Northwest Florida is about to be lit.
As the holidays approach, so, too, does the cavalcade of holiday parades, lights and festivities.
Doug Rainer, the public relations manager for the city of Fort Walton Beach, looks forward to Fort Walton Beach’s annual Light Up the Night event Nov. 26. Last year was the first year the city held a countdown to all of the downtown lights being turned on simultaneously, he said.
“Last year, with COVID, we scaled it back with things going on at The Landing, but this year we’ll have Santa, live music, the mayor will be there to bring some of those festivities back to the Landing and the downtown area,” Rainer said. “We’re looking for a really good turnout. We really encourage people to come down and visit the downtown merchants and be in downtown Fort Walton as early as they can.”
The light display is impressive, Rainer said.
“We have a lot of lights that go up in the park and on Brooks Street and Miracle Strip Parkway,” Rainer said. “Of course, the festivities around that are really incredible.”
The event will incorporate a storybook reading from Santa near the tree at The Landing. They created the event to engage children, Rainer said.
“Everybody loves to see Santa,” Rainer said. “It will be his first time in Fort Walton this season, and we’re looking forward to kicking off the whole season.”
Rainer recommends showing up early for the Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade.
“It’s very well attended,” Rainer said. “We will expect to have well over 100 floats. It’s a great opportunity to get out and be part of the festive season. Our staff does a really good job of putting this on. It’s a really big deal for our community.”
Check out other holiday parades and events below.
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Crestview Christmas Parade: Watch the Christmas Parade in historic downtown Crestview. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Main Street and MLK Jr. Ave. and ends at the north end of Main Street after the courthouse. The theme this year is “Songs of Christmas.” Schools, bands, youth groups, churches, businesses, as well as civic, military, religious, and service organizations are invited to participate. For more information, visit downtowncrestview.org.
Destin Boat Parade: The Destin Harbor will dance with holiday lights and cheer during the 28th annual Destin Boat Parade. Come enjoy live music, children’s arts and crafts and hot chocolate. Visit with Santa Claus from noon to 4 p.m. The boat parade begins at 6 p.m. Participating boats will make their way from the east side of the harbor, near Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House, to the west side near Harborwalk Village and Emerald Grande, ending near the Destin Bridge and East Pass area. Immediately following the parade is a fireworks show over the Destin Harbor. Live entertainment is from noon to 7 p.m. on the Main Stage at Harborwalk Village, with Santa at noon, the Ballet Conservatory at 2 p.m., Santa at 3 p.m., the Emerald Coast Community Band at 4 p.m. and The Village Brass Band from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information on Harborwalk’s holiday festivities, visit Facebook.com/HarborWalkVillageDestin.
Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade: The 2021 Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade will take place at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 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.
Christmas in the Park and Navarre Community Parade: The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Christmas in the Park, presented by Walmart-Navarre and the Navarre Neighborhood Market, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 in Navarre Park at the foot of the Navarre Bridge. A local tradition since 1994, this event ushers in the holiday season in the Navarre area with a Merry Market where local artists and crafters will gather with great gift ideas for everyone on your list. Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with "The Grinch," will arrive by fire truck in the parade and will be available for photos with children as soon as the parade ends. Free baked goods and hot beverages will be available at Mrs. Claus’ Bakery after the parade. A 20-foot Christmas tree will be erected in the park. The Official Tree Lighting will be at dusk Nov. 26 this year. The Annual Navarre Community Christmas Parade will start at 1 p.m. at the Navarre Library and will roll south along Presidio Street, making a left at Esplanade Street and ending in the back parking lot of Centennial Bank. This year’s theme, Joy to the World, reminds us that there are so many reasons to celebrate — coming together as a community being one of them, according to the press release.
The Blackwater Pyrates Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks: Enjoy the Blackwater River parade and fireworks show Dec. 4 in Milton. For more information, visit blackwaterpyrates.com.
Milton Christmas Parade: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce’s Milton Christmas Parade is at 7 p.m. Dec. 1.
Niceville Valparaiso Annual Community Christmas Parade: The Niceville Valparaiso Rotary Club’s annual Community Christmas Parade begins at 10 a.m. Dec. 4. The parade’s theme is “Serve to Change Lives.”
Niceville Valparaiso Rotary Club Christmas Boat Parade: The Niceville Valparaiso Rotary Club Christmas Boat Parade is 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19. The parade route travels southwest from Emerald Coast Marine to Tom’s Bayou, past Lincoln Park, then east toward Lions Park, returning back to Emerald Coast Marine. The annual Christmas Boat Parade — presented by Emerald Coast Marine and staged at its onsite marina facilities — will feature not only a traditional display of fun onboard holiday-themed lights and decorations, but also the big Splashboards Media Boat with its 30-foot jumbo screen that will be docked and playing popular Christmas movie snippets and favorite tunes. Festivities also include meal specials at The Locals Waterfront Eatery, plus complimentary hot cocoa, a visit from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and the elves, provided by the Rotary. For more information, visit nicevillevalparaisorotary.org.
South Walton Holiday Parade in Seaside: The parade begins at 9 a.m. Nov. 24 in Seagrove Beach and proceeds west to the town of Seaside. Meet Santa after the parade. At 5 p.m., it's party time in the amphitheater with holiday festivities and, of course, pictures with the jolly bearded one. Soon, the master of ceremonies asks all the kids to the stage to sing to the crowd of smiling faces. After jingle bells, the countdown begins in unison to "Turn on the Town.” For more information on South Walton holiday festivities, visit visitsouthwalton.com.
Geek Lights in Bluewater Bay: Preparations are underway for Season 14 of the Geek Lights on the Corner Christmas lights and music show. Follow the progress of the build, learn how you can help and get up-to-the-minute schedule information on the show’s page at FaceBook.com/GeekLightsOnTheCorner. The Geek Lights consists of Christmas lights and other themed display elements, all under computer control and synchronized to music. Shows begin every 30 minutes starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 to Jan. 6. The last show starts at 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and holiday eves at the corner of Bluewater Boulevard and Antiqua Way in Bluewater Bay. As the show is a public event, COVID-19 is again a serious consideration this year. Masks are highly encouraged, and parents are asked to closely monitor children to ensure they don’t touch the barricade or any other show elements. For the second consecutive year, Geek Lights has selected Crisis Aid for Littles and Moms (CALM) as this season’s donation recipient. There will be a collection box in the viewing area throughout the season, with 100% of the donated money going to support CALM’s various programs. The show is the technical and creative wizardry of Jeff Werner, the “Northwest Florida Geek,” and Wendy Werner, his “Spouse Peripheral.” Jeff is author of the weekly computers and technology Q&A feature, “It’s Geek to Me,” which appears on Saturdays in the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Christmas Reflections in DeFuniak Springs: See more than 10 million lights reflect off a perfectly round spring-fed lake glowing in holiday splendor from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. The show is open from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday and 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Admission is $5 per person and free for children 5 and younger. Enjoy a holiday family tradition in DeFuniak Springs, as Chipley Park lights up with the annual Christmas Reflection displays. A variety of Victorian, animal and toy soldier cutouts, Santa’s workshop, the grandfather clock ticking away are among the thousands of decorations which adorn these historic grounds. This event is orchestrated and hosted by the city of DeFuniak Springs. For more information, visit defuniaksprings.net.
Santa’s Arrival and Tree Lighting at Destin Commons: Destin Commons and Bass Pro Shops welcomed Santa to light the shopping center’s holiday tree Friday at 4100 Legendary Drive. The event included a holiday parade as Santa arrived on Main Street to light 50 feet of the most spectacular Christmas tree on the Emerald Coast.
Fort Walton Beach Light Up the Night: Mark your calendars for Fort Walton Beach’s Light Up the Night event, 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. Nov. 26 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 of the downtown lights and the Christmas tree will come on, welcoming the holiday season in Fort Walton Beach.
City Light Celebration in Gulf Breeze: As the sun goes down, the Gulf Breeze lights will go up from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. 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. With dozens of floats themed after classic holiday movies, handing out goodies to your car, it is sure the be a spectacular evening. 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. Admission to this event is free but an unwrapped toy donation to Toys for Tots is highly encouraged. Go see the festivities at 800 Shoreline Drive. For more information, visit gulfbreezechamber.com.
Town of Shalimar Christmas tree lighting and Santa appearance: The Town of Shalimar will have its third annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 4, gathering at 5 p.m. and counting down at 6 p.m. at Shalimar Town Hall, 2 Cherokee Road. The community will countdown together as it turns on the lights to the tree in front of Town Hall, in addition to all the lights in Marquee Park, the area encompassed by Cherokee Road to Gardner Drive. The town will have a booth set up outside with Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and sandwiches (while supplies last), and the Meigs Middle School band will bring Christmas joy to the event. Santa will make an appearance at 5:15 p.m. for pictures. The town is excited to have Mrs. Patty Monroe's face painting booth again this year and the fire truck in the parking lot again. The mayor promises even more snow than last year. Choctaw High School ROTC will join to 'Post The Colors' and lead them as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Christmas parades, light displays and events in Northwest Florida