Exploring northwest Florida’s gulf coast is an enjoyable way to soak up bright sunshine, sink your toes into the soft sandy beaches, and indulge in delicious seafood. It is also a wonderful place to spend time with your grandchildren. Panama City Beach (PCB) is the perfect destination for a multigenerational getaway. The beaches are beautiful, there are lots of child-friendly activities, and there are several major airlines flying into PCB, making it easily accessible.
When choosing a spot for a multi-gen vacation, you want a destination to offer options for every age group. From toddlers to teens, and the boomers too, everyone needs something that will make their family getaway special.
Here, I’ve assembled a list of my favorite kid-friendly attractions in PCB that bring fun into hanging out with your grandkids.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Gulf World Marine Park
Enjoy a day at Gulf World Marine Park where you can play with dolphins, watch penguin antics, and be a trainer for a day. Learn about sea life while having fun — the best way to embrace education.
When it comes to dolphins, you have some interesting options at Gulf World Marine Park. You can sit back and watch a dolphin show or you can enjoy a hands-on dolphin adventure. When you interact with these intelligent creatures, you can try a foot push, dorsal tow, hug, handshake, belly ride, or simply swimming alongside. It will be one of the most exciting days on your bonding-with-your-grandkids agenda.
2. Pier Park
Shopping, entertainment, and eating at Pier Park is worthy of an out-of-the-sun break. Shopping with teenagers can be a challenge, but they will love the stores at Pier Park, including Pink Narcissus, Old Navy, and everyone’s favorite, I Love Sugar.
Entertainment includes The Grand Theater, the Skywheel, and Dave & Busters. Dining runs the gamut of 5 Guys, Margaritaville, and Tootsies Orchid Lounge. You can finish off with Kilwin’s or Marble Slab Creamery for a sweet treat.
3. Shell Island
Shell Island is a quiet beach enclave covered with fine white sandy beaches hemmed in by windswept dunes. You won’t find a boardwalk full of shops and eateries here; all you’ll find is 7 miles of stunning undeveloped beach. The 7-mile-long barrier island is accessed by private boat or the Shell Island Shuttle.
Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and hiking on this beautiful undeveloped island.
4. St. Andrews State Park
The natural beauty of St. Andrews State Park is an oasis of sugar white sand beaches running over 1.5 miles long. Tucked between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay, the park is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.
You can stay overnight at the campground with your own equipment; hookups are available at many sites.
5. Shipwreck Island Waterpark
When you need a day of freshwater fun, Shipwreck Island Waterpark offers 15 acres of in-the-water experiences. Float down the lazy river or enjoy the wave pool. For a more intrepid adventure, take a thrilling ride down the Raging Rapids, Zoom Flume, Pirates Plunge, and other steep vertical drops.
Pro Tip: On hot summer days, the waterpark fills up quickly. You can pre-purchase your tickets online to secure your space.
6. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
If you have never been to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, then now is the time to go. Filled with weird and unique natural wonders, your grandchildren will love learning about all the oddities. Plus, they have a fun-house-like mirror maze that will bring you back to childhood carnival days. Additionally, you can experience the interactive 7D Movie Theater.
Pro Tip: You can preselect which experiences you want and purchase tickets accordingly — Odditorium only, Odditorium and Mirror Maze, Odditorium and 7D Movie Theater, or all three.
7. Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
Get outdoors and enjoy an afternoon at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. There are two adventures to explore at Coconut Creek — mini-golf and a maze.
Enjoy two 18-hole mini-golf courses running through a tropical-themed putt putt.
The Gran Maze is a challenging course where you search for checkpoints and test your directional skills while trying to find a way out.
Pro Tip: There is very little shade in the Gran Maze; be sure to have protection from the hot Florida sunshine.
8. Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
What’s better for little swashbucklers than a themed cruise? Step aboard a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise for 2 hours of sword fighting, firing a “kid” cannon, pirate tattoos, searching for buried treasure, and lots of other pirate-focused fun.
9. Man In The Sea Museum
The Man in the Sea Museum is a nonprofit military diving museum. It is owned and operated by the Institute of Diving. Filled with a fascinating treasure trove of items recovered from sunken ships, the museum also houses a collection of underwater naval equipment.
Climb through SEALAB I and imagine your own underwater adventure.
At WonderWorks, they combine entertainment with education — they call it “edu-tainment” with hands-on exhibits. Once, a top-secret laboratory was located in the Bermuda Triangle. An experiment gone awry lifted the laboratory, carrying it to Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach where it landed upside down.
As you walk through the inversion tunnel to access the upside-down lab, you can feel the sense of an exciting adventure wash over you.
Perfect for tweens, WonderWorks also has an indoor ropes course, laser tag, and a 360-degree gyro-bumper-car ride that will keep everyone talking about it.
11. Breathtaking Beaches
With “Beach” in its name, you would expect to find beautiful beaches in PCB. In fact, you will have your pick of 27 miles of Florida coastline. With almost 100 beach access points (some with parking), you can access the beach up and down the shoreline.
Grab your beach toys, umbrella, and beach novel for a day of sunny Florida fun. Build elaborate sandcastles, body surf the waves, walk the water’s edge, or simply take a nap — it’s all good.
Pro Tip: Fill in any holes you dig while at the beach; they can be deadly traps for sea turtles.
12. Jet Skiing
Renting a jet ski may seem daunting, but with Sunshine Water Sports, you can join a Jet Ski Dolphin Tour. Their 2-hour tour is led by a trained guide where you visit the Grand Lagoon, St. Andrews Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. A stop at Shell Island to enjoy the beach provides a nice break in the waverunner ride. The highlight of the tour is swimming with the dolphins.
13. Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center
Remember the old fashion vacation arcades you visited with your grandparents? You can pass down the memories to your own grandchildren at Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center. Joining the classic and current arcade games are go-karts, mini-golf, and a kiddie amusement park.
Pro Tip: The pricing is based on a points system and each ride/experience is assigned a point value.
Visit Panama City Beach With Your Grandchildren
A visit to Panama City Beach with your grandchildren is the perfect way to spend time with your favorite little humans. There are so many fun things to do and see for the young and young-at-heart. When you travel with a multi-gen family group, you want a location that offers something for everyone — from toddlers to teens — and Panama City Beach has a wide variety of entertaining vacation adventures. It just may become your new perfect family reunion getaway location.
Pro Tip: There are lots of great local dining options that are family-friendly in PCB.