Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (2023)

Table of Contents
Is the Christmas Season a Good Time to Visit Destin? December and November Weather in Destin Winter Sunrises and Sunsets in Destin Christmas Events in the Destin Area Destin Commons Christmas Tree Lighting and Fireworks Baytowne Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights at Sandestin Polar Express Movie Night at Baytowne Wharf Santa’s Arrival at Harborwalk Village Santa’s Arrival and Fireworks at Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin Baytowne Wednesday Night Concert Series Holiday Edition Ice Skating Extravaganza at Baytowne Wharf Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl at Harborwalk Village Santa Paws at Harborwalk Village City of Destin Christmas Parade Tuba Christmas at Baytowne Wharf Breakfast with Santa at Emerald Grande in Destin Olde Holiday Market at Harborwalk Village Destin Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade and Fireworks Dock the Halls Slacker Event at the Boathouse Oyster Bar Where to Visit Santa Clause in Destin Visits with Santa at Harborwalk Village Visits with Santa at Baytowne Wharf Visits with Santa at Bass Pro Shops Where to see Christmas Lights in Destin City of Destin Christmas Decorating Contest Festival of Trees at Grand Boulevard Candy Cane Lane in Destin 12 Nights of Lights at Baytowne Wharf Christmas Reflections in Defuniak Springs Christmas Lights on 30a Other Christmas Must-Do’s in Destin Visit the Dolphin and Santa Display at the Back Porch Ice Skating at Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin Restaurants Open on Christmas Day in Destin Packing Tips for Christmas and Winter Season in Destin Rubber Rain Boots Christmas Light Necklace Beach Themed Ugly Christmas Sweater Christmas Lights Destin Themed Christmas Gift Ideas Destin Gifts by The Good Life Destin Other Ideas for Destin themed Christmas gifts: Shop my Destin Photography Prints, Canvas, Tote Bags, Jigsaw Puzzles, and Books FAQs Videos
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Thinking about visiting Destin or Miramar Beach at Christmas? My 2022 guide to Christmas in Destin has everything you need to know about the best of the holiday season here.

In this post I will cover all the best holiday events and parades, where to see the best Christmas lights, good Christmas photos spots, and restaurant options for Christmas Day.

I will also talk about the weather in Destin in November and December, packing tips for a winter visit, Destin-themed gift ideas, and lots more.

The Christmas season in Destin runs from late November through the end of December. This is when you will find the best Christmas events and holiday decorations around town. I hope this post helps you plan the perfect holiday season or Christmas in Destin.

Is the Christmas Season a Good Time to Visit Destin?

There are pros and cons to visiting Destin in November and December during the holiday season. The crowd levels usually vary quite a bit depending when you are here.

Thanksgiving week is usually pretty busy with many people taking advantage of the warmer Florida temperatures and off-season rates.

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Early and mid-December will quiet down as kids go back to school but then the crowds will spike up again starting around December 18th when they go on Christmas break and continuing through New Years.

I’m not talking about anything in the realm of summer crowds but just higher than you would expect in off-season.

The crowds also depend a bit on the weather. If it’s uncharacteristically warm, that will bump up the crowd levels more while super cold temperatures can cause them to drop.

December and November Weather in Destin

November and December are totally hit or miss when it comes to the weather.

There have been some Thanksgivings and Christmases when temperatures were in the 70’s and sunny for a perfect beach day but I also recall some that have been in the 40s and extremely chilly. You just never really know that time of year.

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Also remember that 60 degrees in Florida can feel a lot colder than the same temperature feels elsewhere because the humidity gives the air some extra bite. I really can’t stress this enough.

I’m not trying to scare you off with weather warnings since November and December are often quite pleasant. The coldest months in Destin are January and February. But just keep in mind that it can vary a lot that time of year and it’s not always hot and sunny in Florida.

Most people consider it too cold to swim in Destin in November and December, but some people still do, especially on the hot sunny days.

Winter Sunrises and Sunsets in Destin

November and December in Destin are one of the best times to enjoy sunrises and sunsets at the beach. This is because the sun sets over the water in Destin from about October through March while it’s over land in the summer.

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The sun is as far over the Gulf of Mexico as it will get in December before it turns around and starts slowly creeping back towards land. So be sure to set aside time for sunrise and sunset walks on the beach if you are here in winter.

If you want to understand more about sunsets in Destin and get ideas for the best places to watch them, check out this more detailed post: Sunset in Destin: The 6 Best Places to Watch

Christmas Events in the Destin Area

Destin Commons Christmas Tree Lighting and Fireworks

Christmas season in Destin kicks off every year in November when Santa arrives to light the biggest Christmas Tree on the Emerald Coast at Destin Commons.

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This event will include free face painting and photo opportunities with Rudolph and Frosty characters all set to festive holiday tunes.

Santa will ride in the holiday parade down Main Street in Destin Commons to arrive at the tree lighting. The parade will start at 7pm and fireworks will immediately follow.

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The fireworks for this event are set off from the parking garage so they will be directly over the Christmas tree and shops in the Commons.

It’s not the longest fireworks show in town so I wouldn’t go just for those but it’s a fun addition to the holiday festivities and tree lighting.

Baytowne Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights at Sandestin

Another early holiday favorite event is the Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights festival at Sandestin. Stroll the beautifully decorated streets of Baytowne Wharf enjoying an evening full of holiday spirit, delicious appetizers, and sparkling wine.

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Anyone can walk around the Village and enjoy the Sparkling Wine Festival but you will need a ticket to sample the food and wine that’s available outside the participating shops and restaurants.

The event will end with the first tree lighting of the season and a sneak peek at Baytowne Wharf’s choreographed light show, 12 Nights of Lights (more on the light show below in the “Where to see Christmas Lights” section.)

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I wrote a detailed post about the Baytowne Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights event with photos from prior years and more information here: Baytowne Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights Festival at Sandestin: 2022 Guide

Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular holiday events in town and it ALWAYS sells out in advance so get your tickets early!

Polar Express Movie Night at Baytowne Wharf

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Every year Baytowne Wharf shows the classic holiday film, Polar Express, on the events plaza lawn.

You can bring blankets, lawn chairs, and your picnic supplies to enjoy this Christmas favorite movie under the stars. Baytowne Wharf provides free popcorn for this event.

Santa’s Arrival at Harborwalk Village

Holiday on the Harbor kicks off every year with Santa’s grand entrance at Harborwalk Village. Enjoy a Rudolph-themed treasure hunt, holiday activities, and pictures with Santa. Guests will receive a FREE 4×6 photo.

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There will also be plenty of other opportunities to visit Santa again at Harborwalk Village before Christmas (see the “Where to see Santa” section below).

Santa’s Arrival and Fireworks at Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin

  • When: Saturday, November 26th 2022 from 6-9pm
  • Where: The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://www.baytownewharf.com

Baytowne Wharf takes holiday Santa visits to the next level with this awesome Christmas celebration welcoming Santa to the Village for the season.

Santa has different methods of arrival into the Village each year. Sometimes he arrives by train, sometimes by golf cart and sometimes by a horse drawn carriage. Santa’s arrival vehicle is not yet confirmed for the 2022 arrival.

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Santa’s arrival is a very popular event so be sure to arrive early for a spot in the parking garage.

Santa will start his horse drawn carriage journey into Baytowne Wharf at 6pm and parade around the Village arriving at the stage about 15 minutes later.

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Once Santa arrives at the stage, he will say a few words and flip a switch to officially light up the Christmas tree for the holiday season. The fireworks will go off immediately after he lights the tree.

Keep in mind that a lot of people accidentally miss the fireworks for the Santa’s arrival event because they are not expecting them to go off so early. All other Baytowne Wharf Fireworks shows start between 8-9:15 but the Christmas fireworks are much earlier.

There is no exact time for the fireworks during the Santa’s arrival event but you should expect the show to start sometime between 6:15 and 6:30.

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The Christmas fireworks at Baytowne Wharf are a special holiday display with a variety of colors and bursts that differ from the summer shows. The fireworks display will last 5-6 minutes and are synched to popular holiday music.

I wrote a post about the best Baytowne Wharf fireworks viewing spots here: Where to Watch the Baytowne Wharf Fireworks

After the fireworks, Santa will begin an evening of visits and photos. The lines to see Santa can get pretty long on his arrival night but there will be plenty of opportunities to visit him again at Baytowne before Christmas (see the “Where to see Santa” section below.)

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There will also be free kids crafts and face painting at the Baytowne Wharf Santa’s arrival event and the seasonal ice skating rink will also be open. More about the skating rink is discussed further down in this post.

Baytowne Wednesday Night Concert Series Holiday Edition

  • When: Wednesday December 7th, 14th, and 21st 2022 from 6-8pm
  • Where: Events Plaza Lawn at Baytowne Wharf
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://www.baytownewharf.com
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This is the holiday edition of Baytowne’s popular Wednesday Night concert series that takes place from spring through fall. Bring your blanket and lawn chairs to enjoy holiday music under the starts from a different band each week.

Ice Skating Extravaganza at Baytowne Wharf

  • When: TBA (likely date based on prior years is Friday Dec 2nd 2022) at 6pm and 7:30pm
  • Where: Events Plaza Lawn at Baytowne Wharf
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://www.baytownewharf.com

Baytowne on Ice is hosting it’s fifth annual Ice Skating Extravaganza featuring two performances by Antonella Ross and Vitaly Nikiforov.

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Before and in between the shows, lace up those skates and skate around with The Pros! Antonella and Vitaly will be on the ice sharing tips and tricks!

Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl at Harborwalk Village

  • When: Friday December 2nd, 2022 at 6:30pm
  • Where: Participating Bars and Restaurants at Harborwalk Village
  • Cost: $10
  • Website: https://harborwalkvillage.com

Dress in your best (or worst!) ugly Christmas sweater for this festive drinking event at Harborwalk Village.

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Eat, drink and be merry with a game of drink specials bingo! The Santa Cause Pub Crawl will have a full schedule of stops at the various bars and restaurants around Harborwalk Village offering drink specials for participants. There will also be raffle prizes and live music on the main stage to enjoy.

End the evening with an ugly Christmas sweater contest at 9pm at Coyote Ugly. Proceeds from this event will benefit Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

Santa Paws at Harborwalk Village

Bring your furry friend to get a picture with Santa and receive a FREE 4×6 photo. Panhandle Animal Welfare Society will be on-site with pets looking for a new home.

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Come out and get a photo with your dog and/or adopt your new best friend!

City of Destin Christmas Parade

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The City of Destin’s 37th annual Christmas Parade will start at the Downtown Destin Shopping Center (Old Time Pottery) and travel west down Highway 98 (Harbor Blvd.) to Stahlman Ave.

Every year is a different theme for the Christmas parade. The 2022 parade theme has not been announced yet but I will update here when it does.

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This section of Highway 98 will be closed for several hours during the Christmas parade so be sure and take that into account if you are trying to go anywhere that day.

Spectators should stand on the north side of 98 anywhere along the route. This is a big parade with a long parade route so there is plenty of space to find a spot to spread out and watch.

The Destin Christmas Parade will have a few fancy floats but it’s mostly decorated cars and golf carts. They will throw candy and other items to people along the route. There will also be local bands and dance companies participating.

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Santa will close the parade with his grand entrance on a fire truck. This parade is fun but it’s long. I haven’t made it through the whole thing yet.

Tuba Christmas at Baytowne Wharf

  • When: TBA (Likely date is Saturday December 10th 2022 from 5-7pm)
  • Where: Events Plaza Stage at Baytowne Wharf
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://www.baytownewharf.com

Tuba Christmas is a unique holiday event taking place every year at the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin. This event will feature over 30 brass instruments playing your holiday favorites on the events plaza stage.

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You can bring chairs and blankets to enjoy Tuba Christmas from the lawn in front of the events plaza stage.

This event is a festive annual Christmas tradition in Sandestin where you can also enjoy other holiday fun such as the 12 Nights of Lights show, Ice Skating, and photos with Santa (more on those events below in Christmas Lights and Other things to do sections.)

Breakfast with Santa at Emerald Grande in Destin

  • When: TBA (likely dates are December 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th 2022)
  • Where: Emerald Grand at Harborwalk Village
  • Cost: $18 Kids | $25 Adults plus tax & gratuity
  • Website: https://harborwalkvillage.com

Adults and children of all ages are welcome to enjoy a buffet breakfast with Santa in the HarborView room at Emerald Grande.

During the Breakfast with Santa event, kids can enjoy a Santa letter writing station, build your own hot chocolate station, candy station and photos with Santa.

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I attended this event as a photographer for Emerald Grande and was very impressed at how well it was done. I can’t imagine a better Breakfast with Santa event.

Santa was there the entire time walking around to each table greeting everyone. He then sat in his chair to take photos with kids. Everyone had a great time and there was plenty of opportunity for all the kids to get their photo with Santa.

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Buffet breakfast items included Frosty’s Fruit Display, Elfie’s Scrambled Eggs, Blitzen’s Bacon, Starry Night Sausage Patties, Holiday Home Fries, Mrs. Claus’ Quiche, Jingle Bell Biscuits, Fa La La La French Toast, and Dasher’s Doughnut Station.

This event will sell out so make your reservations early. Tickets will normally go on sale sometime in November on Emerald Grande’s website here: https://www.emeraldgrande.com/events-3/

Olde Holiday Market at Harborwalk Village

  • When: TBA (Likely dates are Saturday December 10th from 11am-6pm & Sunday December 11th 2022 from 12-8pm)
  • Where: Harborwalk Village
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://harborwalkvillage.com

Olde Holiday Market at Harborwalk Village is a festive marketplace featuring holiday activities, live music, and local art and goods for sale. Support local vendors while getting some of your holiday shopping done at Olde Holiday Market.

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Destin Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade and Fireworks

The Destin Harbor Christmas Lighted Boat Parade is an annual holiday tradition that takes place in early December on Destin Harbor.

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Participants will include area tour boats, dolphin cruise boats, fishing charter boats, and private boats.

The Decorated parade boats will make their way from the east side of the harbor (near Boshamps restaurant) to the west side (Harborwalk Village/Emerald Grande) ending near the Destin Bridge and East Pass area.

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Viewing spot options for the Destin Boat Parade include Harborwalk Village Restaurants, the docks along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk and Marina, the Destin Bridge, and the beaches of Norriego Point.

For more information and photos of the Destin Christmas Lighted Boat Parade, check out my more detailed post here: Destin Lighted Boat Parade: 2022 Parade Route and Best Viewing Spots

Dock the Halls Slacker Event at the Boathouse Oyster Bar

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Individuals or teams will visit partner locations and put their skills to the test competing in activities such as hop scotch, hula hooping, toilet paper toss, corn hole and more.

Grab all your slacker friends and come down to the Boathouse for a good cause. Slackers are asked to bring toys for charity in exchange for extra drink tickets.

Where to Visit Santa Clause in Destin

Visits with Santa at Harborwalk Village

  • When: Saturday and Sunday November 26, 27, December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, & 18 2022 from 1-4pm.
  • Where: Harborwalk Village
  • Cost: FREE
  • Website: https://harborwalkvillage.com

Visits with Santa at Harborwalk Village starting on Saturday November 27th when Santa and Mrs. Clause make their arrival to the main stage. Kids can also enjoy crafts, face painting, and a Rudolph-themed treasure hunt on Santa’s arrival day.

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Bring your letter to Santa and drop it in thespecial North Pole mailbox located near the stage. For every letter received, $1 will be donated to a local children’s charity.All of Santa’s guests will receive a special treat and a FREE 4×6 photo.

Santa’s send off event at Harborwalk Village takes place on Saturday December 18th and Sunday December 19th from 1-4pm which is the final day to visit and get photos taken with him.

The weekend send off event will feature live performances on the main stage (2022 Performers TBA)

Visits with Santa at Baytowne Wharf

Visit Santa every Wednesday night in December at Baytowne Wharf. Santa will be on his sleigh in front of the big Christmas tree providing the perfect backdrop for photos.

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You can also see Santa at Baytowne Wharf on Saturday November 26th at his arrival celebration event and during the Tuba Christmas event on Saturday December 10th. Details about those events are further up in this post.

Visits with Santa at Bass Pro Shops

Daily visits with Santa are a holiday tradition at Bass Pro Shops in Destin. This event includes free games, crafts, and photos with Santa.

Families who visit Santa receive a free 4×6 professional photo as well as a free digital download that can be shared on social media. Additional photo packages are also available for purchase.

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In past years Bass Pro Shops was one of the only Santa visits with strict Covid-19 protocols in place including required reservations and temperature checks in 2020. There was also an acrylic barrier between Santa and the kids. 2021 was a little more relaxed but there was still a reservation system in place.

No word yet on how the 2022 Bass Pro Shops Santa visits will be handled but I will update here as soon as I find out.

Where to see Christmas Lights in Destin

Christmas lights are one of the best parts of the holiday season if you ask me. I live in a small apartment now but decorating for Christmas is the only think I miss about having a larger home and a brick-and-mortar business.

I have been referred to as “Clark Griswold” several times in the past when decorating my old flower shop in Pensacola. During the decoration process my partner would say “I think this is probably good” just before I went and bought 5 times more lights saying “I think we should really take this to the edges”.

Even though I don’t participate in decorating for Christmas anymore, I find immense joy spending time viewing and photographing other people’s Christmas light displays during the holiday season. There’s just something so magical about being out at night surrounded by the glow of holiday lights.

My Christmas light philosophy is go big or go home. I’m always looking for the people who embody that spirit in their Christmas decor.

Luckily there are plenty of great options for viewing Christmas lights in Destin and surrounding areas during the holiday season. All the details are below.

City of Destin Christmas Decorating Contest

Before getting into some more official stops for Christmas lights in Destin, you should know that there will be festive light displays all around town competing in the City of Destin decorating contest.

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Judging for the contest will take place December 1st-15th for nominated homes and businesses in the City of Destin.

Winners will be announced a few days before Christmas and are recognized the following month at a City council meeting with a plaque from the mayor.

Awards are given in the five categories listed below:

  • 1. Best Decorated Home: Single homes, duplexes, mobile homes, etc…
  • 2. Best Decorated Business: Restaurants, shops, department stores, schools, professional offices, etc…
  • 3. Best Decorated Organization: Entrances to homeowner’s associations, golf courses, etc…
  • 4. Best overall Holiday: All homes, business, and organizations throughout the City Limits that go above and beyond.
  • 5. Best on the Harbor: Homes and condos on Destin Harbor

You can drive around Destin during the holidays looking for spectacular light displays in neighborhoods or look for them from the water on Destin Harbor.

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An evening cruise on Destin Harbor is a good way to see decorated homes on the water. Consider the “Harbor Lights” cruise with Cruisin’ Destin Tikis if you want to explore the harbor at night during Christmas in a decorated tiki boat.

Festival of Trees at Grand Boulevard

Festival of Trees is an annual event in the park at Grand Boulevard shopping center showcasing uniquely decorated Christmas trees from twelve local, non-profit organizations.

The trees debut the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and remain in the park through Christmas Day for the public to enjoy and learn more about the missions of these organizations.

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The first night kick-off event has not been officially announced yet buy Tuesday November 22nd is most likely based on prior years. During the first night, the participating organizations will be competing to win cash prizes totaling $7,000 and you will have a chance to cast your vote for the People’s Choice award.

Candy Cane Lane in Destin

Every year during the holidays, Sea Oats Drive in Destin transforms into Candy Cane Lane as neighbors do their part to keep up their reputation as the most festive and decorated street in town. The displays get bigger and better every year.

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If you want to get out and enjoy a holiday light display, don’t miss a stroll down Candy Cane Lane. It is guaranteed to put your whole family in the Christmas spirit.

To get the most enjoyment out of visiting Candy Cane Lane, park at Cornerstone Presbyterian Chrurch at the intersection of Beach Drive and Sea Oats Drive to walk the road. The street is only 0.25 mile long so it’s an easy walk, even for kids.

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The lights will usually be up by Thanksgiving but definitely by December 1st since a lot of these residents participate in the City of Destin Christmas decorating contest. The lights will stay up through New Years Eve.

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The lights on Candy Cane Lane come on at dusk each day and usually shut off at 10 p.m on weekdays and midnight on weekends. On Christmas Eve and Christmas, displays are on all day and night.

12 Nights of Lights at Baytowne Wharf

The Baytowne Wharf Village at Sandestin will be beautifully lit up in Christmas Lights all season but they will add a special lights show on Wednesday nights in December.

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During this festive light show nights, the tree lights in the events plaza will dance and blink to music at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm.

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Baytowne will be a beautiful place to see Christmas lights anytime during the season. Stroll around this quaint village in Sandestin to enjoy the decorated shops, restaurants and streets of Baytowne Wharf.

Christmas Reflections in Defuniak Springs

If you want to see one of the most beautiful Christmas displays around and don’t mind a bit of a drive, the Christmas Reflections display on the lake at Chipley Park in Defuniak Springs is a must-see.

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Christmas Reflections in Defuniak Springs offers a light display like no other in our area with over 10 million lights reflecting on the lake and throughout the park. You can view the lights by walking, driving or even taking a horse-drawn carriage ride.

A variety of Victorian figures, the Grinch, animal and toy soldiers, Santa’s workshop, and the grandfather clock ticking away are among the thousands of decorations that will adorn these historic grounds. Admission is $5 per person and children 5 and under are free.

The light show runs 5-9pm nightly from the day after Thanksgiving through New Years Eve. For more details about the Christmas Reflections event, visithttp://www.defuniaksprings.net/index.aspx?nid=1097.

Christmas Lights on 30a

Another great place to see Christmas Lights is in all the little beach towns along Scenic Highway 30a. You can drive this stretch of highway after dusk in December stopping at the picturesque town squares to look at their lights and decorations.

The most decorated towns along 30a are Watercolor, Alys Beach, Seaside, and Rosemary Beach.

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If you are only going to visit one town along 30a for holiday lights, Seaside is a great choice because there is plenty to see in a walkable area.

Look for the Christmas tree in the center of the Seaside amphitheater, lights around airstream row where the food trucks are, the perfectly decorated historic post office in Central Square, a tree and lights in Ruskin Place just north of Central Square, and the large tree in the archway to Seaside Neighborhood School. The tall pavilion at the beach entrance will also be lit up.

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If you want to see other Christmas Light displays along 30a, stop in Watercolor to look for the big Christmas tree in Cerulean Park. You can also look for the huge Christmas tree on the lawn in Alys Beach surrounded by decorative wrapped gift boxes.

In Rosemary Beach, look for the Christmas tree at Town Hall and the lights in the trees around the fountain at Barrett Square. There will also be lights on the businesses along the charming Main Street.

Even though I don’t decorate with Christmas lights anymore, one Christmas tradition will never change. I still make sure my cat, Stewie, gets a Christmas portrait every year. Sometimes I even bring him to a friends house so he can pose in front of a tree. We love Christmas!

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Other Christmas Must-Do’s in Destin

Visit the Dolphin and Santa Display at the Back Porch

Every year around Thanksgiving the Back Porch Restaurant sets up a display of Santa being pulled by 12 dolphins with Rudolph the red-nosed dolphin leading the pack.

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This is the perfect stop for Christmas photos on the beach during the daytime or under a colorful sunset sky.

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Ice Skating at Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin

What better way to get in the winter and holiday spirit then ice skating?

The Baytowne Ice Rink is open from late October to Late January every year. The Baytowne outdoor ice rink is set up under a large tent directly in the events plaza.

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The operating times vary each day depending on holidays and school schedules but Baytowne releases a calendar on their website each year with the operating dates and times for the season. The 2022 schedule will be available on their website closer to opening day.

The Baytowne skating rink is also available for private events such as birthday parties and class trips starting at $300.

Support bars are available for beginner children to hold onto while they skate around the ice. The cost for ice skating is $13 for a 90-minute skating session and $3 for skate rental.

Restaurants Open on Christmas Day in Destin

There is no shortage of restaurants open on Christmas Day in the Destin area since many people are here on vacation and prefer to eat out. Sometimes it’s a nice change to leave the cooking and holiday decorating to someone else.

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Many of the restaurants open Christmas Day will have limited hours so be sure to check before going. Also some of the more upscale ones will have a special Christmas dinner menu requiring reservations.

I have not been able to confirm who will be open Christmas Day in 2022 but the list below will give you an idea of who has been open in the past. I will give more updates as the holiday approaches.

  • -Harry T’s Lighthouse Restaurant at Harborwalk Village
  • -Margaritaville at Harborwalk Village
  • -Grande Vista Bar and Grill at HarborWalk Village
  • -AJ’s Seafood and Oyster House on Destin Harbor
  • -Boathouse Oyster Bar on Destin Harbor
  • -Tailfins Seafood and Oyster House on Destin Boardwalk
  • -Primrose at the Henderson
  • -Marina Bar and Grill at the Sandestin Marina
  • -Sandcastles at the Hilton Sandestin

Packing Tips for Christmas and Winter Season in Destin

It might sound dramatic to call anything in Florida winter, but it can get a lot colder here than you might expect. Many December visitors end up buying expensive gift shop sweaters having arrived unprepared for the chilly nights, so it’s important to pack accordingly.

Check the forecast before you go to determine what you might need but in addition to looking over my Ultimate Destin Vacation Pack List and bringing some warm clothes, I would also recommend a few extra things during the holiday season that you might not think of.

Rubber Rain Boots

This is my absolute best recommended accessory for winter in Destin and it has nothing to do with rain. This is for walking on the beach.

Your family will laugh when you pack these but you will have the last laugh when they have chilly cold feet on your sunset beach walk while you stayed warm and dry even with the water lapping at your feet.

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I actually can’t believe I survived so many winters in Florida without rain boots. It wasn’t until I saw my photographer friend show to our chilly December sunrise shoot wearing some that I realized what I had been missing.

I have never owned a pair of waterproof boots before but these are the ones I got. They are inexpensive, comfortable and never leak. I wore them every day on my sunrise beach shoots last season from November through May.

Yes I actually didn’t retire them until May because I got so used to enjoying beach walks without having to rinse sand off my feet.

I recommend sizing up to accommodate thick socks if needed. Again, it just depends how cold it gets. It’s not as likely you would need these on a sunny day but you will probably enjoy them on winter sunrise and sunset walks.

Christmas Light Necklace

Obviously you need a Christmas Light necklace if you are going to any of the festive holiday evening events, especially Santa’s arrival at Baytowne or the Destin Harbor Boat parade.

A Christmas light necklace can even be a fun accessory if you are walking around Harborwalk or Baytowne Wharf in the evening close to Christmas.

And yes I have one of these. Or two.

Beach Themed Ugly Christmas Sweater

You should definitely have an ugly Christmas sweater or two for the holidays but if you are in Destin during this time, then even better to get a beach themed one.

Can you really go wrong with Santa laying on the beach on a colorful light up sweater? I don’t think so.

You can probably tell I love Christmas. Don’t worry, this packing list is almost over. Just a few more necessities.

Christmas Lights

No holiday vacation would be complete without decor for your condo and most importantly, your golf cart rental if you are getting one. This won’t apply to everyone but it’s crucial if you are staying beachfront, harbor front and especially if you are cruising around on a golf cart at night.

If you are staying at Sandestin with a golf cart, for example, and you are driving around at night to Baytowne in a dark naked golf cart, is it even Christmas? No.

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (49)

Most balconies have plugs so you can go all out with the lights. Anything from basic lights to icicles to lights synched to music will be great for a waterfront balcony. Lights for your golf cart need to be battery operated though like these.

Destin Themed Christmas Gift Ideas

If you are shopping for someone who loves Destin or has a Destin Beach trip planned, why not get them a Destin-themed Christmas gift?

Destin Gifts by The Good Life Destin

I might be biased but I think my Destin products would make a great Christmas present for someone who loves Destin.

Destin Photography Prints and Canvas Prints

I have both photography prints and canvas wall hangings available in my Etsy Shop if you want to give someone an image to remind them of Destin and the beach all year.

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (50)

The Good Life Destin Tote Bags

The Good Life Destin Tote Bags are my newest product available on Etsy. They are very high quality and will remind you of Destin all year long.

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (51)

Seas the Day Blank Journal

Another idea for a Destin-themed Christmas gift is my hardcover blank journal made from my favorite Destin Beach photography.

Destin and Okaloosa Island Jigsaw Puzzles

Doing a jigsaw puzzle on Christmas Day is a holiday tradition so why not make it a Destin one? I have jigsaw puzzles made from my photography available on my website.

Destin Guide Book or Activity Book

For someone who has a Destin vacation planned you could consider my Destin Bucket List Book or Destin Kids Activity Book to learn more about Destin.

I very much appreciate everyone who supports my Destin photography and blog writing by making a product purchase from me. Product sales are my main source of income so every sale means a lot to me and allows me to continue doing this work of sharing Destin with you.

Other Ideas for Destin themed Christmas gifts:

Destinopoly Board Game

Destinopoly is a board game in the style of the classic Monopoly game but with Destin landmarks and locations instead.

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (54)

Destinopoly is available at the Walgreens in Destin and the Destin Walmart. There is also a 30a version and a South Walton version available at the Santa Rosa Beach Walmart.

Destin Pioneer Settlers: A Land History of Destin, Florida, from 1819-1940

This book is a look at the interesting and colorful history of Destin, Florida and it’s founding families.

You, Me and Us Novel

A heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story of a mother and daughter struggling to be a family without the one person who holds them together. This novel is set in Destin, Florida so you will recognize many places and landmarks in the story.

Destin Christmas Ornament

You can find Destin Christmas ornaments at several local shops including Banana Barts, the Christmas Shop at Harborwalk Village, and the Candymaker near the Back Porch in Destin.

I hope my Ultimate Christmas Guide to Destin, Florida helps you plan the perfect holiday visit here.

Be sure to comment below if you have any questions or feedback. I love hearing from you! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss any posts!

Shop my Destin Photography Prints, Canvas, Tote Bags, Jigsaw Puzzles, and Books

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (55)

If you enjoy my posts, please consider supporting my blog by shopping my products or keeping me in mind when you need a gift for someone who loves Destin. I appreciate every sale so much and it helps me continue to put out quality free content. I sell prints, canvas, books, journals, calendars, tote bags, and jigsaw puzzles all made from my Emerald Coast photography. CLICK HERE TO SHOP MY PRODUCTS or check out the links below. Thank you SO much ❤ ❤ ❤

Shop my Books on Amazon:

Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (58)
(Video) Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Guide To Christmas Side Dishes
Christmas in Destin: 2022 Ultimate Guide to the Holiday Season (59)

FAQs

Is Christmas a good time to visit Destin Florida? ›

December. It's holiday time and there is nothing better than a coastal Christmas. Early in the month, festive décor and fun events such as the Destin Boat Parade kick off the holiday season. Water temps are cool (the average temp is a chilly 68 degrees).

Is Destin Florida busy during Christmas? ›

Winter Crowds in Destin

The exception to the low crowds is during Christmas break (mid-December through the first week of January) when there will be a spike in families visiting while kids are out of school.

What's the cheapest month to go to Destin Florida? ›

November through February are the cheapest months to visit Destin, Florida. As it's well-known as the off-season, the cost of airfare, accommodations, and rental cars drop considerably. You can usually find great deals on attractions as well because the companies just want to get people through the doors.

Is the water cold in Destin in December? ›

The temperatures in Destin stay in the 70s and 80s throughout December, and the water temperature is still warm enough to enjoy a swim.

What is the Weather like in Destin at Christmas? ›

December Weather in Destin Florida, United States. Daily high temperatures decrease by 5°F, from 67°F to 62°F, rarely falling below 50°F or exceeding 75°F. Daily low temperatures decrease by 5°F, from 52°F to 47°F, rarely falling below 33°F or exceeding 66°F.

Where is it warm enough to swim in December? ›

Ocean Temperature
BeachWater °F
Honolulu, Hawaii77
Hilo, Hawaii73
Miami, Florida73
Key West, Florida72
5 more rows

What is open on Christmas in Destin FL? ›

Top 10 Best Open Christmas Day near Destin, FL 32541
  • Sponsored Result.
  • Soleil. 3.0 mi. American (New), Cocktail Bars. ...
  • All "open christmas day" Results in Destin, FL 32541. Showing 1-60 of 133.
  • The Back Porch. 1.0 mi. 1814 reviews. ...
  • McGuire's Irish Pub. 3.3 mi. ...
  • Boshamps Oyster House. 2.6 mi. ...
  • LuLu's Destin. 2.0 mi. ...
  • Beach Walk Cafe. 1.8 mi.

What months are jellyfish most active in Destin? ›

However, higher numbers of jellyfish tend to show up in the Destin area around mid-summer (July), and can be seen there until the waters start to cool in September/November. Even during the colder winter months you may happen to see one, but they're not as plentiful here during the colder months.

What time is the Christmas parade in Destin? ›

Santa will ride in the holiday parade down Main Street in Destin Commons to arrive at the tree lighting. The parade will start at 7pm and fireworks will immediately follow. The fireworks for this event are set off from the parking garage so they will be directly over the Christmas tree and shops in the Commons.

Is Destin Florida hot in December? ›

Temperature. The average temperature in Destin FL in December is a high of 62ºF and a low of 47ºF. It definitely gets colder as the month goes on but it doesn't dip below freezing much. The wind chill on the beach will significantly affect these temperatures and is not calculated here.

What airport do you fly into if going to Destin Florida? ›

The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) is the closest airport to Destin. It's located just 16 miles away in Valparaiso. Airlines flying into VPS include Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta, Silver Airways, and United Airlines.

Where is the warmest place in Florida in December? ›

Key West, Florida

Located at the very end of the beautiful Florida Keys, Key West is officially the Southernmost City in the USA, making it the warmest place in US in December — probably January and February too — outside the US Virgin Islands.

Can you see whales in Destin Florida? ›

Fort Walton Beach and Destin are the two hotspots when it comes to areas where you're more likely to find a dolphin or whale watching Florida cruise, meaning you shouldn't have to travel far from your vacation rental to find a company.

How warm is Florida Panhandle in December? ›

There, the mean December temperature is 54.6, with an average high of 65.0 and low of 44.2.

Why is Destin Florida so popular? ›

Most come for the beaches, and it's no wonder – these stretches of white sand easily rival those in southern Florida. In fact, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the United States. Yet what makes Destin so popular is the variety of other things to do, from shopping to alligator-spotting and museum-hopping.

Can you swim in Florida in December? ›

Yes!

In december, swimming is ideal on the beaches around Florida! With water reaching 84°F at most and 82°F on average, spending time in the water is very pleasant. Note also that in december, the climate is perfect with an average outside temperature of 79°F, 2.8in of precipitation (over 4 days) and 81.25 % humidity.

What is open on Christmas in Destin FL? ›

Top 10 Best Open Christmas Day near Destin, FL 32541
  • Sponsored Result.
  • Soleil. 3.0 mi. American (New), Cocktail Bars. ...
  • All "open christmas day" Results in Destin, FL 32541. Showing 1-60 of 133.
  • The Back Porch. 1.0 mi. 1814 reviews. ...
  • McGuire's Irish Pub. 3.3 mi. ...
  • Boshamps Oyster House. 2.6 mi. ...
  • LuLu's Destin. 2.0 mi. ...
  • Beach Walk Cafe. 1.8 mi.

What is the best month to go to Destin Florida? ›

The best time to visit Destin is in April and May when the water is warm, the sun is shining and the temperatures are comfortable (expect highs in the mid-70s and 80s). If you visit any earlier, you risk cooler weather and chilly water. A summer trip will put you among the crowds and the peak prices.

Where is the warmest place in Florida in December? ›

Key West, Florida

Located at the very end of the beautiful Florida Keys, Key West is officially the Southernmost City in the USA, making it the warmest place in US in December — probably January and February too — outside the US Virgin Islands.

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