Boredom is a cardinal sin in my house. As the mother of 3 (very active) boys, my family is always on the go, looking for things to do with our kids in Destin. When I decided to put together a list of my kids’ favorite things to do, I originally set out to list our Top 10, but my kids weren’t keen on the idea of cutting anything from the list, so we ended up with 12! Here is their kid-tested and approved list, as well as a description of each.
1. Go Fishing
Well, of course, fishing made the list! My kids are fishing fanatics and we do live in the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. With so many different options in Destin, my boys will fish anywhere: off the docks, from a kayak, on a boat, at the jetties, at the pier, from the shore… It’s always a different adventure, and you catch different species depending on the time of year, where you are fishing, and what you’re fishing with so this is always our standby activity. Bring your fishing poles and check out our fishing report to see what’s biting this time of year, then head to the beach, the jetties, or get out on the water on a rental boat. You can even book a kids’ fishing charter! Kids under 16 can fish for free in Florida without a fishing license. You will need one if you’re joining them, though.
2. Explore Crab Island
Crab Island is one of our favorite family activities, and offers something fun for all ages. If you’ve been coming to Destin for a long time, you might remember it more as a party spot for adults, but over the last decade it has changed a lot and is very kid-friendly. There is a lot to do and see at Crab Island and a trip is never complete for us without sliding on the big inflatable water slide at the Crab Island Water Park, getting ice cream from the ice cream man (who brings it to you by boat), ordering cajun boiled peanuts from Robbie’s red peanut boat or a fresh coconut from Michaela’s fruit boat, and doing some snorkeling and hermit crab collecting. This item is grown-up tested and approved, too! ;) You do need a boat to get to Crab Island. You can rent one or take the Crab Island Shuttle Boat.
3. Tour the Gulfarium
I’ve been going to the Gulfarium since I was a toddler. One year when I was about 10, my grandmother took a job in the gift shop there and I remember we got free tickets so we went a lot. I always enjoyed it, but hadn’t been in many years, until last summer. The place is under new ownership now, and has been completely renovated, so we took the boys to check it out and were very pleasantly surprised at all the new offerings. Regular admission gives you access to see all of the animal displays and scheduled shows, as well as spend some time at the “touch tank” (my 12 year old’s favorite) where you can play with sea plants and small marine creatures. For an extra fee you can have encounters with various marine life (ie feeding the penguins, having a dolphin encounter, “fishing” in a stocked tank, etc). In all, we were very impressed with the new offerings. From a parents’ perspective, it makes for a great learning experience. The kids just thought it was “cool”, but we all have good memories and love going back to try new encounters!
4. Eat at one of these kid-friendly restaurants
I mentioned I have 3 boys (ie human vacuum cleaners), right? Of course eating made the list! There are so many places to eat in Destin that we all love, so I’m just going to skim over some of the more kid-friendly ones. The original Dewey Destin’s is great because it’s a little shack that hangs out over the water looking towards Crab Island. We like to go by boat, but you can certainly go by car just as easily. They have fantastic shrimp baskets that we all fight over, and it’s a very casual atmosphere which makes it a win for the kids and the adults! Another boat-accessible option is Boshamps Oyster Bar, located on the Destin Harbor. Their outdoor dining area is phenomenal! You can literally sit at your table and watch the kids run around and play, since they have an entire beach below the restaurant with hammocks, beach volleyball nets, cornhole games, and even cane poles for the kids to fish off the dock! Fudpuckers is fun too-there is a lot to see and it’s casual as well, plus the Destin location has Gator Beach, which the boys just love (more on that later down the list). It’s also centrally located next to Fat Daddy’s Arcade and the Laser Tag place, so if you want to really pack in the fun, you can do it all at once! Fudpuckers is a Destin icon. Everyone should try this restaurant at least once. They have excellent burgers and you can even try a taste of alligator, but the best part about Fudpucker’s is its fun atmosphere! They have plenty of fun activities geared towards kids. The Back Porch is another Destin icon, located directly on the beach with amazing views! When I was a kid, we would go for dinner and then stroll out onto the beach at night and hunt for Ghost Crabs. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve actually not thought about doing this with my boys until this post, so I’m making a mental note to change that. Usually we go for lunch and hit the beach afterwards, which is one of the things the kids like about it. Here’s my youngest clowning around at the Back Porch:
5. Go To The Beach!
Duh, right? Why would you come to Destin and NOT go to the beach? The most breathtaking emerald green waters and sugar white sand you’ve ever seen. Bring your boogie boards, shovels and pails, and plenty of sunscreen! Most vacation rentals will offer some type of beach access, but if you don’t have direct access, here is a list of public beach access places in Destin.
6. Visit The Track
Gokarts, an arcade, bumper cars, roller coasters, and mini golf, just to name a few. It’s like a carnival, only it’s open almost year round. Kids LOVE this place! (Dads do too!)
7. Learn to build an epic sandcastle
Looking for a unique experience that will make you remember your beach vacation forever? Take a sandcastle lesson from the experts at Beach Sand Sculptures. Sand sculptor Rick Mungeam and his wife, Capri, offer fun-filled sandcastle lessons for all ages! They also sell a kit with all of the tools you need to keep making awesome sandcastles, like this:
8. Stroll along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk
This one is good for the whole family. There is always something going on at the Boardwalk. Grab a cold drink from one of the restaurants or food trucks along the waterfront and stroll along and watch the charter boat captains bring in their catches of the day, people watch, window shop, and sightsee. The walk does the whole family good and it’s a great way to really get a feel for the local culture. Wonder why Destin is known as the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village? Stroll the Boardwalk and you’re sure to find out! The sunset views are pretty amazing, too.
9. Slide into fun at Big Kahuna’s Water Park
A gigantic water park with so much to do I won’t even begin to try to list it all. Lazy river, fast water slides, kiddie splash areas for toddlers, and more. Guaranteed to wear you, and your kids, out!
10. Explore Gator Beach
This is at the aforementioned Fudpuckers. Watch and feed (from a nice, safe distance!) live alligators. You can even get your picture taken holding one! Very entertaining for the kiddos, and nothing quite says “Florida” like getting your picture taken holding an alligator!
11. Play at Fat Daddy’s Arcade
Think of a local version of Chuck E Cheese minus the big mouse and his friends. Pizza, Ice Cream, and an arcade make for a great rainy day activity should the weather be uncooperative during your stay. There are enough games to keep your kids occupied for HOURS.
12. Challenge a game of Laser Tag
Next door to Fat Daddy’s above Sunsations Beach Store is a semi-hidden indoor Laser Tag and Black Light Mini Golf place. One game of Laser Tag lasts 15 minutes so it’s a great quick late afternoon or evening activity if you have some time to kill between the beach and dinner.
So, there you have it. My kids’ 12 favorite things to do in Destin (in no particular order)! Remember, this is just a taste of what awaits you here on our sugar white shores. But don’t just take my word for it…Discover for yourself why Destin is known as one of America’s top family travel destinations and is one of the best places to vacation with kids.