Christmas on the coast is a special time. The weather is beginning to cool along the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast, but it’s typically far from cold, making it even more fun to gather with family and friends indoors or out for a host of holiday-focused activities.

Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan & Orange Beach

Beginning in November, participate in Winter at the Wharf, where the whole family can enjoy ice-skating, live animals and Santa’s Village. The kids can have their photo taken with Santa Claus, and the Spectra lights show features their holiday extravaganza. Throughout December, the Wharf complex is decked out for the holidays, making shopping a festive affair.

Also in December is the Annual Merry Market at the Orange Beach Event Center at the Wharf. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. Find coastal-inspired, unique and handmade gifts for friends and family.

Orange Beach celebrates the holidays with its Movie at the Beach at the Orange Beach Library. Films like the popular “Polar Express” film can be enjoyed from your lawn chair. Bring a couple of blankets to this admission-free event. Refreshments will be available.

The Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade is held each year in early December in Gulflighted-boat-parade Shores and Orange Beach. Boats depart from LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, travel east down the Intracoastal Waterway Canal, pass a public viewing area at The Wharf, head around Bear Point and along the south end of Ono Island, travel west to Perdido Pass, go north into Terry Cove Harbor, go south to the bridge and end up at Cobalt in Orange Beach.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Coast Restaurant at the Beach Club. The celebration will include live music, dinner, a fireworks show and a champagne toast at midnight. The dinner is a four-course menu prepared by the restaurant's award-winning executive chef. Reservations are required.

Perdido Beach Resort will hold its annual New Year’s Even Party on Dec. 31. The event includes pyrotechnics, live music, a four-course dinner, a champagne toast at midnight and party favors.

Reel in the New Year at The Wharf, where kids’ activities include bounce houses, a rock-climbing wall, face painting, a mechanical bull and more. Bands will perform on the Main Stage. Fireworks and the annual “Marlin Drop” happen at midnight.

Perdido Key/Pensacola Area

The National Museum of Naval Aviation will host the Polar Express Pajama Party every Saturday and Sunday through the holiday season. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the magical journey to the North Pole.

Come see Santa drop from an airplane and land safely on the sandy beaches behind the Flora-Bama. Enjoy food, treats, photos with Santa and lots of fun activities for the children.

Ring in the New Year at the Flora-Bama during its New Year’s Eve Bash. Live music will be presented on all three stages. Food, party favors and champagne flow throughout the night. Food will be served, and free breakfast sandwiches will be available after midnight.

Nearby Options

Billed as one of the nation’s best holiday lights shows, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, located in Mobile, presents Magic Christmas in Lights. More than 1,100 set pieces, 3 million lights and 15 scenes decorate the grounds nightly through New Year’s Eve.

Bellingrath ChristmasMagic Christmas in Lights has become a must-see tradition for visitors from the Gulf Coast region and beyond. Families can stroll the grounds together, take holiday photos, drink cocoa on Live Oak Plaza and visit Santa Claus in the Magnolia Café. The event also features nightly choral performances on the South Terrace of the Bellingrath Home, which has been decorated for the holidays.

The Arctic Express at Wales West RV Resort and Light Railway offers holiday fun for the whole family. Open throughout the holiday season, Wales West invites families to ride an authentic steam train through a wonderland of lights, snow and decorations to the North Pole. Children can visit with Santa in the winter wonderland barn and receive a free toy. Refreshments, a mini train ride, a hayride and a playground with bounce house, along with a petting zoo, pony rides and a snowball cannon are other attractions.

Give your family the gift of a trip to the beach for Christmas. Stay in a four-bedroom condo or house in Gulf Shores or a five-bedroom condo in Orange Beach and make the most of your holiday vacation.