Like many small American towns, Seaside celebrates the holidays with nostalgia and a bygone spirit. Beginning Thanksgiving Day weekend with the showing of the beloved Nutcracker ballet and ending with a New Year’s Eve spectacular celebration, Seaside celebrates the most wonderful time of the year by preserving traditions and making memories.
Named as one of the “Best Small Towns for Christmas in the South” by Southern Living, the magazine notes:
Take your Christmas celebrations to the beach for a visit full of coastal festivities and seafood galore. Seaside, Fla., is the perfect coastal holiday destination, because there is so much to do on 30A in December. There are plenty of holiday decorations to enjoy and so many shops and restaurants to browse. We’re dreaming of a coastal Christmas. How about you?
Warm weather-loving families make Seaside their home away from home, where they can enjoy a beachside Christmas that can include a beach-themed tree trimming and perhaps a Gulf Coast-inspired holiday feast.
“We have guests who buy a tree and decorate it in their rental cottage almost every year. We’ve even helped them unload the tree from the roof of their rental car,” says
Sarah Hanley, director of marketing and communications for Cottage Rental Agency. “People really get into the spirit in Seaside.”
Seaside merchants also get into the spirit, with gorgeous decorations that sparkle and twinkle. Central Square Records even incorporates music into the décor. “Our music is our best decoration,” says Ed Jack, manager. “Some of our favorites are: Vince Guaraldi Trio ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ ‘Christmas Cocktails’ Compilations (Holiday Jazz), Jimmy Smith ‘Christmas ‘64,’ Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings ‘It’s A Holiday Soul Party,’ Kenny Burrell ‘Have Yourself A Soulful Little Christmas,’ Andy Williams ‘Christmas Album,’ Frank Sinatra ‘Ultimate Christmas’ and Glen Campbell ‘Christmas With Glen Campbell.’ And we love hanging Christmas ornaments from the outside porch ceiling.”
Kicking off this year’s holiday season is Nutcracker Seaside, based on the critically acclaimed Russian ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. From the ballet that launched a national holiday tradition, Ballet Pensacola dancers will perform under the stars at the Seaside Amphitheater. The Nutcracker Seaside performance is the result of the vision of Seaside co-founder Daryl Davis, who introduced performance arts in Seaside.
“Six years ago, Nutcracker Seaside made its debut thanks to the generous support of Daryl Davis,” says Seleta Hayes-Howard, Seaside special projects director. “This set the stage for a wider variety of dance performances in Seaside, beginning with our annual Seaside Dance Festival every May. With the continued vision of Daryl Davis and support of the Merchants of Seaside, we’re able to expand our dance performances and provide opportunities for young dancers in our community to participate in these shows. Dance connects us on an endogenous and emotional level and brings the community together. We are thrilled to continue expanding our dance performances, which engage our community and its dancers.” The performance will be held Saturday, Nov. 18, at 5 p.m. and is free to the public.
The Holiday Farmers Market will be Tuesday, Nov. 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the amphitheater, where a variety of local vendors will feature fresh produce, baked goods, dairy products, native plants and even some special holiday treats.
Friday, Nov. 24, grab your blankets and head down to the amphitheater for a holiday edition of Central Square Cinema on the lawn in Central Square. The featured movie is “Elf” starring Will Ferrell.
Holiday events continue Saturday, Nov. 25, beginning with the weekly Seaside Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Later that day, take your spot along 30A for the annual South Walton Christmas Parade. This Seaside and 30A tradition begins at 4 p.m. in front of Seagrove Plaza. Residents and visitors share in the glory as participants march 1.5 miles down Scenic Highway 30A from Seagrove, decked in their Christmas best on festive holiday floats. The parade ends in Seaside as visitors welcome Santa Claus to town, where we Turn on the Town.
Hosted by the Merchants of Seaside, Turn on the Town includes the annual tree lighting ceremony and features live music and a special appearance by Santa Claus. Santa, master of ceremonies for the evening, will invite all of the kids to join him in front of the stage for a sing-along before magically brightening up the town. Then, the countdown begins in unison to light the 24-foot Christmas tree, as all of downtown Seaside is illuminated with bright, holiday lights. Following the lighting ceremony, bring your camera for photos with the jolly ole elf from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Make plans to be in Seaside in December as the merchants bring back the popular Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, performing the Holiday Pops concert under the stars Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and allow the sounds of the season to remind you of all the magic of the holidays.
Then roll in New Year’s Eve at the annual Countdown Seaside: A New Year’s Eve Celebration Dec. 31. Experience a spectacular, family-friendly party featuring live entertainment, kid’s art projects, street performers and a memorable finale. Festivities begin at 6 p.m.