Rain or Shine: Panama City Beach Is a Good Time

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There are two things every family wants out of a vacation: to have fun and make lasting memories. From jet-ski rentals and parasail operators on the beach to family fun parks, mini golf and pirate cruises when you’re ready to dust off the sand, Panama City Beach is family fun central—and is a great locale for a family vacation they’ll never forget. Keep reading for everything you need to know about a family trip to Panama City Beach, Florida.

photo: S. Massey

In Water & On Sand

Families who long to get out on the water have dozens of options to explore, but our favorites include the Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise, where you'll have the opportunity to sword fight, search for treasure and sight various sea creatures along the way, and Island Time Sailing Excursion to Shell Island, where you'll see dolphin by the dozen, paddleboard, play games on deck and dance.

With sugar white sand and gentle turquoise waves, the Gulf of Mexico is paradise for families looking for a doable beach with littles. However, if you want to add a little excitement to your time in the sand, you don't have to look far. Sunshine Water Sports of Panama City offers 30-min jet ski rentals, 1-hour jet ski rentals and the even jet ski dolphin tours in Panama City Beach. And for the true thrill seeker, try soaring through the air in a parasail chute.

Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
5325 N. Lagoon Dr.
850-234-7400
Online: piratecruise.net

Island Time Sailing Cruises
3605 Thomas Drive
850-234-7377
Online: islandtimesailing.com

Sunshine Water Sports PC
Online: sunshinewatersportsofpc.com

photo: S. Massey

On Land

If you strike out on the weather, or if perhaps your family just enjoys taking a break from the sun, Panama City Beach is full of fun options. Check out over 400 bizarre exhibits at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, get your hands dirty with over 100 exhibits at WonderWorks—an amusement park for the mind filled with puzzles, mazes, and exhibits on natural wonders—or try your luck at an 18-hole miniature golf course, the SkyTrail & SkyTykes ropes course, zip-line, and SkyWheel Observation Wheel, all at SkyWheel PCB.

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium
9907 Front Beach Rd.
PCB, FL 32407
850-230-6113
Online: ripleys.com

Wonderworks
9910 Front Beach Road
850-249-7000
Online: wonderworksonline.com

Sky Wheel PCB
15700 LC Hilton Jr. Dr.
PCB, FL 32413
850-888-0020
Online: skywheelpcb.com

photo: S. Massey

When You're Hungry

Panama City Beach's laid-back vibe means you can take your kid practically anywhere. For a true beach shack experience, check out Schooner's, which sits on the beach and provides the perfect way to keep your littles busy while the kitchen works on your order. Even our 7-year old loved the sauteed crab claws, which were served in a bowl with garlic butter. And don't miss the ceremonial cannon blast at sunset! For a finer dining experience—still casual, but an elevated menu and tablecloths—try the Grand Marlin, and be sure to start with the fried lobster bites and end with either the key lime pie or a chocolate lava cake. And for the freshest lunch on the beach, head to Finns Island Style Grub, where you might never walk away from the original fish tacos.

Schooners
5121 Gulf Drive
PCB, FL 32408
850-235-3555
Online: schooners.com

Grand Marlin
5323 N Lagoon Dr.
PCB, FL 32408
850-249-1500
Online: thegrandmarlin.com

Finns Island Grub
7220 Thomas Dr.
PCB, FL 32408
850-249-3466
Online: finnsgrub.com

photo: S. Massey

Where to Stay & When to Go

Lodging options in all price points abound in PCB. If you prefer a quiet beach, book a room on the opposite side of the bay near St. Andrew’s State Park—you'll still be able to get to all the attractions in PCB that you won't want to miss. If you're looking for nonstop action, The Holiday Inn Beach Resort—with a lazy river, splash pad, pool and on-site games for families including hula hoop hopscotch, sand art and beach limbo—might be your speed.

The Holiday Inn Beach Resort
111276 Front Beach Rd.
PCB, FL 32407
850-234-1111
Online: ihg.com

Panama City Beach is fun no matter the season, and families looking for a beach vacation that goes beyond the beach will find something exciting to keep them busy. PCB also plays host to numerous regional festivals, so be sure to take a peek at the event calendar before you plan you trip if you're looking to avoid a busy weekend.

—Shelley Massey

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