10 Things to Do in Panama City, Florida with Your Kids

Panama City, Florida is just a short two to two and a half hour drive from Pensacola.  It makes for a great overnight trip or weekend away.  You can take Interstate 10, but my family prefers to travel Highway 98.  Although the speed limit is much slower than the interstate, you can enjoy beautiful water views, tasty food, and if you need to pull over there are plenty of attractions, gas stations and photo opportunities.  Panama City is known mostly for its beaches.  It is still a popular spring break destination for college students and snowbirds alike but Panama City is an excellent destination for families as well.  We travel to Panama City often because we have family there.  In those trips, we have been able to discover some great family-friendly activities.

St. Andrew’s Oaks By the Bay – This park is an amazing setting for family photography.  We have had several portrait sessions here and the pictures are always gorgeous.  The park has big beautiful trees with moss hanging off of them, a boardwalk leading out to the bay, and the marina is just a short walk away.  My kids love taking the boardwalk to the water and splashing around.  There is always sealife to be found and the last time we were there we saw a huge horseshoe crab.  Don’t forget to check out the four headed palm tree!  Best of all, the park is free!  While you are there, if you would like to have family pictures done, we recommend Adria Peaden Photography.  Her photographs are stunning and she always makes me look glamorous (see our family photos taken at Oaks by the Bay here and here)! 

Junior Museum of Bay County – For just a few dollars a person, you can visit this children’s museum.  You could spend the whole day here if you wanted!  There are hands-on science exhibits, a grocery store, a reptile room, and much more.  Outside, there is a long boardwalk through the woods and a small village with the homes representing pioneer life.  You can read my full review here.

Shipwreck Island – This waterpark will keep the kids and adults busy all day long.  There is something for everyone.  The children’s area is extensive with lots of little slides, tunnels to crawl through, and water to splash in.  We never felt crowded out of an area.  My son loved the White Knuckle River and made Daddy J go on that ride at least ten times! (We let my son take pictures with a waterproof camera on this trip!)

Pier Park – This sprawling shopping center boasts 1 million square feet of space!  There are some yummy restaurants like Red Robin, Margaritaville, and the Hofbrau Beer Garden.  The shopping choices are unlimited!  Our favorite thing to do is head to Pier Park, stop by the Candymaker Candy Store to pick up a little treat and then go ride the carousel.  The carousel is the original from the world famous Miracle Strip.  There are a couple of other amusement park like rides, sandboxes, volleyball courts and a small train.   

Coconut Creek Family Fun Park – I have not been here with the kids, but my husband and I used to love exploring the maze.  Coconut Creek has a miniature golf course, but the thing that we love is the Gran Maze.  The best part?  Kids under 6 play for free!  The giant maze is about the size of a football field.  There are observation towers so that you can view the maze.  How long will it take you?!?

St. Andrew’s State Park and Shell Island – You can’t travel to Panama City Beach without actually visiting a beach can you?  Skip the touristy spring break areas and visit St. Andrew’s.  You can enjoy camping, kayaking or sunbathing.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day, take a shuttle boat to Shell Island where you might see dolphins along the way!

Alvin’s Island – This is one big tourist trap but there are some fun souvenirs that you can pick up on the cheap.  The kids will like the daily shark and alligator feedings!

Museum of Man in the Sea – This muesem follows the travels and growth of man in the sea.  See underwater labs, dive suits and submarines. 

Gulf World Marine Park and Zoo World – At Gulf World, see dolphin, sea life, underwater and reptile shows.  For an extra cost (a lot extra!) you can swim with the dolphins.  At Zoo World, see over 200 animals.  There are shows and lots of family friendly events around the holidays.  There is a Zoo Boo at Halloween and an Easter bunny visit!

Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise – We have not done this yet, but we know several people who have and they loved it!  Your kids can sail on a pirate ship, spot dolphins, fire the kid cannon, have a snack and look for treasure.  It looks like it is lots of fun!
Panama City Beach Family Vacation

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