12 May 2022
Get your pirate on! A guide to the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival
What’s the only thing better than going to the beach in Destin, Florida? Getting all gussied up like a pirate and then heading out to the beach in Destin, Florida! From May 12-15, you can take part in the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival, which will be held on Fort Walton Beach in honor of all things piratical. If you want to do it right, though, you’re going to need an itinerary—and this article will tell you everything you need to know to make sure your festival experience goes as smoothly as possible!
When is the festival?
The Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival takes place in Destin, Florida, on May 13-14. The event is named after Billy Bowlegs III, a real-life 18th century pirate who spent his days off looting and pillaging around present-day Fort Walton Beach. It’s a celebration of all things piratical, with live music and games for adults and children alike. As well as food vendors selling authentic Caribbean cuisine – in particular seafood.
Where is it held?
The fest takes place at Fort Walton Beach Landing. This is a very family-friendly venue, with plenty of things for children to do. You can board an authentic pirate ship and learn about life as a sailor in a time before electricity or indoor plumbing. In addition to being fun for kids, it’s also great for adults who are looking to escape from real life (and all its responsibilities) for a few hours. There are live music performances throughout each day that should get you tapping your toes.
When do I arrive?
Don’t miss all of the fun for thar. The festival kicks off every year at 6 p.m. and runs through 8 p.m. Each night, hundreds of people gather along Fort Walton Beach in Destin, Florida, for a spectacular show of lights, fireworks and entertainment that culminates with a stunning display at dusk in which pirates invade downtown Destin by land and sea while fireworks fill up sky overhead.
What do I wear?
It’s all about personal preference. The dress code for pirates is completely open-ended, but you should wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat or a towel (for some outdoor events). As far as clothes go, men can go with shorts and a shirt or even cargo pants. If you’re in town long enough, stop by one of Destin's popular surf shops (Quiksilver or Vans) and stock up on beach trunks. You don’t have to be wearing full pirate gear; that might make it difficult to get into some venues and will probably keep you hot. However, if you do want something more authentic than flip flops, find an eye patch at a costume shop before coming down or buy one once you arrive. You may also want to pick up a parrot headband so people know exactly what type of character you are when they see you around town.
Can I bring my family?
Absolutely. There will be plenty of activities for adults and children alike, so bring the whole crew. You’ll get a kick out of watching your kids (and you) dress up like pirates and participate in free activities, from mini golf to archery. It’s such a fun event that it’s common for people to attend year after year; it has become Destin’s unofficial Mardi Gras celebration. And if you happen to miss the festival, no worries—there are still many ways to celebrate your inner buccaneer during your trip!
What happens at the festival?
Like any authentic pirate festival, there are reenactments of Blackbeard’s and Henry Morgan’s exploits. There’s also a parade with costumed children, crafts, games and contests for adults and children alike. Authentic Pirates are all over here and it is really cool to see their costumes and speak with them. You can even join them if you so choose... The festival has been named as one of America’s top ten family festivals by Family Fun Magazine.
The City of Fort Walton Beach, along with private and community partners, brings you one of Northwest Florida’s most popular events: The 19th Annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Invasion in Downtown Fort Walton Beach. Please CLICK HERE for more information
The City of Fort Walton Beach is proud to partner with the Downtown Merchants and the Krewe of Bowlegs to host the 66th Annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival beginning with a Downtown Pub Crawl on Thursday, May 12, 2022 and ending with the Torchlight Parade on Monday, May 16, 2022.
The 2022 Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival includes a Downtown Pub Crawl on Thursday, May 12th, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Start at any of the participating locations to get your card. Go to all locations to get your card stamped. Turn in your card at The Block by 9 p.m. for a chance to win prizes! Stops include Fokker’s Pub, Salty Duck, Downtown Music Hall, Prop’s Brewery, The Block, and Coasters.
On Friday, May 13th a Concert at the Landing featuring the Hollywood Vagabonds from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. As Mayor Rynearson is listening to the great music, Captain Billy 66 will attempt an initial invasion of the Fort Walton Beach Landing Park (131 Brooks Street SE ). The night will be capped off with a FIREWORKS display over the water at 8:30 p.m.! Food and beverage concessions will be available for purchase.
On Saturday, May 14th, at the Fort Walton Beach Landing Park there will be pirate-themed activities for kids from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. including DJ on stage, bounce house pirate ship and face painting. Food and beverage concessions will be available for purchase as well as Bowlegs t-shirts for sale at the Bowlegs Pirate Ship Float! Be sure to be there at 2 p.m. to prepare for the arrival of Captain Billy 66 and his krewe of scallywags as they march inland distributing beads, booty and coins (photo ops available in front of Bowlegs Pirate Ship) and continue their mischief Downtown and attempt to take over the City from Mayor Rynearson.
Everyone is invited to a block party with live entertainment on Ferry Road SE between Burrito del Sol and the Salty Duck - DJ from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Blackhawk Pirate Ship on Ferry Road - where Captain Billy himself will join the party!
You don't want to miss this FREE event! See you there.