Things to Do While Visiting Panama City Beach Florida

Fun in the Sun

Our yearly search for fun in the sun lead us to Panama City Beach in Florida, see some recommended sights and enjoy the world of Southern Living!

Where to Stay?

Though many consider a beach vacation demands a beach hotel there are some things to consider:

  • Reserve early! You would not believe the crush of people in Panama City Beach from early March through September! If you know your dates, register now. Right now.
  • If you go during peak season, think about staying in Panama City itself, just across the bridge is a thriving small town that has cheaper hotel rates. Driving 20 minutes to get to the beach attractions and 20 minutes back minimum is a great way to drop $20 or more off your hotel room price.
  • Become a member! Many hotel chains have memberships for free, and those benefits are nice! Ours included a cheaper rate for RSVPing online and two weeks in advance for our room.
  • Read the reviews - if you are looking for the party spot to go bar hopping and hear the college kids getting loud on the beach below your room at night, trust me you can find one. If you are looking for peace, quiet, and minimal noise from your neighboring room, the reviews can help you find that too.

Panama City Beach Beauty

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Beach Bound or Bust!

The cheapest, best entertainment of the Gulf Coast is the beach! Before your trip, some things to keep in mind.

Earlier is better

At least when it comes to finding a nearby parking spot it is. Scout out the perfect beach access keeping in mind that some beach access points allow dogs (on leash only), and very few have public restrooms. I recommend Pier 56, public beach access is right there and there is a restroom for a quick change into clean clothes after your beach time. Also, all public beach access points do have a water spigot to rinse off in and minimal parking space.

Pack a beach bag!

  • Spray on sunscreen is AWEsome! This stuff gets everywhere and can be found even in store brand versions for the same great product at a cheaper price. Buy some and slip it into the beach bag. Keep in mind the general rule of thumb for sunscreen, the SPF means that however long after you put it on, reapply based on the SPF number and at least once an hour. So if it says SPF30, reapply every 30 minutes, etc.
  • Baby powder - WHAT! Really? Yeah, sprinkle it on your hands and the sand won't stick to your hands. Reapply after going in the water.
  • Shades = cool and practical for protecting your eyes
  • Beach towel - lay one out to soak up some rays or to just have a sand free place to set your gear
  • Various water toys
  • If you are taking your dog with you, plastic baggies for doggie clean up is a must!

Pack an after beach bag!

Most people forget this part and instead head back to their hotel for a rinse off, if you have a grand adventure planned keep in mind that a quick change or even an over swimsuit outfit may be better.

  • Clean towel (most important part, it is sand free!)
  • Aloe, in case you missed the idea of sunscreen
  • Plastic bag - for that wet swimsuit you are thinking of removing
  • Sunscreen - hopefully you are getting the idea that it is hot outside and you need to be applying this.
  • Hand sanitizer - trust me, you will want it before you put anything in your mouth
  • Hair brush - for those long haired people.

Pier Park and Pier 56

Pier Park

This shopping plaza has everything from boutiques to name brand super stores. A few years back you had to drive into Destin to find many of these name brand stores, now the marvelous Pier Park has expanded to become what is being called the ultimate shopping experience.

  • IMAX Movie Theater
  • Miracle Strip
  • Food, Glorious Food

Wee persons of mighty persuasions

Travelling with kids?

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Must Have Beach Gear

Rio Beach Portable Sun Shelter
Rio Beach Portable Sun Shelter

Give yourself a rest from the sun with the Rio Beach Portable Sun Shelter, great for the beach, the backyard, or bringing along on car camping trips. It features an SPF50 sun protection for up to 8 hours in the sun. The spacious 7-foot seating area accommodates two full-size sun chairs. It features a lightweight, washable 75D polyester fabric, two interior and two exterior pockets, and a carry bag with shoulder strap.

 

Costs

  • Adults $28
  • Children $18
  • Children under 4 are free!
  • Your paid entry is good for all day, go - come back - enjoy the shows!
  • Annual Passes are available and come with their own benefits

Daily shows include:

  • Bottlenose Dolphin show
  • Sea Lion and Rough Toothed Dolphin show
  • Feathers and & Furry Friends show
  • Magic Show
  • Reptile Show
  • Underwater Scuba Demonstration
  • Shark and Turtle Feeding

Gulf World, Small Place - Big Fun!

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Gulf World Marine Park

We LOVE this place! Every trip to Panama City includes a visit to this charming local attraction. Being a smaller animal facility means that you can get incredibly close to these beautiful creatures in a way that is awe inspiring.

Educational Programs

  • Educational programs entertain and delight the audience. All of the shows are updated on a routine basis so the talk is amusing and at times funny. Each of the programs sits you so close to the animals that you could almost touch them and in some cases, get splashed by their antics.
  • All of the animal shows are free with entry and there are no lines or worry about enough seats for everyone.
  • They sell snacks and small souvenirs while you wait but in a non-pushy way that helps ensure you feel like a true guest.
  • While waiting for the show to begin and during the show they tell you about the extra packages available to you, for a small price of course.

Shark Tank

  • A view from the top of the shark tanks shows you a mix of smaller sharks, large sea fish and several large sea turtles.
  • A view from within the middle shows these powerful creatures as they go past in the current.
  • Keep in mind that the inner part of the shark tank does not have disability access in order to get down and back up again there is only the stairs.

Other Park Features

  • Bird Atrium
  • Sting Ray Petting Pool
  • Two concession stands
  • A magic shop
  • Clean restrooms- highly important!
  • A gift shop

Concerts and Performances

Guests who paid entry earlier in the day can attend these evening shows for a minimal additional charge, check the website to learn more about the line up as it does change each season. Each performance is family friendly which translates into some awesome music and entertainment that everyone in the family will enjoy.

  • $5 additional fee for guests with paid entry to Gulf World
  • $20 for Adults (without paid entry)
  • $15 for Kids (without paid entry)

Meet and Greets

One on one time with these intelligent animals allows little minds to grow!

  • Sea Lion Meet N Greet
  • Dolphin Meet N Greet
  • Swim with Dolphins
  • Trainer for a day
  • Dolphin Day camps
  • Birthday and Special Events
  • Snooze with Sea Life
  • Animal Therapy

Pirates, Ye Be Warned

  • Adults $24
  • Seniors $20
  • Kids $18
  • Toddlers $12
  • Babies -Free

Trouble with Pirates

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Pirates Ahoy!

A new addition to our visit was that we heard about a pirate ship. This miniature pirate ship loaded up with kids and kids at heart went out to sea for a 2 hour tour that included some hilarious antics and hi-jinks.

  • Swabbing the deck
  • Sword fight with the pirates and kids
  • Water gun fight with the pirates and kids
  • A complete tour of the ship
  • A treasure hunt
  • Face paint and pirate tattoos

The port of call is the Lighthouse Marina behind the Boatyard restaurant. I highly recommend that if you are going on a weekend, you call a week in advance and RSVP. Also, the website has a $2 off coupon for you to print out and take with you that applies to the day cruise, which is awesome!

The galley does sell light concession stand food but also beer, wine, margaritas and rum punch for the adults. Just in case you need it. For us, there was the added bonus of a dolphin sighting. When a whole pod of dolphins joined us, the captain turned the ship about so we could stay with them a bit longer. The crew was able to improvise the viewing into their ad-lib panter and the result was magical. My son is still talking about it!.

Panama City Beach Florida

Keep in Car

What?
Where
Why
Sunscreen
Door cubby
Cause Florida is hot and sunny!
Basic first aid kit
Trunk
Just because it's a vacation doesn't mean life doesn't happen
Socks and shoes
Trunk
You never know when you will decide those flip flops need a rest.
$25 Cash
Dash
Plenty of places in PCB don't accept credit
Cooler
Trunk
Don't bother lugging it up and down to the hotel and back, just keep restocking it
Aloe
Trunk
Cause Florida is hot and sunny and eventually you will forget to apply sunscreen
Baby wipes
Floorboard
Even if you have no babies, these can quick clean anything!

Where to Eat Breakfast

Coram's


Breakfast at Coram's is a must. With several locations throughout Panama City and one on Panama City Beach, you don't have to travel far to find one. They serve all american general food, everything from biscuits and gravy to burgers and fries. This small diner uses cash only, there is an ATM on site.

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