Pensacola, Florida, known for its white sandy beaches and coastal charm, transforms into a festive paradise during the holiday season. Whether you are stationed at NAS Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field, or your family is just visiting the Pensacola area, you are likely looking to make the most of the Christmas events in Pensacola. Good news! You’re in for a treat. From enchanting light displays to beachside celebrations, here’s your guide to the must-do Christmas activities in Pensacola, FL that will get you into the holiday spirit while being fun for the entire family!
Pensacola Winterfest: A Holiday Extravaganza
Get ready to be immersed in the magic of Pensacola Winterfest, an annual event that turns downtown into a winter wonderland. The Winterfest Trolley Tour, Elf Parade, and North Pole Express Train rides are just a few highlights.
The enchanting streets of Pensacola’s historic downtown come alive with the glow of over half a million white lights during the holiday season, providing a mesmerizing setting for Winterfest. This iconic celebration begins on Black Friday with the lively Winterfest Elf Parade and concludes on Christmas Eve.
Throughout the event, attendees can enjoy a daily array of live performances at the Winterfest plaza (one the steps of the Escambia County Courthouse on Government and Palafox), festive trolley tours, Florida snowfall, appearances by Santa and live entertainment by a delightful holiday ensemble of favorite characters.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa and be ready embark on the a magical journey of the holiday season as you hop on a mini-train and immerse yourself in the brilliance, snowfall, and enchanting landscapes of Winterfest!
Capture the joy of the season with your family against the backdrop of festive lights and holiday cheer at Pensacola Winterfest this year!
Pensacola Holiday Lighted Boat Parade
The Holiday Lighted Boat Parade is our family’s favorite holiday event in Pensacola! Each year there are more creative boat decorations than the last! The decorated boats set sail from Sabine Marina and the parade sails its way around the Santa Rosa Sound/Boardwalk area and circle back through little Sabine Bay.
Leading up to the boat launch, a kid’s party will take places at Shaggy’s Pensacola Beach. Immediately after the parade, Santa will make his way to Pensacola Beach Boardwalk’s iconic landmark, The Shell, on Quietwater Beach to greet the children.
You can watch the parade from Little Sabine Bay, the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, or any of the businesses along the route.
Milton’s Lighted Christmas Boat Parade
If you are located at NAS Whiting Field and living in Pace or Milton, you can enjoy the fun of a lighted boat parade even closer to home! Kick off the holiday season on the Blackwater River with Milton’s Lighted Christmas Boat Parade. Set against Milton’s waterfront Festival of Lights, each year the community comes together, light up their boats and conducts one of the largest lighted boat parades in Northwest Florida. Fireworks follow this fun holiday boat parade!
Surfing Santa Beach Parade
Pensacola’s stunning beaches add a unique twist to traditional Christmas celebrations. A sure way to bring the fun of the North Pole to your warm weather holiday is to see Santa Claus close out the annual Surfing Santa Beach Parade! The entire family will enjoy the festive atmosphere at the Pensacola Beach boardwalk with your toes in the sand and the sound of the waves as your holiday soundtrack.
Sowell’s North Pole in Milton
Visit a family farm in Milton, Florida for an award winning light display with over one million lights! Come enjoy train rides, photos with Santa, camel rides and more! The elves at Sowell’s North Pole are hard at work in the elf shack to provide Hot Cocoa, Pop Corn, and other holiday snacks.
First City Lights Festival: Take A Stroll through Holiday Splendor
Get into the holiday spirit surrounded by the enchanting glow of half a million twinkling white lights decorating the historic streets of downtown Pensacola. Dive into the First City Lights Festival, featuring a season-long extravaganza of festive activities where you can enjoy live music, indulge in shopping and fine dining, explore art by local artists and check out the nightlife of the Pensacola downtown area under the holiday lights. Take a leisurely stroll down Palafox Street, where local businesses showcase elaborate window displays. Or add a dash of fun by hopping on a Segway, pedicab, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride to experience the magic of the dazzling downtown Christmas lights in Pensacola. Explore the historic streets adorned with holiday charm, creating the perfect backdrop for festive photo opportunities.
Glide into Christmas Joy with Ice Skating at the Pensacola Bay Center
Experience the magic of ice skating in a coastal setting at the Pensacola Bay Center. The temporary ice rink, open October through April, offers a festive and family-friendly activity for all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, this is a delightful way to celebrate the season.
Palafox Market Holiday Edition: Unique Gifts and Festive Treats
Discover unique treasures from your beloved local artisans and vendors at the annual Palafox Market–Holiday Edition. This open-air market showcases handmade ornaments, crafts, and delicious holiday treats. Stroll through the market, enjoy the festive atmosphere, and cross off items from your holiday shopping list.
Experience the magic as downtown Pensacola comes alive with half a million white lights, ignited by Santa when he “flips the switch” at 5 pm!
Gulf Breeze Zoo Christmas ZOObilee
Experience the festive magic of the Gulf Breeze Zoo Christmas ZOObilee, where winter-themed bounce stations, live music, and entertainment await you. Wander through the Candy Cane Market, a delightful showcase of seasonal gifts, sights, smells, and tastes, featuring unique creations from local artists and delectable holiday treats.
This family-friendly extravaganza wouldn’t be complete without a visit from the man in red. During Weekends with Santa, seize the chance to hand-deliver those last-minute Christmas letters and capture a cherished photo with Saint Nick in his sleigh.
The mischievous Grinch will also make an appearance, ready for snapshots. With all these joyful activities included in regular daytime admission, Christmas ZOObilee is a jolly jungle jamboree that’s not to be missed!
Pensacola Christmas Parade
Don’t miss out on this annual gathering in downtown Pensacola that attracts over 50,000 attendees, showcasing nearly 100 entries and featuring eight bands hailing from Escambia County, Santa Rosa County, and New Orleans. The Cox Pensacola Christmas Parade proudly presents the nationally acclaimed Blue Angels flight team, along with numerous organizations representing the vibrant spirit of the entire region.
Boost in some extra holiday fun before the parade by participating in the Pensacola Runner Association’s Christmas Parade Dash 1 mile. This short race through downtown Pensacola is a holiday tradition for the whole family! Run or walk the one-mile course then stay to enjoy the annual Pensacola Christmas Parade. Costumes are encouraged!
The Road to Bethlehem: A Meaningful Walk-Through Event
Experience the magic of the first Christmas and immerse yourself in the story of the birth of Jesus like never before! Join Woodbine Baptist Church in Pace, Florida for “The Road to Bethlehem,” a captivating walk-through event that brings the wonder and meaning of Christmas to life. Admission is free!
Christmas at the Penscola Saenger Theatre
Catching show at the Saenger Theatre is a great way to add some good cheer to your holiday season. Whether you enjoy a headliner Christmas concert, seeing the Nutcracker ballet or attending “Christmas on the Coast,” an event at the Pensacola Saenger Theatre is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a performance in this historic setting.
Make this Christmas Season one to remember!
If this is your family’s first year living in a warm climate for Christmas, you may be wondering how to find the Christmas spirit without snow. Pensacola, with its coastal beauty and festive spirit, offers a unique and enchanting Christmas experience.
Whether you’re enjoying the Winterfest festivities, basking in beachside celebrations, or exploring the vibrant downtown lights, there’s something for everyone in the City of Five Flags. Just be sure to have your santa hats and Christmas light necklaces on hand to be prepared for all the festive fun of this holiday season!
We’d love to hear from you! What is your family’s favorite way to embrace the holiday magic and make this Christmas season in the Pensacola area one to remember?