Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach with Kids
- 1. Cool Off at Shipwreck Island Waterpark
- 2. Hunt for Treasure on a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
- 3. Check Out a Giant Maze at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
- 4. Watch Sea Lions Play at Gulf World Marine Park
- 5. Get Back to Nature on Shell Island
- 6. Kayak and More at St. Andrews State Park
- 7. Pier Park Offers Dining, Shopping and More
- 8. Prepare to Be Amazed at Ripley's Believe It or Not!
- 9. Wonderworks: Educational Fun for Kids in PCB
- 10. Feed an Alligator at ZooWorld
- 11. Have a Family Go Kart Race at Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center
- 12. Stretch Out on the Sandy Beach at Camp Helen State Park
- 13. Hike, Bike or Stroll the Trails at Conservation Park
- 14. Soar Over Panama City Beach on the Skywheel
- 15. Take a Dolphin Cruise with Island Time Sailing
- 16. Look for Gators on a Wild Thang Airboat Tour
- 17. Go for a Hole in One at Hidden Lagoon Super Golf and Racetrack
- 18. Sip Fruit Wines at Panama City Beach Winery
- 19. Giddy Up! Sunshine Riding Trails
- 20. Take a Dolphin or Snorkel Tour
Panama City Beach, Florida, or PCB, offers an incredible beach vacation for families. What else is there to do besides visit the beach? Plenty. From shopping and dining to amusement parks and sightseeing cruises, your family will never mention the word “bored” during your Gulf Coast vacation! These are 20 of our favorite things to do in PCB with kids.
This post was sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA and the writer was hosted.
Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach with Kids
Located in the panhandle of Florida, PCB, as it’s affectionately called, boasts beautiful, sugar-white sand beaches and family-friendly fun. But there’s much more to PCB than beaches and the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
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When the rain drives you from the beach, the kids need an afternoon away from the sun, or you’re just looking for a new activity, here are our favorite things to do in Panama City Beach with kids.
TravelingMom Tip: PCB is less than six hours’ drive from Orlando, which makes it a great stopping off spot for families road tripping to Walt Disney World!
1. Cool Off at Shipwreck Island Waterpark
Family-friendly Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a nostalgic favorite for our family. My husband grew up visiting the park when his family vacationed in Panama City Beach.
The waterpark wasn’t open when we visited in March. It opens for the season on May 15, 2021, featuring classic attractions like a wave pool, lazy river and tons of slides. This attraction offers something fun for families of all sizes and ages!
TravelingMom Tip: Pricing is based on height, and kids under 35 inches get in FREE. Visit the Shipwreck Island website to find out how to get discounted tickets to the waterpark.
2. Hunt for Treasure on a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
Pirate cruises are campy fun for everyone. The Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise is a two-hour cruise around St. Andrew’s Bay on a pirate ship, complete with pirate tales, swashbuckling lessons and a hunt for treasure that’s been buried at sea.
This was a first for our family and my kids are STILL talking about this experience weeks later.
TravelingMom Tip: Be early for your voyage time so you don’t get left at the dock!
3. Check Out a Giant Maze at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
Another activity that is still on our Panama City Beach to-do list is the Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. Mini-golf and a maze the size of a football field will keep kids busy for hours!
TravelingMom Tip: Check the website for deals and coupons before your visit.
4. Watch Sea Lions Play at Gulf World Marine Park
Next on our list of fun things to do in PCB with kids is a visit to Gulf World Marine Park. Not only are there daily shows featuring dolphins, sea lions and more, Gulf World also offers interactive programs and opportunities to swim with dolphins. My kids has put this on their wish list for our next trip to Panama City Beach.
TravelingMom Tip: Admission deals are available for military, first responders and those who purchase tickets online.
5. Get Back to Nature on Shell Island
Shell Island is a favorite spot for locals. It boasts almost 7 miles of undeveloped land between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. Here you can find a more natural experience where wildlife and coastal creatures rub elbows with island visitors.
You can only get there by boat, so make sure you reserve your spot on the Shell Island Shuttle or the PCB Shell Island Express Ferry.
The best thing about Shell Island? The sand squeaks when you drag your feet through it!
TravelingMom Tip: Shell Island is a pristine natural environment. There are no trash cans, picnic tables, concession stands, restrooms or shaded pavilions. Check our packing list for a day at the beach so you have everything you might need. And then be prepared to take it with you when you leave the island!
6. Kayak and More at St. Andrews State Park
Keeping with the naturalist theme, St. Andrews State Park is a less crowded beach option in the Grand Lagoon area of PCB. It offers outdoor adventures including bike and walking trails, kayaks and canoes, snorkeling and more.
Plenty of visitors also enjoy swimming in the calmer waters on the Gulf side of the state park.
TravelingMom Tip: There are no lifeguards in the swimming areas, so use caution when taking your family out into the water.
7. Pier Park Offers Dining, Shopping and More
In need of something to do that will entertain the kids besides the pool or beach? Head on over to Pier Park. Pier Park is Panama City Beach’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination. It offers more than 124 stores and many dining options as well as fun for families.
Attractions for kids include a Dave and Buster’s, Emerald Coast Mirror Maze and Laser Tag. There’s even an XD Darkride Experience, an interactive movie featuring stunning 3D graphics and amazing special effects.
TravelingMom Tip: Check out these Florida resorts. We think they’re worth the splurge!
8. Prepare to Be Amazed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
When you want a day away from the beach, head to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. This attraction features weird exhibits, interesting artwork, fun interactive experiences and so much more. While we ran out of time to visit this museum in PCB, we have visited another location in Tennessee.
TravelingMom Tip: This is a great activity for a break from the sun and sand or when it rains on your beach vacation as it’s all indoors!
9. Wonderworks: Educational Fun for Kids in PCB
Our family absolutely loves Wonderworks! We first visited the Wonderworks in Tennessee, but I am certain the PCB location is just as awesome. You can really spend all day in a Wonderworks.
Similar to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, this indoor attraction hosts interactive displays all with a scientific component in mind. Kids won’t even know they’re learning on vacation!
10. Feed an Alligator at ZooWorld
If you have a kid who loves animals, ZooWorld is the place for them. Located on Front Beach Road, ZooWorld is in the middle of all the action in Panama City Beach. My kids wished we had more time to spend in PCB so they could feed an alligator or snuggle a lemur themselves!
TravelingMom Tip: Many of the animal encounter experiences require an adult to accompany children 7 and younger, and a few select experiences do not allow children under 5. Check the website for more information before you promise your kids something you can’t deliver!
11. Have a Family Go Kart Race at Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center
I don’t know about you, but visiting a go-kart track and playing a round of mini golf takes me back to my childhood beach vacations. It’s fun to come full circle with my kids and give them similar experiences now that I’m a parent.
Emerald Falls Recreation Center is exactly what you’re looking for if you want the full arcade game, go-kart, mini golf experience.
12. Stretch Out on the Sandy Beach at Camp Helen State Park
Venture off the beaten path to visit Camp Helen State Park. As it’s located in the far western reaches of Panama City Beach, Camp Helen State Park contains some of the most beautiful beaches in the city. It is often uncrowded, which makes for a potentially peaceful day on Florida’s white sand beaches.
TravelingMom Tip: Camping is not allowed at Camp Helen State Park, but fishing, boating and fires are allowed in designated areas.
13. Hike, Bike or Stroll the Trails at Conservation Park
The purpose of Conservation Park is to protect and balance the natural resources of PCB and provide outdoor recreational opportunities. Thus, visitors will find many more walking and biking trails at Conservation Park over the other two parks on this list.
Be aware that there are many more rules for this park as well. Those include: no open flames, no overnight stays and no motorized vehicles or horses allowed on the trails.
14. Soar Over Panama City Beach on the Skywheel
Skywheel Panama City Beach is located near Pier Park between Front Beach Road and 30A. It is a giant observation wheel with 30 climate-controlled, fully enclosed gondolas. Personally, I love those two aspects of this attraction because it can definitely get hot in Florida, and I don’t want to worry my toddler won’t sit still for the ride!
My kids have also put this on our must-do list for return visits because the venue includes a mini golf course, ropes course and “snack shack” (which is a huge selling point for kids!).
15. Take a Dolphin Cruise with Island Time Sailing
On our first night in PCB, we boarded a huge catamaran to sail around St. Andrews Bay on a dolphin cruise. I’ve been on dolphin cruises before, where I’ve seen plenty of marine life that wasn’t a dolphin. We were not disappointed by our sunset cruise this time.
We saw an entire pod of dolphins as well as a sea turtle that drifted right by the boat! The only thing missing was a sting ray or gator encounter to spice up the otherwise calm adventure.
TravelingMom Tip: Evening sailings might get chilly as the wind blows off the water while the boat is moving. Bring a jacket just in case!
16. Look for Gators on a Wild Thang Airboat Tour
Gator fans will enjoy these tours of the West Bay area of Panama City Beach aboard a large airboat. Tours are offered in 30 minute and 1 hour increments. The nighttime, hour-long tour is your best chance to see alligators up close and personal.
Unfortunately, my son wasn’t quite old enough to take part in this adventure (the minimum age is 2), so we will have to save this exciting adventure for our next visit!
17. Go for a Hole in One at Hidden Lagoon Super Golf and Racetrack
Another option for go-karts and mini golf is Hidden Lagoon Super Golf and Racetrack. The Super Race Track is almost a mile long, and it is one of the longest tracks on the Emerald Coast.
Kids under 6 play free at the 18 hole mini golf course. Score a hole-in-one on the 18th hole and win $50 cash!
18. Sip Fruit Wines at Panama City Beach Winery
Obviously, this entry is not meant for those with young kids, but if you’re enjoying a kid-free trip or have older children, Panama City Beach Winery is an upscale attraction that is well worth a stop. Wines are made with 100% real fruit and come in interesting flavors like Key Lime, Peach (White Gold) and Mango just to name a few.
19. Giddy Up! Sunshine Riding Trails
While not located directly in Panama City Beach, Sunshine Riding Trails offers horseback riding through beautiful Florida Sand Hills. This activity is limited to visitors aged 4 and older, though no previous riding experience is necessary.
Since we have a toddler in our family, we will probably wait to try this activity for a few more years, but I can see my older kids loving it!
TravelingMom Tip: Sunshine Riding Trails offers rides by appointment only, so make sure to book online or call ahead of time to reserve your spot.
20. Take a Dolphin or Snorkel Tour
A final activity that is slightly different from the dolphin watching catamaran cruise is an up-close-and-personal dolphin and snorkel tour. Depending on the type of tour, visitors can chose to be in the waters with the marine life by using snorkeling gear or they can stay on the boat and admire the wildlife from a distance.
I, for one, look forward to my kids being steady enough swimmers that we can all safely do this as a family one day!