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Holiday Happenings: Complete list of area events to enjoy this season

| Staff Reporters
Looking for fun things to do with the family this holiday season? Here is a complete list of seasonal events to choose from.

Nov. 19 – Dec. 24

Pensacola Winterfest

Downtown Pensacola comes alive with song, dance, arts and crafts during the holidays. Pensacola Winterfest’s tours and photos with Santa take place in Plaza Wonderland at the corner of Government Street and Palafox Place. Enjoy our free plaza show and have visits with Santa and the Grinch each night of the event. Our new Polar Express will run every night of the event too, along with a new Grinch Tour and other Christmas fun. Photos with Santa are available on our new set that features ample space for a full family or large group photo. Please see the full details at

Nov. 26

Light Up the Night

Mark your calendars for Fort Walton Beach’s “Light Up the Night” event on Friday, Nov. 26, when the downtown Christmas lights and the Landing Christmas tree will shine for the first time this holiday season. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. at the Landing with Christmas music, a visit and storybook reading from Santa, and a message from Mayor Dick Rynearson. At 5:30 p.m. sharp, all the downtown lights and the Christmas tree will come on, welcoming the holiday season in Fort Walton Beach. You don’t want to miss this festive tradition.

Nov. 26-28

Festival of Trees

To help kick off the holiday season this year, the PBS station is putting on the first Festival of Trees, a benefit for the WSRE-TV Foundation, Nov. 26–28 at the Museum of Commerce in the Pensacola Historic District. Trees and wreaths, decorated by local designers, will be on display throughout the museum’s turn-of-the-century street scene and available for purchase through online auction bidding. Admission is free. The WSRE Festival of Trees has been scheduled in conjunction with the kickoff of Pensacola Winterfest and will be located next to the Cajun Christmas performance in Historic Pensacola Village. To inquire about contributing a tree or wreath design, contact Tracie Hodson at (850) 484-1246.

Nov. 26 – Dec. 25

Sowell’s North Pole Christmas Lights Display

Sowell’s North Pole Christmas Light Display (drive through and/or park) is an annual Christmas light show put on by the Sowell family. Located at 7650 Sowell Road in Milton. The event will be open every night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. including Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Admission fee required; prices vary each night. For more information, visit or

Nov. 27

Swing Into the Season

City of Crestview is hosting “Swing into the Season” featuring the 15-piece big band “Hashtag Swing” at Warriors Hall located at 201 Stillwell Blvd. on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. “Swing Into the Season” is a big band dance with a USO vibe, coupled with a remembrance of the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that propelled the United States into World War II. There will be dancing, music, food and a cash bar. Book your ticket online or in person at City Hall. The cost of the event is $20. For more information, contact Crestview Community Services Division by email at, or by phone at (850) 398-5459.

Dec. 2

City of Destin to Host 35th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

The City of Destin will host its 35th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting event on Thursday, Dec. 2, starting at 6 p.m. at the Destin Community Center, located at 101 Stahlman Avenue. This will be an outdoor event for the entire family with a visit from Santa Claus and entertainment provided by the Destin Elementary Chorus. Donations of one non-perishable food item will be collected for families in need. For more information, call the Destin Community Center at (850) 654-5184.

Crestview Community Chorus Christmas Concert

The Crestview Community Chorus will be performing Christmas tunes for two nights at Warrior’s Hall, located at 201 Stillwell Blvd. in Crestview. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. each night. For more information, call the Crestview Community Chorus at (850) 682-0789 or email them at

Dec. 3

Milton Christmas Lighted Boat Parade

Parade starts at 6:30 p.m. at 5158 Willing St., Milton. The Blackwater Pyrates host this unique Florida-style event in downtown Milton along the Blackwater River. For more information, visit or email

Crestview Community Chorus Christmas Concert

The Crestview Community Chorus will be performing Christmas tunes for two nights at Warrior’s Hall, located at 201 Stillwell Blvd. in Crestview. The concert will begin at 7:00 p.m. each night. For more information, call the Crestview Community Chorus at (850) 682-0789 or email them at

Dec. 4

Annual Navarre Christmas Parade and Christmas in the Park

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Christmas in the Park “Joy To The World!” will be located at Navarre Park, 8513 Navarre Parkway from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Annual Navarre Community Christmas Parade starts at 1 p.m. at the Navarre Library and runs south on Presidio Street, left on Esplanade Street. and ending in the back parking lot of Centennial Bank. Local artists and crafters will gather with great gifts at the Merry Market, take photos with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch. Enjoy free baked goods and hot beverages at Mrs. Claus’ Bakery sponsored by Okaloosa Gas after the parade. For more information visit or call 850-939-3267.

Navarre Jingle Bell Run

Race starts at 8 a.m. at Navarre Main Fire Station (behind McDonald’s), one hour course time limit. Course: Run/walk through the residential streets of the Town Center for a 5K (3.1 miles) or several shorter distances. Participants will receive a jingle bell and are encouraged to dress up for the season. Refreshments will be served at the Fire Station after the event. There will be door prizes! Leashed pets are welcome. Special prize will be awarded for the most festive participant.

Gulf Breeze City Light Celebration

Drive through a dazzling display of lights, floats and costumes with the whole family. The Gulf Breeze Community Center’s “reverse parade” will return, now larger than ever! This event will feature dozens of floats themed after classic holiday movies handing out goodies to your car. At the end of your drive, see the big man in red, himself! Santa Claus will return, perched on top of a Gulf Breeze fire truck, waving to your family, along with some special friends. Admission to this event is free but an unwrapped toy donation to Toys for Tots is highly encouraged. Come see us at the Gulf Breeze Community Center at 800 Shoreline Drive from 5:30-7:30 p.m.! If you are interested in registering a float, please contact the chamber office before Nov. 29.

Mistletoe Market at Oriole Beach Elementary

This Oriole Beach Elementary School fundraiser will be held on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 1260 Oriole Beach Road in Gulf Breeze. Come get all your Christmas shopping done while supporting local businesses. For more information, call (850) 602-6641 or email

Milton Christmas Parade

The Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce will host the annual Milton Christmas Parade “A Toy Christmas” presented by Sport & Wheat Certified Public Accountants. The parade starts at the Milton Community Center Parade at 6 p.m. at 5629 Byrom St. in Milton. The parade will run north to James Street, east on James Street to Stewart Street, and then south on Stewart Street to Elva Street. For more information visit or call (850) 623-2339.

Pensacola Lighted Boat Parade

The Lighted Boat Parade will set sail at 6:30 p.m. from Sabine Marina on Pensacola Beach and make its way around the Santa Rosa Sound to the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, where it will dock. Leading up to the boat launch, a kid’s party will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at Shaggy’s Pensacola Beach.

Directly following the boat parade, Santa will make his way to the Quietwater Shell on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk to greet the children, then a dazzling firework display will take place over the Santa Rosa Sound by 8 p.m. For those wanting to participate and compete in the Lighted Boat Parade, the deadline to register is Monday, Nov. 29, at noon. The entry fee is $35 per boat. Compete for bragging rights.

A mandatory Captain’s meeting will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Sandshaker Lounge and Package on Pensacola Beach for all boat parade participants. For more information, go to or call (850) 932-1500.

Crestview Christmas Parade

Crestview’s Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 5:30 p.m. Before the parade, there will be a Christmas tree lighting at 5 p.m. Other festivities include community caroling and family-oriented events.

Experience Christmas 2021 – Crestview

Join First Baptist Church of Crestview for the second annual Experience Christmas community event on Saturday, Dec. 4. The event will be located at 171 Hickory Ave. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. There will be a live nativity, a beautifully lit Christmas tree village, gingerbread house display, snow, food, live music, and so much more! After the Crestview Main Street Parade, continue to the church to enjoy it all!

Dec. 4 – Dec. 25

Gulf Breeze Holiday Festival of Homes

Take the scenic route! After enjoying floats, Santa, and fun, cruise down an avenue of residences decked out for the holidays! From Dec. 4 through Christmas day, the public can tour the city to see a festive community display of lights and decorations and vote on their favorite one! Visit the chamber website to find a map of all participating locations or simply drive along Sunset Boulevard.

Residences AND businesses can compete for the title of “Most Festive” in our business and residential categories. Our winners will be announced on Dec. 23 and receive a special yard sign for bragging rights plus a special gift from the Gulf Breeze Area Chamber. Locals who submit their vote will have a chance to win special giveaways too! Register to compete on our website now until Dec. 1 For more information, visit or contact the Gulf Breeze Area Chamber by phone at (850) 932-7888 or by email at

Dec. 5

ECHOing the Holidays

Kick off your holiday season with Emerald Coast Honors Orchestra! ECHO will be performing your favorite Christmas classics as well as modern favorites featuring the White Tie Rock Ensemble! Admission is an unwrapped toy that will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. and will be held at Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, located at 75 Fairpoint Drive in Gulf Breeze.

Surfing Santa Beach Parade

Thousands of children, parents and other spectators make their way to Pensacola Beach on Sunday, Dec. 5 to see Santa Claus close out the annual Surfing Santa Beach Parade. Starting at 2:00 p.m. from Avenida 10, the parade will make its way down Via De Luna toward Casino Beach and end at the Gulfside Pavilion, where kids will be able to meet and greet with Santa until 3 p.m. For those wanting to participate in the Surfing Santa Beach Parade, the deadline to register is Tuesday, Nov. 30 at noon and the entry fee is $50.

Dec. 6

2021 Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade

The 2021 Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade will take place on Monday, Dec. 6, at 6:30 p.m. along Eglin Parkway from First Street to Hughes Street. This year’s theme is Christmas Characters! The public is invited to gather along Eglin Parkway to watch the parade and cheer on their favorite characters.

North Okaloosa Community Band Christmas Concert

The North Okaloosa Community Band will preform in concert on Monday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Crestview Community Center. The Crestview Community Center is located at 1446 Commerce Drive. Admission is free. The event is sponsored by The Friends of the Arts. For more information, reach out to

Dec. 10

ArtWalk Downtown Mobile – Dauphin Street

This year, the City of Mobile Parks and Recreation Department is going to be hosting a new and exciting event in Cathedral Square. The Incredible Inflatable Holiday Balloon LoDa ArtWalk. We are bringing in balloon artists from Foley, Gulf Shores, Dayton, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia to build a Christmas Winter Wonderland – all out of balloons! Visit Cathedral Square from 6 – 9 p.m. on Dec. 10 to see over 12,000 balloons crafted into all your favorite holiday characters and scenes!

Dec. 11

Christmas Village Walk-Through Carnival

Come celebrate the Christmas season from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Navarre for the 2nd annual Walk-Through Christmas Village. There will be carnival games and interactive booths as well as refreshments and entertainment. There might even be snow! Come get in the spirit of Christmas.

2021 P.R.A Christmas Parade Dash

Come out to Garden St. in Pensacola on Saturday, Dec. 11 for a holiday tradition for the whole family. The event starts at 5 p.m. Run or walk the one-mile course and stay to enjoy the Pensacola Annual Christmas Parade. The first 200 runners to register will receive a special Christmas swag. All elementary & middle school finishers will receive a giant candy cane. Costumes are strongly encouraged. A first place prize will be awarded to the overall male and female finishers. The race fee is $15. After Nov. 30, the race fee increases to $20. For more information, contact Pensacola Runners Association by email at

Dec. 11, 12, 18, 19

Christmas ZOObilee at Gulf Breeze Zoo

5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Christmas ZOObilee includes winter-themed bounce stations, live music and entertainment, a candy cane market full of gifts, sights, smells, and tastes of the season. Including unique gifts from local artists and delicious holiday treats. Christmas ZOObilee wouldn’t be complete without a visit from the jolly man in a red suit for photo opportunities as well as the Grinch. All event activities included with regular daytime admission. For more information, visit or call 850-932-2229.

Dec. 13-18

Live Nativity at First Baptist Church – Fort Walton Beach

First Baptist Church will hold a live Nativity from Dec. 13 to Dec. 18. Each Nativity will last from 6:30 – 9 p.m. each night. First Baptist Church is located at 126 Harbeson Ave. in Fort Walton Beach. The event will be held at the soccer fields on the west side of First Baptist Church.

Dec. 16

City of Destin to Host a Jolly Christmas Drive-Thru

The City of Destin will host a Jolly Christmas Drive-Thru on Thursday, Dec. 16, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Destin Community Center parking lot, located at 101 Stahlman Avenue. Join us by cruising through our Christmas light decorations. A visit from Santa & goodie bags will be available for all children. We ask that you please bring one non-perishable food item for admission. Donations will be given to our local food bank, Harvest House. For more information call the Destin Community Center at (850) 654.5184.

Dec. 18

Wild Christmas at Emerald Coast Zoo

Emerald Coast Zoo will be hosting Wild Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 18. Festivities include watching the animals open presents, pictures with Santa, hot dogs, hot chocolate, and cookie decorating. For more information, contact the Emerald Coast Zoo by phone at (850) 682-3949 or by email at

Dec. 20-23, 27-29 & 31

Holiday Ice Skating at Pensacola Bay Center

Get into the holiday spirit while ice skating today! Holiday decorations and music will be sure to bring cheer to all ages. There will be four hour-long sessions – 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit

Dec. 31

New Year’s Eve Firework Display

Keep your eyes focused on the Pensacola Beach skies this New Year’s Eve for a free firework display along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. At the stroke of midnight, a dazzling light display, provided by the beach chamber, will take place overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound from the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk.

Jan. 1

Polar Bear Plunge

Need an exhilarating rush to help kick off your new year? Head to Pensacola Beach and plunge into the Santa Rosa Sound at the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Hosted by Paradise Bar & Grill, hundreds of dippers and spectators – many dressed in costume – flock to the beach to participate in this long-established tradition. Registration begins at noon and the fee is $15 cash per person. Participants will receive a Polar Bear Plunge T-shirt or a $10 registration donation to participate without the T-shirt and $5 Cub Club for ages fifth grade and under. All proceeds go to the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce.

13th Annual Penguin Plunge ‘n Paddle

1451 Navarre Beach Causeway., Navarre Beach. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come out and celebrate the first day of the year and “freezin’ for a reason”. The Annual Penguin Plunge ‘n Paddle is a charity event. For more information, visit or call 850-939-1092.

5th Annual Pirate Plunge

8579 Gulf Blvd., Navarre Beach. 12 p.m. Arrr you ready to take the plunge? This charity event features a plunge into the Gulf of Mexico at the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier followed by a after party at Windjammer’s on the Pier. For more information, visit