Thanksgiving is the unique 154-year-old American holiday, set aside to give thanks for your 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!
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 vacation rentals often come with big dining rooms and large, fully equipped kitchens. The choices range from beachside 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 vast 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. They do all the work and have a wide variety of delicious food, having won the Best of the Emerald Coast Awards here every single year from 2006 thru 2016. 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. If you order four or more, you get a complimentary bottle of champagne 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 over 20 years 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 and Destin Harvest. 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 until 7 pm.
For a nautical, memorable feast, you may wish to take a Thanksgiving Buffet Dinner Cruise on the SS Solaris which is 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 11:00 am on Thanksgiving Day for a 12:00-noon 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. Another Thanksgiving Cruise boards at 5:00 pm and launches at 6:00 pm. A full bar is available for drinks upon boarding with a buffet starting thirty minutes later. Online reservations run about $62 for adults and $38 for kids 10 or younger. (Remember that on regular dinner cruises, as a guest of Ocean Reef Resorts you get a 20% discount. So if you like this go back again for one of their sunset cruises!)
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 Wharf 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 begins called power shopping for the rest of the holidays! 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 Premium Outlets with over 100 stores. Discounts can go up to 65% 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 kitchenware. It is one of the largest Designer Discount Outlets in the nation and attracts huge amounts of shoppers from the southeast and increasingly beyond. Silver Sands will open early for Christmas since shopping starts at 6:00 pm Thanksgiving. Free Christmas concerts are held 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 getaway. Our Ocean Reef Resorts guests at Sandestin will certainly want to check out the kickoff of the Festival of Trees in the park at Grand Boulevard on November 21st from 4 to 6 pm. Christmas trees are decorated by competing local charity groups who get an award so you may vote for your favorite, do a little shopping and eat out at one of their many restaurants nearby. On Saturday, November 25th they will be holding their popular Farmer’s Market on the same site with a cornucopia of culinary goodies like honey, preserves, jellies, organic soaps, lotions, potions, artisan bread, baked treats, dips, juices and of course local farm produce.
The Destin World of Beer will be having a “Beerunch” from 11:00 am till 2:00 pm at their location at 4287 Legendary Drive on Saturday and Sunday, November 25th, and 26th from 11:00 am till 2:00 pm. Besides mouthwatering brunch items, they will have Bottomless Bloody Mary’s and their special “Beermosas.”
Santa will be arriving at Harborwalk Village on Destin’s Harbor and visiting with youngsters from Noon till 6 pm Saturday, November 25th. A “Rock the Docks” musical concert will be held from 7 pm until 9 pm. Santa will return Sunday, November 26th from Noon until 4 pm.
Our Ocean Reef Resorts guests in Panama City Beach and Scenic 30A may want to celebrate the Christmas Holiday kickoff on Friday, November 24th, and Saturday the 25th at the Aaron Bessant Park outdoor amphitheater next to popular Pier Park. Festivities begin on both days at 3:30 pm with a Santa’s Village that will feature campfires and S’mores. This will be followed by live holiday music at 5:00 pm, a concert at 6 pm and then a fireworks extravaganza finale. The concert on Friday will be conducted by the Panama City POPS Orchestra and on Saturday by the Seasons of Harmony group.
Remember too that as an Ocean Reef guest you get one complimentary round of golf on us for each night of your stay at and the Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, the Santa Rosa Beach Golf Club off Scenic 30A and the Bluewater Bay Golf Club in nearby Niceville over the Mid Bay from Destin. Bridge. (There 20% off discounts for our guests at Seascape in Miramar Beach as well as Emerald Bay and Regatta Bay in Destin.)
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!