas songs. Consistent audience participation brings fun for all. Although it provides lots laughs, the heart of the show never strays far from the meaning of the season. Tickets are available at $25 for adults and $10 for kids under 12. Performances will be held at 7:30 on December 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 2oth, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th. Matinee performances will be done at 2 pm on December 16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th.

Over in Pt. Washington at the Eden Gardens State Park on the far eastern side of the bay, the historic Wesley House will be open to the public on December 16th from 5 till 8 pm for a Christmas Open House Candlelight Tour. Admission fees are waived, but donations are welcomed. This grand antebellum styled home was completed in the late 1800s as part of a Heartwood Pine lumber baron’s residence. It was renovated in the late 20th century and filled with authentic Louis XIV antique furnishings that are absolutely gorgeous. The estate grounds and expansive lawn, adorned with giant old Live Oak trees is a sight to be seen. Lovely luminaries will be lighted in the gardens. The entire house is decked out by individual local professional decorators, and each room uses a different theme. Guests will be greeted by carolers and guided through the candlelit house. You may vote for your favorite after the tour and enjoy complimentary refreshments in the garden pavilion.

If your Christmas shopping list needs to be completed or if you didn’t get that outfit you wanted from Santa, the Silver Sands Premium Outlets should be one of your first stops. Silver Sands is one of the nation's largest Discount Outlets and offers bargain prices for up to 65% off designer goods.  Millions of shoppers arrive here throughout the year to buy merchandise for themselves, their own families as well as upcoming Christmas, birthday, wedding and anniversary gifts for others. There are so many great deals on clothing, shoes, leather goods, jewelry, crystal, china, candles, houseware items and unique gifts.

Destin Commons Christmas

Many guests visit the delightful Disneyesque Retail Complex of Destin Commons at the corners of Mid Bay Bridge Road and Highway 98 which has consistently been voted as The Best Place to Shop in Destin by readers of Emerald Coast Magazine. It is a wonderful shopping destination since this pedestrian-friendly retail village resembles some charming place in Europe complete with turrets, clock towers, and fountains. The friendly setting for a shopping stroll includes a giant decorated Christmas tree, piped in outdoor holiday music, festive fountains, restaurants, bars and Multi-Plex Movie Theater with stadium seating in case you want to catch a movie. It is anchored by Belks Department Store on the north side and the Bass Pro Shops at the other end on Highway 98. The Bass Pro Shops is always an adventure, particularly at Christmas time. They will be hosting their famous tenth annual “Santa Wonderland” daily through December 24th. A 3,500 square foot Christmas Village is set up inside the store with both animated and live elves, costumed nutcrackers, reindeer and other holiday characters. Kids will have an enchanting experience since the village features an extensive old-time model train area and remote control toy trucks.

Christmastime is “the most wonderful time of the year” in Destin, Miramar Beach and along Scenic 30A.  Ocean Reef offers a huge variety of vacation rental homes and luxury condominiums, so you can custom choose whatever size, architectural style and location that appeals to your family or friends the most. Also, you will be amazed at how affordable your accommodations will be at this time of the year. If you split the cost with family and friends, it is even less expensive than staying at a hotel! Now you too may experience our own special Florida version of a White Christmas. The snowy white beaches of The Emerald Coast await you!