Our Family’s Pensacola Christmas Bucket List


As a local (born and raised in Pensacola), I’ve seen this place go through many a change when it comes to holiday offerings. My husband and I sat down and decided to do something daily in the twenty days leading up to Christmas. These activities range from checking out lights to doing something for someone else. There are some old staples as well as some newer traditions that our little family has created. So I invite you to check out our Christmas Bucket List with twenty days of fun!

Ten Things to Be Done Locally:

1. A Downtown Stroll with Warm Beverages and Sweet Treats

Park anywhere on Palafox downtown to see the lights and walk by the Winterfest festivities to take in the view. (Even if you’re not participating, you can see lights, Santa, and the Grinch). Grab a coffee from Maker’s cafe (https://www.makerscafe.us) (we love a seasonal latte or spicy chai). Indulge in a heavenly doughnut from Parlor Doughnuts (https://www.parlordoughnuts.com/pensacola-fl). We love the minis with Coconut creme or the seasonals, and they even do Keto doughnuts! Pick up treats for the whole family at Kilwin’s or Peterbroke Chocolatier. Head to Fosko (fosko.com) for a sweet or savory crepe, and a smores-themed campfire hot cocoa.

You can walk up and down Palafox and you’ve got all these options and more!

2. The Elbow Room

2213 W Cervantes St., Pensacola, FL 32505

Take your family to The Elbow Room. This pub is one of my favorite hidden gems in Pensacola, and for the holidays, they go ALL OUT with the decorations. Your kids will love them. Plus, they’ve got a wall of board games to go along with the old-school pinball and bowling games. And a jukebox! May I recommend the Abita Bacon Dip and making your own pizza?

3. Attend a Christmas Show

Personally, I’m partial to the Pensacola Children’s Chorus’ ‘Christmas on the Coast’ and First Baptist Church’s ‘A Pensacola Christmas.’ Christmas on the Coast is December 8 & 9 at 7:30pm and December 10 at 2:30pm at the Saenger Theatre. First Baptist’s performance is December 2 & 3 at 6pm at First Baptist Church (500 N Palafox St., Pensacola, FL 32501). There’s also Ballet Pensacola’s The Nutcracker at the Saenger Theatre December 15 (7pm), 16 (1:30 and 7pm), and 17 (1:30 pm).

Bonus: I love the New Year’s Eve concert put on by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra (https://pensacolasymphony.com/) at the Saenger.

4. Wales West Light Railway: The Arctic Express

13670 Smiley St., Silverhill, AL 36576

Drive over (just an hour) to Wales West for a Christmas Train ride amidst a large light spectacle. The little ones will love riding 2 different trains, getting to meet Santa, and seeing all the lights. We’ve taken our little ones the past two years and they have LOVED it. We’re going back again.

Bonus: If you timed it right, you could make a whole day of it and go to Bellingrath Gardens too. It’s an extraordinary walk-through light display.

5. Holiday Markets

Tis the season! From a German-themed Winter Market at Gary’s Brewery and Biergarten (https://www.garysbrewery.com/) on 12/1/23 to Palafox Market (https://palafoxmarket.com/) on Saturdays to local churches hosting markets, it’s a great way to support local artisans, farmers, chefs and more to find that perfect, unique gift.

St Christopher’s Christmas Caravan (https://www.scpen.org/caravan2023.html?fbclid=IwAR1Jv8D67gIfQSjsWAH78aUlI8o2aICDfM8h9tIJVlp8T0fiwbnBR8eTK-U) December 1 and 2, 2023.

Redeemer Lutheran Christmas Market December 8 and 9, 2023.

Hot Glass Cold Brew: Christmas Pajama Party (https://www.firstcityart.org/product/hot-glass-cold-brew-holiday-pajama-party/) at First City Art Center December 1, 2023 from 5-9pm. (This is a ticketed event.)

Jolly Holiday Market by the City of Gulf Breeze, December 2, 2023 from 9am-2pm. Located at 800 Shoreline Drive.

Downtown Holiday Market at the Community Maritime Park, December 2, 2023 from 10am to 5pm.

Milton’s Blackwater Holiday Fest, December 9, 2023 from 10am to 4pm. Located at 5158 Willing Street,

Craft and Vintage Holiday Market at Odd Colony Brewing (https://www.oddcolony.com/), December 9, 2023 from 11am-4pm.

Wisteria Christmas Market at the Wisteria Tavern, December 17, 2023 at 11am-4pm.

6. Start a Christmas Eve Tradition

Start a Christmas Eve tradition, and maybe involve a local small business! For some reason, we always eat Nachos on Christmas Eve. It started when I was in medical training and always had to work on Christmas, so we would celebrate on Christmas Eve at around 8pm when I got off work. The only restaurant that was open near us was a Mexican restaurant, and so began our tradition. More recently, we’ve been making nachos at home and going for a quick drink at Odd Colony Brewery for Christmas Eve.

7. Attend a Christmas Eve Service

There are so many options.

8. Winterfest

Attend Winterfest downtown. Take the trolley ride. Some local youth do a great job acting out stories as you ride through. Plus you can see the “snow” and enjoy a walk around.

9. East Hill Sleigh Ride

2000 E Lloyd St., Pensacola, FL 32503

Bring your camping chairs and post up for the annual East Hill Sleigh Ride. This local favorite is in its third year and is basically a parade put on by locals. They also raise money for Gulf Coast Kid’s House. They start at Bayview Community Center and are scheduled for Saturday, December 16, at 5:30pm.

10. Visit Santa at Jeweler’s Trade Shop.

26 Palafox Pl., Pensacola, FL 32502

Jeweler’s Trade Shop is my absolute favorite shop to look at during the holiday season. It is always decorated so beautifully! Check out their Instagram for dates of Santa appearances.

Ten Things to Be Done Anytime:

1. Bake Cookies

Bake cookies and give them to neighbors. What a good way to meet them if you don’t know them.

2. Build a Gingerbread House

There are now so many different kits, from a standard house to ‘mansions.’

3. Send Holiday Cheer to Servicemembers

Write Christmas cards to our servicemen and women who are deployed this holiday season. Just mail the cards (no envelopes) and be sure they receive them by December 5th.

4. Send Letters or Gifts to Nursing Homes

Call and ask in advance, but most will take at least cards. There’s also an ‘adopt a resident’ type sponsorship through Be Santa to a Senior, with cards with heartbreakingly simple requests available for pickup at :

-Downtown YMCA (165 E Intendencia St)

-First United Methodist Church (6 E Wright St)

-Walmart Supercenter Gulf Breeze (3767 Gulf Breeze Parkway)

-Escambia County Sherriff’s Office (1100 E Cervantes St)

The requests are for things like blankets, socks, perfume, sugar-free candy, and small space heaters.

5. Sponsor a Child in Need

Gulf Coast Kids House has an Angel Tree, and Guardian ad Litem has ‘Hope for the Holidays,’ to name a few.

6. Have a Hot Chocolate Party With Friends

Make a crockpot of hot chocolate and have everyone bring over a topping.

7. Have a “Fancy Party”

We love an excuse to dress up, so invite some friends over and tell them to dress nice! Have some appetizers or divvy up the menu amongst yourselves.

8. See the Christmas Lights

Jump in your vehicle and ride around to see lights. Check out PMC’s favorite spots. We love to just ride around Cordova Park, East, and North Hill areas.

9. Letter to Santa

Write a letter to Santa. If you want a return letter, it needs to be sent by December 2nd.

10. Watch All the Movies!

My husband is quite partial to “Die Hard,” but we always end up watching the hokey movies. Our favorite is “The 12 Dates of Christmas,” starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zach Morris).  With our kids, we like “Home Alone,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie  Brown Christmas,” and “A Mickey Christmas Carol.”

Enjoy some or all of these during this holiday season!


  1. Hi Tristan,,
    I am a lonely single 63 year old man in love with the coast of Alabama and Florida. Thinking about driving from Louisiana to the Perdido/Pensacola area from the 22nd or 23rd through Christmas and looking for a safe place to stay near the coast that isn’t too pricey (ie, $80 to 100/night). Being a local lady, I was wondering if you had any insider information regarding clean, safe, reasonable and convenient lodging that would allow enjoying Pensacola and Perdido at Christmas time? I know this is an unusual request but I thought I’d ask. Enjoyed your Christmas article.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Durock Hebert Jr


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