Glittering white beaches. Twinkling lights on palm trees. Mild temperatures and sunshine. Experience a tropical, festive wonderland in Destin over the holidays for a one-of-a-kind vacation with your family! Don’t worry, Santa Claus still flies south to Florida to make an appearance (and to get away from the blistering cold). You’ll have a holly jolly time with your loved ones from relaxing on the shores to watching fireworks over the harbor. Want to experience all of the highlights? We’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate the holidays at the beach in Destin, FL!
Fa la la in Love with Holiday Happenings in the Destin Area
Destin Lighted Boat Parade
You won’t want to miss one of the nation’s best lighted boat parades in early December to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in Destin! Enjoy lots of jovial afternoon activities and snag your spot on the docks for this spectacular evening event. The large fleet of decorated boats and water vessels flaunt festive lights and décor, and prizes are awarded. Just wait until you see the grand finale where you’ll ooh and ahh at the fireworks that light up the night sky!
Cruises in the Gulf
Fill your day with catching rays on the sun deck and lounge at the pool while vacationing at Ocean Effect, and spend the evening relaxing on a cruise for a family experience to remember over the holidays. Many cruises offer live performances and coastal dishes while everyone enjoys spotting dolphins and viewing the stunning sunset. For an extraordinary time for guests aged 21+, book a New Year’s Eve cruise and toast next year with champagne and fireworks!
New Year’s Eve at HarborWalk Village
Ring in the New Year with friends and family at the annual HarborWalk Village’s street party! Enjoy lots of live bands hitting off the evening and performing covers. Experience a countdown in style by the seaside with drinks, dining, and dancing! The ball descends twice over the harbor: in the early evening for kids and at midnight for the adults. The fireworks display kicks off the new year with a sensational bang.
Have a Merry Time with these Activities on the Beach
With a stay at Castaway, you’ll have access to the beach right across the street where you can build sandcastles and “snowmen”! Forget about touching cold white snow and gather up the soft sugary sand instead! Everyone will have a blast combing the Emerald shores for twisty seashells for your character’s buttons. Add some sunglasses, sticks for arms, a hat, and your “snow” man is set. Frosty the Snowman would be jealous!
The cooler evenings offer the perfect opportunity to gather around a bonfire to tell stories while sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows. Warm up to the crackling flames and get lost in the sounds of ocean waves lapping the shores. Look up and gaze at the stars in the night skies and spot a constellation or two for an unforgettable evening. You can obtain a permit to build your own bonfire or book one with many local companies.
While you’re on the coast, why not catch some seafood for a holiday feast? Whether you’d like to go alone or with the whole family, the quieter areas and cooler weather make for a more rewarding time for fishing in Destin. One of the more popular spots, Choctawhatchee Bay, gives anglers the chance to catch some speckled trout. While piers and jetties may be challenging, you can take a fishing charter offshore to try your hand at reeling in white snappers.
Drum Up Lots of Joy with these Seasonal Experiences
Baytowne Ice Skating
Lounging on the beach by day and ice skating by night? Sounds like the ultimate holiday! Glide along this 40 by 60-foot rink in an enclosed tent and spin up new family moments together. The winter-esque venue makes for a fun time for nearly all ages and operates daily until the end of January for bargain prices. Kids aged 12 and under get the first hour all to themselves. You’ll love returning to Tuscan Charm to warm up in the large hot tub heated year-round!
12 Nights of Lights Festival
The Village of Baytowne Wharf throws a free lights festival throughout the month of December on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. You can watch up to three dazzling shows a night in the Events Plaza Lawn. The choreographed lights twinkle in rhythm to your favorite holiday music and encourage everyone to sway and sing along to the beats. The Wednesday Night Concert Series features a holiday edition and visits with Santa along with the lights show.
Breakfast with Santa
Santa sure loves warming up in Florida’s weather for the holidays! Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village and other local restaurants host breakfast with Santa on a couple of weekends before Christmas in Destin. The kids enjoy building a cup of hot chocolate, writing down their ideal gifts, and noshing on their favorite morning foods. Kris Kringle listens to their wishlists, checks his list once or twice, and sits for memorable photos.
Feel the Festive Spirit at these Shopping and Dining Areas
Look no further than Destin Commons for some jolly holiday shopping with a 50-foot Christmas tree in the center of it all! The award-winning destination serves a myriad of retailers and dining spots that delight foodies and shopaholics alike. You’ll discover lots of family-friendly activities to celebrate Christmas in Destin. After a day filled with shopping, you’re just a hop, skip, and jump away to enjoy an evening floating at the pool while watching movies at Koko Kabana.
For more of an upscale shopping experience, Grand Boulevard provides a diverse selection of exclusive boutiques and galleries. The premier destination lies close to Miramar Beach with lots of sparkling lights during the holidays. Take a break from cooking and dine at one of the fine restaurants for some delicious cuisines. As an elegant way to end the day, take a ride on a free horse-drawn carriage around the town center available Friday and Saturday nights.
Merchants of Seaside
The merchants of Seaside on the Scenic Highway 30A offer a more casual shopping experience for visitors. Visitors enjoy perusing items from jewelry and souvenirs to clothing and crafts. The outdoor amphitheater featuring a Christmas tree, shops decorated with wreaths, and sparkling lights deliver picture-perfect surroundings. The nearby Airstream Trailers serve guests with yummy sandwiches and more. Enjoy a tasty treat of frozen yogurt in the sunny weather!
Relax in a Heated Pool at a Venture Found Vacation Rental
The ocean’s winter waters may feel a bit chilly and frightful, but dipping in a heated pool at one of our luxury vacation rentals is delightful! From kids making a splash to adults sipping a cup of cheer, everybody will love a slice of tropical paradise. Take a peek at Toes in The Sand, a pet-friendly vacation rental in Destin that provides pool toys and features a guest cottage! Whether you’d like to create a homemade meal in the fully stocked kitchen or grill up something special, the dining table makes for an ideal setting to gather. The coastal furnishings and comfy bedrooms await you after enjoying holiday festivities and the beach in the Destin area.