Panama City Beach, Florida, is the ultimate dream holiday spot for many people. With its flowing palm trees and sugar sand beaches, this tropical paradise attracts a large number of visitors from all over the world throughout the year.
You’ll understand why so many people consider it the ultimate vacation spot: There is never a shortage of things to do in Panama City Beach! For every sort of traveler, this coastal town is an outdoor playground full of attractions and activities!
Lying across the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida, Panama City Beach is a hotspot for vacationers, and it’s easy to see why. The long stretch of sugar-white beaches is thriving with beach bums of all ages throughout the year. Couples come here for a sun-kissed honeymoon, families to spend quality time together and young souls to celebrate a long weekend. And then there was me. I was here to find the hottest attractions and best things to do in Panama City Beach, affectionately called PCB. It wasn’t hard to do.
The Best Attractions, Activities & Things To Do in Panama City Beach (PCB) Florida
1. Indulge at the The Yard Milkshake Bar
How’d you like a milkshake with a whole cupcake sticking out of the top or an entire waffle peeking out of a mound of whipped cream? At The Yard Milkshake Bar, you will not believe your eyes as you are dazzled with some of the craziest treats. They’re not just for kids! Whether you choose the Cookie Monster (that was my choice), the Cereal Killer or any of the other decadent desserts, I dare you to eat the whole thing.
Tip: We went at around 12:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and the line was about a half-hour long (with a 20 minute wait after ordering). But, by the time we left the place at around 2 p.m., there was no line at all.
2. Get an Epic View from the SkyWheel Ferris Wheel
Get ready for your breath to be taken away with the spectacular view of Panama City Beach on board the 53-meter SkyWheel! The gondola ride offers a relaxing experience and is perfect for taking that Instagram-worthy photo (or video!).
If you want to bring things up a notch, their VIP pass gives you free drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), double the flight time, and the chance to ride their VIP gondola. It has a glass-bottom floor, giving you more opportunities to take that perfect shot!
3. Take a Boat Ride to Shell Island
Shell Island is a seven-mile island on the Florida Emerald Coast with picturesque white sand beaches. It’s fun for locals and visitors of Panama City Beach to rent a pontoon and spend the day enjoying the sand and sun. Plus, there’s a strong possibility of seeing some dolphins along the way!
It is a beautiful barrier island punctuated with magnificent sand dunes and coastal sage scrub. The beach is flourishing with creatures, including shorebirds, turtles and deer. While there, I found lots of shells (of course), plenty of secluded spots to relax and even a starfish — the perfect way to spend a lazy day.
Our transportation to the island was provided by Lagoon Pontoon. We stocked it with goodies for lunch, plenty of drinks (a cooler filled with Fresca!) and the beach essentials. They provided the coolest ride with all the safety accouterments onboard and two slides that attached to the back.
4. Believe It or Not at Ripley’s
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is the go-to place in Panama City Beach for those who want to explore the strange and unbelievable. Their ‘Odditorium’ houses bizarre exhibits from around the globe that people of all ages will enjoy.
Their 7D Moving Theater provides an immersive experience with its 3D movies and motion seats. The Marvelous Mirror Maze will challenge your eyes with its maze of infinity mirrors, with a treasure waiting at the end. If you’re up to the challenge, the Impossible Laser Race will test your skills in navigating your way through laser beams like in spy movies.
In the words of Dean Cain: Unbelievable? Believe it!
5. Get a Finn’s Original Fish Taco
It’s always taco time at Finn’s Island Style Grub, home of Finn’s original fish tacos. The ahi taco and their signature fish taco are some of the best, but there are plenty of others to choose from at this food-truck-style eatery. While you’re waiting for your order, pop into their barista bar next door and order a Black Salt Mocha. You won’t be disappointed!
6. Eat Seafood (Pineapple Willy’s)
What better way to enjoy your beach trip than indulge yourself with fresh seafood, and Pineapple Willy’s restaurant won’t disappoint! Boasting a wide variety of seafood dishes, from fried oysters to grilled shrimp to fileted Mahi-Mahi, your mouth and tummy will keep coming for more.
And to add to your overall experience, you can also enjoy the live music performances while having a drink at Willy’s Pier Bar. All in all, this is something that you definitely should try!
7. Take a Dolphin Sunset Cruise
Dolphins and sunsets — it doesn’t get much better than that. Island Time Sailing will take you on a 2-hour cruise that swishes you through Grand Lagoon and onto the Gulf of Mexico in search for Flipper and his friends — we saw plenty dolphins on our cruise! Grab a drink and a snack, then end the evening with a beautiful sunset across the emerald waters.
8. See a Show at Todd Herendeen Theatre
Looking for a night of classic rock & country music? Then don’t miss the ‘Tribute to the Legends of Music’ performances of National Recording Artist Todd Herendeen and his band at the Todd Herendeen Theatre, performed several nights a week.
You can walk in at any time to enjoy the show, and you can also bring your own beer or wine! Dinners are only available through reservations, so make sure to book in advance if in case you’re planning to have your dinner here as well.
9. Have a Beach Bonfire
Cornhole, s’mores and a cooler filled with adult beverages, plus a bonfire on the Panama City Beach oceanfront— that’s what you are going to get with Endless Beach Rentals. The company swoops in and sets up EVERYTHING for you (from chairs to hammocks to a stocked cooler), then they come and clean everything up. No fuss, no muss. Your only job is to show up and have fun!
10. Enjoy at Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure
Get ready to join Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure on his adventures over the world in this premier theme park destination! The theme park features different rides like the Swamp Ape, Eye of the Kraken, and much more. Each ride gives its own one-of-a-kind enjoyable experience, with some paying homage to classic rides that people enjoyed in Panama City Beach (with their own added twist!).
Feeling a bit more competitive? You can also try the Marrakesh Road Rally and race against other people around the track in different race modes. And did I mention that you can have a Mario Kart-like experience in their Power-Up race mode?
Note: they are only open seasonally, so check their website before your visit!
11. Get Donuts at the Iconic Thomas’ Donuts & Snack Shop
Forget the breakfast omelettes and pancakes, because at the family-owned Thomas’ Donuts & Snack Shack it’s all about the fluffy dunkers. It is a haven for donut lovers! They have everything from the classic glazed to key lime filled. I can vouch for the red velvet cake. And the chocolate sprinkle. And the cinnamon twist. Don’t judge.
They also serve a handful of other breakfast items, like muffins, biscuits and breakfast sandwiches.
FYI: There is almost always a line in the morning, so get there really early or plan on waiting. We arrived at 10: a.m. on the weekend, and the queue was about 20 people deep.
12. Have an Animal Adventure at ZooWorld Panama City Beach
Get up close and personal with the wildlife at ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory. Home to hundreds of exotic animals, from kangaroos to lions to sloths and so much more, this park will take you on an adventure trip around the world!
You also get to experience petting and feeding animals like lemurs and baby bearded dragons, not to mention the free kisses that you will get from the giraffes :) This is one experience you can’t miss!
13. Walk Russell-Fields City Pier
The Russell-Fields City Pier sits at the end of Pier Park and stretches 1,500 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico. You can pay a small fee ($3) to be able to take the short stroll to the end. It is worth it!
You can also get a nice view of the pier (and some great fish tacos) by sitting on the patio of Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill.
14. Go Sightseeing at Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
Board the Sea Dragon on a voyage with Capt. “Fearless” Phil and his friendly pirate crew! Though the activities on board are more geared towards kids, adults will enjoy the whole sightseeing tour from start to finish. If you are lucky, you will get to see dolphins as well!
For a more scenic experience, you can book the sunset cruise (which costs a few extra dollars). Yummy snacks like hotdogs & candies and drinks for both kids and adults are available on the ship.
15. Do a Tasting at Panama City Beach Winery
Panama City Beach Winery specializes in fruit wines and is the only registered citrus winery in the United States. Their wines are made with 100 percent real fruit and no added sugar to the finish. Their blackberry wine literally has four pounds of blackberries in every bottle!
Stop by for a free tasting and take a bottle (or two) back to the beach with you. Don’t miss trying the Key Lime wine — it was my favorite and has won a number of awards!
16. Take a Panama City Beach Helicopter Tour
If there is one thing that makes Panama City Beach worth returning to, it’s the helicopter tours. The views on the ground and the sea are already spectacular, but seeing Panama City Beach up in the air provides a different perspective of its beauty and splendor.
If you haven’t tried riding a helicopter before, now is your chance to do so! You can also try a wildlife helicopter tour if you want something a little different. You’ll be able to see turtles, stingrays, and even sharks! They’ll get you close enough to see the magnificent creatures while also keeping enough distance as not to disturb them.
Panhandle Helicopters has a variety of tours for you to choose from!
17. Have Fun at Pier Park
Pier Park is the place to shop the beachy boutiques, get fruity drinks (served in a pineapple!) and indulge in beachfront restaurants. It has the whole package. There are more than 120 retail stores where you can buy clothes, shoes, accessories and even furniture. Plus, if you are a fan of Ferris wheels, you can get a whole new perspective of Florida’s Panama City Beach on the Skywheel that soars 200 feet above Pier Park. You can see for miles!
If you want to explore the Pier Park at a leisurely pace, then I suggest you go early in the morning before it gets too busy and hot.
If you’d like to know more about what Pier Park has to offer, check out the Panama City Beach (PCB) visitors website.
18. Play at Rock’it Lanes
Looking for some fun indoor activities for kids (or kids at heart)? Housing a bowling alley, a mega arcade, a roller skating rink, and a bar & grille, Rock’it Lanes will surely keep you entertained for hours and hours on end!
Aside from regular bowling, they host bowling tourneys (Monday Night Mania & Thirsty Thursday) where you can win bar tabs. Their mega arcade has the latest games in the market and redeemable prizes that include bicycles to gaming consoles (yes, gaming consoles!). Last but not least, you can skate all day at their roller skating rink for only a couple of dollars.
19. Do Brunch
Brunch is a popular thing to do almost anywhere in the States, but especially in Panama City Beach. People love some good grub before hitting the beach, and the city has plenty of options. Andy’s Flour Power has all the brunch favorites made with the freshest ingredients, but they are known for their French toast—and it’s to die for! If you are looking for a killer eggs Benedict, then head over to Liza’s Kitchen who puts it on their homemade double-proofed focaccia bread.
20. Break Free at Escape Manor
Invite your family or friends and unleash your inner Sherlock at this escape room-type game at Escape Manor! Their Panama City Beach site has three different missions to choose from, each with its unique story and mystery. Is your team capable of escaping before the timer runs out?
Whether you are a fan of mysteries or you just want to have a unique experience with your loved ones, Escape Manor will keep you coming back for more!
21. Do a Double-Take of the Upside Down Building
WonderWorks is an amusement park that combines education and entertainment. Inside you can feel the power of a 71 mph hurricane and make life-sized bubbles. But, you don’t even need to go inside to get a little taste of the fun. The exterior is built like an upside down building, and it’s worth at least a drive-by. You can kill two birds with one stone because right across the street is a ginormous ship replica that is home to Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
22. Swim at Panama City Beach
Take a splash in the different beaches around Panama Beach City. Some popular ones to go to are Camp Helen State Park, St. Andrews State Park (perfect for kids!), and Laguna Beach. Most of the beaches in the area are also open for different activities like kayaking and snorkeling.
Aside from the beaches, Panama City Beach’s resorts, hotels, and condos have some of the best pools in the state. Choose from huge pools with waterslides, a lazy river, and a poolside grill/bar to peaceful, boutique pools where the only sound is the air rustling the palm trees.
23. Explore the Pretty Parks
St. Andrews State Park is surrounded by water — the Gulf on one side and the bay on the other. You can either enjoy a relaxing sunbathe on the beach, explore the dunes or walk one of the two nature trails. The 180-acre Camp Helen State Park is also bordered by the gulf, in addition to Lake Powell. It is one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida with plenty of activities. Have fun searching for wildlife, swimming, fishing and strolling around the refurbished textile mill buildings. If hiking is your main goal for the day, then the 24 miles of unpaved trails at Conservation Park is a must (bikers can also enjoy the 2900-acre park!).
24. Take a Dip at Pitt and Sylvan Springs
The crystal clear waters of Pitt and Sylvan Springs is enough invitation to get in and take a swim. Surrounded by trees and other vegetation, with birds flying about every now and then, you’ll see why it draws in visitors all year round.
Aside from swimming, you can also rent a canoe and explore around the spring. You and your loved ones can also enjoy a picnic at designated areas while enjoying the ambiance of nature.
25. Get Wet at the Shipwreck Island Waterpark
If you want a break from the beautiful beaches, awaken your inner child at the Shipwreck Island Waterpark. Boasting amazing waterslides, wave pools, and lazy rivers, the tropical water park is one of the most fun attractions in Panama City Beach. Their 500,000-gallon Ocean Motion Wave pool creates three foot waves to splash around in or you can opt to meander down the lazy river. If you are more of a thrill-seeker, don’t miss the Pirate’s Plunge and Tree Top Drop waterslides.
26. Swim with Dolphins at Water Planet
If you are fond of dolphins, definitely go ahead and swim with them on Water Planet in Panama City Beach. They offer a range of exciting and educational swim-with-the-dolphin tours for the whole family. This includes the chance to explore Shell Island, snorkel on shipwrecks, and collect shells.
They offer 1 day, 3-day, or 1-week programs which blend the natural beauty of a dolphin encounter that some people call the most moving encounter they ever had. Children with special needs also benefit from their dolphin therapeutic program.
27. Ride Go Carts
Take a spin on the fastest, tallest and steepest go-kart track in Panama City Beach, Race City. They have tracks for every level of speedster, from a lil’ speedy to a pro. This Northern California girl is especially fond of the Golden Gate track, a 40 foot replica of the breathtaking bridge whose original is in my neck of the woods.
28. Take a Day Trip to Mexico Beach
Though Mexico Beach might have a small-town feel to it, there are many fascinating places to go to and engaging activities to do on your day trip. Shelling, watching the dolphins frolic at sunset, and taking a refreshing swim are just some of the popular activities for visitors and locals.
Mexico Beach is also a haven for watersports of all types, which include boating, sailing, and kayaking, to name a few. Locally-owned businesses and antiques also offer a variety of souvenirs.
29. Play Putt Putt Golf at Coconut Creek
Panama City Beach Florida is more than pristine white sand beaches (though that is enough to bring you there, isn’t it?), there are fun attractions for family members of every age (not just the kids). And who doesn’t love a fierce game of putt putt golf? At Coconut Creek you will get the African safari vibe with the two 18-hole courses. But, that’s not all! You can also challenge your navigational skills with their Gran Maze, a huge human labyrinth that is the size of a football field!
30. Take an Airboat Tour at Gator Country Alligator Park
Gator Country Alligator Park (also known as Airboat Adventures) will give you a heart-pounding experience from start to finish. You’ll feel the rush of adrenaline as you coast the rivers and marshlands of West Bay Creek on an airboat tour. You will also get a chance to pet and feed cute baby alligators, as well as seeing adult alligators and other animals like bald eagles and herons.
There is nothing to worry about, though! The whole crew is friendly and will make you feel safe all throughout the tour.
Hope we’ve helped you add more things to do in Panama City Beach! From one-of-a-kind indoor activities to fun outdoor experiences, this place will surely not disappoint. With so many things to do and attractions to see that make people come back each year, you’ll be making the best memories that you will cherish for years to come.
Essential Tips for Visiting Panama City Beach
Getting There: Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) is the closest airport and Delta, American, Southwest and United Airlines will fly into it. Then it is just about 15-20 minutes to Panama City Beach You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. For driving directions see the Panama City Beach website.
Where to Stay in Panama City Beach: Panama City Beach is a beachfront town, so it’s of course best to stay close to the beach. I stayed in a seaside condo at Seychelles Beach Resort by Wyndham Vacation Rentals and it was perfectly located, plus had its own pool and a full kitchen.
Hampton Inn & Suites Beachfront (moderate) is a great choice if you are looking for more of a hotel than condo. For something on the less expensive side, try the Carillon Beach Resort Inn (budget). Also search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to VRBO that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Renting a car in Panama City Beach is the best to really experience the island and RentalCars.com has some great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are a few other options. It is possible to get around by taxi, but that can get quite expensive (especially if you want to check all the things to do in Panama City Beach off this bucket list). If you have more time, another choice would be the Bay Town Trolly which runs between the beaches for $1.50 per trip (or $4.00 for a day pass).
More Information: For more information about visiting Panama City Beach and its attractions, see the visitors website
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