Save the Date: Winter ‘22/’23 Events in Destin and 30A
Although renowned for summer activities, you’ll find tons of winter fun in Destin and 30A.
Gorgeous weather and mild temperatures make it easy to get outdoors, and although it’s nice enough for relaxing strolls on the beach, you’ll also find a hearty lineup of activities all winter long. From holiday celebrations to dazzling parades, the Emerald Coast is brimming with recurring winter events, and new ones pop up every year. Whether a long-standing resident, here for a visit or transitioning to our beautiful community, join us in celebrating the most wonderful time of year at some of our favorite Destin and 30A winter events. Don’t forget to mark your calendars and save the date because they’ll be back in full swing next year!
What’s more festive than a Christmas parade to get into the spirit of the season? Residents eagerly anticipate Destin’s Annual Christmas Parade each December, a tradition for nearly forty years. Marked by sparkling lights, amazing floats, marching bands, and more, the parade begins at the Destin downtown shopping center and jingles all the way down Highway 98, ending at Stahlman Avenue. Wear your Santa hat, dress the kids in holiday attire, and give them bags to catch candy and small toys. The parade lasts a couple of hours, so chairs and a thermos of hot cocoa might be in order, then find your place along the main drag and take in this magical time along the Emerald Coast!
Arrive early each December to secure your spot for the Destin Boat Parade, attracting locals and visitors for over 35 years. Featuring 30 holiday-themed boats decorated with Christmas lights, the parade begins at the east end of the harbor traveling west, making anywhere along the Destin harbor an excellent spot to watch. Locals like to hang out at AJs, Margaritaville, or the Boathouse, but you’ll find other great vantage points, including the docks at Harborwalk Village or Norriego Point. Stick around for the fireworks afterward and see who wins the Destin Heritage Award, given to the vessel that best symbolizes the history of Destin’s harbor.
Grand Boulevard features a variety of events and entertainment year-round, but we find the winter events particularly merry. The Grand Boulevard Town Center decks the halls and goes all out with a small parade and Santa’s arrival during the Christmas Holiday Lights Kick-off in November. The Festival of Trees comes next, as a dozen non-profits decorate trees to win cash prizes for their respective charities. Come out to enjoy the tree lighting ceremony, vote for your favorite tree, and enjoy the merriment that extends through Christmas.
The Emerald Coast Theater Company features a fantastic lineup, with several holiday performances every winter. You can also enjoy complimentary photos with Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides all month long. Whether attending the year-round Farmer’s Market or the Holiday Open House and Walk-About, the whole family will enjoy the calendar of events at Grand Boulevard.
Although Seaside’s holiday season begins right after Thanksgiving with the tree lighting, the town is filled with delightful winter customs. Bring chairs and blankets for a cozy night under the stars as the Sinfonia Gulf Coast Orchestra performs favorite holiday classics at Seaside’s Amphitheater. While there, take the opportunity to see Every Christmas Story Ever Told. Enjoy cast members from Northwest Florida’s premier theater company as they put on a spirited performance in front of the Seaside post office, one of Seaside’s most beloved holiday traditions.
Boasting an array of events all year long, Baytowne Wharf’s family-friendly entertainment district showcases restaurants, shops, and activities for the whole family. Check off all the gifts on your Christmas list, lace up some ice skates, and dash away on the seasonal ice rink, also available for private functions. Twelve Nights of Lights runs for several weeks in December, with an impressive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday until Christmas. Featured as part of the Wednesday night concert series, spectators can enjoy three fabulous shows every Wednesday evening.
Sip and shop with free champagne at Bubbly Baytowne, an exclusive event for those aged 21 and older. Browse the shops, engage with the merchants, toast to the season, and enjoy the sparkling lights and holiday decor throughout the plaza. Whether bundling up and playing in real snow at Winter Wonderland or catching a fantastic New Year’s Eve fireworks show during Baytowne Countdown, winter fun takes on new meaning along the Emerald Coast! Reference their calendar of events, an excellent resource for event details and other winter happenings.
Sample your favorite sounds in over 30 venues along the 30A corridor each January at the 30A Songwriter’s Festival. With over 200 performers, attendees enjoy an equal mix of established and newly discovered artists at this four-day event swarming with talent. Get up close and personal with established and popular new artists performing in intimate cafes, local coffee shops, beach bars, and outdoor arenas. Established in 2010, this four-day event is considered one of the Southeast’s largest and most prestigious songwriter’s festivals. Past headliners include Jackson Browne, Brandi Carlisle, and Emmylou Harris, but each year presents an opportunity to experience top talent in your favorite genres.
Hosting vintners and distillers alongside culinary professionals, the 30A Wine Festival at Alys Beach is known to draw a crowd. Marked by workshops, tastings, and special events, this five-day event offers something for everyone. A mixology seminar, a gospel brunch, and a wine dinner are just a few highlights, with the Grand Tasting the most popular and highly anticipated event. Over 1,000 attendees have been arriving annually for over a decade to experience music, wine, and art among the gorgeous backdrop of Alys Beach. Even if you can’t make the event, place your bid in the silent auction, benefitting the Children’s Volunteer Health Network.
Each season brings a flurry of events to Harborwalk Village, and winter is no exception. Come for dinner, a little shopping, and a series of winter events sure to make you feel warm and cozy inside. Bring the kids for Breakfast with Santa featuring a delicious buffet of eggs, sausage, muffins, and more. Let them spend a little time with Santa after they create their wishlists at the letter-writing station. Bring a sense of humor, don your tackiest sweater, and celebrate the season at the Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl. A raffle, prizes, games, and live music round out another fun event at the Destin harbor. While there, pop into A Christmas to Remember and peruse their wide selection of Christmas ornaments.
Brunch, Rhythm, and Blues occur every Sunday through most of January and February at Harry T’s, Margaritaville, and Rhumcay Island Grille, followed by a live concert on the Main Stage. The lineup changes each week, but the entertainment is always fresh!
Going strong every February for over a quarter of a Century, this family-friendly cook-off has become one of the area’s premier events. Although technically a Baytowne Wharf event, it’s garnered a large enough following we felt we should call it out. Gumbo sampling, live music, children’s activities, and a crawfish boil are a few highlights of this famed festival guaranteed to take the chill out of winter. Come for a memorable weekend, try the eats and sips, and vote for your favorite gumbo and the best Bloody Mary on the beach!
Considering home ownership along our beautiful Emerald Coast? The Valentine Tour of Homes is an excellent opportunity to gain some inspiration. For decades, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County has hosted the event, just one of many designed to support the arts through advocacy, funding, and programs. Showcasing stunning homes in South Walton, the tour offers a glimpse of what it’s like to reside in a beautiful home along the Emerald Coast!