Florida - For Christmas? Absolutely

As Canadians, nearly all of us dream of a white Christmas and New Years. What such romantic notions rarely include are freezing cold temperatures. Thankfully, Florida's Emerald Coast has the perfect solution: a guaranteed white Christmas, sans sub-zero wind chill. How is such a phenomenon made possible? The Emerald Coast is a blissful stretch of land blessed with emerald-green water and sugar-white sand beaches. We're so over snow angels - how about sand angels? 

Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau
Credit: Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau

Warm Weather Santa arrives on skis...jet skis

Trade in your snowshoes for no shoes, and enjoy the inversion of a warm winter. How warm you ask? November and December temperatures along the Emerald Coast are a balmy 17° - 20°C. Plenty of sunshine also means a chance of sunburn, so remember to practice safe sun. (Traditional holiday colours in the Emerald Coast need not include red shoulders; white sand and emerald- green water suffices just fine.) Kidding aside, the Emerald Coast is a hotspot for the Christmas holidays. Here's where you'll find the season's traditional tidings among a tropical landscape. 

 

Shop: Stuff Stockings in Destin

Destin commons shopping village
Credit: (c) Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau

Don't even think about Christmas shopping in Canada for this trip. One of three cities making up the Emerald Coast, Destin is a destination for shoppers. From big box outdoor sports stores to small, family-run boutiques, this coastal city is home to the whole gamut of shopping experiences. Load up for Christmas at Destin Commons, which was voted by locals as their favourite shopping area. (Pictured above.) We love it for its upscale Mediterranean village feel. Soft string lights add warmth to the season, and Canadians will love the palms standing proxy for Christmas trees. Alternatively, if you pride yourself on sniffing out the best deal head for the outlets. (Outlet malls - one of our favourite excuses to travel stateside.) Find the best prices on designer clothes and shoes at Silver Sands Premium Outlet. Home to more than 100 retailers, this is one of the largest outlets in all of Florida.

 

Meet Santa: Destin HarbourWalk Village
HarborWalkDestinEmerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau

Throughout late November and December, Santa Claus will be water skiing into Destin. Find him at the popular HarbourWalk Village (10 Harbor Blvd). Santa will be exchanging special treats for childrens' letters and wishlists. A pretty 'sweet' deal if we don't say so ourselves. Santa has kindly given us advance notice on his visiting hours: 

November 27: noon - 4 p.m. - Santa's first visit
November 28-29: noon - 4 p.m.
December 5-6: noon - 4 p.m.
December 13-14: noon - 4 p.m.
December 19-20: noon - 4 p.m.

 

Gulf-to-Table

Emerald Coast Convention CenterEmerald Coast Convention Center

After long walks on beaches, you can work up a healthy appetite, and thankfully the Emerald Coast is home to a number of dining spots. These restaurants are famous for fresh seafood and stunning sunsets. Substitute turkey for the daily catch while letting someone else cook Christmas dinner. Here are our recommendations:

Angler’s Beachside Grill

Fantastic location at the foot of the long Okaloosa Pier, with views of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a family-friendly spot with easy eats, ranging from oyster po’boy sandwiches to chicken strips. Comfort food, without breaking the budget. Try one of their Okaloosa Isle cocktails!

Floyd’s Shrimp House

Another family-friendly spot, this multi-story funky spot is a must-visit if you have a craving for shrimp. Eating shrimp anywhere else on the Emerald Coast just wouldn’t be the same. Floyd's has every type of shrimp you can imagine, plus some other Florida treats, like gator bites. Great location, right on the beach.

Jackacudas

Centrally located on the Destin HarborWalk, Jackacudas has a laid-back atmosphere and pulled-from-the-ocean-fresh seafood. Canadians are accustomed to good sushi, so if you're after tasty sashimi, Jackacudas is your place. Looking for light fare? Try the raw oysters or fish tacos. After something a little more Southern? There's plenty of crispy fish and shrimp fry to debate over. We especially like the menu's creative infusions: put us down for fried avocado! 

Old Bay Steamer

Casual, yet elegant. This is a place to enjoy a slower meal with a couple of glasses (or bottles) of wine, chosen from their impressive selection. Steamed seafood is their specialty and their menu is lengthy. For a romantic choice you simply must opt for a "steamer for two". The Gulf steamer or King Crab super steamer are both fine choices. 

 AJ's

With humble beginings as an wharfside oyster vendor, we trust AJ's to serve up the morning's catch. Savour the flavours of the Gulf with entrees like Aj's Stuffed Flounder, Grouper Pontchartrain and Yellow Fin Tuna. Or, sample it all on one plate. The Run of Kitchen features mahi mahi, gulf shrimp, oysters, scallops, and stuffed deviled crab. AJ's is a lively setting in Destin Harbour, offering up social dining and live music. 

Explore more dining options in the official Emerald Coast dining directory : Click here

Parade: Fort Walton Beach

This community has a small-town vibe to it. Farmers' markets and art walks may draw people downtown, but they flock in for the Christmas Parade. An annual affair, it's typically held on the first weekend of December. Bring the family down and get properly into the holiday spirit. We caution you though, one thing will be noticeably absent from the Christmas parade: wearing a toque and mittens.

 

Boat Parade: Destin Harbor

Location: 10 Harbor Blvd., Destin
Time: 6 p.m. 

The question isn't why parade on the water, but why not? The beating heart of Destin is its harbour. Once the parade kicks off, a stream of boats will spread cheer and holiday lights, while dry land offers live music, children's arts and crafts. They'll also be serving up a perennial Canadian holiday staple: hot chocolate. Except you'll be sipping it for taste, not to defend against freezing temperatures. Keep your eyes peeled for Santa, as he'll be making an appearance from noon through 4 p.m. 


For up-to-date information on
winter hotel promotions, Christmas events & special offers visit: 

emeraldcoastfl.com/a-very-emerald-christmas

See you on the Emerald Coast for a white winter? 

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