things for kids to do

Feb 2, 2022Emerald Coast, Local Experiences, Travel

Bored teenagers? Fickle toddler?

Is there anything more frustrating than hearing “I’m bored” while vacationing with the kids? We get it. It never hurts to have an adventure or two in your back pocket—think of it as “break in case of emergency” insurance. We rounded up experiences that are interesting, a bit different, and fun for almost every age range.

junior ranger & geocaching

South Walton is home to some of Florida’s most awarded state parks. In addition to hiking trails or beach access, 5 of our local parks have a Junior Ranger program. Kids can complete the program in a day, and will meet a Park Ranger, receive an official badge, patch, and Junior Ranger Pin upon completion of their Junior Ranger kit! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Visit one of these parks and ask for a Junior Ranger Kit:

  • Camp Helen State Park
  • Grayton Beach State Park
  • Eden Gardens State Park
  • Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
  • Henderson Beach State Park
  1. Kids will recite a Junior Ranger Pledge and receive a member ID card and an official
    Junior Ranger badge.
  2. Complete 6 core activities from the kit.
  3. Turn these 6 completed activities in to receive an official Junior Ranger patch.
  4. Complete additional activities to earn Passport stamps.
  5. Turn in the completed Passport to receive an official Junior Ranger pin!

Geocaching
www.geocaching.com/play/geotours/operation-recreation
Geocaching is a bit like an outdoor treasure hunt, where participants use GPS coordinates to locate “treasure” hidden somewhere within a state park. Both Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and Camp Helen State Park offer Operation Recreation GeoTour and Operation Recreation Kids GeoTour (which is designed specifically for younger children). This is a great way to sneak a few math skills into playtime!

pirates

Speaking of treasure…did you know there are 2 fantastic pirate cruises offered along the Emerald Coast? Ahoy, me hearties! These 2 cruises offer it all—we’re talking canon fire, buried treasure, and (probably) sword fighting. Fun for all swashbucklers, these 2-hour cruises both offer a galley with snacks, drinks, (and adult beverages for pirates 21 and older), and restrooms.

Destin Pirate Cruise
Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
buccaneerpiratecruise.com
Located in Destin’s HarborWalk Village.

Panama City Beach Pirate Cruise
The Sea Dragon
www.piratecruise.net
Located in Grand Lagoon in the Lighthouse Marina.

games

What’s that saying? The family who plays together, has fun? No? Well, you get the idea. From bowling a strike, to figuring out a clue, to flying high above a trampoline park, here’s a round-up of things sure to make the kids smile:

Blacklight putt-putt golf
www.rainforestblacklightgolf.com
We’re willing to bet you’ve never played an indoor, blacklight putt-putt course like Rainforest Blacklight Golf and Arcade before! Brush your teeth (they’ll glow!) and wear your brightest whites and yellows before hitting up this course. Afterwards, enjoy a few of their arcade and inflatable games before heading out.

Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill
www.unclebucksfishbowlandgrill.com
Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl at Destin Commons offers 12 lanes of bowling with an underwater theme that’s perfect for the beach. Bowling balls look like mermaids, bass, and other sea creatures, while the ceiling and walls are covered with detailed murals of sea life. A large saltwater tank mesmerizes tired kids and a restaurant, a full bar, and an arcade with new games help refresh tired adults.

Hurricane Lanes
www.hurricanelanesdestin.com
Hurricane Lanes is a classic, 26-lane bowling alley with an arcade and sports bar. Unlimited bowling until 2 am on the weekends, and its location next to Club LA, make Hurricane Lanes a great option for older teens.

Urban Air Trampoline & Adventure Park
www.urbanair.com/florida-destin/
Urban Air has climbing walls, a zip line, a ropes course, laser tag, an indoor playground, virtual reality headsets, and a dizzying array of trampoline courses with built-in games, or areas to jump until exhaustion. It’s located close to the beach in Destin, making it a great place to burn
vacation energy.

Surge Trampoline Park
www.surgefun.com/locations/ftwalton/
Surge Trampoline Park in Fort Walton Beach is a short drive from Destin. Surge offers a Wipeout course, a Ninja course, dodgeball, trapeze, a climbing wall, and plenty of bouncy, jumpy fun. Choose your activity and schedule a time online.

 

live escape games

Escapology
www.escapology.com/en/destin-fl
Escapology in Sandestin offers 6 puzzling adventures (themes change throughout the year) that you and your friends must solve before being released from a themed room. Can you sleuth your way out before the timer buzzes?

 

laser tag and arcade games

Thrills Laser Tag and Arcade
www.thrillslasertag.com
Thrills Laser Tag and Arcade offers a thrilling (see what we did there?) course for you and your team to face off in battle. A great selection of arcade games rounds out the night. Reward your team with something sweet at the attached ice cream shop, Moo La-La, before heading home.

Fat Daddy’s Arcade
fatdaddysarcade.com/collections/destin-commons-fl
Games, games, and more games are at Fat Daddy’s Arcade–more than 120 to be exact. Get
ready to win tokens and pick out a prize!

entertainment hubs

Live music, arcades, restaurants, giant ferris wheels, rope courses, family trivia, ax throwing — these outdoor shopping centers, and entertainment areas, have something for everyone and an ever-evolving calendar of events.

The Hub
hub30a.com
This collection of shops and restaurants along 30A offers a packed calendar of live musical performances, movie nights, family games and trivia, art events, football and basketball on the big screen, and more.

Baytowne Wharf
baytownewharf.com
Tucked inside the Sandestin Resort along the Choctawhatchee Bay is a marina with restaurants, a rope course, entertainment green, arcade, a carousel, boutiques, and more.

Pier Park
www.simon.com/mall/pier-park/map/#/category/entertainment
This outdoor mall is located off of Front Beach Road and has access to a public fishing pier, a public beach, and among the many shops and restaurants is a movie theater, Dave & Buster’s Arcade, a gigantic Ferris wheel, bumper boats, ax throwing, an escape room, and more.

beach activities

Surfing, flying across the water on a hydrofoil, and snorkeling artificial reefs are ways to take beach time to the next level. There’s nothing like the first time you pop up into a standing position on a surfboard. Even if they immediately fall off, most kids are hooked once they get their feet underneath them.

Austin McGee’s Surf School
www.amsurfschool.com
Offers private surf lessons, group surf lessons, and quick 30-minute lessons. Kids surf camps are available with a reservation.

Ride On Surf School
www.rideonsurf.com
Ride On is located at Captain Dave’s seafood restaurant in Destin and offers surf lessons and SUP rentals. Private and group surf lessons are available to ages 8 and older.

Surf Camp 30A
surfcamp30a.com
Surfing is cool, but have you ever seen someone ride a hydrofoil? Part surfing, part flying, hydrofoiling is as fun to watch as it is to try.

Dive 30A
www.dive30a.com
Snorkeling tours along South Walton’s artificial reefs are available in Inlet Beach and Grayton Beach State Park. See sea turtles, dolphins, large schools of fish, rays, and a variety of marine life. All gear is provided, including dry bags for phones and valuables. Tours available for ages 8 and older.

fly fishing & night fishing

Fly Fishing
www.360blue.com/services-fly-fishing
There’s something romantic about the slow arc a fly-fishing line makes through the air. Sign up for lessons through 360 Blue’s concierge service and learn a skill to last a lifetime.

Night Fishing
360blue.com/experiences-hobie-kayak-night-fishing-charter
Fishing is great and all, but have you ever fished from a kayak in the moonlight? Captain Evan guides anglers ages 10 and older, across the Choctawhatchee Bay in Hobie Mirage Outback kayaks to all the best fishing spots. Sign up through 360 Blue’s concierge service.

historic tours

Historic Wesley House at Eden State Gardens
www.floridastateparks.org/index.php/learn/historic-wesley-house
Tour the Wesley House, which houses the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the United States! Built by a mill owner in 1897, the home was expanded and renovated by Louis Maxon, who then donated the home, its furnishings, and the surrounding acreage to the state in 1968. Guided tours are offered hourly 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Fees are $4 per adult, $2 per child younger than 12. This fee is in addition to park entrance fees. 

Camp Helen State Park
www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/camp-helen-state-park
Learn about the Indigenous Peoples who called this beautiful area home or take a guided tour of the Lodge (built in 1932) and learn how Avondale Mills turned the property into a summer escape for employees. Guided tours are free with park entrance fee. 

Historic Walking Tour
www.defuniaksprings.net/1277/Historic-District-Tour
The historic district of DeFuniak Springs (located about a half hour north of the Bay) surrounds a perfectly round spring-fed lake and public park. Signs located along a sidewalk, (also available as an audio tour), explain the stories behind the Victorian homes, and the importance of the 1885 Florida Chautauqua Assembly. Be sure to pop in the adorable DeFuniak Springs library, which is not only the longest continuously open library in the entire state, but also houses a medieval weapons collection! 

Audio tour link:
floridastories.oncell.com/en/defuniak-springs-205153.html

You can also download the Florida Stories app and listen while you walk.

swim in a natural spring

The water might be a cool 68 degrees, but the color and clarity are something you’ll never forget. Pack a sweatshirt or extra towels to help kids warm up if the sun decides to hide behind a cloud. Bringing along a picnic lunch might be fun too!

Morrison Springs
www.co.walton.fl.us/523/Morrison-Springs
This 161-acre Walton County park has a 250-foot diameter spring pool that produces an estimated 48 million gallons of crystal clear water each day and has been recorded to produce up to 70 million gallons a day. Older kids will enjoy the diving platform. 

Ponce de Leon Springs
www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ponce-de-leon-springs-state-park
Located just outside of Walton County is beautiful Ponce de Leon Spring State Park. The main spring is a convergence of two water flows and produces 14 million gallons of water each day. A trail system has pretty views of the woods and river behind the spring. 

Eco-Tour to the Springs with Backwater Tours
http://backwater-tour.com/
Captain Andy Coleman offers an 8-hour tour that explores the Choctawhatchee Bay, River, and leads into the springs. He also has a 3-hour sunrise or sunset tour of the Choctawhatchee Bay. This is a wonderful way to see wildlife and learn about the area’s waterways. 

create something beautiful

Glass blowing and fused glass workshop
www.gilbertglassworks.com
Russ Gilbert, owner of Fusion Art Glass, is an accomplished glass artist who shares the wonders of glass blowing, flamework, kiln formed glass and fused glass through his art studio, Gilbert Glassworks. Book and pay online at gilbertglassworks.com.

The Shard Shop
www. shardshop.com/Grayton/

The Shard Shop in Grayton Beach specializes in what they call “ShardWorx,” which is cut glass placed artfully onto painted canvas and then sealed in clear resin. Classes are offered for ages 6 and older. All materials are supplied. Book online at www. shardshop.com/Grayton/

volunteer & help others

Food for Thought Outreach
fftfl.org
Food for Thought provides weekly access to food for 3,400 food insecure school-aged children at 34 schools in Walton and Okaloosa counties. Volunteers are needed year-round to stock shelves and help organize donations. Volunteer forms are available on the website.

Near I-10

 Main Street Farmers Market in the historic district
From March 19-Nov. 19
Every Saturday
From 8 am-noon
DeFuniak Springs

Near Cape San Blas

 Salt Air Farmers Market
In the park downtown!
February-Dec. 3
The 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month
From 9 am-1 pm (eastern time)
Port St Joe 

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