Heading to Destin for the holidays might be the best decision you ever make. Why? This beautiful area offers a range of events and activities to keep everyone entertained whether it’s for Christmas, New Year, or Thanksgiving in Destin. We’re going to give you the lowdown on “winter” weather, seasonal events, and group activities to ensure that you make the most of your Thanksgiving, New Year, or Christmas in Destin FL. And if you prefer to spend the special occasion relaxing in the peace and quiet, we are going to recommend plenty of beautiful spots away from the crowds where you and your loved ones can spend time together.
Crowds flock to Destin in the summer because they’re guaranteed sunny days and high temperatures. If you’re a warm-blooded creature, it’s also where you want to be in winter. In the Sunshine State temperatures never drop too dramatically. Throughout November and December the weather can be unpredictable, some days are warm and sunny, perfect for a picnic on the beach. Other days can be chilly but perfect for a refreshing walk on the beach wrapped up in layers. There are plenty of indoor activities for families in Destin in case you’d prefer to shelter when colder temperatures set in.
We might not see snow but Christmas in Destin, FL is a great occasion to build a different kind of snowman. It’s a tradition in Destin to build snowmen sandcastles on the beach and the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve with family and friends.
The cooler weather also means low season rates. It’s a great time of year to get to know a different side of Destin and Fort Walton Beach. The area is much quieter than in summer but many activities are still available for visitors such as fishing, beach picnics, and wildlife watching. If you don’t live by the ocean, you may have never experienced the beauty of the beach in cooler weather. The colors change from bright and vibrant to cool pastels and you’ll see a different range of wildlife compared to spring and summer.
Destin Harbor Boat Parade
The second Sunday in December is reserved for the renowned lighted boat parade in Destin Harbor. The event starts at 6 pm at the east side of the harbor, near Boshamps restaurant. The route goes towards the western side passing in front of the HarborWalk Village and finishing near the Destin Bridge. Expect to see boats decorated in a festive theme, sparkling with Christmas lights, and plenty of seasonal tunes. For the best viewing spots, we suggest grabbing a spot either in a HarborWalk restaurant or on the beaches of Norriego Point. If you want to make an evening of the occasion, you can enjoy cocktails and a delicious meal from restaurants such as AJ’s Seafood and The Boathouse. Be sure to get your table early and find a parking place in plenty of time for the start.
The Pelican Plunge
There’s no better way to blow the year’s cobwebs away than with a dip in the Gulf of Mexico on New Year’s Day. This tradition is held in support of the Emerald Coast Foundation(opens in a new tab) so as well as having fun, you are supporting a good cause. Check-in opens at 10:30 am with plenty of time to find your spot in front of the water, wait for the countdown, and plunge at 11:30 am. Post-swim you can warm up with hot cocoa and coffee. The celebrations continue with a raffle, a free cup of gumbo, and a DJ. Don’t miss out on the fun, make sure to take the refreshing plunge this New Year.
Coastal White Christmas Holiday Lights
Visiting Grand Boulevard is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Every night from the end of November to the start of January, the town center lights up with detailed Christmas décor. With friends or family, stroll the streets and check out kitsch light displays in all shapes and sizes.
Wednesday Night Holiday Concerts
Get in the holiday spirit and dance along to some of your favorite holiday classics every Wednesday in December. Running from 6-8 pm at The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Wednesday Night Concert Series(opens in a new tab), these concerts will feature a festive choreographed light show and visits with Santa. Every week there is a new performer bestowing holiday fun upon us and the best part? It’s all free.
What To Do
If you’re craving colder temperatures and the traditions of a cold-weather Christmas, grab your skates and head to Baytowne Wharf. The rink, which is open to the public, is at the Community Broadcasters Skating Pavilion, just in front of the Village of Baytowne Wharf. This activity offers great value for money at $11 for 90 minutes on the ice and $3 for skate rental. We recommend Baytowne on Ice(opens in a new tab) for everyone over 4 years old (due to skate sizes) and be sure to make the whole day a special occasion with lunch in the village which is home to great eateries and galleries.
Christmas Open House
Yet more Christmas décor can be admired at the historic Wesley House. The Eden Gardens State Park(opens in a new tab) in Point Washington hosts an annual Christmas Open House Candlelight Tour through this special building. This free tour will take you through beautifully decorated rooms and you’ll come across carollers serenading visitors. Each room is decorated in a different holiday theme by different organizations. This free event will see the park illuminated with 2000 lights, creating an enchanting atmosphere.
Great Beach Sunsets
From October through March, the sun sets over the water in Destin creating magical scenes. In summer the sun sets over land meaning that the holiday season is the best time to catch the sun reflecting off the Gulf of Mexico. Take a bottle of wine and a picnic rug to the beach and watch the colors change from blue to pink in front of your eyes.
There’s plenty of places that offer Christmas dinner on the big day. It’s essential that you book early to ensure a spot for your special meal. Our favorite recommendations are Cuvee 30A, Grande Vista Bar and Grill, The Crab Trap, Bijoux Bistro, Stinky’s Fish Camp, and Beach Walk Cafe at the Henderson. Whether you want a traditional Christmas dinner or are looking to switch up your traditions and have a fresh seafood banquet to celebrate, Destin has it all.
Destin is a place where people know how to celebrate and choosing this destination for your holiday getaway is a decision you won’t regret. From family get-togethers to getaways with friends, this coastline has it all. You may have visited Destin numerous times in summer, but you’ll definitely see a different side in winter. Or maybe you’ll visit for the first time in winter and be convinced to return in summer. If you do, be sure to check out our pontoon boat and jet ski rentals to spend as much time in the water as possible.