The weather in Pensacola hardly gets frightful this time of year. In fact, it’s really more delightful. But for those living in the panhandle who want a little bit of that holiday feeling, there are lots of events to choose from. Kicking off right after Thanksgiving, there are events through the annual Pelican Drop on New Year’s Eve.
Starting on Black Friday, Pensacola transitions to the winter holiday spirit with the Winterfest Elf Parade. This officially begins the month-long Winterfest held in the downtown area. This year, there will be a holiday lighting ceremony, the First City Lights Festival. The canopy of holiday lights will feature 400,000 white lights showcasing historic buildings, shops, galleries and parks.
Throughout the month leading up to Christmas, there will be some traditional events like The Nutcracker and some more modern things like a Pop-up Opera wandering the main drag, Palafox. Caroling in the streets, trolley tours, street performances and even Santa visits are expected in the downtown and historic area.
Polar Express Pajama Party
Inside the Naval Aviation Museum is the Giant Screen Theater, and each Saturday and Sunday at 3pm from November 25th through December 17th, The Polar Express will be playing on it! Children of all ages are encouraged to attend (under 1 are free) and those children who wear their pajamas will receive a free cup of hot chocolate and a cookie. Tickets are $7 per person and there will be an additional showing on Saturday, December 23rd.
New Year’s Eve
Without a doubt, the most popular New Year’s Eve event in the panhandle is in downtown Pensacola where the area mascot, the Pelican, is dropped instead of the traditional ball. Crowds of up to 50,000 are expected, a mix of locals and guests alike. This free event starts at 3pm and wraps up just after midnight.
All restaurants are open, though the main streets of Garden and Palafox are closed to traffic. There will be live performances outside as well as additional vendors and refreshments. Fireworks and confetti ring in the New Year as the 14’ tall Pelican with a 20-foot wingspan descends 100 feet at the intersection of Garden and Palafox.
If you’re young in age, or at heart, and can’t make it until midnight, the Little Pelican Party runs from 3 to 8pm, when kids can watch the lighting of the Pelican.
These 60 minute tours take you through the beautifully lit downtown Pensacola area. Complete with singing guides, you’ll take a trip down memory lane to your favorite holiday memories. You may even catch the Grinch on board the trolley.
The Gulf Breeze Zoo lights up at least half of their area with a gorgeous holiday light display. Cost is $10 per person ($5 if you happen to be a member) and it is open evenings starting Black Friday and running right up to (and a few days after) Christmas.
Head out to Flora-Bama on Saturday, December 9th and welcome Santa as he sky-dives onto the beach. Photos with Santa available, as well as free sweets (drinks for adults) and activities for the kids.
Annual Christmas Parade
The Pensacola Christmas Parade draws a huge crowd each year. Set at to begin at dusk on December 9th, there are bands from all over the southeast, dozens of floats and even the Blue Angels!
There is something for everyone this holiday season in Penscola. Don’t let the weather keep you out of the holiday spirit. Enjoy the sun and these great events!
PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!
Rebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate, freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com or on Twitter (@rebecca_alwine) and Instagram (@rebecca_alwine).