Winter Events in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island

Travelers to the Emerald Coast escape winter’s grip with long walks on sunny beaches. Winter used to be known as the off season, but there’s hardly such a thing anymore. Plenty of winter events in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island make it fun to cozy up at the beach and enjoy the holiday season.

Destin Christmas Parade

December

Each year, Santa himself closes the Destin Christmas Parade in grand fashion atop a big red fire truck. One of the most memorable winter events in Destin infuses everyone with holiday cheer. Friends old and new wave from floats and shout “Merry Christmas!” It’s tradition to wake up early and grab breakfast near the Destin Harbor before settling in at your favorite spot along the parade route.

Destin Boat Parade

December

HarborWalk Village hosts the annual Destin Boat Parade with holiday flair. Visit with Santa Claus and enjoy special performances before grabbing a spot along the harbor. Boats in the parade are decked out with Christmas lights and are viewable from docks and restaurants along the harbor. The lighted boat parade is followed by a firework display over the water.

New Year’s Eve Street Party

Start the new year off with a bang at the annual ball drop at HarborWalk Village. Dine, drink, and dance your way throughout the Destin Harbor while listening to live music. The beach ball drop descending over the harbor makes this celebration the most bustling place to be in Destin on New Year’s Eve. For families, the beach ball drops at 8 p.m. so children with early bedtimes can join in the fun. Later, for the grown-ups, the beach ball drops again during the countdown to the new year at midnight.

Pelican Plunge at The Boardwalk

New Year’s Day

​Add jumping in the frigid Gulf of Mexico to your list of New Year’s resolutions at the annual Pelican Plunge at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island. The party continues at this New Year’s Day event, with a pre-party before the official splash. The post-plunge party has plenty of coffee, cocoa, and gumbo to keep you warm. Proceeds benefit The Emerald Coast Foundation, a supporter of children’s charities in Northwest Florida.  

Mardi Gras in Destin

Mardi Gras in Destin is a wonderful time to shake off Old Man Winter and let the good times roll! Kicking off the festivities, Destin Commons hosts their annual Mardi Gras Masquerade complete with live Zydeco music and Cajun cooking. The Mardi Gras parade has treasures, trinkets, and beads up for grabs.

The annual Mardi Gras Parade at HarborWalk Village showcases dazzling floats, colorful costumes, street performers, live music, and handfuls upon handfuls of beads. The long weekend culminates in a Fat Tuesday Celebration at many restaurants and bars in HarborWalk Village.

Winter is not a season ― it’s a celebration. With mild temps and sunsets that paint the sky, there’s no better place to celebrate than the Emerald Coast. From celebrating the holidays to letting the good times roll, winter reminds us that to wake up near the beach is to be very fortunate indeed. Find more ways to celebrate in our events calendar.