Best Beyond-the-Beach Adventures in Panama City Beach
There’s no denying how incredible the beaches are in Panama City Beach, and there’s no question you’ll want to spend a lot of time on them during your visit. But don’t even think of limiting your focus to the sands and waves when there’s a whole wide world of fun to explore and unforgettable memories to be made just beyond them. Are we talking about hidden gems? Hardly. These made-for-good-times attractions are in-your-face, right-out-in-the-open treasures. Refer to the list below for Panama City Beach sites for kids and kids at heart, including landlubbers, air enthusiasts and animal lovers and anyone else aiming for a super well-rounded vacation and great times.
Hit the Ground Running
Even when your bowling ball (or two) ends up in the gutter, you’ll feel like you’re on a roll at Rock’It Lanes. This entertainment hot spot offers bowling (including raiseable bumpers, iridescent balls and a laser light show) along with a mega arcade featuring the latest games out there (at 16,000 sq. ft., it’s the largest arcade in the Florida Panhandle and even includes a Skill Wall and sports bar); an 8,000 sq. ft. roller skating rink; and a relaxing sports bar with wall-to-wall flat screens and a mouthwatering menu—perfect for refueling.
And did we mention music? 10,000 watts pump out today’s hits while music videos play on a giant screen.
Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure
Transport the family to Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure and you’ll all morph into world travelers without ever leaving Panama City Beach. How? By ‘following’ Swampy Jack—the fictional star of this combo theme park/family entertainment mecca—on a series of exciting global adventures. It just takes a ‘passport’ (a Wongo Card, which you fill up with credits, as needed) and a get-up-and-go outlook.
Explore the Everglades wetlands realm of the Swamp Ape aboard a skiff (warning: beast encounters likely). Roar through the Moroccan deserts on an electric go-kart in the Marrakesh Road Rally while facing-off with fellow racers. Swing, whirl and soar above the coasts of the Polynesian Islands on the Eye of the Kraken attraction (knockout panoramic views of the area included!). Explore the depths of the Peruvian rainforest on the spinning, waving, Wipeout-style Yacuma ride (while watching out for an enormous fanged serpent). And in the Blue Hole, navigate the ocean depths on your own vessel—a lever-operated bumper car that spirals out of control when other cars strike it.
When you need a break from your ‘travels,’ turn to Midway Games, like a ring toss and feast on treats at Base Camp.
Things may look topsy-turvy at WonderWorks, but it’s really just the building that’s upside down. Everything in the structure—100 hands-on exhibits and interactive displays–couldn’t be more right-on (this is learning in the form of fun!).
Explore the six Wonder Zones focused on everything from extreme weather and light and sound to physical challenges (want to lie on a bed of nails or create gigantic bubbles?), space discovery, creative activities and art. There’s also a three-story ropes challenge course. But don’t worry—the kids won’t be left hanging if this is not quite their thing; there’s also an action-packed Laser Tag area.
Take a Swing at It
Signal Hill Golf Course
Located right across from one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, 131-acre Signal Hill Golf Course, designed by golf legend John Henry Sherman, will challenge everyone in your fam, whatever their skill level. The rolling fairways and greens are difficult, for sure, but they’re also beautiful (think: sand dunes and shimmering lakes) and super user-friendly. They’ll help you make the most of your game—bragging rights and pride guaranteed! Get whatever gear you need at the pro shop and hit the snack bar before or after you play a round. No question about it: This course makes for an ideal multi-gen vacay experience.
Coconut Creek Mini-Golf & Gran Maze
Coconut Creek is called a Family Fun Park and that pretty much says it all: Everyone will have a blast here. They have two tropical, safari themed mini-golf courses, complete with lush jungle plantings; flowing streams; waterfalls; a lake with bass, brim and carp; a cave; and life-size wildlife statues—from elephants and giraffes to gorillas.
While the mini golf is plenty challenging, you won’t have any trouble finding your way through the course. That’s not the case, though, when it comes to the park’s other main feature—the Gran Maze. The maze’s football field-sized layout will definitely put your navigational skills to the test. But getting lost is temporary—and once you clear the maze, you have the Monkey Ring Toss to look forward to.
Your water activities in Panama City Beach will expose you to abundant wildlife—the kind that lives underwater and along shores. But for a robust look at more than 200 amazing land creatures from around the globe and up-close, personal interaction with a fair number of them, head to ZooWorld. Here, you can pet a sloth and a porcupine, hug a lemur, feed a giraffe some lettuce leaves on a giraffe tour and toss a feed bucket to some 80+ teeth-baring alligators (and/or hold a baby one). Do all this, and then let your spirit take flight among the hundreds of exotic birds in the aviary.
Gulf World Marine Park
Dedicated to the rescue and rehab of marine animals (bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, harbor seals, penguins, tropical birds, stingrays and African penguins), Gulf World Marine Park’s remarkable interactive programs let you engage with them in the coolest of ways. On the Royal Swim, you’ll swim with and be raised over the water by a dolphin that pushes you up by the soles of your feet. The Swim Adventure will give you the water ride of your life—the kind a powerful dolphin provides as you hang on to its pectoral fin. Participants in The Dolphin Encounter will have their hands touched by a dolphin that jumps up to meet them.
On top of these programs, the facility offers a variety of other Meet N Greet and Encounter options—interact with an African Pied Crow who stacks toys, a sea lion who gives kisses and a friendly harbor seal prone to handshaking (or should we say flipper shaking?). And if that isn’t enough, you can always snorkel with stingrays in the 20,000-gallon pool and join an African Black-Footed Penguin in its saltwater habitat.