A Destin Holiday


Visits: 15

By Lori Leath Smith

For many years, our piece of Paradise has ignited the holiday spirit in each of us and allowed the season to come to life for the young and young at heart. With a unique blend of theatrical storytelling, musical notes, hot Christmas flavored-coffee and cocoa, and beautiful and whimsical Christmas lights, we are welcomed into a world of yuletide nostalgia, local flavor and a festive flair of personalities where reindeer fly, sugarplums dance in our heads and Christmas comes alive in our own beach area, coastal style.

I invite you to explore the vast, unique holiday traditions, some many years in the making, new ones to delight your senses and ones that usher in the “reason for the season” – the celebrated birth of Jesus, our Savior. Join Destin Life and the Life Media family in some of these holiday celebrations where you can create some new family traditions of your own while rekindling your favorites.

Close-up of two hands with snowman face on cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows. Mom and child relaxing together on a cozy winter evening by fireplace. Enjoy Christmas holidays, happy moments at home.Visit Santa at The Village of Baytowne Wharf at his sleigh Dec. 6, 13 and 20 during the holiday concerts from 6-8 p.m. and during the Tuba Christmas event from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 9. www.baytownewharf.com.

Visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop at Destin Commons now through Dec. 24 (book at basspro.com) and at HarborWalk Village weekends until Dec. 17 from 1-4 p.m.

Baytowne on Ice | Now–Feb. 4 | Village of Baytowne Wharf
Dust off those skates and get ready for the holidays at The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Baytowne on Ice. Ice rink is open Now – Sunday, Feb. 4. Hours vary daily. Visit BaytowneWharf.com.

Festival of Trees | Now–Dec. 25 | Grand Boulevard
The Festival of Trees at Grand Boulevard at Sandestin runs Nov. 21 through Christmas Day 2023. Participating non-profit organizations compete to win cash prizes totaling $7,000. Cast your vote for the People’s Choice award. Festival of Trees is an annual event in the park at Grand Boulevard shopping center showcasing uniquely decorated Christmas trees from 12 local non-profit organizations.

Jolly Jubilee | Now-Dec. 24 | Destin Commons
Embrace the festive spirit at Destin Commons with the annual Jolly Jubilee! This holiday celebration, featuring musical performances on the new lawn area at Center Plaza, comes alive every Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through Dec. 24. Wander through the festive decor, hear the sweet sounds of Christmas carolers and enjoy live performances, all while standing beneath the glow of a majestic, 50-foot tree. Or take pictures with family and friends in a life-size Santa’s Sleigh.

Wesley House Holiday Guided Tours | Now–Jan. 9 | Eden State Gardens | Santa Rosa Beach
The Wesley House at Eden State Gardens will be open for holiday guided tours Thursday–Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on an hourly basis. This year’s theme is “A Victorian Christmas and all are invited to attend.

Photos with Santa & Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides | Dec. 1-30 | 5-8 p.m. | Grand Boulevard
Complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides around the Town Center every Friday and Saturday night, 5-8 p.m. Take in the Coastal White Christmas lights and the Festival of Trees display. Get a professional photo with Santa while listening to the seasonal sounds of “Rock Around the Christmas Tree” Musical Revue from Emerald Coast Theatre Co. grandboulevard.com.

Nights of Lights | Dec. 1-31 | 6, 7 & 8 p.m. | Events Plaza Lawn
Enjoy a free, festive light show every night of December in The Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin and featured during the special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. The tree lights in the events plaza will dance and blink to music at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Visit BaytowneWharf.com.

Holiday Concert Series + Visits with Santa | Dec. 6, 13 & 20 | 6-8 p.m.
Tap your feet to some of your favorite sing-a-long classics every Wednesday in December at the Holiday edition of The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Wednesday Night Concert Series. Each concert features visits with Santa.
December 6 | Fort Walton Beach High School Choir
December 13 | Alissa Steffens Vocal Studios
December 20 | Matt McCarty Band

A Christmas Carol | Dec. 8 – Dec. 22
From the first “Bah humbug” to the final “Wassail,” this timeless classic is sure to rekindle your holiday spirit. Join all your favorite Dickens characters—Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, the Fezziwigs, the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come, and of course, everyone’s favorite curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge.
560 Grand Boulevard, 2nd Floor, Miramar Beach. Purchase tickets: emeraldcoasttheatre.org.

Holiday Pops | Fri., Dec. 8 | 7:30 p.m. | Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center
Features Brian Stokes Mitchell, dubbed “the last leading man” by The New York Times, Sinfonia’s main event of the season featuring this A-list star will perform holiday classics, Broadway tunes and classic favorites with the Sinfonia Gulf Coast orchestra. Stokes is a two-time Tony Award winner with a versatile career spanning Broadway, television, film and concerts. Receiving critical acclaim and awards for his performances in Kiss Me, Kate, Man of La Mancha, and Ragtime, Stokes has collaborated with renowned conductors like John Williams and Gustavo Dudamel performing at Carnegie Hall and the White House. Some of you might remember him as Trevor in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tickets range from $30-$75 for adults. Seats at tables of 10 are from $55 per person.

Seaside Pops | Sat., Dec. 9 | 5 p.m. | Seaside Amphitheatre
Sinfonia Gulf Coast presents a concert featuring seasonal and pop favorites in the Town of Seaside. Bring a low-back chair or blanket. Seaside Pops is free and open to the public.

Winter Extravaganza | Dec. 9 | 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. | E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center
Join the Center for games, food trucks, animal encounters and even a visit from Santa Claus himself! Don’t forget to bring a coat for the coat drive this year! Tickets: $10 for adults, $7 for ages 4–12. eowilsoncenter.org. 4956 State Hwy. 20 E. Freeport, FL

The Nutcracker! | Dec. 9–5 p.m. | Dec. 10–2 p.m. | Destin Community Center
Studio6twenty5 presents The Nutcracker featuring the dancers of studio6twenty5’s children’s program and introducing local Shaye Smith and guest dancer Fredrick Davis as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier. Prepare to be transported into Clara’s magical world of sugarplum fairies, toy soldiers and enchanting adventures. Saturday doors open at 4 p.m. Sunday doors open at 1 p.m. Tickets $16 on sale now at studio6twenty5.com.

Yule of Yesteryear | Sat., Dec. 9 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida
Enjoy carols, food vendors, craft vendors, Walton guard reenactors, school choir groups, bake sale, raffle ticket prizes, letters to Santa and more! 115 Westview Ave., Perrine Park, Valparaiso.

Annual Destin Boat Parade | Sun., Dec 10 | 6 p.m. | Destin Harbor
The Destin Harbor will be dancing with lights and cheer during the 37th Annual Destin Boat Parade, followed by a Fireworks Finale. Watch from many places along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk such as AJ’s, Boathouse, Brotula’s and The Edge Restaurant & Skybar (where this year’s judging will take place.)

Alaqua Holiday Bazaar | Dec. 10 | 11 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Find something special for everyone on your list including handcrafted gifts from the finest local artists and craftsmen. Enjoy festive music and delicious brunch-style treats. Contact Lauren Gall at lauren@lgallandco.com to participate. Proceeds go directly towards the care and protection of animals in need. Visit https://www.facebook.com/AlaquaAnimalRefuge.

Blue Christmas | Dec. 12 | 6 p.m. | Alaqua Animal Refuge
Swing to “The King’s” Hits. Join Alaqua for a Las Vegas-style evening with the sensational Ron Adams Entertainment, also known as “the shadow of the king.” Purchase tickets at: https://secure.givelively.org/event/alaqua-animal-refuge-inc/blue-christmas-a-night-with-ron-adams. Proceeds go directly towards the care and protection of animals. Visit https://www.facebook.com/AlaquaAnimalRefuge.

Live Nativity | Thurs., Dec. 14 — Wed., Dec. 20 | 6–8:30 p.m. each night |corner of 2nd St., and Church Ave.
First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach will present the FREE, 35th Live Nativity celebration next to the First Baptist Church sanctuary. Parking is available in the church parking lot. When you walk through, you can have your picture taken with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, as well as the three wise men. Your photo will be waiting for you as you depart. In the Shepherd’s Field, the visitors can pet and feed the miniature donkeys, sheep and Naomi the Camel!

A Jingle Jangle Christmas Musical Revue | Sat., Dec. 16–2.30 p.m. | Tues., Dec. 19–7.30 p.m. | Thurs., Dec. 21 –7.30 p.m.
Enjoy classic holiday songs from some of your favorite Christmas musicals like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Snow” and, of course, “White Christmas.” The cast will invite you to join in some beloved Christmas carols as well.
560 Grand Boulevard, Grand Boulevard Town Center, 2nd Floor, Miramar Beach. Purchase tickets: emeraldcoasttheatre.org.

A Victorian Christmas Tea | Sat., Dec. 16 | 1-3 p.m. | The Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida
Members $20; Non-members $25. 115 Westview Ave., Valparaiso.

LuLu’s Annual Billy Claus and The LuLuBelles | Sat., Dec. 16 | 3 to 5 p.m.
Free photos with Billy Claus and the LuLuBelles as well as crafts and treats. Billy Claus is Santa’s warm weather-loving brother who lives in the Caribbean, but comes this way every year to help Santa during the holiday season. The LuLuBelles are Billy’s version of Santa’s elves. The children’s book written by LuLu’s owner, Lucy Buffett, “Billy Claus and the Spirit of Christmas Island” is available in the gift shop or on-line. From 5 to 7 p.m., enjoy the movie, Dr. Suess’ The Grinch. Come back on Dec. 20 for the Christmas movie, The Polar Express at 6 p.m. with free crafts and treats. 850-710-5858.

Noon Year’s Eve | Dec. 31 | 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. | LuLu’s Restaurant
Noon Year’s Eve is just for kids at LuLu’s Destin. It’s the 8th annual Noon Year’s Eve celebration Tues., Dec. 31, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with non-stop, free kid-friendly fun. There will be arts and crafts, inflatables, face painting, live music and more. Kids can have their fun by counting down to Noon with kid-safe “fireworks” and a huge Beach Ball Drop. Visit LulusFunFoodMusic.com/destin or call (850) 710-5858.

Baytowne Countdown | Sun., Dec. 31 | The Village of Baytowne Wharf
Two breathtaking fireworks displays at 8 p.m. and midnight. Enjoy a family-friendly evening from 6-8 p.m. with face painting, kids’ activities and LIVE music on the Baytowne LIVE stage. Dance the night away with LIVE music from DJ Q$, 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the Events Plaza Stage! End the night with spectacular fireworks. *21 & over after 10 p.m. 20 & under must be accompanied by a legal guardian after 10 p.m.