There’s nothing like the beach in the summer — hot sun, cool water and the smell of tanning lotion and burgers on a grill mingled together and floating through sea breezes. But, if you’ve never been to the Emerald Coast in the fall, you’re missing out on a whole other kind of magic.
Fall in the Panhandle ushers in some of the most glorious sunsets, which you can watch fall below the horizon directly over the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond that, the crowds have usually dissipated somewhat, the weather is still warm enough to swim and the wait for attractions and restaurants diminishes significantly. There are also a host of great events to check out. Here are our top picks:
- September 17 – October 1: Fall Flix, presented by Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, Destin
Gates open at 6:30 p.m., movie starts at 7:30 p.m. Schedule includes Ratatouille, Sept. 17; Hairspray, Sept. 24; and, The Goonies, Oct. 1. For more information, click here.
- September 24: Burgers, Bourbon and Beer Festival, Destin
This fundraising event benefits the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast. Enjoy gourmet burgers from local restaurants paired with local craft beers and bourbons while taking in live music at the Destin Harbor. For more information, click here.
- October 1-31: Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin
They don’t call it the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” for nothing! This event dates back to May 1948 and is the ultimate fishing tournament for saltwater anglers of all ages. It’s also fun to just observe. For more information, click here.
- October 2: Second Annual Destin Food Truck Fest, Destin
Featuring food trucks, vendors, live entertainment and a bounce house, it’s a great way to spend part of your afternoon or evening. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, click here.
- October 7-8: Baytowne Wharf Beer Festival, Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort
Sample and savor American specialty beers from around the country. The main event on Saturday, Oct. 8, features more than 200 options. Live music will also be featured. For more information, click here.
- October 7-9: Destin Seafood Festival, Destin
One of the largest fall events on the Emerald Coast, this three-day festival features food vendors, live entertainment, arts and crafts and fireworks as well as three separate kid zones. For more information, click here.
- October 13: Taylor Dayne In Concert, Destin
Taylor Dayne is an American pop icon with a career spanning three decades. Bring a bottle of wine, your favorite craft beer, snacks and a blanket or chair. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. For more information, click here.
- October 13-16: Harvest Wine & Food Festival, WaterColor
Enjoy four days of epicurean excellence for both wine and culinary enthusiasts alike. For more information, click here.
- October 21-22: Alys Beach Crafted, Alys Beach
This event includes a weekend of events in Alys Beach including Firkin Fête and Makers Market designed to better tell the stories of crafted beverages, culinary experiences, artistry and workmanship. For more information, click here.
- October 21-23: Greek Festival, Fort Walton Beach
A three-day celebration of authentic Greek foods, pastries, wine, music and dance, it’s fun for the whole family. For more information, click here.
- October 22: Bloody Mary Festival, Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort
Bloody Marys … need we say more? This event takes place at The Market Shops in Miramar Beach. For more information, click here.
- October 28: Inaugural Fall Festival, Alys Beach
Celebrate the spookiest time of the year with activities for ghosts and goblins of all ages. Enjoy crafts, face painting, a photo booth and more. For more information, click here.
- October 29-30: Mattie Kelly Festival of the Arts, Destin
Come for a weekend of art, music, food and fun with more than 100 exhibits and more than 22 different art mediums represented. This event also features live music, a sampling of local cuisine and a beer and wine garden as well as a kid’s art tent. For more information, click here.
- November 7-10: Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside, Florida
Head to Seaside for a wine experience that celebrates the makers behind the bottles. For more information, click here.
- November 13: Flutterby Arts Festival, WaterSound
Produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, this festival celebrates its 29th year recognizing the migration of the monarch butterfly through the area. Enjoy kid’s art activities, live performances, lawn games, a professional artist’s market and more. For more information, click here.