How To Have the Ultimate Holiday Experience in Destin, Florida

‘Tis the season for Christmas cheer and Destin, Florida knows how to get into the holiday spirit. Although we may not have snow and freezing temperatures, this popular beach town boasts seasonal events, decor and specials that both visitors and locals look forward to every year. Here are some festive things to do in Destin this December:

Attend the Destin Christmas Parade. The 39th annual parade will take place on Saturday, December 9, 2023. Watch the floats, bands and Santa make their way down US 98. They start at Destin Methodist Church, make their way down Beach Drive, and then travel west down Harbor Blvd. (Hwy 98) to Stahlman Avenue. Parade-goers should stand on the north side of Harbor Blvd.

Watch the Holiday on the Harbor Boat Parade. My favorite event! From pirate ships to tiki cruises, the boats in our community are decked out with lights and decor and make their way down the harbor. You can watch from the docks and restaurants between Harbor Docks and HarborWalk Village. There’s also a fireworks finale at the end of the parade. Pro tip: get to the restaurants early if you want a table with a view! Boshamps, Marina Cafe, and Harbor Docks are a few popular spots.

Check out the holiday events at HarborWalk Village. Throughout the month there are a variety of festive happenings such as breakfast with Santa, holiday concerts and performances, mistletoe market, dog-friendly Santa photos and more.

Dine at Bitterroot. No one decorates quite like Bitterroot! When you walk in, it feels like Buddy the Elf was there. Garland, ornaments and lights are hung from the ceilings creating a festive atmosphere. They also have some of the best food and drinks in town! Perfect spot for date night or drinks with friends.

Order a pint of holiday ice cream from Pink Coyote Dessert Co. Although this dessert spot by Dewey Destin’s is closed for the season, they are still making homemade ice cream! Pre-order your favorite flavors for pickup (follow them on Instagram for dates and to see where they will be stocked around town). Peppermint Brownie and Milk + Cookies are a couple of my favorite flavors!

Get Santa pictures at Bass Pro Shops. Stop by Destin Commons to get a free photo with Santa. It’s best to make a reservation online.

Go Ice Skating at Baytowne Wharf. Get into the winter spirit at this seasonal ice rink. It’s open from October 27 – February 4th.

Sip on a holiday coffee flight at Causeway Coffee. Can’t decide which seasonal drink to try? No problem! You can customize your flight and try several flavors such as peppermint bark mocha, eggnog latte, snickerdoodle latte, winterberry lotus and more.

Schedule family photos with Jamie Kamber Photography. I’m a Destin photographer and would love to capture your family while you’re here experiencing the Christmas magic! If you’re in town early enough, I can help you take the perfect picture for your holiday cards. Click here to get in touch!

Do your Christmas shopping at Destin Commons. While you’re crossing things off your list, enjoy the Jolly Jubilee, which runs from Thanksgiving weekend through December 24. With carolers, live performances, reindeer topiaries, and the beloved 50-foot Christmas tree, this outdoor shopping center will get you into the holiday spirit.

Christmas Eve Dinner or Christmas Brunch at The Henderson. This upscale resort is beautiful year-round, but it’s especially magical around Christmas. Whether or not you’re staying there, you can enjoy a festive meal at their in-house restaurant, Primrose. I also recommend getting a drink and watching the sunset from the rooftop bar! If you have kids, don’t miss Breakfast with Santa on December 23!

Support small, local businesses. There are a variety of locally owned businesses in Destin and this time of year can be particularly slow (many survive off summer visitors). As you shop for gifts and decide where to dine, keep these small businesses in mind!

Drive along 30A. I could write a whole separate post about festive things to do along 30A this time of year. The charming beach towns are decorated and host a variety of events, such as tree lightings and visits with Santa. Plus many restaurants and bars have holiday specials. Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach and Seaside are definitely worth checking out. The Christmas-themed pop-up bar at Daytrader in Seaside is a must!

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition in Destin, Florida? Let me know in the comments!