Free for all … in November


Nothing in life is free … except for these events, meals and more!

Each month, we gather and list some of the free events, food dishes and outdoor activities available on the Emerald Coast.

Here are some free things available in November:


Camellia show: The Greater Fort Walton Beach Camellia Society will present the 52nd Annual Camellia Show and Plant Sale from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the atrium of the Meridian (formerly Westwood) Retirement Resort, 1001 Mar Walt Dr., Fort Walton Beach. The show is open and free to the public. A variety of camellia plants will be available for purchase. Awards will be given in several divisions and categories.

Author discussion: The Friends of the Niceville Public Library will host local author Mary C. Brown as she discusses her new book, “Waiting for the Daffodils,” a memoir detailing a tragic loss. This free program will be held at the Niceville Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15. Call 279-4863, ext. 1504 or email to reserve a seat.

Free student recitals: The Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts Division at Northwest Florida State College offers a series of free afternoon Student Recitals twice a month on Fridays at 3 p.m. in the college’s Tyler Recital Hall at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus, 100 College Boulevard. Fall recitals are scheduled Nov. 18 with an Honors Recital on Dec. 2. Seating is open on a first-come basis.


Blue Angels: It’s homecoming for the Blue Angels. The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron will close the 2016 season at its annual Homecoming Air Show aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola on Saturday and Sunday. Gates open both days at 8 a.m., and admission and parking for all shows are free. The Blues’ C-130 Hercules transport known as “Fat Albert” will thrill the crowd with its short field take-off and low-level passes. There will also be other aerial performers. Dozens of military and civilian aircraft will be on display. There will be a special night show 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday only that will end with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Pensacola area. Pets and coolers are not permitted. For more information, visit

Pioneer Day: Embrace the outdoors with no park admission fees. The Friends of Emerald Coast State Parks will host Pioneer Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, 4821 S. Highway 20, Niceville. It’s a free event for families with activities to learn pioneer survival skills, demonstrations and live flute music and storytelling. Call the park at 833-9144 for more information or in case of weather concerns.


Free coffee for veterans and active military: Starbucks will offer a free tall coffee to veterans, active military and their spouses Friday for Veterans Day.

Free entrée for active-duty military and military veterans: Olive Garden will celebrate Veterans Day on Friday, offering a free entrée from a special menu to active-duty military and military veterans. The special menu features some of the restaurant’s most popular items. Unlimited soup or house salad and garlic breadsticks come with the meals.

Free appetizer or dessert for military: LongHorn Steakhouse will honor Veterans Day with a free appetizer or dessert Friday for those who have proof of military service. The restaurant will also offer a 10 percent discount to guests who dine with veterans on Friday.

Free meal for veterans and active military members: Veterans and active military members can visit Tijuana Flats for a free meal on Friday.

What to Do in Fort Walton Beach

Sure we’ve got AMAZING beaches – but we have SO MUCH MORE!

If you’re wondering what else Fort Walton Beach has to offer, here are just a few suggestions:

Fish on! Destin Fishing Rodeo gearing up for 68th year

Destin Rodeo Logo
loresdestinr27_011 During last year’s rodeo, anglers from 38 different states came to Destin for the storied month-long fishing tournament, and spent approximately $1.4 million on hotels, food and recreation while they were here. Rodeo Executive Director Helen Donaldson expects this year to be no different.



The 68th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is gearing up for another exciting year.

Helen Donaldson, executive director of the rodeo, said the board has been working tirelessly for the past 11 months to prepare for this year’s tournament.

“We work year long to get this going,” she said. “We form committees, determine the awards, decide what fish we can catch, go over any rules changes.”

During last year’s rodeo, anglers from 38 different states came to Destin for the storied month-long fishing tournament, and spent approximately $1.4 million on hotels, food and recreation while they were here. Donaldson expects this year to be no different.

“Charter boat registration is actually up compared to this time last year,” she said.

Trey Winds, captain of the charter boat Outta Line and chairman of this year’s fishing rodeo, agreed that this year is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

“Personally, my charter boat is booked up for October and I’m sure a lot of the other ones are too,” he said. “It’ll be a good year for the rodeo. And the fishing is good too, so as long as the weather holds out it will be awesome.”


The rodeo has 19 different divisions, including party boat, ladies and juniors. Over 200 awards are being offered for various fish and categories, all of them sponsored by area businesses.

Donaldson said she expects around 5,000 fish to be caught this year, and around 1,000 to be weighed.

“There’s anywhere from 300 to 1000 people down on the docks on any given day (during the tournament) to watch the weigh-ins,” she said.

She added that the weigh-ins will be displayed on the Jumbo Tron at AJs so more people can view the excitement.

There are several new T-shirt designs this year, in addition to the classic design that includes each fish that will be caught during the tournament. There are five different designs and about a dozen different color options to choose from.

“Everybody loves rodeo T-shirts,” Donaldson said.

The rodeo was originally held in 1947 during the month of June to encourage fishermen to come to Destin, and was eventually moved to the month of October so as to help the fishermen who were already here extend their season. Today, the tournament draws thousands of people from all over the country who both participate in the fishing and just watch from the docks.

“We call it a spectator sport,” Donaldson said. “People come for the rodeo but they don’t even fish. There’s always something happening down on the docks.”

Labor Day 2016

labor-day-at-the-beach-2 It’s been a long great summer full of splashing around, soaking up the sun, and spending time with family and friends. Can you believe it’s almost over? If you’re anything like us here at Legacy Vacations, you wish summer could last forever.

Since we can’t adjust the calendar to include less work and more play, we are just taking advantage of our last chance to soak up those summer rays and have a few extra days added on to our weekend.  Obviously, we’re talking about Labor Day!

For those who don’t already know, Labor Day is a holiday that was created just for the sole purpose of giving the working class a break. For once we were actually recognized for hard work and continous (ahem) labor, that the goverment decided we deserved a break. How thoughtful, right?

It would be crazy to take this special gift for granted, so we need to make the most of it. There are still a couple weeks left to plan something your loved ones will never forget. If you’re looking for something fun, check out these three things we suggest for your Labor Day Weekend.

1. Plan a mini vacation –

You know by now that we always suggest a beach trip, but that’s just because we are in love with living so close to crashing waves. We know of some wonderful places to stay right on the water.

2. Hang out by the pool –

If you can’t make it to the beach, kick back by the pool with a glass of lemonade and some big sunglasses. There are playlists you can find of nothing but ocean waves. If you close your eyes, it’s like your really here! If you don’t have a pool, we know one that just might work.

3. Throw a party  –

Tip your hat to the end of the season with a Farewell Summer Shindig. Call up some friends, fire up the grill, and spend time together on your last holiday before the real holiday season begins. Don’t forget to tune in to some SEC football!

How do you plan on spending your last weekend of summer? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Florida’s Emerald Coast: A Shoreline Itinerary

Explore, swim, and play in the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Picture of an aerial view of the beach in Destin, Florida
An aerial view of the Emerald Coast

There is no shortage of ways to get out and play in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island, collectively known as the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. The area’s 24 miles of shoreline include powder-white beaches, emerald green water, and a portion of the pristine Gulf Islands National Seashore, plus protected bays and bayous, five beachfront parks, and 12 beach access ways.

Beyond the sand and surf, this section of the Emerald Coast is home to eight championship golf courses and country clubs, as well as outdoor retail and entertainment centers like Destin’s HarborWalk Village. Family-friendly attractions include Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park,Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park, a nonprofit sanctuary housing native wildlife and abandoned and abused exotic animals.

GETTING THERE: Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and Destin are situated near the center of the northwest Florida coast, an area stretching from Pensacola east about 140 miles (225 kilometers) to Port St. Joe. The closest airport is Destin-Fort Walton Beach, located 16 miles northwest of Destin. From the airport, rent a car or take a taxi or private shuttle (call for reservations) to Destin, Fort Walton Beach, or Okaloosa Island.

STAY: With more than 13,000 lodging options—including Gulf-view condos, high-rise hotels, private vacation homes, bed-and-breakfasts, and campgrounds—there are accommodations available to fit any budget. Family-friendly resorts such as Seascape typically include beach access, multiple pools, kids’ programs, and full kitchens. For a quieter, adults-only property, choose the Henderson Park Inn in Destin. The luxurious 35-suite bed-and-breakfast is styled after a classic Victorian New England seaside inn with a spacious porch overlooking the Gulf. In addition to daily gourmet breakfasts and boxed picnic lunches, guest amenities include free use of bikes, beach chairs, and beach umbrellas. Beginning in September 2016, families can enjoy a similar level of pampering at The Henderson, a hotel with 170 rooms and suites opening across the street from the inn. Both properties are near 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park, home to one of the Emerald Coast’s top campgrounds. Reserve a site several months in advance of your visit. Insider tip: It’s easier to find a campsite on short notice at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Parkcampground, located on the north shore of Choctawhatchee Bay in Niceville.

EAT: Try grilled yellowfin tuna, steamed shrimp, fried oysters, hot crabmeat dip, and other Gulf-to-table dishes at either Dewey Destin’s location—the Harborside Restaurant on Destin Harbor or the Seafood & Restaurant overlooking Crab Island. Owner Dewey Destin’s family has been selling fresh seafood since the early 1800s (great-great-grandfather Leonard founded Destin, then called East Pass, in 1835). If you fish, bring your fresh flounder, grouper, red snapper, wahoo, or other daily catch to Dewey Destin’s and they’ll cook it for you. (Price varies depending on the fish, preparation, and side dishes.)

Picture of pelicans in Destin, Florida
Pelicans in the harbor of Destin, Florida

HIT THE BEACH: Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island regularly rank among the best on national and regional media lists of family vacation and beach destinations. Okaloosa Day Use Area east of Fort Walton Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, named “Best East Coast Beach” in the USA Today 10Best 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards. The Okaloosa location offers an unspoiled beach, calm waters (ideal for family swimming), picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat launch. Other public-access beaches are located at Henderson Beach State Park,James Lee ParkJohn Beasley Park, and Newman C. Brackin Wayside Park. Many vacation properties also have private beaches or beach access.

PLAY: Get out on the water to sail, paddle, go on a Buccaneer pirate cruise, or zip around an airboat. Kayak and canoe rentals are available atFred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, home to an aquatic preserve where you might spot dolphins, otters, and waterfowl. Several outfitters such asCattywampus catamaran ecotours and Destin Snorkel offer dolphin-viewing cruises and snorkeling excursions. Destin also has the nation’s largest for-hire fishing fleet, according to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Charter a boat with Gulf Angler or another local captain to try deep-sea or bay fishing. Before your trip, purchase a Florida fishing license online.

DISCOVER: See military aircraft from the World War II era to the present at the Eglin Air Force Base’s free Air Force Armament Museum (closed Sunday). Learn about local culture and history at theHeritage Museum of Northwest Florida (closed Sunday and Monday) and at the free Baker Block Museum (closed Saturday to Monday, except the third Saturday of each month). See a 1925 fishing boat, a collection of antique rods and reels, and vintage photographs of boat captains and their boats at the Destin History & Fishing Museum (closed Sunday and Monday). Visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, Fort Walton Temple Mound, and the Civil War Exhibit Building at the Heritage Park & Cultural Center (closed Sunday) in Fort Walton Beach.

FUN FACT: A 3.8-acre mural of a United States flag is painted on the roof of the Legendary Marine boat storage facility in Destin. The rooftop original (thought to be the world’s largest flag mural) is the work of marine life artist Wyland, whose Wyland Wall #88 (“Marine Life of the Gulf”) mural can be seen on the facility’s exterior walls. Seeing the flag requires taking a scenic flight.

Sun, Sand and Beach Cams.

Wondering what’s happening on the Emerald Coast? Now you don’t have to. We’ve set up seven beach cams at strategic locations up and down our sugar-white coastline so you can see what you’re missing. It’s the most fun you can have on the beach without sunscreen.

  • Aj’s Dockside

    Experience the AJs Jumbotron, dockside entertainment, tounament weigh-in pavilion and the docks to the west.

  • Aj’s Harbor

    180 degree view of the Destin Harbor, home of Florida’s largest fishing fleet. View sunrises and sunsets.

  • Margaritaville

    Explore the docks of Harborwalk Village, Destin Harbor, Noreago Point, Marler Bridge and the Destin Pass. Breathtaking sunset.

  • The Back Porch

    Nestled in the heart of Destin with views of para-sailers, paddle boarders and incredible sunrises and sunsets.

  • The Crab Trap – Fort Walton Beach

    On the Boardwalk, a great view of the Beach Volleyball Courts and the Okaloosa Island Pier.

  • The Crab Trap – Destin

    Located at James Lee Park,offering views of one of Destin’s most popular beach spots. Spectacular sunrise and sunsets.

  • Henderson Park Inn

    Sugar sand beaches & more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Travelers’ Top Tips to Pack Smart

Article taken from TripAdvisor

We reached out to Top Contributors in our traveler community and asked for their best-ever packing tips. Here’s what they had to say.

  • Pack light to travel light. If you can manage with a carry-on, do it. Try taking half of the things you need and twice the money. You can make buying a few new items a fun part of the adventure.
  • Pack a sleep mask and ear plugs. These can come in handy on a plane, train or in your hotel room.
  • Capitalize on empty suitcase space. Roll your clothes, instead of folding them. Stuff socks, underwear, and accessories inside of shoes. Leave no space unused.
  • Keep a sarong or pashmina in your carry-on. They can be used as a blanket on the plane, a scarf if it’s cold or a shawl on an evening out.
  • Bag it. Kitchen sandwich bags can be used to hold your accessories, vacuum pack bags can be space savers, and trash bags have multiple uses (laundry bag, shoe covers).
  • Skip airport snacks and bring your own. You can save yourself a bit of money and keep your hunger at bay in case you have a delayed flight.
  • Create compartments. Two words: packing cube. If you are visiting more than one city during your trip, packing cubes will keep your suitcase organized and save you from having to pack and unpack.
  • Share your packing space. Traveling as a couple? Split your clothes between two suitcases on the off chance one of them gets lost during the flight.
  • Bring a multi-socket extension cord. Although newer hotels have USB ports in rooms, it’s best to have an extra outlet to charge all of your electronics at once.
  • Make photocopies before leaving home. If you’re traveling out of the country, make two photocopies of your passport. Use your smartphone to take pictures of your car in the airport’s parking garage and do the same for your luggage and its contents in case it gets lost.

The Sands & Beaches Here in the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast

The more you know about the Emerald Coast, the more there is to appreciate. Take some time out before you come to learn why our sands are so white and our waters so green, as well as other interesting facts about our natural environment.

Secret of the Sands

The sands that compose the beaches of Destin, Ft. Walton Beach & Okaloosa Island are among the whitest and cleanest in the world, and the perfect oval shape of each grain of sand makes the beach “squeak” when you walk on it.

You can thank the Apalachicola River, 130 miles east of Ft. Walton Beach, for the type of sand found here. The quartz-sand material, delivered to the Gulf of Mexico from the Appalachian mountains via the river, was deposited along the shores when Santa Rosa Island began to extend like an arm from Destin. This extension continues today as these small, white grains of quartz sand move to the west before reaching their final destination at the Pensacola Pass.

Sand Dunes

Sand dunes, which protect the coastline from storm winds and waves, are formed when waves carry sand to the beach, where the wind picks it up and blows it inland. Gradually, the sand piles up and plants such as sea oats begin to grow in it. The sea oats slowly cover the entire dune and protect it from erosion. If people strip the sea oats from the dunes by walking on them or driving dune buggies over them, storm winds and waves will be able to cut through the dunes and cause severe damage inland. For this reason, it is important to remember: KEEP OFF THE DUNES.

Barrier Beaches

Much of Florida is protected by a chain of barrier islands – narrow strips of sand that act as a buffer for storm waves. In their natural state, barrier islands contain a range of habitats, from sandy beaches to salt marshes and brackish lagoons. Behind the front dunes, which can vary in height and distance due to the salt spray and wind, thickets of shrubs that can tolerate strong wind and spray create a protective hedge in front of coastal forests. These forests trap and anchor sand, help stabilize the dunes and protect the shoreline against storms and hurricanes. They are also critical stopovers for songbirds migrating between the tropics and North America. Farther back from the ocean, the dunes flatten, ending at saltwater lagoons bordered by salt marshes in North Florida and mangrove swamps in South Florida.

Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier

Posted by

Erika Zambello, Emerald Coast CVB



We all know that fishing piers are good for fishing. They provide structure around which fish can congregate, and allow anglers access to deeper waters without a boat. I have discovered that they are also great places to view local marine life, and the Okaloosa Island Pier is no exception.

I began to walk along the pier in mid-morning, the sun already high and highlighting the iconic emerald color of the Gulf waters. In the shallow surf I noticed the long shape of a needlefish, swimming directly beneath the surface. As the water depth deepened, the color also deepened to a beautiful shade of cobalt blue. Bait fish swirled, creating different shapes as they schooled around the pilings; every so often they would hit the light just right, flashing silver.

Continuing down the pier, I began to pass anglers. Locals and tourists alike fished over the side, casting live bait as well as artificial lures. Parents taught their kids how to reel up, and I couldn’t help but smile at the squeals of delight whenever they pulled up a fish, however small.

However, nothing compared to the excitement all visitors had when spotting a sea turtle. I had just missed a loggerhead feeding next to the pilings, but everyone on the pier was still buzzing about its appearance. Sea turtles are beautiful, gentle creatures, so I was not surprised at the enthusiasm such a sighting left in its wake. The same kids who were fishing and exploring the pier continually exclaimed, “I saw a sea turtle. A sea turtle!

The end of the pier proved a great place to watch birds and see larger fish. The outline of a remora was clear beneath the surface, and other species circled in the more shadowy depths. Terns and gulls fed from the surface, while large pelicans alternatively soared overhead or rested, floating along the waves. Dolphins are very common at the end of the pier as well, attracted to the fish of the anglers as well as those naturally occurring near the pier. (Remember, don’t feed them!)

Though the pier is only a little over 1/5 of a mile, I strode back and forth for over an hour, taking in all the activity and soaking in sightings of marine life. For only $2, I plan to walk the pier as often as possible, even trying my hand at fishing!

Air Carrier GLO To Provide Seasonal Service To Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport

Regional Air Carrier GLO announced this week that they soon will be soaring into Northwest Florida, providing low-cost, non-stop service from New Orleans, LA and Little Rock, AR.

GLO Announcement at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport.

For the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, this is the second partnership with a new airline to be announced in less than a month.

Tracy Stage has been the Okaloosa County Airport’s Interim Director since October of 2015. His tenure has been short, but exciting.

In January, VPS added Allegiant Air with seasonal nonstop flights from Cincinnati, OH and St. Louis, MO.

Now, Stage is excited to welcome GLO Airlines to the VPS lineup.

“They came to visit us roughly five years ago to meet with the airport, to meet with the tourist industry and local leadership to better understand the destination,” Stage said. “You know these wins don’t happen overnight, so over years we’ve been speaking with them and it’s just the right time at the right place for GLO to expand.”

GLO was founded in 2013 by Trey Fayard and the service initiated flights in November of 2015.

As with Allegiant, GLO’s service will be seasonal.

Beginning March 25, the airline will offer direct flights between Destin-Fort Walton Beach airport and both New Orleans and Little Rock.  One-way, introductory “GLOForIt” fares are $119 (tax included) for the New Orleans route and $149 (tax included) for the Little Rock route.

The flights are currently scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with one flight each day to Little Rock and New Orleans, through the beginning of September.

“However, if the demand is there, they’ll extend the season or they’ll even run it year round,” said Stage, adding that it’s dependent on utilization of the service.

For the new routes to Florida’s Emerald Coast, GLO’s operator, Corporate Flight Management, will deploy the Saab 340B aircraft, known for its comfort and reliability.

“We offer a higher touch, a higher service option for our customers,” said Mike Welch, who is Vice President of Ground Operations for GLO Airlines and oversees the operations at the various airports they serve. “We’ve got thirty seats on the aircraft like I mentioned, and each one is very spacious and very comfortable.”

Welch also believes the price they offer to get here and the connectivity to the market is something that’s attractive, and differentiates their service from Allegiant.

On the new flights, on board service will be provided by a flight attendant and will include complimentary snacks and beverages from the region GLO services, as well as local publications. GLO passengers may also transport up to three bags and one personal item for free.

GLO will be Destin-Ft. Walton Beach Airport’s fifth air carrier and increases the number of destinations to nine.

“It’s great to get more people who otherwise might not have come so a boom to the tourism industry,” said Dr. Rick Harper, Director of the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.

While, Harper thinks the additional airline service is great for the area as a whole, he says it’ll be interesting to see how well some of these new flights catch on.

“It’s an open question as to whether people from New Orleans are going to hop on the plane to fly to Northwest Florida or whether they’re going to hop in a car to do it,” he said, noting that trading the nine-hour car drive from Little Rock for a two-hour flight should not be a tough sell.

VPS officials say the airline is expected to bring in more than $1 million in economic impact to the economy.

Destination and ticket information are available at