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Each year I take each of my daughters on a trip with just the two of us. This allows me to give my undivided attention to them and cater to the trip specifically to their wants. Since my eldest was starting kindergarten it was only right we went on her last hurrah before she’s limited to mostly traveling on school breaks. Thanks to our partnership with Visit Panama City Beach Florida we were able to have the most amazing time. Here are the best things to do in Panama City Beach with kids.
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Things to Do in Panama City Beach with Kids When the Sun is Out
Shipwreck Island Waterpark
Shipwreck Island is rated one of the best water parks in Florida so it’s a no brainer to include it on your itinerary when visiting Panama City Beach with kids. There is fun for everyone regardless of age with thrilling water slides, a wave pool and a kiddie section that even babies can enjoy splashing in the water.
I love that you won’t feel cheated here bringing kids that can’t enjoy the water slides as those under 35” are free. Admission at Shipwreck Island Waterpark is $37.98 those over 50” tall, $29.98 for those under 50” and seniors 62+ are $24.98.
Go Fishing at Panama City Beach Pier
Fishing is such a great bonding activity with kids. There is a pier right across from Pier Park where you are allowed to fish. You will have to pay $7 to fish on the pier but as the pier costs $3 in general to walk you shouldn’t have the massive crowds you’ll find at other piers.
Wild Thang Airboat Tours
If you’re looking for some wild fun you have to take a Wild Thang Airboat tour. Even though we’ve been on airboats before living in Miami it was different and very unique. We are used to seeing alligators on the airboat rides near our home. Instead we came across dolphins and crabs. We were even able to stop near a sand dune where our guide searched for crabs and brought them onboard for the kids to hold before releasing them back.
The airboat ride was so much fun and you can ask your driver to be as wild or calm as you’d like depending on your thrill level. We did donuts which had the kids laughing so hard! When the ride is over you can hold Zeus who is a baby alligator that was rescued. We really enjoyed our one hour ride which costs $34 for adults and $22 for children.
Go Hunting for Shells at Shell Island
What better place to search for shells than Shell Island! It’s a barrier island that is home to one of the largest population of bottle-nosed dolphins and gorgeous shells. You will need to take a boat there from St. Andrews State Park. Most people takes the official Shell Island Shuttle which runs every 30 minutes from 9:00am-5:00pm during the summer and 10:00am-4:00pm during the spring. The basic shuttle costs $19.95 for adults and $10.95 for kids 12 and under. You can upgrade your ticket to include snorkeling or kayaking.
Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
The Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise was my daughter’s favorite activity on our trip and easily one of the best things to do in Panama City Beach with kids. I highly recommend adding it to your itinerary. The cruise lasts 2 hours and Sea Dragon keeps the kids busy from the time they step foot on the ship until the time they get off.
The first activity was a water gun fight towards the front of the ship. All the kids were having so much fun and it’s early enough in the cruise where they will dry off completely before it gets dark and cool. After spraying each other with water the kids are able to get their face or arm painted in cute pirate themes. They are also crowned with a pirate hat to really get the theme going.
The rest of the evening includes a sword fight (little plastic swords provided), firing cannon balls, pirate stories and going on a treasure hunt. The Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise goes all out for the treasure hunt and the kids literally help to pull a treasure chest from out of the ocean. Of course there is treasure in there that the kids each get a piece of. The cruise costs $27 for ages 15 and up, $19 for children 3-14, and $23 for seniors 60+.
Explore the Pier Park SkyWheel & More
Pier Park is an outdoor shopping area with restaurants and tons of activities. One of the main attractions is the SkyWheel, a massive ferris wheel that is 100% enclosed and air conditioned. It gives you amazing views of Panama City Beach. If you’re really adventurous you can even request the enclosure with a glass bottom. In addition to the wheel there is also an SkyTrail which is a ropes course you can complete. The wheel is open until 9:00pm but going in the day will give you better views of the city. Tickets for adults 12 and up are $15, children 3-11 are $10 and kids 2 and under are free.
If your kids love animals you have to make a stop at Zoo World. Here they can hold lemurs or feed giraffes. The zoo has over 200 animals so while they’re guaranteed to spot quite a few they know, they’ll most likely learn about some new ones as well. The zoo is open daily from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. Admission prices for adults are $19.95 while children 2-12 are $13.95, seniors 65+ are $18.95 and kids under two are free.
Learn How to Make a Real Sand Castle with Beach Sand Sculptures
I know this post is about things to do in Panama City Beach with kids but can I just say this was my favorite activity! After years of making sand castles on the beach and wondering why ours didn’t look the beautiful ones we saw on our trip to Rio de Janeiro I finally realized we’d been doing it wrong all along. Beach Sand Sculptures showed us the right way and while our carving skills need a little work we now know how to make a solid structure!
Beach Sand Sculptures bring everything you need to make a proper sand castle right to the beach you’d like to do this activity at. They taught us step by step how to construct our castle towers and how to make doors, windows, and even stairs on our castle. Literally everyone near us was watching and so many people walking by stopped to see the magic we were making! Lessons start at $220 but cover a minimum of five people with kids four and under free.
Things to Do in Panama City Beach with Kids When it’s Raining
Florida is Florida which means if you’re visiting during the summer you can expect scattered thunderstorms on most days. Before you get scared, rain in the forecast, even every day, does not mean your Panama City Beach vacation is ruined. It often rains for 10-60 minutes followed by sunshine so bright you won’t even be able to tell it rained later on. Still if the rain causes you to delay an outdoor activity that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Here are things to do in Panama City Beach with kids when it’s raining.
Swim with the Dolphins at Gulf World
While the Gulf World Marine Park has indoor and outdoor exhibits the area to swim with the dolphins is indoors. This makes it the perfect rainy day activity for Panama City Beach especially since it’s open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The park offers three different swim with the dolphin options and the prices varies based on the interaction level.
Dave & Busters
Located inside Pier Park Dave & Busters is the perfect thing to do in Panama City Beach with kids on a rainy day. We actually ended up here every day on our trip because my daughter had so much fun playing the arcade games. Ok I may have had a lot of fun too and low key addicted to the Let’s Bounce game. I’m not sure how long the promotion lasts but while we were there, a sign said games are half off on Wednesdays plus they had a summer promotion of half off games everyday before noon.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
We visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not on a trip to Key West and both my daughters loved it. They were so intrigued by all the real strange things that have happened in this world. Ripley’s Odditorium really gets the imagination running. All indoors it’s perfect for a rainy day.
Best Places to Eat in Panama City Beach with Kids
My daughter is a foodie so when looking at things to do in Panama City Beach with kids finding the best restaurants was on my list. Out of the places we ate here are the restaurants she said were the best.
My daughter loves to dance so she loved the live music at Schooners. Schedule your meal around the sunset and you’ll be able to watch/hear the ceremonial blasting of the cannon right at sunset. It’s a really fun experience for kids.
Runaway Island was my daughter’s favorite restaurant because she loved playing at the beach while we waited for our food. The scenery is beautiful and we sat outside where the restaurants has its own pathway straight to the white sand beach. Don’t worry about your sandy toes as Runaway Island has a water hose you can wash your feet off before returning to your table for your meal.
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Thomas Donut & Snack Shop
Donuts, need I say more?! Thomas Donut & Snack Shop has such a variety of donuts that are baked fresh daily. My favorite is the red velvet donut and my daughters was the strawberry frosted glazed with sprinkles. Besides donuts there are plenty of snacks you can get like sandwiches and ice cream. It was so good we actually ate here twice on our trip.
Andy’s Flour Power
If your child has a sweet tooth they will love Andy’s Flour Power. I highly recommend starting your mean off with some fresh baked muffins! The french toast is the best french toast we’ve eaten earns every recommendation it’s gotten.
Staying in Florida for an extended time? Here are our itineraries from some of our other favorite Florida cities: Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, and Key West.
How to Get to Panama City Beach, Florida
Panama City Beach, Florida, not to be confused with Panama City, Panama is in the panhandle of Florida. The closest airport is NW Florida Beaches International Airport. Even though we live in Miami we had to first fly to Atlanta to then get on a 36 minute flight to Panama City Beach. It was still better than driving the 9 hours from home! The airlines that fly here are Delta, Southwest, American and United. If you aren’t driving here from home you will need a rental car to get around and there are several at the airport such as Alamo, Budget, Hertz and all other major brands.
We had an amazing time exploring Panama City Beach, Florida. While the white sand beaches are gorgeous we hope you discovered the city offers much more. Did you find this guide helpful? Please share it so others looking for things to do in Panama City Beach with kids can benefit.
This trip was sponsored by the Panama Beach City Tourism board and our accommodations and activities were provided to us free of charge. All opinions of them are my own and true.