If you’re looking for the perfect Labor Day getaway, head for Destin/Fort Walton Beach where you can indulge in a boatload of FREE and budget-minded entertainment. For starters, Sept. 3 is the date for the FREE Rock the Docks Concert at Harborwalk Village in Destin; festivities begin at 7pm. The next evening, Sept. 4, again at 7pm, Harborwalk hosts Operation Inspiration, a FREE Christian music concert.
Also on Sept. 4, $10 buys you admission into a great Tribute to the Beatles concert at the Village Green of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin; children under 12 get in FREE. Sept. 5 brings in Labor at the Landing.
But maybe your plans are for later in the year or even next summer. No problem! This area guarantees year-round fun and bargains. Shoppers love Destin‘s Silver Sands Factory Stores, which touts itself as the nation’s largest designer outlet center. Seventy-five percent off deals are generally abundant here, and with over 100 stores, there’s something for everyone’s taste and budget.
Minutes away at Eglin Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum offers FREE admission and a huge collection of vintage and modern weaponry and planes, including the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane ever built.
Bicyclers and hikers will love the 19-mile Timpoochee Trail (also known as Scenic 30-A Bike Path), just southeast of Fort Walton Beach. It passes through numerous popular beach towns, including Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, Seacrest, and Rosemary Beach. Sights along the route include spectacular ocean views, marsh lakes, and dunes.
The Gulfarium has been one of Fort Walton Beach‘s most popular family attractions since 1955. With dolphin and sea lion shows, sting rays, otters, penguins, tropical birds, and more, it’s a full day of entertainment at a very reasonable price. Admission is $19.25, adults; $18.25, seniors; $11.50, ages 3-10; under 3, FREE. For a better deal on admission to this and other area attractions, consider investing $20in a Walton/Okaloosa Enjoy the City coupon booklet. Coupons include a BOGO (buy 1, get 1 free) Gulfarium admission, plus BOGO and other discount coupons for restaurants, attractions, and more.
How about fishing? In Florida, you don’t even need a fishing license if you’re fishing from a pier that charges a fee. Introducing Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, open seven days a week year-round. Visitors can rent gear; buy both bait and tackle; and purchase drinks and snacks right on the pier. Fees are: $7.50, adults; $6.50, seniors; $4.50, ages 6-12; FREE, 5 and under; spectators, $2.
What about beaches? Known as the EmeraldCoast, Destin/Fort Walton‘s 24 miles of brilliant white sand beaches have been consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world. A couple of spots to consider: (A) James Lee Park on the Walton/Okaloosa County line features beautiful beachfront, plus covered pavilions, picnic tables, rest rooms with changing rooms, a playground, and plenty of parking spaces. (B) Ross Marler Park in Fort Walton Beach includes a handicap-accessible fishing platform, pavilions, two sets of bathrooms, a roped-off swimming area, an interpretive walking trail, two boat ramps, plus parking spaces for boat trailers and cars.
Speaking of handicap accessibility, specially made beach wheelchairs are available FREE on a first come, first served basis and can be used at all county parks on Okaloosa Island. For more information, phone the Parks Office at (850) 689-5772.
Where to stay? An area favorite is Henderson Park Inn, a gorgeous 32-room beachfront resort on Scenic 98 in Destin, with rooms ranging from a $139-up mini-suite to the fabulous Presidential Suite with his and hers bathrooms. Aunt Martha’s Bed & Breakfast on Shell Avenue in Fort Walton Beach is a beautiful waterfront home with guest room rates of $105-$115, which includes a luxurious Southern breakfast with treats like crawfish quiche, stuffed apple pancakes, and French toast with bananas and walnuts.
To learn more about events and everything in Destin/Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island, visit www.EmeraldCoastFL.com or phone (800) 322-3319.