It was a long winter, but you made it through and finally got that time away from work. The kids’ school obligations are a distant memory they’re happy to forget. Swimsuits are packed and the whole family is buzzing with excitement. Fantasies of sugar-white sands, the gentle gulf breeze, and gorgeous sunsets are on everyone’s minds. Finally the day arrives, you load the family into the car, and set the GPS to navigate nonstop toward your own little slice of paradise.
With all this planning and anticipation it’s easy to forget to answer one important question: What are you actually going to do once you arrive?! Well, of course the whole family will probably want to go to the beach as soon as you smell the salty sea air. Be sure to check-out our recommendations on the Top 5 Beaches in Destin.
To help answer that question we’re proud to present our top 5 picks for family friendly activities in Destin, Florida. These unique experiences are sure to please crowds of all ages and persuasions!
Destin Harbor Boardwalk (HarborWalk Village)
While it’s certainly up for debate, in our opinion the Destin Harbor is the crown jewel that helps set our little town apart from other beach communities in the area. Home of the world famous Destin Fishing Rodeo every October, this is the base of operations for nearly all local anglers, both amateur and professional. It’s always a treat to stroll along the docks to see the fishermen’s bounties on display.
At the eastern end of this quarter mile stretch of harborfront you’ll find a bunch of entertainment options and locally-owned restaurants guaranteed to satisfy. Head toward the HarborWalk Village to see offerings by local artisans and painters, play some arcade games, try your hand at rock climbing, and maybe even groove to some live music. Some of our favorite eateries in this area include Dewey Destin’s Harborside, Crab Island Cantina, and AJ’s.
This massive waterpark has been a staple of Destin fun since 1986. Located in the heart of town right on Highway 98, locals and visitors alike flock here during the warmer months in search of good times and big thrills. With over 40 water attractions, what you see from road as you pass by is just a glimpse of the fun inside.
For a sure-fire adrenaline rush, hit the Jumanji or the Kowabunga Racer slides. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more relaxing, the aptly named Lazy River might be more your speed as you soak up some rays and watch your worries float away.
There are no shortage of operators offering tranquil cruises along the Destin Harbor, and some even take you into the gorgeous Choctawhatchee Bay just beyond the Destin Bridge. If you’ve got an itch to get out on the water but don’t necessarily want the responsibility of playing skipper this is a great way to spend an evening.
Nothing hits that vacation-vibe target quite like standing on the deck watching the sunset with a beverage in hand while dolphins play in the wake. Most cruises leave right from the Destin Harbor Boardwalk and in general you can’t go wrong with any of the local guides. A few we can recommend are Olin Marler’s and Southern Star.
“The Commons,” as it’s known to locals, is the premiere shopping destination on the Emerald Coast. Since the completion of its first phase more than ten years ago, this outdoor shopper’s paradise has expanded, somehow adding further to its already impressive list of dining options, entertainment choices, and of course good old-fashioned retail therapy at all price points.
While you’re there, swing by locally-owned Maui Nix Surf Shop to browse their expertly curated selection of surf accessories and fashions, and don’t miss a chance to be wowed by the massive eye-popping interior of outdoorsman’s destination Bass Pro Shops.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Located on Okaloosa Island and directly on the sugary white sands of the Emerald Coast, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon wowing the kids with dolphin shows, aquarium exhibits, an underwater petting zoo, and more!
Watch the dolphins as they perform their intricately choreographed shows underneath a big cabana with views of the Gulf of Mexico while you watch. Once you’ve seen the show, you can also get up close and personal with the dolphins and your kids can even touch them!
The Gulfarium is perfect for kids of all ages and is sure to be a huge highlight of your trip to Destin.
Now get out there and soak it up!
Clearly the Destin area is jam-packed with all kinds of exciting family friendly activity. It’s up to you to decide how to spend your time, but we’re always happy to help with any further ideas or suggestions, so please get in touch!
If you’re ready to book that dream vacation, view our properties in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, from Destin to Highway 30-A. We’d love to hear from you!