Situated along St. Andrews Bay on the Florida Panhandle, Panama City features stretches of wide sandy beaches that appeal to vacationers of all ages. Beyond the beaches, Panama City serves up fun, educational, and interactive experiences for children. Find your home away from home by booking one of many Panama City vacation rentals. Start exploring this Floridan gem of a city with this list of kid-friendly activities.
1. Plan a Beach Day
Panama City features 27 miles of beaches, giving you plenty of options for a day of sand, surf, and sun. The beaches are covered in soft, white sand, the perfect playground for the kids. Shell Island, just off of St. Andrews State Park, offers a quiet beach retreat with undeveloped shorelines that give your kids a natural beach experience. You’re likely to see dolphins while you’re there. No matter where you spend your beach day, a nice warm shower in your vacation rental is the perfect way to wash off all that sand.
2. Go on a Sightseeing Cruise
Its beach location makes Panama City a prime location for sightseeing cruises of all types. Head out for a dolphin cruise to see wild dolphins splashing and playing. The Sea Screamer is a popular option for kids. The brightly colored boat races across the water at high speeds. Dolphins often play in the wake created by the fast-moving boat. Drivers make the rides interactive for kids with options to steer, play with water guns, and do other fun activities. You can also charter fishing boats if your older kids want to try their hand at fishing off shore.
3. Act Like a Pirate
Seek adventures on the high seas when you board the Sea Dragon ship. This replica pirate ship sets sail with a crew dressed as fun-loving pirates. Kids of all ages get involved by learning to sword fight, firing a fake cannon, doing the limbo, searching for loot, and much more. The trip is lively with plenty of music and dancing. Expect a few sword fights to break out in your vacation rental living room after this adventure.
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4. See Oddities
Wonderworks is an indoor amusement park with odd attractions throughout the building. You notice the oddity when you approach to find the building looks like it’s upside down. Hands-on attractions inside include bubbles, giant pianos, rope courses, and virtual roller coasters. The wide variety of options means kids of all ages can find things that interest them. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is another fun place to see odd exhibits. The building is designed to look like a colorful ship, so it grabs your kids’ attention as soon as you drive up. In addition to odd displays that include shrunken heads and Titanic artifacts, the museum features a laser course, mirror maze, 7D theater, and other interactive displays. Older kids tend to enjoy the attractions more than younger kids.
5. Visit the Aquarium
See dolphins and other marine life on display at the Gulf World Marine Park. Focusing on conservation, this aquarium features many shows with dolphins and sea lions. Check out shark, turtle, and stingray feedings while you’re there. You can also add dolphin encounters to your ticket for a unique experience.
6. Go Mini Golfing
Hit a hole in one with a pit stop at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. Two mini golf courses with a safari theme appeal to kids young and old. The fun park also includes a maze the size of a football field with regular redesigns to keep the challenge fresh. An all-day ticket lets you play as much golf and take as many passes through the maze as your kids can handle. Take a break back at your vacation rental, and return for another game later in the day.
7. Hit the Waterpark
Splash and cool off away from the beach at Shipwreck Island Waterpark with water activities for all ages. A family activity area features small slides for your youngest family members. Older kids can enjoy the fast-moving White Knuckle River, Raging River Rapids, Tree Top Drop, and a zipline. The facility offers plenty of shade and concession stands if your kids need a break.
8. Explore Nature
The beach isn’t the only natural beauty in the Panama City area. This part of Florida serves up diverse natural spaces and wildlife, including marshy areas. With 24 miles of trails, Conservation Park gives you plenty of space to explore the wetlands and cypress woods that the community has committed to saving. The trails are relatively level, so even your youngest can handle the trek. Look for alligators, lizards, birds, and other wildlife. St. Andrews State Park is another great place to hike and see wildlife. The park also features a stretch of beach, so you can enjoy the sand and take a nature walk in one place.
9. See Animals
Seacrest Wolf Reserve in nearby Chipley gives your kids a glimpse at Gray, Arctic, and British Colombian wolves during wolf encounter tours that last about two hours. The tour takes kids age 10 and over inside the wolf enclosures for a unique experience. The Small Animal Adventure is suitable for all ages and features raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Zoo World Zoological Conservatory is another place to see animals up close. You can view a variety of animals, including bears, lions, apes, and reptiles, while a petting zoo lets your kids touch some animals. The mission of this zoo is animal conservation.
10. Check Out Museums
Dive into underwater exploration at the Man in the Sea Museum. Displays include diving equipment, treasures from sunken ships, commercial and naval equipment, and SEALAB-1, which is an undersea habitat. Adults and kids alike enjoy exploring a submarine and trying on a brass diving helmet. Another popular museum option is the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida. Hands-on displays aim to teach kids about history, technology, and science. Kids can explore an airplane cockpit, enjoy animal encounters, and explore outdoors on a toddler playground, pioneer village, and boardwalk over the marsh. Your kids have plenty to discuss over dinner at your vacation rental after this Panama City stop.
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