Looking for a new Christmas tradition? While some family Christmas traditions remain the same year after year, it's never too late to start a new tradition with family and friends.
This holiday season, make new memories and start a few fresh family traditions that you’ll look forward to year after year. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Pensacola Elf Parade and First City Lights Festival (November 29 – 4 p.m.)
Every Friday after Thanksgiving, the annual Elf Parade marks the grand kickoff to the 2019 holiday season in downtown Pensacola. Participants begin lining up at 3:30 p.m. at the old Escambia County Courthouse at the corner of Palafox and Government Streets, and the parade officially begins at 4:30 p.m. Featuring costumed characters, local choirs and tumbling snowflakes, the Elf Parade invites kids to make their own elf ears and join the fun, walking or riding alongside an alligator “Second Line” brass band through the six-block parade route around Plaza Ferdinand.
After dark, look to the skies for fireworks to start the 2019 First City Lights Festival, which illuminates Downtown Pensacola with half a million white lights through January. At 5 p.m., Santa will be on hand in Plaza Ferdinand for a grand Christmas tree lighting and a rare, albeit manmade, snowfall in Pensacola to mark the opening night of Pensacola Winterfest.
Visit Pensacola Holiday Cube (November 15 – early January)
This year, Plaza Ferdinand also marks the location of Visit Pensacola’s Holiday Cube and the Singing Tree. The cube features four beautiful, holiday-themed destination scenes and will be set up from mid November until early January. Visitors are encouraged to snap a holiday selfie in front of it and share on social media, using the hashtag #ExperiencePcola.
Winterfest Performance Tour (November 29 – December 24)
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, including the, the, the, THE GRINCH! Your kids will love singing along and enjoy posing for pictures on this ride.
Singing guides hop on board the trolley and lead the way to scenes from popular holiday movies like “The Polar Express.” The theatre-on-board-a-trolley experience, plus free games and visits with Santa, are available through December 24. Event schedules vary, and purchasing tickets in advance is encouraged.
Pensacola Beach Lighted Boat Parade (December 7 – 6 p.m.)
This is a beautiful evening event on the water. Sparkling vessels decked in holiday lights sail through the dark December sky and create a magical scene to launch the Christmas season. The boat parade ends at Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, with a dazzling display of fireworks.
Surfing Santa Parade (December 8 – 2 p.m.)
The Pensacola Beach Christmas parade combines this surfing hot spot with holiday splendor! You’ll see Santa and delightfully decorated floats wind their way down Via De Luna as families play in the snowy-white sands.
Pensacola’s laid-back vibe always provides me the holiday escape we all need each year. No matter where life takes me, a trip to its snowy white sands and the fabulous Christmas parade is a family holiday tradition I intend to keep forever!
Christmas on the Coast (December 13-15)
These pint-sized singers with perfect pitch put on quite an impressive show at the Pensacola Saenger Theatre. The famous Pensacola Children’s Chorus does not disappoint during this lively Christmas concert appropriate for kids aged two to 110. Daily schedules vary, and purchasing tickets in advance is encouraged.
Santa Drop (December 14, 11 a.m.)
This is as unique as it gets when it comes to the arrival of the white-bearded man in the red suit. Watch Santa drop from an airplane and parachute safely onto the beach behind the Flora-Bama in Perdido Key, kicking off a daylong holiday celebration, including Christmas carols for the kids.
Pensacola Christmas Parade (December 14 – 5:15 p.m.)
The annual Pensacola Christmas Parade never disappoints in keeping your kids’ eyes merry and bright, while also filling the adults’ heart with joy too. Cheesy sounding? Possibly. True? Yes.
It’s a classic Christmas parade with its own unique Pensacola twist. What other Christmas parade begins with the world-famous Blue Angels? Floats with beach themes, marching bands and music fill the streets as revelers catch Christmas beads. A gorgeous Santa in his shiny red sled ends the parade, but not the evening.
Parade-goers stroll down the decked out Palafox Street, named one of the ten best streets in America, sipping caffeinated concoctions, dining indoors and outdoors (because you can in Florida when the temp is 70 in December), and admiring the millions of dazzling holiday lights and store window decorations. For a moment you’re in a surreal Christmas wonderland, and everyone is happy.
Ballet Pensacola Presents The Nutcracker (December 21-23)
Follow the adventures of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they battle the Mouse King and embark on a journey through the Land of the Sweets with the guidance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. An annual tradition at the Pensacola Saenger Theatre, the Nutcracker is a holiday classic, perfect for the entire family! Performance schedules vary, and purchasing tickets in advance is encouraged.
Pensacola Symphony Celebrate the New Year! (New Year’s Eve – 7 p.m.)
For those looking for a more cultural diversion, for the 20th season the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra will perform their annual “Celebrate the New Year!” concert at the Saenger Theatre. This year, legendary jazz vocalist Dee Daniels brings her swing, soul and blues-inspired program, which celebrates Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles and more, to ring in the New Year.
Pelican Drop (New Year’s Eve – 6 p.m.)
The Pelican Drop has been a New Year’s Eve tradition in Pensacola for many years, although it’s morphed into a more family-friendly event in recent years when it moved to the new venue of the Blue Wahoos Stadium along Pensacola Bay. The free event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and includes live music from local bands, family activities, fireworks and of course the Pelican Drop.
Pensacola Beach New Year’s Eve Fireworks (Midnight)
Keep your eyes focused on the Pensacola Beach skies this New Year’s Eve for a free firework display along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. At the stroke of midnight, a dazzling light display will take place overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound.
Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip: Jan. 1 (New Year's Day - 12 p.m.)
After celebrating New Year's Eve at the Flora-Bama there is only one way to start the new year .... by taking a plunge into the Gulf of Mexico with a few thousand of your friends.
The Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip is the event of New Year's Day along the gulf coast. Groups and families gather in costume, swimsuits and some even in wet suits to feel the brisk saltwater on their faces.
Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico at high noon. Those who fully submerge will get a free draft beer and a free New Year's lunch of ham, black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread.
Pensacola Beach Polar Bear Plunge (New Year’s Day – 2 p.m.)
If you're staying in town for New Year’s Day and feeling frisky – don’t miss the annual Pensacola Beach Polar Bear Plunge! Hosted at Paradise Bar & Grill, hundreds of hardy souls head down to the water, many dressed in costume, to chase away their hangovers with a plunge into the Santa Rosa Sound. It’s an exhilarating way to kick of your new year!
Have a favorite holiday event in Pensacola? Share it with us below!