Let us introduce you to the paradise that is Panama City Beach, Florida, a top vacation destination during spring break and summertime for families with kids seeking sun, sand, and adventure.
Located on the stunning Gulf Coast of Florida, you’ll find everything here, from thrilling water parks and exciting outdoor adventure parks to educational museums and boat tours teeming with wildlife.
Panama City Beach is the ultimate playground for families seeking an unforgettable getaway to a vacation home rental. We’ll highlight some of the top family-friendly activities and attractions that you won't want to miss on your next visit to Panama City Beach.
So, pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and get ready for a fun-filled family vacation on the Gulf Coast!
1. Enjoy Panama City’s Beautiful Beaches
Photo by NadyaEugene
The pristine white sand beaches, stunning clear-blue waters, and miles of sunshine off the Gulf of Mexico make heading to the beachfront the number one thing to do with kids in Panama City Beach.
The beaches in Panama City Beach are renowned for their peaceful beauty and offer a perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, with endless opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles.
Panama City Beach and Pier
The most popular beach in the area is Panama City Beach and Pier, simply because the area has just about everything you could want. Concession stands and restaurants can be found nearby, and getting to and from just about anywhere in downtown Panama City Beach is a relatively effortless endeavor.
You’ll find that surfers and sunbathers frequent this slice of heaven often, and when you’re finished soaking up the sun, the pier is the perfect place to reel in line with the kids. You can even rent your gear and tackle right on the water! Plus, furry friends are welcome to head down to this beach with you!
St. Andrews State Park Beach
If you’re on the hunt for water sports, St. Andrews State Park Beach should be your first stop! This paradise is the number one spot for paddleboarding, kayaking, and even more unique water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving!
You can easily make a full day of it by bringing a picnic lunch and renting bikes to explore the rest of the state park after you relax along the water! St. Andrews has just about everything you might need- restrooms, concessions, and even campsites for any enthusiasts looking to stargaze and enjoy a nighttime bonfire with smores!
Although popular with locals, the natural habitat of Shell Island still retains so much of its unspoiled beauty for beachgoers. As a result, it is the perfect place to let kids run wild as they search for sand crabs, sea turtles, and a diverse array of sand dollars and seashells.
Just a heads up; Shell Island does not have any concessions or other amenities! Bring anything you might need with you!
2. See Marine Life at Gulf World Marine Park
Photo by Guido Benedetto
Gulf World Marine Park is an amazing place for families with kids to learn about and interact with marine animals in an exciting yet animal-conscious way. The staff are dedicated to not only providing an entertaining experience but also demonstrating responsible stewardship of the ocean.
Kids of all ages will go wild for the various creatures they’ll see here around every corner: sea lions, dolphins, penguins, and even alligators! Up close encounters like stingray feeding will encourage young ones to step out of their comfort zones and learn about the world around them.
Be sure not to miss two of the main attractions at Gulf World Marine Park: the dolphin show and the sea lion show! Visitors can watch as these playful creatures perform acrobatic jumps, flips, and tricks. Just make sure you don’t sit in the splash zone!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even swim with the dolphins!
3. Find Thrills at Shipwreck Island Waterpark
One of the most fun things to do in Panama City Beach with kids, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a huge amusement park that caters to families with kids of all ages with various pools, waterslides, and thrill rides.
For younger ones, grab a seat by the Tadpole Hole, a wading pool and playground of sorts designed for little tots that features small slides, water sprays, and interactive toys.
On the other hand, for older kids looking for thrills and chills, high-speed slides like The Pirate’s Plunge or steep-drop ones like The Tree Top Drop- a 65-foot drop!- will have them screaming in no time!
When you’re ready to wind down and you’ve finished all of the waterslides, finish out your day at this splash resort as you lay back in the lazy river or the wave pool and watch the world float on by.
4. Discover the Science and Discovery Center of NW Florida
The fun never ends at the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida! Get out of the heat and enjoy a day filled with science experiments, hands-on exhibits, animal encounters, and other educational activities at the local science museum!
Kids can discover the wonders of space as they launch their own rocket, explore the human body, and even see live reptiles in the animal encounter area!
And that’s not all! Tactile play continues with other interactive exhibits as kids build their own Lego cars, go fishing, watch simulated shark tanks, and let loose in the sensory room to their heart’s content.
5. Get Wild at Zooworld
What could be a cooler experience to have on vacation than to get up close and personal with animals such as lions, tigers, monkeys, and reptiles?
ZooWorld is a conservation park in Panama City Beach that is home to many exotic animals and species.
Similar to Gulf World Marine Park, visitors to Zooworld are invited to participate in animal encounters and behind the scenes tours meant to stimulate education and provide unique learning experiences.
Your child is bound to have fond memories of holding a kangaroo, petting a sloth, or feeding a giraffe or swamp alligator for the first time! They can even cuddle with a lemur! Talk about a vacation to remember!
6. See Gators on an Airboat Tour
Enjoy fun for the whole family as you ride your way through the marshes and wetlands of Florida, taking in the sights and sounds around you from the water- on an airboat!
Airboats are flat-bottomed boats that are able to travel through shallow waters easily, making them the perfect way to explore the natural beauty and wildlife of the wetlands and swamps in the surrounding area.
Wild Thang runs their popular alligator-sighting cruises that show off baby alligators and their mothers as they bask in the sun. Up for a thrill? Older kids will love the “Ultimate” Night Ride Tour, which uses flashlights to reflect off of scary gator eyes of those hunting in the deep.
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with a gator during your beach vacation, touring with Airboat Adventures will grant your wish. Part airboat tour and part alligator demonstration, this company pulls out all the punches for a roarin’ good time.
7. Play at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
Coconut Creek Family Fun Park is one of the best play areas to accommodate young travelers. It has all the fun waiting for families with their two fantastic activities for everyone: mini golf and the gran maze!
As one of the premier mini-golf courses in Panama City Beach, this is the perfect place to take your shot! With TWO extensive and adventurous 18-hole courses that feature twists and turns that will challenge you as your put over waterfalls, streams, caves, and bridges.
You never know- you just might even see a gorilla, giraffe, or other wild animal along the way! Once you’ve finished your hand at miniature golf, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park has the Gran Maze- a massive maze that spans the size of a football field!
You’ll have to work together as a team to find checkpoints and get out, but you’ll have a blast doing it!
8. Explore WonderWorks, an Interactive Museum
Photo by photo-denver
If you’re driving around Panama City Beach, it will be hard to miss WonderWorks, the upside-down building, or what looks to be one anyway!
Touted as an “amusement park for the mind,” this fantastic indoor attraction has a plethora of things to keep kids busy and engaged- especially on a rainy day!
One of the main attractions at WonderWorks is the indoor ropes course- a challenging activity that puts you three stories in the air as you attempt balancing acts, athletic feats, and wiggly suspension bridges.
Other interactive exhibits create healthy competition, encouraging play inside a state-of-the-art laser tag arena and a virtual sports simulator.
WonderWorks also encourages scientific discovery play, offering exploratory ways for kids of all ages to experience what a hurricane might feel like, what it’d be like to explore outer space, or to complete observations in an imagination lab.
9. Ride Go-Karts at Race City
Photo by frantic00
The Race City go-kart track will surely bring family fun and thrills to everyone on your beach vacation!
Race against each other or try your hand at driving with speed and flair in a variety of different vehicles, including single and double-seat karts.
There are multiple tracks, but the PCB 500 track serves up thrills at over 40 feet tall! Get ready for “the fastest, tallest, and steepest track in Panama City”- a challenging and exciting experience for all.
But that’s not all that Race City has. Once you’ve spun your wheels around a bit, there are amusement park rides for little ones, including a carousel, a glow-in-the-dark mini golf course, and a good old-fashioned arcade!
Another popular attraction at Race City is the Skycoaster. The Skycoaster takes visitors 110 feet in the air before dropping them in a free fall. It's a thrilling experience that combines skydiving with bungee jumping and hang gliding, providing riders with an adrenaline rush and breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
10. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Photo by photo-denver
Ripley’s is back with another hair-tingling, eyebrow-raising, just-plain-weird Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium at Panama City Beach.
Step inside and be greeted with some of the world's most bizarre and unusual artifacts and exhibits. From shrunken heads to Titanic replicas, artifacts, and maybe even a real mermaid, there’s no shortage of strange marvels here.
One of the main attractions at Ripley's Believe It or Not is the Laser Race, an experience where visitors must navigate through a maze of lasers without touching them. Nearby, the Mind Ball will challenge siblings and friends to compete against each other in a game that uses brainwave technology!
It wouldn’t be an odditorium without a few illusions! Kids of all ages will enjoy getting lost in the mirror maze at Ripley’s, where they’ll find themselves staring at...well, themselves! Get out if you can!
11. Embark on a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
Aargh, maties! Step on up if you dare and experience life as a pirate for a day! The Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise is a fun excursion for families packed with activities and entertainment for visitors of all ages.
You’ll set sail from the Grand Lagoon on a replica of an old Spanish galleon that looks and feels just like a real pirate ship. With Captain Phil by your side, you can secure the riggings, check out the galley, and swab the deck; just hope they don’t make you walk the plank!
A slapstick crew of pirates will lead a journey through the seas where you’ll participate in a pirate-themed treasure hunt as you search for hidden treasure, engage in water gun battles, and even try your hand at sword fighting with the pirates!
Legend has it you’ll learn some pirate jargon, sing some jolly songs, get some seaworthy face paint and tattoos, and end your swashbuckling afternoon with an all-out pirate dance party!
PCB is Ready to Host Your Family Getaway!
There’s no question about it: Panama City Beach is a fantastic destination for families looking for a fun-filled beach vacation home rental experience.
There are endless activities to keep everyone but especially kids, entertained. From the beautiful beaches to exciting attractions like WonderWorks and the Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, there is never a dull moment in this beautiful beachfront town.