Panama City Beach With Toddlers

Author: Family Travel Forum Staff

Tags : Baby, Beach, Family-Friendly Hotels, Florida, North America, USA

A new airport for easy access, and lots of traditionally fun attractions, make this sugary white sand beach a great destination with little ones.

Panama City Beach, Florida is known for its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and recent transformation from spring break partyland to a value family-friendly beach getaway. Fun attractions such as Gulf World Marine Park and ZooWorld add an element of "theme park" to what's already considered one of "America's Most Beautiful Beaches" by Conde Nast Traveler.

Why such accolades for the beach? According to the C&VB website, "Panama City Beach's legendary pure white sand resulted from quartz crystals washing down from the Appalachian Mountains centuries ago. Along their journey, the crystals were bleached, ground, smoothed and polished until the surf of the Gulf of Mexico deposited these millions of grains of sand on the shoreline." Sounds great to us.

Fun Panama City Activities for Little Ones & Big Ones

Most of your time will be beachfront, along those 27 miles of famous, pristine shoreline. After all, isn't that why you came? Keep in mind that baby-sensitive sunblock and beach hats, as well as sunglasses for toddlers old enough to keep them on, are a must.

So what's up outside the beachfront condo scene?  At Gulf World Marine Park, professional divers flip and twirl in mid-air, finishing with an 80-foot high-dive while a magician amazes audiences with his interactive magic show. The park's Trainer for a Day program lets guests study dolphin behavior before stepping on stage to perform during the Dolphin Show.

Kids 7-years-old and up can continue to interact with animals at ZooWorld Zoological & Botanical Park as a part of the Keeper for a Day program. Home to more than 250 animals and set in a lush tropical landscape, ZooWorld promotes wildlife preservation through hands-on activities and personalized animal encounters. Children will enjoy the Going Wild! show where they can discover unique animal facts and pose for pictures with rare mammals, reptiles and exotic birds. Your kids may be too young to become trainers, but they will definitely love their time here.

For active children, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a perfect place for them to run around.  Full of slides, tubes and swings, the Tadpole Hole is popular with little ones. Older visitors prefer the White Knuckle River, a 660-foot family tube ride, the Great Ship Wreck and the Zoom Flume. Families no longer have to endure long wait lines with the waterpark's online ticketing service.

Another family park is the Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, home of two unique attractions. Miniature golf courses that resemble tropical jungle offer golfers a unique playing environment. Young explorers will love Coconut Creek's Gran Maze. Larger than a football field and modeled after South Pacific islands, kids will pass through Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa and Bali before completing their journey.

Pier Park is the place to find everything from restaurants to stores to entertainment.  An open-air regional lifestyle center, Pier Park is home to national chains as well as local favorites.  Most important is the recent addition of the Miracle Strip at Pier Park which features renovated, as well as new, rides from the original Miracle Strip Amusement Park that closed in Panama City in 2004 after over 40 years of fun.  Rides include the renovated carousel and Ferris Wheel and the newer Balloon Race ride and Red Baron ride. 

For an educational outdoor adventure, the new hiking and biking trail built at Camp Helen State Park brings families together with beautiful views of the Powell Lake and the “Old Florida” terrain.  The path spans 2,000-feet and is constructed from environmentally sensitive materials.  The path gives access to benches and covered shelter for breaks from hiking and educational signs provide guidance along the way.

Panama City Indoor Fun

After a long day of activity, families can visit Ripley's Moving Theater to watch a 4-D movie. With motion, special effects and action-packed images, kids will really feel as if they were in the movie themselves.

Also in the same complex is the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, which showcases fascinating finds from around the world. With exhibits such as an authentic shrunken head from Ecuador and an 11-foot Eiffel Tower made entirely of matchsticks, there is no doubt kids will be interested.

In 2010, Panama City revealed the upside down building that houses the interactive WonderWorks.  This four-story attraction allows kids to test the laws of nature, probability and perception with activities that test virtual, mental and physical bounds.  Over 100 exhibits and challenges are available to kids of all ages.

Panama City Beach Trip Planning Details

Families can drive down and take advantage of lodging specials, kids-eat-free deals and lots of space to lounge around in at some of the beach's many condo communities. Here are few suggestions for fun-in-the-sun accommodatins:

Pinnacle Port Vacation Rentals (800/874-8823) welcomes young travelers with crafts on the pool deck. Spanning 26 acres, Pinnacle Port guests can use canoes or kayaks by day and take advantage of free Wi-Fi and DVD rentals at night.

The Towne of Seahaven is another rental community with three different lodging options: Origin at Seahaven, Seahaven Beach Hotel, and America’s Best Value Inn. It's well located near Pier Park, the premier shopping/dining/entertainment destination in the area. Their summer specials include "Kids Eat and Ride Free," quite a savings with hungry and active little ones. By way of explanation, children 12 and under eat for free with a paid adult at nearby Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant and Tikki Bar and Hammerhead Fred’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. In addition, children 12 and under enjoy free Banana Boat rides, Jet Ski Rentals, and parasailing with each paid adult.

Blowin-N-The Wind Management (800/874-8600) -- don't  you love this name? -- has seven different properties with accommodations ranging from multi-bedroom condominiums to three-bedroom cottages and more. Each property is said to include family-friendly amenities, such as boat docking areas, tennis and basketball courts, fitness centers, swimming pools, a putting green and more.

By The Sea Resorts (888/627-0625) welcomes guests to the Legacy or Beachcomber Resorts, where there are Gulf-front suites and garden view rooms. Family specials often include pizza parties and free kids meals at the Barefoot Beach Club or nearby Calypso Beach Café.

The Sandpiper Beacon presents tropical entertainment every Sunday and Wednesday night throughout the summer with the South Pacific-style Lanakilas Polynesian Revue. The sound of the drum beat while the conch shell is blowing begins the journey of song and dance with hula dancers and the exciting Samoan Fire Knife Dance.

For more information, call 800-PCBEACH (850/233-6503) or check out the official Web site of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.