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If I could sum up our trip to Destin in one word, it would be decompress. Our trip was everything we needed among a very stressful winter and spring. It all started after our trip to Mexico, which inspired this much needed vacay of total decompression, rest and relaxation. And Destin was all of this! When we’ve traveled, it’s typically been to somewhere with history, museums or exploration on the docket. But Destin offered something so relaxing, where we didn’t feel the need to jam pack every minute of every day with ‘4th century’ ruins or world famous museums. No, this was a trip of daily beach/pool mornings and leisure afternoon outings.
Destin has so much to offer to families looking for fun activities and adventure.
Related: How To Get Ready for A Vacation
Top 10 Family Friendly Destin Activities
1. Destin Beaches
Henderson Beach State Park is a pristine, powder sand beach along the gorgeous Emerald Coast. The beach includes pavilions to host a BBQ, rinse off and more. There is a nominal fee to park and use the facilities and they accept cash or card. On day one, before our vacation rental was ready, we stopped at the beach for a couple of hours and ‘set up shop’ after a quick Walmart run for some beach essentials. Honorable mention: Crystal Sands Beach
2. Family Fun Parks
Destin is littered with several fun parks like Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. Typically including anything from putt-putt golf, bumper boats, obstacle courses, go-carts and more, these family fun parks are great ways to spend your afternoons. We loved Wild Willy’s dinosaur themed 18-hole mini golf course. Kiddos under 4 were free and given a pint-sized club to play along with the ‘big’ kids. Honorable mention: The Track Family Fun Park
3. Village of Baytowne Wharf
The Village of Baytowne Wharf is located on the Choctawhatchee Bay and features cute boutiques, restaurants, galleries, nightlife and fun activities like a zip line and carousel for the little ones. After a long morning at the beach, Baytowne was a really great place to sit down for a nice bite to eat at the Marlin Grill. We enjoyed shopping at a fun children’s boutique and people watched as others ‘golfed’ (chipped really) onto small islands on Baytowne’s lake. Charlie enjoyed riding in a race car on the adorable carousel. A definite must!
4. Silver Sands Premium Outlets
On one of the days, my mom and I broke off from the men, leaving them to watch Charlie and letting us get some quality girl time. On our way to Baytowne, earlier in the week, we saw a large outlet mall and knew this is where we wanted to spend our time together. The best part was the back to school sales. Many of the stores had upwards of 70% off premium items. I was able to get an outlet Kate Spade backpack for only $95 (Regularly $299!) The Silver Sands Premium Outlets had much to offer and was a highlight of the trip. Honorable mention: Destin Commons
5. Visit a Playground
On one of the days we decided to forego the beach/pool option and find a local playground. Just doing a quick map search I found Helen McCall Park which was about 2 miles away from our vacation rental. Charlie loved this little park which included a ‘rocking’ race car, slides and the highlight…a splash pad! We stayed for about an hour. This park is great and has a shaded picnic area and lots of playground equipment for smaller and bigger kids. It even had a cool jungle gym to climb on. My favorite thing about playgrounds is they’re FREE! And a great way to switch things up. Honorable mention: Destin Dog Park
6. Go on a Dolphin Cruise
The highlight of the trip, was the dolphin cruise. We chose the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise and were not disappointed. The cruise starts off in the Destin harbor and makes its way out to the gulf. We saw tons of dolphin! We even caught a glimpse of several black-fin sharks about 50 yards of the cost…beach goers none-the-wiser. Charlie was a little young, but the captain finishes the cruise by allowing young skippers to drive the boat. He literally let every kiddo who wanted to captain the ship, drive. They all came back with a great big smile on their faces and a certificate of completion. We deliberately didn’t book a cruse that included snorkeling due to Charlie’s age, but if this is something your interested in Screaming Eagle Sports has a great option at around $32/person.
7. Pool Time
Spend some time at your local pool. We loved this option because it gave us a little reprieve from the super sandy beaches. During the trip we purchased a swim trainer by swim school. This was one of the best purchases of the trip and made going to the pool so much fun for Charlie. Under watchful eye, he had some freedom to swim by himself with someone close by. Swimming was also a great way to end the day, if we had time before bed. With 85° temps, going in the evenings was no problem!
8. HarborWalk Village
HarborWalk is a really fun village on the Destin harbor. People can find lots of activities like zip lining, rock wall climbing, a choo-choo train for the littles and more. On top of that there are some great restaurants, shopping and entertainment. We loved Crab Island Cantina as a recommendation. From HarborWalk, you can embark on a fishing adventure, charter/cruise, etc. Many of the restaurants will cook up what you catch, too!
9. Surf Hut Restaurant
The Surf Hut restaurant was everything I wanted it to be and more. The food was pretty good and the atmosphere was fantastic. Situated right on the gulf with a private beach including games like corn hole, connect four and more, there was something for everyone. No more whining about when the food will get there; just send the kids to the beach and play while they wait. I had the Endless Summer Seafood Salad, which was perfect for the hot hot weather and we topped off the evening with a couple of slices of homemade key lime pie. YUM
10. Captain Dave’s
Capt. Dave’s on the Gulf was another fun beach side eatery and has been there for the past 50 years! The menu is pretty standard food for waterfront dining, featuring seafood and fried food. Charlie loved the fish tanks right next to our table. It definitely made for a more relaxed, toddler entertained, eating experience.