Labor Day seems to be a misnomer since most Americans celebrate the event playing instead of working. Perhaps it should be named “Play Day”! Actually, the holiday was established as a Federal holiday back in 1894 to honor the accomplishments of those who labor in the fields of industry, commerce and agriculture. It is always celebrated on the first Monday of September which unofficially marks the end of family Summer vacations as a sort of “last hurrah.” It was established as the first official three day weekend as well, which makes it the perfect time to get away from the grind for a few days of rest and pleasurable pursuits.
Labor Day along the Emerald Coast, from Destin to Panama City Beach, is yet another celebration of the kind of fun and frolic that makes us a favorite destination among our Ocean Reef guests throughout most of the year. Here it's never a question of what to do but rather what do you want to do? There is an abundance of choices for any kind of enjoyable diversion that you, your family or friends may desire. It is also a time to create wonderful Summer holiday memories for kids and adults alike. Where do you begin?
Most people flock to Destin's pristine, pure white quartz crystal sand beaches which border the stunning, emerald colored waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The color here is sometimes so green that you would swear that someone had placed dye in the water. However, it is all natural and is the result of the sunlight reflecting through the crystal clear water to the alabaster sands below. For this reason, in national surveys our beaches have been named time and again as among the most beautiful in the entire world. The fine quartz crystal makes for great sand castles and the reflective quality keeps the beach cool to the touch. In other words, it doesn't burn your feet even on the hottest Summer days. However, don't forget your sun glasses because these snowy white sands are bright! Here they are a necessity and not just a fashion statement.
Of course, what made this area famous originally back in the late 1800s were not the awesome beaches at all but the fact that the shores off Destin have some of the best deep sea fishing in the world. “The world's luckiest fishing village” as it is known, harbors the largest private charter fishing fleet on the entire gulf. Quite a few of the experienced captains come from families who have fished these same waters literally for generations. Charter excursions on these boats are available for novices and professionals alike for several hours, a day or even overnight for the true adventurer. You may even captain your own boat since pontoons are also available for rentals as well as jet skis, sail boats and other watercraft. You may go snorkeling along the rock jetties of East Pass which goes out into gulf from the harbor or deep sea diving around some old ships that have been sunk nearby to create reefs that attract colorful fish.
For those who have a passion for hitting the fairways, another favorite option for fun are all the world class, championship golf courses that abound here. There are almost two dozen clubs in the Destin area along the Emerald Coast and most of them allow for public play. They have been designed by a “who's who” of renowned golf architects including such names as Tom Fazio, Jerry Pate, Joe Lee, Fred Couples, Robert C. Walker and Bob Cupp. Some golf courses meander along the Choctawhatchee Bay and others have views of the shimmering gulf in the distance. Most are lushly forested and festooned with azaleas, flowering oleanders, crepe myrtles, lilies and palm trees. Water is everywhere since many fairways run along natural lagoons, coastal dune lakes and other wetlands. (As an Ocean Reef guest you are entitled to a complimentary round of golf at the Bluewater Bay Golf Club on the bay in Niceville or at the classic Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach!)
In the mood for shopping? The Silver Sands Designer Outlet Stores just east of Destin in Miramar Beach happens to be the nation's largest. Millions of visitors arrive there every year to buy designer clothing, high-end cookware, footwear, jewelry, china, crystal and some house wares at up to 75% off regular prices. It's a good place to go on an overcast day although many go there regardless to get their Christmas shopping done early. There are also wonderful shops, boutiques and art galleries ready for discovery at Harborwalk Village, Destin Commons, on Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, in the Village of Baytowne Wharf and all along Scenic Highway 30A which winds along the gorgeous coast from Miramar Beach all the way to Rosemary Beach. Just east of this location in Panama City Beach, the recently completed Pier Park has over a million square feet of shopping space, restaurants and bars that are anchored by the long wharf that shoots out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Planned 2011 Labor Day Weekend Destin festivities include the last Rock the Docks concert of the Summer at Harborwalk Village starting at 6 pm on Saturday, September 3rd. Harborwalk Village is a Destin focal point for waterfront dining, the private charter boat docks where you can watch the fresh catch of fish arrive daily, water sports, shopping and spectacular sunsets. The concert will open with a Pensacola based band and local favorite called The Heritage Band. They play Hawaiian styled surfer music and beach rock tunes. Earlier in the day at noon, Heritage will be playing for the boat party crowd that congregates at Crab Island. This submerged island is right next to the Destin Bridge on the bay side and attracts a huge amount of friendly folk who all anchor there in the shallow, clear water for mutual appreciation and good times together. Later that afternoon at six, the Heritage Band will be opening to get the crowd warmed up on the Village Stage, where headliner Kip Moore will be playing. This young country western singer and songwriter plays guitar and has recently released hit songs like “Mary was the Marrying Kind”. He co-wrote two songs on Thompson Square's new album called “All the Way” and Let's Fight” which also hit Billboard's Hot Country Songs earlier this year. For all of you “American Idol” fans, some former finalists will be appearing on stage Sunday, September 4th starting at 7 pm. They will include Felicia Barton, Phil Stacey and Chris Sligh. Harborwalk will also have some fun, free kid's crafts throughout the entire weekend from 3 to 6 pm daily. There will also be numerous artists and vendors selling their specialty wares and a car show is being planned. Fireworks over the harbor are also scheduled.
Just east of Destin in Miramar Beach, the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is planning a big Labor Day Art Exposition. This will be held at the Village of Baytowne Wharf starting on Friday, September 2nd from 5 to 10 pm. Local artists as well as representatives from leading galleries throughout the southeast will be exhibiting art at Baytowne thru Sunday evening on September 4th. Baytowne Wharf of course, is the twenty-eight acre colonial styled pedestrian village that sits in a wooded area near the Sandestin Marina on Choctawhatchee bay. There are over two dozen restaurants, bars, and boutiques here. They wrap around a bridge crossed lagoon on one side and next to a long wharf that juts out into the bay towards the west. The sunsets here over the water in the Summer are spectacular and are nightly heralded by a yacht's cannon and bell ringing. If you are planning to visit Baytowne, don't forget about the SS Solaris. This triple decked ship and friendly crew are docked at the nearby marina to provide three hour dinner cruises during the sunset hours. A delicious three course meal is served with tea or coffee, a crisp salad, fresh bread, a main entree and dessert. The choice of enticing entrees includes grilled gulf caught fish, savory sautéed shrimp, tantalizing seared beef tenderloin or plump pan roasted chicken. Besides the great food, there is the adventure and romance of being on a three hour cruise into a sunset or dancing on the upper deck under the stars. Live musical entertainment is provided and a full bar upstairs is there to serve you your favorite beverages. As our Ocean Reef guest, we will provide you with one complimentary, three hour meal cruise aboard the Solaris when you purchase one or more additional meals!
For those of our guests that are planning to stay in Panama City Beach for Labor Day there are some events planned there as well. On Saturday, September 3rd you may attend a championship volleyball tournament right on the beach. The EVP (Extreme Volleyball Professionals) National Tournament will have competing teams from across America. Participants in this event will include such diverse origins as Chicago, Detroit, Hermosa Beach, Miami Beach, Naples, Santa Barbara, Seattle and St. Louis. Volleyball athlete celebrities such as Mark Paaluhi, Wayne Scott, Kim Whitney and national champion Mike Dauernheim will be in attendance.
On September 3rd and 4th at Frank Brown Park there will be the Endless Summer Soccer Tournament. This will be two full days of competition among boys and girls of all ages up through high school. The boys and girls teams will be competing for a championship which is sponsored by the Bay United Club.
No matter what fun, frolic or fanciful diversions you and your family select to do we are sure that you will enjoy our “Play Day” celebration here in Destin and along the Emerald Coast. Many of our devoted Ocean Reef guests have made it a family tradition to come down to stay with us on vacation every year. For those of you just starting out, know that it is our pleasure to provide you with whatever rental accommodations you desire anywhere along this beautiful coast. Enjoy browsing through the multiple photos and descriptions of these privately owned Destin vacation rentals which come in all sizes, styles, colors, locations and price ranges. Happy Play Day!