A Gingerbread City, Boutique Shopping, Surfing Santas, Historic Home Tours and the Annual Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl are Just A Few of the Fun Christmas Events That Make Pensacola One of the Best Beach Destinations for the Holiday Season
Visit Pensacola invites travelers to make cherished holiday memories in the historic Pensacola Bay Area this November and December. Watch Santa parachuting onto the beach, wave hello to Santa at one or all of the area’s numerous Christmas parades, or listen to the sounds of the season at holiday concerts. Take in the classic Nutcracker ballet, ice hockey game or the famous Snowball Derby.
Visit Pensacola leads the effort of economic development through tourism in Escambia County. Comprised of over 200-member businesses, Visit Pensacola’s mission is to position the Pensacola Bay Area as a premier year-round travel destination through tourism marketing, communications, meetings and conventions, reunions and group tour initiatives.
Pensacola is truly a winter wonderland, without the frigid temperatures, offering a myriad of holiday events guaranteed to even get Scrooge in the spirit. Weekends are jam-packed with original island-style, historic and jolly holiday activities. Whether you book a week, or a weekend, pack your camera, spirit of adventure and an ugly Christmas sweater (more below) and head for the white-sand beaches that were just voted Florida’s best. Holiday fun awaits in the Pensacola Bay Area.
Snow Princess Tea
Christmas season kicks off in Pensacola the day after Thanksgiving on Friday, Nov. 27, with an afternoon and evening filled with holiday activities. Looking for a one-of-a-kind experience for your child? Attend the Snow Princess Tea, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Pensacola Cultural Center.
Elf Parade and Lighting of the Greens
Following the tea, the annual “Elf Parade and Lighting of the Greens” begins at 4:30 p.m. throughout Downtown Pensacola and anyone may participate. Hundreds of children dressed as elves, adults and holiday characters meet Santa Claus at the Escambia County Courthouse for the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree and a blizzard of Southern-made snow.
Winterfest Trolley Tours and Carriage Rides
Pensacola Winterfest offers old-fashioned trolleys and intimate carriage rides throughout Downtown Pensacola beginning on Nov. 27 – Dec. 23. The lively, music-filled Christmas trolley tours provide family-friendly entertainment and the chance to get close to Santa Claus, Frosty, and other classic Christmas characters.
Sports fans won’t want to miss the nationally-known Snowball Derby automobile races at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola that attract big names in short track racing and even top series NASCAR drivers. Preliminary races and car contests lead up to the big event, the Snowball Derby, on Sunday, Dec. 6.
Pensacola Symphony’s “Home For The Holidays”
The Symphony joins forces with Broadway star and Pensacola native Ashley Brown for a melodious Christmas concert on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Pensacola’s historic Saenger Theatre.
Pensacola Beach Lighted Boat Parade and Surfing Santa Parade
Pensacola Beach hosts several coastal Christmas-themed events with Santa sightings including the beautiful Pensacola Beach Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. and the Surfing Santa Beach Parade on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m.
Historic Pensacola Lighthouse Christmas Gala
The Historic Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum will officially light “Pensacola’s tallest Christmas Tree” (the lighthouse itself) during its annual Christmas Gala, featuring Santa Claus and hot cider on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Bodacious Gingerbread House Contest
Extravagant gingerbread houses, created by the community, depicting everything from local landmarks to Santa’s beach house, will be on display for the public to vote on from Monday, Dec. 7, to Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Bodacious Family of Shops in Downtown Pensacola.
Ice Hockey and Ice Skating
The Ice Flyers are Pensacola’s professional hockey team and winners of the 2013 and 2014 President’s Cup. The players will hit the ice on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Pensacola Bay Center at 7: 05 p.m. with public ice-skating sessions following the game.
Victorian Holiday Traditions Tours
History buffs can tour Victorian homes decorated for the holidays. Learn about life in the Victorian era and how it influenced modern holiday traditions during Historic Pensacola’s tours, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. until December 19.
Christmas On The Coast Holiday Concert
The famous Pensacola Children’s Chorus presents “Christmas on the Coast,” one of Northwest Florida’s most popular holiday musical events, featuring pint-sized singers with perfect pitch Dec. 11, 12 and 13.
Beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, Santa Claus, his elves and a team of carolers will kickoff Trainfest at the Pensacola Museum of Art. Trainfest offers a week-long display of working model trains, whistles, smoke and sirens amidst different backdrops including a Native American village and city complex, with a working mini drive-in movie. Pensacola’s Model Railroad Club sponsors the event, and organizers say the trains have captivated audiences young and old. See the exhibit during museum hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Santa parachutes onto the beach during the annual Santa Drop at the Flora-Bama in Perdido Key, kicking off a daylong holiday celebration, including Christmas carols for the kids. The Santa Drop takes place Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m.
33rd Annual Pensacola Christmas Parade
The Pensacola Christmas Parade brings holiday sights and sounds through historic Downtown Pensacola. The parade draws more than 50,000 people each year and features 90 entries, including the Blue Angels and bands from across the Southeast. This year’s parade takes place on Saturday, Dec. 12, beginning at 5:15 p.m.
Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl
The Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl on Pensacola Beach is a fun way to celebrate and flaunt that favorite “spirited” Christmas sweater. The Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Take advantage of last minute, unique Christmas shopping opportunities the weekend leading up to Christmas during Downtown Pensacola’s Gallery Night. Browse the beautiful boutiques on Palafox Street that offer everything from fine wines, olive oils, coffees, bath products, unique clothing and designer jewelry.
Ballet Pensacola’s beautiful performances of “The Nutcracker” tell the traditional story of Clara and her dream of the Nutcracker Prince. Shows begin Friday, Dec. 18 and continue through Sunday, Dec. 20, at the Saenger Theatre.
The Santa Express-Special Winterfest Tour
Take a trip with Santa through Downtown Pensacola on an old-fashioned trolley. This 30-minute tour is especially great for young children and out of town guests, and is only offered Dec. 21 – 23 from 5:30 p.m. every 30 minutes until 8 p.m.
“A Christmas Carol”
The traveling musical stops in at Pensacola’s Saenger Theatre on Monday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m. It’s the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and all of the characters from Dickens’ 1843 novel, complete with timeless Christmas carols.
In addition to the variety of holiday events listed above, deep discounts and travel incentives are plentiful in the Pensacola Bay Area during December. For a list of discounts, more information on holiday events, or to request a Visitor Guide, call Visit Pensacola at (800) 874-1234 or go to www.VisitPensacola.com.