July 4th in Destin and the Emerald Coast

Be Patriotic Along the Shore

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The heartwarming memories of tomorrow with friends and family are always created today. That is why each day is considered a gift. As the old saying goes: “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery but Today is the present.”  These bright cherished moments in time, with loved ones, are what life is all about. Certainly the most wonderful memories occur during major holidays, on special trips with friends and on fun family vacations.

Ocean Reef has the next wonderful memory waiting for you here along the Emerald Coast over the upcoming, long 4th of July holiday weekend. Many of our loyal guests have made a traditional journey to Destin and the Emerald Coast every year for the celebration of our nation's birth. It is not a surprise to us since there are so many cherished memories to be had here.

The July 4th experience runs the whole gamut from nostalgic, charming village outings with old fashioned games and BBQ around the green to free live concerts under the stars in outdoor amphitheaters to musically choreographed, fabulous fireworks over the water just about everywhere! You can choose whichever memory you wish to create in a variety of unique settings.

If you want to have an “in town” 4th of July happening, Destin's Harborwalk Village  has five days of celebrations planned for America's 235th birthday. This village is located right on the Destin harbor, the home of the Gulf of Mexico's largest private charter fishing fleet at the East Pass Bridge which connects to the five mile stretch of National Seashore towards the west. This is the heart of Destin where fresh caught fish are unloaded daily on the docks by the lucky charter Captains and their adventurous, angler guests. Pontoon party boat rentals, jet skis, fishing charters, dolphin sunset cruise and large sailing schooners are readily available. Restaurants, retail shops and waterside bars with open decks are in abundance here providing a fun, festive atmosphere in an idyllic village setting.

On Thursday, June 30th the action begins with a Red, White and Blue Celebration. Live musical entertainment starts in the late afternoon on the outdoor village stage with a World War II replica plane flyover schedules before sunset at 7:20 pm. Speaking of sunsets, Harborwalk Village has some of the best due to its location which is at the edge of the western peninsula in old Destin. This time of year the sun actually sets right over the Choctawhatchee Bay towards the northwest but usually lights up the whole sky across Okaloosa Island and out into the southern gulf. During a calm twilight, the awesomely colored sunset is also reflected as a mirror image in the waters that extend out in all directions. Fireworks here above harbor also provide magical, multiple reflections as the lighted, anchored boats of spectators gently bob up and down below. The first of THREE firework displays will occur at Harborwalk on Thursday night. On Friday, July 1st there will be a Family Fun Fest complete with karaoke contests, JD's Fun House and lots of activities for the kids. On Saturday, July 2nd there will be more kid stuff in the late afternoon with a free Rock the Docks concert from 7 to 9pm. Entertainment will be provided by a local favorite group called Hit or Miss. This band features funky rock and pop music. On Sunday, July 3rd as part of their Operation Inspiration series, Harborwalk will be featuring the soulful tunes of Jason Castro who was an American Idol finalist in 2007. This young Texan has a rich melodic tenor voice, plays acoustical guitar and writes most of his own music. His first pop single “Let's Just Fall in Love Again” has been followed by a hit album titled “Who I Am” which was released by Atlantic Records just last year. Fans will be able to meet Jason Castro in person between 5 to 6pm before he begins his live concert. After he finishes playing, fireworks will be shot off over the water once again. On Monday, July 4th there will be more family fun including a Hot Dog Eating Contest sponsored by local fave, Dave's Dogs. A full twenty-one minute fireworks salute will end the Independence Day celebrations with exciting choreographed patriotic tunes playing simultaneously.

If a charming New Orleans inspired, colonial village on the bay at the world renowned Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is more your style, be sure to check out Red, White and Baytowne. The Village of Baytowne Wharf is kind of the bay version of the Destin harbor. Although here in this gated community, most of the giant boats and yachts you see in the marina are privately anchored by their privileged owners for personal use. However wave runners, kayaks and some other watercraft are available for rent with La Dolce Vita. Baytowne Wharf is also home anchor to the sleek SS Solaris which has regularly scheduled sunset dinner cruises across the bay and also hosts private parties for weddings or business receptions. This multilevel ship has double bars, live music, delicious food and a friendly, accommodating staff. The frequent sight of dolphins racing the front bow of the boat as it follows the sun towards the west is something that you will never forget. (Don't forget that as an Ocean Reef Resorts guest, you get one complimentary dinner cruise ticket on us when you buy one for yourself!) Baytowne always has something happening and is a popular place to visit due to all the restaurants, retail boutiques, kid activities and charming Americana appeal. Be sure to walk out to the end of the long wharf if you go since the Summer sunsets over the bay are absolutely gorgeous this time of year.

The holiday celebrations here at Baytowne Wharf begin on Saturday, July 2nd with kid crafts, face painting, body paints and balloon sculptures most of which will probably be done with patriotic colors. A live concert on the village green Events Plaza Stage will run from 6 to 9 pm with a fun, tropical rock band known as Coconut Radio. They also play lively Bluegrass and Blues music. On Sunday, July 3rd there will be more kid activities followed by a two hour concert at 7 pm by The Dents Brothers. This dynamic duo of brothers Ronnie and Ernest Fry Dent have graced our music scene for over five years. They started out in New Orleans but became refugees by Katrina in 2005. Fortunately they decided to stay here becoming a popular fixture at both Hammerhead's and Funky Blues Shack in Baytowne. They specialize in New Orleans styled Rhythm & Blues and popular rock classics featuring melodic saxophone as well as a great bass sound. On Monday, July 4th Coconut Radio is back on the green again from 6 to 9 pm playing their great fiddles and acoustical guitars for a patriotic jamboree of sorts. A July 4th fireworks fanfare will be shot off over the village lagoon and marina at 9:15 and should be quite a show.

Down along Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton, holiday events are more laid back for an old fashioned 4th of July. Here, many adults will be whisked back to warm childhood memories of their own as they create new memories for their own children.

The main nostalgic celebrations occur in Seaside and Rosemary Beach on Monday July 4th. This means that if you wanted to join the smorgasbord of festivities in Destin and Sandestin early on, you could save one of these South Walton village events for the grand finale so to speak.

Seaside as you may or may not know, was one of the first pedestrian friendly, pre-planned communities built in the United States and is world famous for this reason. Completed in the 1980s to look like a small “seaside” town from the 1880s, it is complete with lots of white picket fences bordering cottages and homes with shopping venues nearby. The Truman Show, a comedy starring Jim Carey and Laura Linney, was filmed here on location a few years ago. Today this iconic, original South Walton town is well known for wonderful art galleries, specialized boutiques and seasonal festivals.

July 4th

Seaside kicks things off Monday morning at 8:00 with the South Walton 4th of July Parade. This will start out at Seagrove Plaza which is just east of Seaside. It will travel west down Scenic 30A until it ends at the Seaside amphitheater on the town green. There will be a parade awards ceremony and then crafts for children including red, white and blue face paints. At 7 pm a special, live Independence Day Concert will be held outdoors around the amphitheater. The 30A Radio Station will be broadcasting live from the Seaside Neighborhood School. This low wattage station found at 107.1 FM is known for their eclectic blend of all musical genres and time periods. At 9 pm the fireworks begin with awesome Americana type music being simulcast as musical choreography in tune to the colorful bombardment in the skies above.

The Dutch Indies inspired Village of Rosemary Beach is at the very far eastern point of Scenic Highway 30A near our Seacrest Beach office and was started and established just several years ago. You would never know it since this colonial looking town with Dutch architectural accents looks like it has been here for a couple of hundred years but it is basically almost brand new. Parts of the village look like you are actually somewhere in a beautiful part of Europe. This is especially true where one of the retail lanes meanders down the hill to the gulf from the Village Hall and around the grassy green at Barrett Square. Independence Day festivities kick off early here on July 4th at 7:30 am with a Star Spangled Bike Decorating Contest. The bike parade itself begins soon afterward up to North Barrett Square. There will be awards for Most Original Use of Decorations, Most Patriotic, Best Overall, Best Family Entry and Best Kid's Bike, (those six and under.) For those who need a bike, they may be rented nearby. As if this event was not charming enough, it will be followed by a Family Field Day on the Western Green from 9 to 11 am. Family events include old fashioned potato sack races, a three legged race, a hula hoop contest and a water balloon toss just to name a few. There will also be live music, face painting and “moon walks” for the kids. From 5 to 7 pm on the Eastern Green there will be a Southern style BBQ feast with pork, chicken or brisket accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, iced tea and fruit cobbler for dessert. Tickets for the BBQ are $20 and $10 for kids under the age of 13 with toddlers under 4 for free. Back on the Western Green live music under the stars will play from 6:30 to 8:30 with a deluxe fireworks display scheduled for 8:45 pm.

If you want more of an active, beach carnival atmosphere for the 4th of July and want to do some power shopping as well, then Pier Park at Panama City Beach is perfect. This recently completed, 1.1 million square foot mega shopping complex and mall extends from near Highway 98 all the way to the pier on the Gulf of Mexico. Shops, restaurants and bars run down both sides of a wide, pedestrian friendly boulevard. There will be multiple bands set up all the way down this promenade to the Dan Russell Pier. These free musical concerts will play from 4 to 9 pm which will culminate with a dazzling fireworks display right over the gulf. There will be another fireworks show in downtown Panama City at the marina and some may be able to see both at the same time on the beach.

No matter where you decide to create your family's own special future memories here in Destin and along the Emerald Coast, Ocean Reef is here to serve you. Our fine vacation rental properties extend across the entire coast with literally several hundred selections in all price ranges, architectural styles and locales. Like many of our regular guests, you may eventually find your favorite and continue to weave those wonderful memories here for years to come. Check out our user friendly website to select one that may become your future “home away from home.” Here at Ocean Reef, we have been welcoming literally generations of happy guests to the beach since we started out in 1982. We look forward to continuing to provide hospitality to our established, extended family as well as to our new friends and visitors. Happy Birthday America!