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Experience endless fun-in-the-sun with the top things to do in Panama City with kids!
Located on Florida’s Panhandle along the beautiful Emerald Coast, Panama City Beach, FL is truly one of the best USA family vacation spots!
With stunning, white-sand beaches, dozens of family-friendly attractions, and delicious oceanfront restaurants, what more could you ask for?
In this post, we’re sharing the best attractions that Panama City has to offer, including activities that visitors of all ages will enjoy.
Read on to discover the best Panama City beaches, adventure parks, tours, and scenic landmarks.
All photos courtesy of Visit Panama City Beach.
Places to Stay in Panama City Beach With Kids
There are hundreds of options of places to stay when visiting Panama City Beach with kids!
Along with several vacation rentals or condos that can be booked, our absolute favorite places to stay when visiting Panama City Beach with kids include:
Things to Do in Panama City With Kids
Panama City, Florida tops our list as one of the best spring break destinations for families as well as one of the best USA vacation spots overall.
It is so popular that it is often even referred to as “The Spring Break Capital of the World”.
These accolades stem from the fact that Panama City has beautiful beaches, great restaurants and nightlife, and a large variety of theme parks and arcades.
Wondering where to start in planning your Panama City vacation?
Here’s our list of the absolute best things to do in Panama City with kids!
Looking for places to explore near Panama City Beach, Florida? Check out our related posts:
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- 23 Iconic & Fun Things to Do in Seaside, Florida
- Destin Harbor Boardwalk: Top 10 Best Things to Do (+ FAQs)
- 33 Best Things to Do in Destin with Kids While on Vacation
- Best Breakfast in Destin, Florida: 13 Must-Try Spots!
- Destin Florida Beaches: The 8 BEST Spots to Enjoy
1. Plan the ultimate beach day
Known for its soft, white sand, and clear, turquoise-colored water, one of the best things to do in Panama City with kids is to spend a day at world-famous Panama City Beach!
Splash in the water, build a sandcastle or warm yourself under the sun (with SPF, of course!).
There are nearly 100 beach access points along the 27-mile shoreline of Panama City Beach, so unless you are staying in a hotel on the beach, you have to find access points and parking.
Access points are clearly marked but some are a little tricky because they are in between buildings.
Our personal favorite Panama City Beach access points include Rick Seltzer Park and Schooner’s Beach.
If you’re traveling with pets, Dog Beach (at access 56, 57, and 58 in front of Pier Park near the Russell-Fields Pier) is pet-friendly and open to dogs on leashes.
If you’re not staying at a beach resort that offers beach chairs, there are several places in Panama City Beach to rent beach chairs and umbrellas – some of which will even deliver the chairs to you and offer full set-up.
The most popular vendor is Adventures at Sea. Along with chair rentals, they also offer beach bonfire set-up, parasailing, banana rides, and watercraft rentals.
2. Visit Pier Park
Pier Park is a huge outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.
With 124 stores, ranging from big box stores like Target, to clothing, home goods, shoes, and jewelry stores, Pier Park is also home to several restaurants ranging from fast food to special occasion dining.
Entertainment options at Pier Park include live music at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, seasonal events, as well as Grand Imax Pier Park 16 movie theater.
For even more fun, visit the Dave and Busters arcade, enjoy the Mirror Maze and Laser Craze, Pirate’s Quest Laser Tag, and catch panoramic views of the gulf from the SkyWheel Ferris wheel!
Restaurants to try at Pier Park:
- Osaka Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar (sushi and great steak!)
- Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House (fresh seafood and beachfront dining!)
- Jimmy’s Buffet’s Margaritaville
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Five Guys (burgers)
- Red Robin
- Panera Bread
- And more!
Additional planning tip: There are rotating seasonal events year-round at Pier Park. Check their events page to learn about outdoor concerts, festivals, and other family fun!
3. Explore St. Andrews State Park
Wherever we travel as a family, we always check for top-rated state parks to visit.
State Parks are a great way to get out into nature, view the natural wildlife, and blow through a little excess energy.
St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach is filled with beauty, including beaches, bird-watching, and several hiking trails.
There are also plenty of water activities, such as snorkeling, swimming, and fishing.
Also notable is that both camping and glamping are available at St. Andrews State Park, and it is the spot where you catch the Shell Island Shuttle (more on that coming up!).
Other state parks to explore near Panama City Beach include:
- Camp Helen State Park (Between Inlet Beach and Panama City)
- Grayton Beach State Park (Grayton Beach)
- Eden Gardens State Park (Santa Rosa Beach)
- Deer Lake State Park (Grayton Beach)
4. Splash and slide at the waterpark
Another one of the best things to do in Panama City for kids is Shipwreck Island Waterpark.
This tropical-style waterpark has tons of fun attractions for people of all ages, from kiddie play areas to twisting waterslides.
Fun activities include a lazy river, a wave pool, and a free-fall slide.
Additional planning tip: For ultimate convenience, rent a cabana for the day. It’s a good place to grab some shade, enjoy a private lunch, and cool down between slides.
Shipwreck Island Waterpark is open seasonally through Labor Day Weekend.
5. Meet exotic animals at the zoo
Take a break from the beach and head to Zooworld Zoological Park when visiting Panama City with kids!
ZooWorld Zoological & Botanical Conservatory is home to over 260 animals, including lemurs, lions, giraffes, alligators, and kangaroos.
Beyond animal sightings, there are several things to do around the park, like animal encounters, a gift shop, and a botanical garden.
6. Visit a family fun park
Head to Coconut Creek Family Fun Park for guaranteed fun and attractions to accommodate families and groups of all sizes.
At Coconut Creek Family Fun Park you’ll find mini golf, arcade games, bumper boats, and gem mining!
It’s also home to Gran Maze which is a gigantic human maze that’s the size of a football field.
Strategize with your family and friends to make it through the other side.
When looking for things to do, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park is only one of the many Panama City Beach family activities that is perfect for kids.
Additional family fun parks in Panama City include:
- Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf – Miniature golf courses with a fun pirate theme
- Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center – Arcade games, mini golf, and go-karts
- Hidden Lagoon Super Golf – Go-kart tracks and mini golf
- Cobra Adventure Park – Rides, go-karts, arcade, mini golf
- Race City – rides, go-karts, arcade, mini golf, haunted house
- Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure – rides, go-karts, arcade, mini golf, bumper cars
- Shipwreck Mini Golf & Snack Bar
7. Learn and play at Wonderworks
Wonderworks combines fun with education, combining play with the wonderful world of science!
Here, you’ll be greeted by exciting interactive exhibits, physical challenges, laser tag, and an indoor amusement park.
They even offer educational shows and an astronaut training experience.
Additional planning tip: For more educational fun, check out the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida in Panama City.
8. Take a dolphin tour
Experience wild marine animals and the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico on a scenic dolphin tour.
Paradise Adventures will take you on a family-friendly dolphin-watching cruise aboard the “Footloose” catamaran.
This tour is designed for all ages and is perfect for families looking to sit back, enjoy the beautiful emerald waters, and hopefully spot some friendly dolphins along the way!
Dolphin tours are budget-friendly, with tickets ranging between $10-$30 per person, based on age.
For more kid-friendly tours in Panama City Beach, try:
- Mini boat tours – Mini jet skis or speed boats exploring wildlife, coastline views, and top points of interest.
- Snorkeling tours – Immerse yourself in the underwater world, viewing gorgeous coral reefs and marine life.
- Sunset cruises – Watch the sunset from a relaxing cruise along the Gulf of Mexico.
- Fishing charters – Enjoy a kid-friendly fishing charter in the nearby waters, complete with a local guide and all necessary equipment.
9. Go paddleboarding or kayaking
Take one look at the sparkling turquoise waters in Panama City Beach and you’re going to want to jump right in!
Paddleboarding or kayaking are gentle, kid-friendly water activities that get you moving and out on the gorgeous waters.
You can rent paddleboards from Mr.Surf’s Surf Shop or schedule a paddleboard tour for a bit of local knowledge!
For kayak rentals, we recommend a quick shuttle to Shell Island and renting through Shell Island Shuttle.
Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the area and enjoy the scenic beauty.
10. Meet marine life at Gulf World Marine Park
Gulf World Marine Park provides an entire day’s worth of family fun, filled with interactive experiences, educational content, and more.
On your visit, you’ll meet your favorite sea creatures, including dolphins, stingrays, sea lions, and sharks.
They even offer up-close animal encounters and dolphin training sessions where you’re able to meet, pet, and swim with dolphins.
Gulf World is also known for its entertaining dolphin, bird, and sea lion shows shows which are all included in the admission price.
Expect tons of fun photo opportunities, educational programs, and fun gift shops to pick out some sweet souvenirs.
Additional planning tip: Gulf World Marine Park is open daily, rain or shine.
11. Picnic at Frank Brown Park
When visiting Panama City with kids, pack a tasty picnic and head over to Frank Brown Park.
This recreation center is a community staple with large picnic pavilions and a playground drawing both locals and tourists alike.
After your picnic, kids can run free in the surrounding grassy areas, enjoy the park, or try pick-up games at one of their many sports facilities.
Frank Brown Park also has an aquatic center, bike trails, and an outdoor amphitheater where seasonal events happen throughout the year.
12. Set sail on a pirate cruise
As one of the most unique things to do in Panama City with kids, book tickets to set sail on a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise!
All ages are welcome on this pirate-themed cruise ship, though it’s ideal for families with younger children who have ample imagination.
On board, children will sing, enjoy a pirate dance party, find sunken treasure, and play with water guns (adults…mind the splash zone).
In addition, adult guests can purchase beer, wine, margaritas, rum punch, and soda to drink, as well as hot dogs, snacks, and candy.
13. Hike at the Panama City Conservation Park
Nature-loving families, we highly recommend a trip to the Panama City Conservation Park.
Here, you’ll see Panama City Beach at its best with diverse ecosystems, hiking trails, and wildlife spotting.
This protected park is home to birds, amphibians, and mammals, along with local trees and plants.
Additional planning tip: There are several bike-friendly paths available, as well as 24 miles worth of trails, and 1 mile worth of boardwalks that lead through cypress domes.
14. Take a trip to Shell Island
Shell Island is a beautiful, 7-mile long, undeveloped island located only a few miles offshore from Panama City Beach.
People love visiting here to go swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, dolphin watching, and shell picking.
Plus, it gives you a chance to get away from the condos and crowds to experience the untouched wilderness.
The only way to get to Shell Island is by water via the Shell Island Shuttle or a private boat, pontoon, or jet ski rental.
The Shell Island Shuttle departs St. Andrews Park on an every 30-minute rotation and is a 10-minute ride both there and back.
Keep in mind that there are no concession stands, restrooms, picnic pavilions, or trash cans available on Shell Island, so go prepared with everything you need.
Check out our list of things to bring to the beach so that you don’t leave anything behind!
15. Go pier fishing
The Russell Fields Pier (nicknamed “City Pier”) is located in front of Pier Park, while the M.B. Miller Pier (nicknamed “County Pier”) is 3 miles to the east, close to Shipwreck Island Waterpark.
Both locations have separate fees for those who just want to walk out on the pier ($3 per person), and those who’d like to fish from the pier ($6 per person).
Rod rentals, bait, and tackle are all available on-site for an additional cost.
The fish species most commonly caught include Cobia, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Red fish, Blues, Blue liners, Pompano, and Flounder.
16. Take a sandcastle-building lesson
Learn how to make super impressive sand castles by booking a professional sandcastle-building lesson.
These family-friendly, 2-hour lessons teach you how to properly stack the sand, and carve windows, doors, stairs, bricks, stones, and more. (It also involves shoveling a lot of sand, and hauling a lot of water!)
Though the sandcastle lessons are a bit expensive, they are by far, another one of the most unique things to do in Panama City with kids.
Additional planning tip: If you’re not staying directly on the beach where the instructor will come to you, sandcastle-building lessons take place at Rick Seltzer Park or any beach access that has public parking.
17. Go to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
If you’re in need of things to do in Panama City when it rains, check out Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s is home to a museum of rare and unusual artifacts (called the Odditorium), a mirror maze, a 7D moving theater, and The Cargo Hold gift shop – each of which admission is priced separately.
Combo tickets let you bundle multiple attractions at a reduced rate.
Additional Things to Do in Panama City with Kids
If that’s not enough, here are some additional things to do in Panama City with kids!
Several of these are indoor attractions and are great things to do in Panama City Beach when it rains or is cold outside.
- Everglades-style airboat tours
- Order off the kids’ menu at Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant & Tiki Bar or another family-friendly restaurant in Panama City Beach
- Go roller skating at Rock’It Lanes
- Visit The Man in the Sea Museum
- Visit Panama City Slingshot (must be 50″ tall to ride)
- Go charter fishing through a local charter boat company
- Visit NexGen VR (virtual reality arcade)
- Go to an escape room (Royal Escape Rooms, Escape Zone 60, etc.)
- Go souvenir shopping at Alvin’s Island or Ron Jon’s Surf Shop
- Check out Just Jump Trampoline Park
Final thoughts: Things to do in Panama City With Kids
That finishes off the very best things to do in Panama City with kids!
Whether you’re a fun-seeking family, an active family who enjoys kayaking and hikes or are beach bums looking to spend your entire vacation on the sandy shores – Panama City has it all.
We hope you’ve found these planning tips helpful in preparing for the ultimate beach vacation.
If you have any further questions about traveling to Panama City, please leave them for us in the comments below.
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*