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. Hot Spot BBQ
Get some pie from Hot Spot Barbecue. Seriously. We ordered three of them for Thanksgiving dinner (pumpkin, lemon, and the limited edition pecan praline). We love the BBQ year round, but the holidays just scream ‘pie’! Location:
2. The Elbow Room
2213 W Cervantes St., Pensacola, FL 32505
Take your family to The Elbow Room. This pizza pub is one of my favorite hidden gems in Pensacola, and for the holidays, they go ALL OUT with the decorations. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but 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? Location:
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 9 & 10 at 7:30pm and December 11 at 2:30pm at the Saenger Theatre. First Baptist’s performance is December 3 & 4 at 6pm at First Baptist Church (500 N Palafox St., Pensacola, FL 32501).
4. Wales West
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 the train, getting to meet Santa, and seeing all the lights.
5. Bellingrath Gardens
12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd., Theodore, AL 36582
Or drive over (just an hour) to Bellingrath Gardens for an extraordinary walk-through light display. We love to head over to Mobile a little earlier first to either shop or grab some Cane’s chicken fingers (if you know, you know). You can also drive through the Bay Bears stadium area for a smaller light display.
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.
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 17, at 5:30pm.
1-. Visit Santa at Jeweler’s Trade Shop.
26 Palafox Pl., Pensacola, FL 32502
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.
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.”