Panama City Beach has 27 miles of the most stunning, pristine, gleaming white beaches and so many things to do for the entire family. To help you get your bearings and plan your family’s escape, we’ve partnered with Meagan Wristen from Mommy Travels for the scoop on how to execute the ultimate family getaway in Panama City, Florida.
The kids and I just came back from a week-long Panama City Beach vacation, and we had an amazing time. I was a little worried about taking the kids to the Florida panhandle during spring break with the enormous amount of college kids that typically descend to the area. You can imagine my surprise when I found out Panama City Beach had outlawed drinking on their beaches during the month of March. There were hardly any college kids around making it better than ever for families!
It’s guaranteed that you will never be bored when visiting PCB. Considering the small size of the area, they have a shocking number of things to do. Obviously, the major attraction here is the baby soft, powder white beaches. While in town, you will want to spend part of each day on the beach.
Where to Stay in Panama City Beach
First things first, you need a place for the family. There are many family-friendly places to stay. I even dare to say that all hotels in the area are family friendly, although there are two that I prefer above the others. Sheraton Bay Point Resort and Splash are certainly my two favorites.
Sheraton Bay Point Resort, on the far east side of the beach, has a little bit of everything. There are multiple restaurants and pools, a small private beach, live music, and much more. This is where my family and I stayed on our last visit. They offer various room layouts, including suites with kitchens. We opted for a regular room overlooking the bay. The rooms are well appointed and large enough that a family of four has more than enough room. If you want to be away from the beach crowds, this is where you should stay.
Splash Resort is on the opposite side of the beach, way out west. It’s right on the beach and has a splash pad for young kids, a lazy river, and a water playground. It’s far enough west that the beach is usually not crowded. Every room has a balcony overlooking the Gulf.
Day 1: Dinner, Sunsets, Mini Golf, and Milkshakes
When you arrive, get situated in your hotel, and get ready to have a whole lot of fun. I’m assuming you’ve made it down in time for dinner. It’s best to dine somewhere along the beach, so you can enjoy a spectacular sunset. I recommend having dinner at Pelican’s, located at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort, or Pompano Joes at Pier Park. Both have good food and killer views. For dessert, grab a milkshake at The Yard Milkshake Bar. Depending on how late it is, you can go play a round of mini golf after dessert. There’s an abundance of places that offer mini golf around the area. Our two favorites are Coconut Creek Family Fun Park and Pirate Island Adventure Golf.
Day 2: Beautiful Meals, Beach Time, and Go-Karts
Kick off your first full day by treating yourself to breakfast at Another Broken Egg. This little breakfast joint is simply outstanding. Once you have properly stuffed your face, have someone roll you out of there to go enjoy some time at the beach. If you didn’t bring beach gear, know that every dollar store and grocery store in the area offers everything you will need. I recommend having sand toys, a skimboard, and a boogie board for your kids to play with.
Set up on the beach in front of Schooners. This way when the kids get hungry or thirsty, you are close to food.
For dinner, splurge with a nice meal at Grand Marlin. They have the best oysters and a fantastic martini list. After dinner, head over to Cobra Adventure Park for some intense go-karting. Much of the track is made of wood, making it quite the experience. They offer a military discount on rides.
Day 3: Donuts, Island Exploring, and Gaming
Today, grab a quick breakfast at Thomas Donuts. There will be a line, but I can assure you they are worth waiting for, especially the donut of the day. After breakfast, you can catch a shuttle out to Shell Island, an uninhabited island right off the shores of Panama City Beach. The Sheraton Bay Point Resort offers a boat shuttle, for a fee, or you can catch a boat shuttle at St. Andrews State Park. If you feel like splurging, rent a boat and drive your family out to the island yourself. You will want to take a picnic with you and enjoy a late lunch. I recommend picking up sandwiches and salads from Andy’s Flour Power Cafe for your picnic.
Be sure to take food, drinks, towels, and beach toys out to the island. There is literally nothing out there but white sands and sunshine, unless you’re unlucky that is. In that case, there are tips and information at the end of the article.
Once you get cleaned up from your day at Shell Island, venture over to Gulf Coast Burger Co. Here, everyone in the family can get a fully customized burger and an unbelievable freakshake for dessert! If you were wondering, a freakshake is a ridiculous, over the top, and overall fantastic milkshake. After dinner, head over to Pier Park for some gaming at Dave and Busters. If parents want, they can sneak over to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge nearby for some Honky Tonk music and a beer.
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