Most tourists flock to Northwest Florida during the summer, but locals know fall is when this Gulf Coast area really comes to life. Here’s a list of some festivals and events on the horizon in our favorite slice of paradise.
Beaches to Woodlands: Sept. 22-Nov. 11
Santa Rosa County has an all-encompassing list that includes fall festivals and events across the county. Events include concerts, pumpkin patches, arts and crafts shows, butterfly festivals and more. The idea is to get outdoors and explore all that Santa Rosa County has to offer from its beautiful beaches to its lesser-known woodlands. For a full list of festivals and events, visit http://www.getrelazing.com.
Fly into Fall Kite Festival: Sept. 22-23
You will see them from the road Sept. 22 or 23 if you are driving down U.S. Highway 98 because the 100-foot octopus kite and the 80-foot panda kite will be hard to miss floating above the water behind The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island. Join Kitty Hawk Kites and the Emerald Coast Fliers Club for a two-day kite festival 10 a.m.-4 p.m. each day. Bring the kids out to try kite flying, stunt kite demonstrations, and special activities at the Kitty Hawk Kites store at The Boardwalk. Call 850-796-0102 or find them on Facebook.
Northwest Florida Fair: Sept. 25-29
Childhood memories are made of cotton candy, funnel cakes, Ferris wheels and fun, and all of those can be found at the Northwest Florida Fair to be held Sept. 25-29 at the fairgrounds on Lewis Turner Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. Check out all the fair has to offer online at www.nwffair.com.
Oktoberfest at Bluewater Bay: Sept. 28-29
Beer, brats, German music, kid’s rides, dancers and a firetruck pull, what’s not to love at the 24th annual Oktoberfest in the Marketplace Shopping Plaza in Bluewater Bay? It’s free admission and family friendly. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Mid-Bay Bridge, the two-day festival runs Sept. 28 5-10 p.m. and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 29. Visit www.midbayrotaryclub.org.
70th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo: Oct. 1-31
Destin is synonymous with fishing, so naturally the largest festival of the year is the month-long Destin Fishing Rodeo. This year marks the 70th year for the fishing rodeo, so it is bound to be an unforgettable. Every day of October from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., you will find a crowd watching fish being weighed in at the floating judges barge behind AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar on the Destin Harbor.
In addition to the rodeo, there are other festivities such as the Kid’s Fall Fest on Oct. 6 and Halloween on the Harbor on Oct. 31. Visit www.destinfishingrodeo.org.
40th Annual Destin Seafood Festival: Oct. 5-7
The Destin Seafood Festival brings the fresh Gulf seafood Destin is known for to the streets. For three days, Oct. 5-7, HarborWalk Village by the Destin harbor will become the hub of local food, art and entertainment. Visit www.destinseafoodfestival.com.
11th Annual Baytowne Beer Festival: Oct. 12-13
Bring on the brew at the 11th Annual Baytowne Beer Festival at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. This festival will bring more than 200 craft beers to the area and give visitors the chance to taste, learn and discover new brews along the way. Visit www.baytownewharfbeerfestival.com.
Explore The Outdoors Festival: Oct. 13
Take advantage of the fall weather and get outdoors with the family at Explore The Outdoors Festival 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 13 at Live Oak Landing in Freeport. Children can try their hands at fishing, kayaking, archery, hydrobikes, a marine life touch-tank, educational exhibits and more. Call 850-267-2064 or visit http://www.waltonoutdoors.com/explorefest or find them on Facebook.
Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival: Oct. 19-21
Niceville originally was known as Boggy, and the Boggy Bayou's best catch is the mullet. So, as fate would have it, 42 years ago the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival was launched, and it grows more popular every year. The festival brings well known national musicians, regional food trucks, unique arts and crafts vendors and more. Visit http://boggybayoumulletfestival.info.
2nd Annual Harvest Wine & Food Festival: Oct. 25-27
Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation presents the 2nd Annual Harvest Wine & Food Festival at WaterColor on Oct. 25-27. The festival offers patrons the chance to sip over 400 wines and pair them with local Gulf Coast cuisine. The festival proceeds and silent auctions benefit more than 15 local charities whose aim is to meet the needs of at-risk youth in Northwest Florida. Visit www.dwaf.org or find the event on Facebook.
Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s Festival of the Arts: Oct. 27-28
Every year, hundreds of artists make their way to Destin for the annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts. This two-day event held at the Cultural Arts Village, features art exhibits, live music, local food, kids arts and crafts, meet-the-artist and of course art for sale. Visit www.mattiekellyartsfoundation.org.
Harvest Market at Rosemary Beach: Oct. 27
Kick off your holiday shopping in the quaint community of Rosemary Beach at the 2018 Harvest Market. In addition to local artists and craftsmen, there will be activities such as live music, a kid's Halloween block party, a scarecrow display competition, a costume competition and pumpkin carving. The event will be held on the Eastern Lawn Green in Rosemary Beach 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 27. Visit www.hilltopproductionevents, or call 850-951-2148.
Foo Foo Festival: Nov. 1-12
Pensacola has a nickname, "Festival City of the South," and the 5th Annual Foo Foo Festival scheduled for Nov. 1-12 will showcase this nickname with a celebration of the arts including public art displays, music, dance, opera, theater and cuisine. The festival spans two weeks and features more than 30 venues and performances in downtown Pensacola. Visit www.FooFooFest.com.
Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival: Nov. 3
HarborWalk Village will be buzzing with beer, music and barbecue noon-4 p.m. Nov. 3 for the 11th Annual Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival. Enjoy more than 15 samplings of barbecue as local restaurants and cooks go head-to-head to prove who makes the best barbecue. Tickets $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Find them on Facebook or visit https://www.emeraldgrande.com.