Christmas is coming which means New Year's Eve is not far behind. Many of our guests at Ocean Reef make a traditional visit this time of year to South Walton. After all, where else would you want to be for the celebration of the coming year other than near the jewel toned waters of this paradise known as The Emerald Coast? There are plenty of activities for adults and children alike at this exciting, unique family friendly destination, especially for New Year's. We have a number of fine, distinctive, private South Walton vacation rentals available up and down the coast. They include everything from cozy cottages to beach side Mediterranean style mansions to luxurious condominiums. It is also the perfect time of year to visit since rates are at “off season” lows with considerable savings and great values. Two of the best New Year's Eve celebrations in South Walton will be held at The Village of Baytowne Wharf in the gated resort destination known as Sandestin as well as along Scenic 30A in the classically Americana town of Seaside.
There will be plenty of fun for both adults and children alike at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. This upscale version of New Orleans was completed less than a decade ago and has become a favorite family destination. The architecture of this village resembles that famous American city but here in Florida it was competed with a Disneyesque flair towards perfection. This picture perfect destination, with photo ops galore, sits on the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay and is anchored by the Sandestin Marina. It wraps itself around a lovely lagoon and has a long wharf that juts out into the bay. The French colonial architecture is enchanting and incorporates wonderful restaurants, retail boutiques and rollicking bars that feature live music entertainment. This enchanting friendly village also has lots of activities for the kids. At this time of year, Christmas lights abound with up lighted buildings, twinkling trees and sparkling shrubbery. Every New Year's Eve a fantastic fireworks display is shot off over the lagoon which is choreographed to piped in music from the Events Plaza which is located on the Village Green. There is plenty to do beforehand however.
Amazingly enough there is even an ice skating rink open here during the Winter season which offers ninety minutes fun for only twelve dollars. It's only ten dollars per person if you bring your own skates but few remember to pack these on a trip to Florida! There is also a Zip Line where you can climb a multilevel “Obstacle Course Tower” on ropes, ladders and nets. Once you reach the top, you can sail across the lagoon safely to the other side. Other fun pursuits include the Blast Arcade featuring a laser maze and an Adventure Zone. Restaurants at Baytowne serve everything from burgers and pizzas to fine gourmet entrees, so there is literally something for everyone. There are a number of fun bars that include live musical entertainment of all kinds. A dance nightclub known as John Werner's Village Door is also located here where you can enjoy live music entertainment by “The Dream Band” or enjoy dancing under a giant colorfully lighted, crystal disco ball to all your old favorites. This two story bar was voted Best Place to Dance by the readers of both the Emerald Coast and Destin Magazines.
While in Baytowne on New Year's Eve you may want to book an adult only dinner cruise on the SS Solaris which is anchored at the Sandestin Marina. The Solaris is operated by Sunquest Cruises and may become your “more than once” in a lifetime adventure. This gorgeous yacht is a 5,300 square foot, three tiered vessel that measures 125 feet from end to end. It includes two dining salons, a full galley and service bar as well as an open dance deck on the third tier. The special New Years Dinner Cruise begins boarding at 7:15 pm and launches at 8:00 pm onto the tranquil, expansive waters of Choctawhatchee Bay. It will cruise out toward the Mid Bay Bridge and then return to the Village of Baytowne Wharf just before Midnight for the fireworks display over the water. The price of a ticket for this event which is $105 each includes a four course gourmet meal, live music entertainment, party favors and a champagne toast. Reservations should definitely be made in advance. The menu starts with an appetizer of fresh Jumbo sauteed shrimp with Parmesan Risotto done in a garlic basil cream sauce. It is followed by a Mixed Green Salad with caramelized red onions with balsamic truffle oil candied pecans and Boursin Cheese Crosonti. The main entree includes your choice of Seared Gulf Caught Fish, a Grilled Pork Chop, Braised Short Ribs or a Spinach & Cheese Ravioli. The last course is a decadent dessert. On their regular Solaris Sunset Dinner Cruises which charge sixty-five dollars, Ocean Reef Resort guests receive 20% off as a thank you from us, so keep that in mind for non holiday visits.
If you are looking for a more laid back New Year's Eve rendezvous you might want to venture down Scenic 30A to the iconic town of Seaside. This preplanned, pedestrian friendly, Americana styled town was the first of its kind in the world and was established in 1981 as the beginning of New Urbanism in architecture. It sits on eighty acres overlooking the gorgeous gulf and was designed by the now world famous team of Andres Duany and his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk out of Miami. Seaside was designed to look like a very old, nostalgic beach town with a combination of Antebellum, Victorian and Greek Revival styled homes. It became famous a few years ago when it was used as the set location for The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey and Laura Linney. In that comedic movie, Seaside was called the idyllic town of Sea Haven on an island deliberately isolated from the mainland. The main character Truman, who was played by Carrey, was unaware that a “reality show” was being filmed about his own life from birth and that the town was really a giant Hollywood movie set. The producers at that time were looking for a picture perfect town and they found it in Seaside. It still remains the same today. Seaside is a combination of private homes, charming boutiques, restaurants and art galleries centered on a Town Green. For New Year's Eve they will be sponsoring a “Family Friendly Party” that includes live music entertainment, art projects for kids, street performers and lots of fine dining at the wonderful restaurants located there. The festivities kick off at 7:00 pm and go until just after Midnight. Multiple musical performers will provide free entertainment at the outdoor amphitheater around the Green. At Midnight, a spectacular fireworks display will light up the skies right over the gulf to celebrate the New Year.
Besides South Walton, there will be other New Year Eve celebrations in nearby Destin and Panama City Beach. Harborwalk Village in Destin will be celebrating their Fifth Annual Rocking Street Party and Ball Drop. Free concerts and much revelry are expected. Entertainment begins at 7:00 pm on the Main Stage with “The Andy Velo Band” which is free to the public. There will be TWO fireworks displays, one of which is at 8:00 pm and the other of course at Midnight. Many of the restaurants and bars in Harborwalk Village plan on having special drink prices so be prepared to dine, drink, and dance the night away.
Panama City Beach will have an elaborate celebration at Pier Park, the relatively new shopping destination that runs from Highway 98 all the way to the long pier that is on the gulf. Pier Park includes a myriad of shopping venues as well as restaurants and bars that line a boulevard making it ideal for strolling from place to place. There will be live Music, various Balloon Artists, costumed Stilt Walkers and other celebrants in attendance. Kids will be delighted when they release 7,000 inflatable beach balls onto Pier Drive on the boardwalk at 8:00 pm. The Grand Finale occurs at Midnight when a giant glowing, 800 pound beach ball does a slow motion drop from above during the last sixty second countdown to 2013. This will be followed by their annual, sensational fireworks show.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve all of our esteemed Ocean Reef guests and let you know a few of the events here South Walton and along The Emerald Coast. We wish you and yours a happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year for 2013!