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‘Tis The Season: Holiday Celebrations on the Emerald Coast

Just because the Emerald Coast doesn’t get to experience a white Christmas doesn’t mean we’re not up for some holiday cheer. To help get us (and you) in the holiday spirit, we’ve curated an areawide list of special events to get you from Happy Thanksgiving to Happy New Year.

Holiday Baking Class at WaterColor Inn & Resort
Date: Nov. 15
Location: WaterColor Inn & Resort
More Info: Learn how to bake holiday delights from WaterColor Inn’s very own pastry sous chef. Open to the public; reservations preferred. Cost is $35 per person, not including service charge and tax, and includes treats and take-home pies for you to bake.

City of Destin’s 13th Annual Holiday Craft Show
Date: Nov. 15-16
Location: Destin Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave.
More Info: Handcrafted jewelry, wreaths, books, concessions and much more from more than 50 vendors will be available at Destin’s 13th annual holiday craft show. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission to the public is free

Date: Nov. 15-16
Location: Grand Boulevard at Sandestin
More Info: Buddy, a young orphan, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and gets transported to the North Pole. The would-be elf is raised unaware that he is a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With permission from Santa, he embarks on a journey to New York City to find his true identity. Based on the cherished hit, “Elf Jr.” features songs by Tony Award-nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Tickets are $36, adults; $34, seniors 55 and older and military; and, $30, students with ID.

Rosemary Beach Holiday Market
Date: Nov. 16
Location: Rosemary Beach Town Center
More Info: The annual Rosemary Beach Holiday Market takes over the center of this quaint New Urbanism community from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Browse through booths filled with unique gifts you can’t find anywhere else. Vendors will be on-hand throughout the day with a variety of fine art, handcrafted furniture and jewelry, yard art, wood and metal sculpture, pottery, stained glass, holiday gifts and Christmas home decor. The market is part of Rosemary Beach Old Town Holiday Weekend, filled with shopping, turning on of the town’s Christmas tree, merchant open house, bocce tournament and breakfast with Santa.

Date: Nov. 17 (Registration 8:30 a.m., Ride 11 a.m.)
Location: Begins at Sam’s Club, 740 N. Beal Parkway, Fort Walton Beach
More Info: The Emerald Coast Harley Owners Group Chapter 3605, sponsored by Emerald Coast Harley-Davidson, will host its 40th Annual Toys 4 Tots Ride on the Emerald Coast. All proceeds benefit Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center and Children in Crisis. All types of motorcycles are welcome to decorate their bikes for the holidays and participate. Entry is $10 per participant, plus a new toy or gift card. The sheriff-escorted motorcycle parade begins at 11 a.m. from Sam’s Club and ends at the Niceville Mullet Festival site. Gifts may also be dropped off at We Care Heating & Air in Niceville; FedEx Ground in Crestview; JC Penney salon in Santa Rosa Mall; Sam’s Club; and Emerald Coast Harley-Davidson in Ft. Walton Beach. Parade and festivities at the Mullet Festival site will begin at 11:30 a.m. and includes music, food, chance drawings, bike games, motorcycle contests and more.

Santa’s Arrival & Tree Lighting
Date: Nov. 22
Location: Destin Commons
More Info: Santa Claus will make his appearance at Destin Commons from 6 to 8 p.m. At 7 p.m., join in Santa’s arrival with a festive holiday celebration parade down Main Street. Get in the spirit with the official lighting of the Center’s spectacular 50-ft. Christmas tree, and check out the Jolly Jubilee decorations throughout Destin Commons. Delight in a fireworks finale to kick off the holiday season. Activities and entertainment for the whole family include live music, holiday photo booth, children’s crafts, face painting, free photos with Rudolph and Frosty. Kids can visit Santa at Bass Pro Shops throughout November and December. 

Date: Nov. 22-24
Location: Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center
More Info: Northwest Florida Ballet presents the 40th annual production of the classic holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker,” featuring live musical accompaniment by the NFB Symphony Orchestra. Ticket prices are $40, adults and $20, children 12 and younger.

S’mores with Santa at AJ’s Grayton Beach
Date: Nov. 27
Location: AJ’s Grayton Beach
More Info: The night before Thanksgiving, AJ’s Grayton Beach will host S’mores with Santa, a meet-and-greet party with Santa himself. The event is free and takes place from 5 to 7 p.m., but reservations are requested. Children in attendance will receive hot cocoa and a small gift from Santa. AJ’s will provide a cookie decorating station and s’mores kit and campfire for roasting marshmallows.Live music and free face painting will also be a part of the evening.

Date: Nov. 28
Location: WaterColor Inn & Resort, Marina Park
More Info: This annual race takes over the trails throughout the resort on Thanksgiving Day. A short course for walkers or younger runners is available. No registration required; T-shirts will be available for purchase the day of the event.
Date: Nov. 28
Location: Rosemary Beach
More Info: Named one of the south’s best Thanksgiving races by “Southern Living,” the annual 30A 10K returns to benefit charity on Nov. 28. More than $350,000 has been raised to date for local non-profit organizations. Can’t do a 10K? Participate in the adjoining 5K or one-mile fun run. The race includes two days of family fun.
Date: Nov. 29
Location: Central Park
More Info: Join Santa for cookie decorating and holiday cheer in Alys Beach’s Central Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Cookies to decorate will be available for purchase. Guests are encouraged to bring unwrapped children’s toys to donate to a local Angel Tree program and nonperishable food items (no glass please!) for Food For Thought Outreach Inc.
Date: Nov. 29
Location: Alys Beach Amphitheatre
More Info: Visit the amphitheatre for a tree lighting ceremony and Christmas concert. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Live music will be provided by Ben Loftin and the Family.
Date: Nov. 30
Location: Seaside Amphitheatre
More Info: One part beach community parade, one part welcome to Santa Claus. Together, it’s a great way to kick off the holiday season.
Date: Nov. 30
Location: Alys Beach Amphitheatre
More Info: It’s a rousing 50-minute play featuring “every Christmas story ever told.” Stop by for this rollicking tour de farce from 10 to 11 a.m.
Date: Nov. 30
Location: The Village of Baytowne Wharf
More Info: Get in the winter spirit with “Here Comes Santa” from 6 to 9 p.m. Cheer Santa on as he makes his way to Baytowne and watch as he lights the village tree. Enjoy face painting, kids’ crafts and a beautiful fireworks display.
Date: Dec. 4-21
Location: The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Events Plaza Lawn
More Info: Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas. This sparkling event will also be featured during the special holiday edition of the Wednesday night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.

Food For Thought Brunch with Santa
Date: Dec. 7
Location: Food For Thought Full Circle Kitchen, 132 Market Street
More Info: Food For Thought’s inaugural Brunch with Santa will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with 100 percent of proceeds supporting the organization’s work fighting child hunger in Walton and Okaloosa Counties. Brunch will include meal provided by Maple Street Biscuit Company; bottomless mimosas, beer or cocktails; holiday crafts; music; and photos with Santa. Ticket prices are $30, adults and $5, children.

Date: Dec. 7
Location: Grayton Beer Company
More Info: Grayton Beer Company will host the Grayt Holiday Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to vendors, the event will include festive craft beers as well as the local brewery’s year-round styles, an appearance by Santa around noon and food for purchase by Grayton Beer Brewpub. The 4th annual Grayt Holiday Market will be held in tandem with the Taproom’s regularly scheduled Dog Days Are (R)over where patrons who bring in their dog receive 10% off their tab.
Date: Dec. 8, 1 to 8 p.m.
Location: Destin Harbor
More Info: The Destin Harbor will be dancing with holiday lights and cheer during the 33rd annual Destin Boat Parade. The celebration begins at Boshamps where boats festively decorated with holiday lights and décor line up and begin drifting along the Harbor past AJs and HarborWalk Village toward the Destin Bridge and Norriego Point. Margaritaville and Harry T’s offer the perfect spot for parade viewing. The evening ends with a bang as fireworks light up the sky. Enjoy a Sunday of holiday fun! Don’t miss visits with Santa and a performance of The Nutcracker by the Ballet Conservatory of the Destin School of Music and Dance prior to the parade. A fireworks show sponsored by HarborWalk Village will light up the sky at the end of the boat parade. All commercial, charter and private boats are invited to help light up the Harbor with the true Destin spirit. To enter your boat in the parade stop by or contact the Destin History and Fishing Museum.
Date: Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Village Baptist Church, 101 Matthew Blvd., Destin
More Info: Join Sinfonia for the most festive holiday concert along the Gulf Coast featuring singer and actor Matthew Morrison. Nominated for Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe awards, Morrison joins Sinfonia’s full orchestra for an evening of the most cherished and festive holiday medleys, plus many of the songs that he has performed during his incredible career including his role as Mr. Schuester on Fox’s musical comedy series “Glee.” Bring the entire family for this special event.
Date: Dec. 13
Location: 7:30 p.m.
More Info: Join Maestro Christopher Confessore as he leads the NFSO’s annual Holiday Pops concert, featuring the Northwest Florida Symphony Chorale. Familiar holiday works will fill you with the spirit of the season! Tickets $25, adults; $16, youth; and free, NWFSC ID.
Date: Dec. 13
Location: Village of Baytowne Wharf
More Info: The Village of Baytowne Wharf will host its 4th annual Ice Skating Extravaganza at Baytowne on Ice Skating Pavillion. The event will feature two performances from well-known skaters Dylan David Moscovitch and Kristin Cowan, on Friday, Dec. 13, at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Both skaters will share their tips and tricks. Free and open to the public. Before and between shows, lace up your skates with the pros. 
Date: Dec. 14, 10 a.m.
Location: Old Time Pottery
More Info: The City of Destin’s 35th annual Christmas Parade is themed “Santa’s Workshop.” The floats will start at Old Time Pottery and travel west down Highway 98 to Stahlman Avenue. Please stand on the north side of 98 to watch the floats. 
Date: Dec. 14, 5 to 8 p.m.
Location: Eden Gardens State Park
More Info: A wonderful holiday tradition in South Walton! Enjoy the walk through the luminaries to the Historic Wesley House. Take a free tour of the house and admire the beautifully-decorated rooms, each themed differently thanks to local businesses and organizations. After the tour is complete, guests can vote on their favorite room and enjoy refreshments in the pavilion provided by the Friends of Eden.
Date: Dec. 21, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Village of Baytowne Wharf, Event Plaza
More Info: The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Event Plaza is turning into a Winter Wonderland full of real snow. Slide down the ice slide, make snow angels and enjoy a day of frosty fun for the whole family.
Date: Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m.
Location: Pierk Park
More Info: Momentum is building for 12th annual New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop at Pier Park. Everyone will enjoy family-friendly activities, including the nation’s only family beach ball drop at 8 p.m. and a New Year’s countdown at midnight. Ten thousand beach balls, two firework shows, four musical acts and 40,000 friends will be on hand to celebrate in Panama City Beach. Be on the lookout for the digital lounge for photo options, Snow Zone, five-foot-tall beach balls and more. Admission is free.
Date: Dec. 31, 6 p.m.
Location: Village of Baytowne Wharf, Events Plaza
More Info: Ring in the new year at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Dance the night away and enjoy live bands in the Events Plaza and breathtaking fireworks as they light up the sky over the lagoon at midnight. Admission is free.
Date: Dec. 31, 7 p.m.
Location: Seaside Amphitheatre
More Info: Countdown Seaside! A New Year’s Celebration! An annual tradition for a special night under the stars in Seaside, Florida. The perfect family-friendly way to usher in 2020, featuring live music, children’s activities, street performers and fireworks. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Bring a blanket or chairs to the amphitheatre in the square and enjoy an exciting night under the stars in Seaside.

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