Santa Claus has come to town: St. Nick makes an early entrance on the Emerald Coast at Bass Pro

Jessica Coker
Shalimar residents’ 3-year-old Jacob Mickey and his grandmother Joan Mickey prepare to visit Santa for the first time.

Leaving his reindeer-powered sleigh at the North Pole, Santa Claus opted for a different kind of horsepower for his first Destin debut of the Christmas season.

Arriving via Tracker boat towed by a Toyota Tundra, Santa, Mrs. Claus and all of their friends from the North Pole looked very much like Destin residents sitting atop their boat as they greeted the large crowd of good girls and boys who came out to meet them.

Saturday, Nov. 10, Bass Pro Shops' fifth annual "Santa’s Wonderland, a Classic Christmas," preview night drew children of all ages out to enjoy the holiday festivities and get the chance to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

Anything Disney-related seemed to be a big crowd pleaser.

"Mickey Mouse," said 2-year-old Lucas Perez, a Santa Rosa Beach resident who brought his father Robert along with him to meet Santa at Bass Pro.

6-year-old Beau Daughtry, of Defuniak Springs, who was spotted playing with the shop’s model train set while waiting for his turn to meet Santa, told The Log, "I'm asking Santa for Disney cars, trucks and trains."

Children colored pictures with Mrs. Claus, played with the model train set, gazed at the expansive Christmas decorations and the iconic Bass Pro Shops' fish tank, while others snacked on cookies and hot chocolate while anxiously awaiting their turn to meet St. Nick.

Danielle and Lee Jackson of Alabama brought their three sons to meet the holly jolly man in red.

5-year-old Ryder, 2-year-old Brody and 5-month-old John Hunter all got a shot at Santa’s lap.

"This is John Hunter’s first Christmas, so this is special to us all of course," said Danielle.

Brody said he’s asking Santa for a tricycle this year, while big brother Ryder is asking for a drum set.

If you hear that familiar jingle that’s unique to Kris Kringle then load up your sleigh with your good girls and boys and make your way to Bass Pro Shops'

Santa's Wonderland, open now until Dec. 24.

Families can enjoy the wonder of Christmas inside Bass Pro Shops with a more than 3,500-square foot Christmas village full of games, activities and crafts for the whole family from Nov. 10 through Dec. 24.

With both animated and live elves, nutcrackers, reindeer and more, the village offers an old-time model train area, remote control trucks, a laser arcade, a soft gun range and slot car racing. Activity tables give children opportunity to write a letter to Santa, color and do fun crafts every day of the week — all free. Santa will be in residence from 3-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 12-5 p.m. Sundays.