By Ruthie Ridley

While planning a little weekend getaway to Panama City Beach, FL, I wasn’t really sure what we’d do with the kids other than sit on the beach. There was no need to worry though. 

After a little research, I was overwhelmed– from waterparks to a helicopter ride over the Gulf of Mexico– you may want to start planning a week-long vacation, not just a weekend. 

What’s the weather in Panama City Beach, FL? 

Think your Florida getaway could get rained out? Think again! Before my family and I flew down to Panama City Beach, Florida, the weather forecast called for rain every day. Little did I know that the weather in Florida changes as quickly as a toddler’s mind on what to eat for dinner. 

While thunderstorms might have been in the forecast, we had nothing but sunny days until the day we had to fly home. It’s as if Mother Nature knew we were having a hard time saying goodbye, so she gave us a wet nudge to help us out the door… but still left us wanting more so we would come back again soon.

PCB Family Itinerary


Even though I had been to Florida recently, the rest of the family hadn’t been in years. We were so excited to see the beautiful, white, sandy, crystal clear beaches again.

Check into the Hampton Inn & Suites

Book a night at the Hampton Inn & Suites. Rooms range from Gulf-front Queen studios and King suites with balconies to inland double Queen rooms and accessible room options. Best of all, there is a beachfront pool and hot tub for the kids, plus a beach-front bar for parents. 

Lunch at Schooners

Schooners had some of the best seafood I have ever had! The restaurant hosts live music and is right on the beach so we had the best view and took advantage of the location to dip our toes in the water after our meal.

If you want the best sunset meal, book a table with an Gulf view and listen for the ceremonial cannon blast at sunset. 

Shell Island Adventure Tour

Shell Island Adventure Tour is a three-hour trip beginning with a scenic boat cruise through the Grand Lagoon before arriving at Shell Island. Along the way, we spotted dolphins as we eagerly anticipated all of the activities we were about to discover on Shell Island, like catamaran rides, kayaks and snorkeling.

The kids and I enjoyed paddle boarding, the inflatable slides, and of course, the trampolines that allowed us to bounce right into the cooling waters surrounding the island. 

Dinner at Saltwater Grill

Saltwater Grill is the perfect follow up to any day spent in or on the water. You are welcomed by a massive panoramic tropical saltwater aquarium and views of the reef. Cocktails, steaks and seafood filled our bellies as we watched the sunset over the Gulf. 


Breakfast to Go

Grab some coffee and a quick breakfast at your hotel, so you can maximize your time outside.

Shipwreck Island WaterPark

We spent the day (yes, the entire day) at Shipwreck Island Water Park. The park, which was very clean and well-kept, had everything from crazy fast rollercoaster-type water rides to soothing lazy rivers and wave pools. Food is available on site, so you don’t even have to leave the park for lunch. 

Lazy afternoons in PCB

If you are getting a bit tired, like we did, you can head back to your hotel for a nap and some down time wandering the shops in Panama City Beach, FL, swimming in your hotel pool or walking along the beach. 

Eat with the locals in PCB

Runaway Island is a local hotspot with a homey vibe. Best of all, it’s the most family-friendly spot to eat, filled with comfort food and a deck right out on the beach. The kids and I dove into decadent fish tacos, chicken wings and burgers, which were much needed after burning off so many calories at the water park earlier in the day. 


Breakfast tacos in PCB

Finns Island Style Grub has that classic tropical island vibe and serves delicious and incredibly fresh pancake tacos, breakfast burritos, banana pancakes and a lot more! All of their meals are made to order so you know it’s going to be nice and fresh. Definitely a good start to the day!

Helicopter Tour over the Gulf

Panhandle Helicopter Tours has some of the best, most experienced pilots that even nervous fliers will feel at ease as you lift off for a birds-eye view of Panama City Beach. Being able to fly over the beach and see the land below was such a beautiful experience. We literally felt like we were on top of the world. 

Tours range from five to 36 miles, depending on what you book. You can see shipwrecks, dolphins, stingrays and even fly over shark swimming grounds! 

Dinner at Capt. Anderson’s

Capt. Anderson’s is among America’s Top 50 restaurants and was even inducted into the Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2005 for their seafood. It’s a fancier restaurant than the others we had visited so far, but the kids still loved it and enjoyed their meals, which for this mom is a very big deal.


Thomas Donuts & Snack Shop

If you love a cute shop filled with super pink, bright decor, Thomas Donuts & Snack Shop is right for you.You will feel like you stepped into a sweet and delicious dream… filled with donuts! Thomas’s also has hot dogs and sandwiches if you need a little savory before your sweet. For breakfast– we stuck to our donuts though.

Pier Park

Get ready to shop until you drop at 124 different shops around Pier Park. I always love finding boutiques and local stores that are unique to the area, especially when they are all gathered in a beautiful outdoor mall near the beach.

Lunch at Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill

Get “hook’d” on even more seafood at Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill, where you can devour the catch of the day fresh from the waters you see outside of your hotel room. Linger over cocktails, while the kids play games, sip on sodas and juice, and wait for your entrees to arrive. 

Reminder: Relax on Vacation!

I firmly stand by vacations where you have activities planned, but also time to relax so you don’t go home feeling like you need a vacation after your vacation. Sometimes we just need a reminder to take the afternoon off, play at the beach or read a book by the pool as the kids splash around. 

Luckily, PCB surrounds you with ways to relax, so it’s a bit hard to forget… especially with the water always front and center on your vacation.

Dinner at The Grand Marlin

Book a table at The Grand Marlin, right on the Bay, and you will be served meals created by award-winning chef Gregg McCarthy. We definitely felt wined and dined by the end of this meal. The staff created a restful and delicious atmosphere for us parents, while also feeding our kids food they actually enjoyed. Nothing felt rushed or chaotic.

Sunset Sail on the Gulf of Mexico

Every trip to PCB should end with a sunset cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. On our last night we climbed aboard the “Privateer” catamaran with Paradise Adventures Catamaran. 

The two-hour cruise on the Grand Lagoon, past the marinas and into the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, was absolutely breathtaking. Tropical music poured over the boat as we sipped on complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. 

The sunsets in Florida are filled with vibrant pinks, so have your camera handy to take pictures of streams of cotton candy pinks and oranges in the clouds.  

Start Planning Your Family Vacation to PCB

Our family trip to Panama City Beach was different. It was easy and relaxing; not something you often find in family travel. Now, it’s time to start planning a longer trip back– I’m thinking at least a week, maybe two.