30 Super Fun Things to Do in Destin on Vacation

toddler on beach

The entire Florida gulf coast is a great travel destination for those traveling with families, friends, and couples. The beachfront communities along the Florida panhandle offer stunningly beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants, and lots of fun activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking for the best things to do with toddlers, kids, singles, or couples, Destin has plenty to offer.

In addition to its picturesque beaches with clear water and white sand, Destin features activities like water sports, animal encounters, nature trails, adventure zones, and more. So, continue reading below for our family’s list of the top things to in Destin, Florida on a beach vacation!

Things to Do near Destin

Destin is one of my family’s favorite vacation destinations because it offers so many fun things to do. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or take part in thrilling attractions, you’ll never be left wondering what to do in Destin. These are some of our top picks for the best things to in Destin, Florida with toddlers, kids, and adults:

1. Visit The Village of Baytowne Wharf

The Village of Baytowne Wharf is located in the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. It provides tons of activities for visitors, including lots of dining and shopping options. Parking at Baytowne Wharf is free, and you do not have to pay to enter this kid-friendly Destin attraction. Once inside The Village, you’ll find all kinds of free and cheap things to do.

Playgound at Village of Baytowne Wharf
Playground at Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf is home to a massive playground that is completely fenced in for little ones. Toddlers and kids of all ages love climbing and sliding in this fun (and FREE) area. In addition to this playground, you can spend a small fee to participate in other kid friendly activities, including riding a carousel, enjoying ice cream, or playing carnival type games.

trampolines at Village of Baytowne Wharf
Trampolines at Baytowne Wharf

Older and more adventurous kids will love the outdoor activities like the bungee trampolines, rope course, zip lines, and so much more! The Village of Baytowne Wharf also offers many outdoor dining options such as Hammerheads Bar and Grille and Landshark Bar and Grill. Some of these restaurants also include live entertainment, which is always a big hit with our family!

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beach planner pdf printable

We highly recommend checking out Rum Runners dueling piano bar, which becomes an adult-only establishment after 9:00. In addition to the dining options available, you can shop in all sorts of stores inside the Village. From candy shops to toy stores and boutiques, the Village of Baytowne Wharf provides adorably quaint shops that are really fun to browse through with your family.

2. Soak up the Sun

Destin is the perfect spot to spend time on the beach because it offers some of the most beautiful, clear water you can find. Additionally, the sand is super soft and clean, so you don’t have to worry about your kids (or you!) stepping on shells or rocks. The ocean tends to be really calm and warm, which is great even for toddlers who are a bit leery of the water.

beach chair sitting on sand

You can park and access the public beaches in Destin for free, including the use of the restrooms. For more information on the best beaches in Destin, we highly recommend checking out our post on Beaches in Destin, Florida. In that article, we list the most beautiful spots in Destin to enjoy the clear water and white sand!

3. Dine at a Local Restaurant

Destin is full of amazing dining opportunities throughout the city. Whether you’re looking for beachfront restaurants or fine dining establishments, you’ll find plenty of options.

restaurant on bay with boats
Lulu’s Restaurant in Destin

Many of the restaurants feature outdoor seating, live music, and beautiful views of the ocean or bay. Since Destin is a super family oriented destination, you’ll find that most of the dining spots are kid-friendly restaurants.

4. Shop at Destin Commons

Destin Commons is a great place to spend time, especially if you enjoy shopping. This outdoor area is home to so many stores and restaurants that you could easily spend an entire day exploring. If you have a toddler or small kids in tow, Destin Commons is home to a large splash pad area with fountains for kids to play.

Bass Pro Shops
Bass Pro Shops Destin

They also have a toddler friendly train that your little ones can ride through the shopping area. Older kids and adults love to spend time at the movie theater here along with the large Bass Pro Shops at the Destin Commons.

5. Stroll Through Grand Boulevard Town Center

Grand Boulevard is located near the Village of Baytowne Wharf in the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. This quaint little boulevard is home to many dining and shopping options including popular chains like Tommy Bahamas, P.F. Chang’s, and Starbucks. You can dine outdoors on several of the available patios while listening to live music in the courtyard.

Fountains at Grand Boulevard in Sandestin

Similar to the Destin Commons’ water spray area mentioned above, Grand Blvd. offers fountains that spray water in its courtyard area. These are completely free for your toddler or kids to enjoy! Grand Boulevard often hosts special events during holidays, so make sure you check out their schedule before visiting.

You won’t want to miss out on the live entertainment and themed activities provided during these special times of year. We visited during a Cinco de Mayo event, which provided lots of fun activities and entertainment for families.

6. Climb Aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise

If you have small kids like I do, they may be totally into pirates. Destin is home to one of the cutest activities for pirate lovers: the Bucaneer Pirate Cruise. This family-friendly pirate ship sets sail from HarborWalk Village in Destin. Once onboard, you can expect pirate themed activities, singing, and dancing.

Kids can practice their sword fighting skills, hunt for hidden treasure, and train to become a pirate on this super fun cruise boat. Snacks and drinks are available onboard, and parents of babies and toddlers will be relieved to learn that strollers are welcome! Make your reservations ahead of time, especially if you plan to visit during prime tourist season.

7. Catch a Ride to Crab Island

Another top activity for those visiting the Destin area is the popular Crab Island. You can rent a pontoon boat from the nearby harbor to take the small drive out to Crab Island. Once there, you can step off the boat into crystal clear, shallow water where visitors enjoy playing games, swimming, snorkeling, or eating at one of the floating food stands.

pontoon boats sitting in shallow water
Crab Island

*Quick Tip: Families who prefer to avoid the spring break type of crowd can visit on a weekday when Crab Island is less crowded and more kid-friendly!

8. Visit Destin Harbor Boardwalk

Similar to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, HarborWalk Village is full of outdoor activities. Located on the other side of Destin from Baytowne (near the Destin Commons), the Destin Harbor Boardwalk is the perfect spot for visitors to stroll along the street lined with dining and shopping venues.

Destin Emerald Grande Hotel view from the harbor

My kids love playing the carnival games that are set up along the boardwalk, and they especially enjoy the face painting station. Guests of all ages will love the numerous dining options with outdoor patios and live entertainment. You can even watch the fishing boats and chartered boats coming into the harbor from their day out at sea.

9. Go Wild at The Track

The Track is a family favorite for those visiting the Destin area. Older kids love the go karts, mini golf, and thrill rides available. The Track also offers plenty of rides for toddlers and little kids too. You will find an area of the park called “Kids Country” that is geared for the smaller visitors to The Track. Some of the toddler friendly rides you will find in this section include a carousel, kiddie go karts, ferris wheel, swings, and more!

10. Spend Time at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

One of my family’s absolute favorite places to visit near Destin is the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach. Just a short drive from Destin, the Gulfarium provides lots of aquatic animal exhibits, shows, and even animal encounters. Since a large majority of the exhibits and shows are located in covered areas, the Gulfarium is a great place to visit when it rains.

Dolphins at Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach

Some of the really cool animals you will get to see at the Gulfarium include penguins, sea lions, alligators, seals, and even dolphins! The Gulfarium has a food counter on site where you can order snacks and kid-friendly entrees. It is also surrounded by other restaurants right outside the premises.

*Quick Tip: Make sure you make a reservation for any animal encounters your family hopes to experience. They are really popular and fill up fast!

11. Play at the Arcades

If you’re looking for things to do in Destin when it rains, spending time at the local arcades is a great option. You can find arcades located near many of the Destin attractions I listed above. For example, both The Village of Baytowne Wharf and The Track have arcades right on site.

Blue arcade at Village of Baytowne wharf
Arcade at The Village of Baytowne Wharf

These are great places to escape the rain as well as to cool off from the heat of summer. And, luckily, the arcades you find in Destin have games and activities geared for both older kids and little toddlers as well. In other words, arcades provide a great place to stay entertained while you wait out the afternoon showers that are common during peak season!

12. Visit Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park is located on the western end of Destin and is a picture perfect spot to spend time. Visitors can enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, and camping at this state park. You’ll also find restrooms, grills, and picnic tables on hand here.

13. Rent Jet Skis

You’ll find multiple places throughout Destin where you can rent jet skis and other water crafts. These are typically available to rent by the hour (or half hour) for reasonable prices. This is a great way to enjoy the Emerald Coast from a different perspective.

14. Embark on a Dolphin Cruise

Like the jet ski rentals listed above, Destin is full of places to book dolphin cruises. You can often choose from a dolphin sunset cruise to daytime expeditions.

printable beach planner

Some companies even allow you to swim in the water with dolphins in their natural habitat. You can find more information on dolphin encounters in our post on The Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in Florida.

15. Play at Big Kahuna’s Water Park

Big Kahuna’s Water Park in Destin is always a huge hit with the kids. You can spend time cooling off on the multiple water slides and in the wave pool. Big Kahuna’s also features a lazy river for those guests looking to relax a little on the water. If you get tired of the thrilling water rides, spend time playing on the mini golf course.

16. Shop at Silver Sands Premium Outlets

Silver Sands Outlet Mall is located in the Miramar Beach area and is full of popular outlet stores. Visitors could spend a whole day browsing through the shops. You’ll also find restaurants and snack shops within the outlet mall as well.

17. Visit Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone sits in Fort Walton Beach, which is just outside the Destin area. This fun spot is full of exciting activities like bumper boats, go-karts, mini golf, laser tag, a ropes course, and more!

18. Explore the Florida Panhandle

If you want to venture out a bit from the Destin area, you can find additional fun options in the neighboring beach communities. If you head toward the western side of the panhandle and Pensacola, you can visit fun places like the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Visitors who want to make a drive east of Destin can visit the popular beachfront towns along Scenic Highway 30A.

19. Play a Round of Golf

Destin offers multiple golf courses for visitors looking to enjoy a round on their vacation. You can often save money on your game if you book during off peak times during the week.

golf course in Sandestin

And don’t worry if you left your clubs or golf shoes at home, the courses in Destin offer rental opportunities for all the gear you need.

20. Visit Gulf Breeze Zoo

Gulf Breeze Zoo sits in Santa Rosa County just west of Destin. This zoo features all sorts of exciting animals, including giraffes, gorillas, rhinos, and more. Plus you can add on animal encounters and experiences for an additional fee when visiting the zoo.

21. Tour the Air Force Armament Museum

The Air Force Armament Museum is located north of Fort Walton Beach and just a short drive from the Destin area. If you’re looking for free things to do in Destin, this is a great option. Visitors can tour the museum to view aircraft used in various wars throughout United States history.

22. Go Deep Sea Fishing

If you’re looking for an adventurous activity to experience in Destin, you may consider a deep sea fishing excursion. Visitors can charter a boat or join group excursions from local companies to enjoy time fishing out in the deep sea.

23. Look for Marine Animals

You don’t have to book a snorkeling excursion in order to search for marine animals in Destin. Even younger kids enjoy throwing on some goggles or snorkeling gear to search for sea life near the shores. Some of the animals you may find include crabs, jellyfish, rays, and fish.

24. Feed an Alligator

Another great option for families looking for free things to do in Destin includes stopping by Gator Beach. Visitors can experience activities like holding and feeding live gators.

baby alligator

You can also view the daily alligator shows. This alligator park is fun for the entire family. And don’t forget to stop in at the famous Fudpucker’s either before or after your visit for a bite to eat!

25. Book a Helicopter Tour

If you’re feeling really daring, you can book a helicopter tour in Destin. Guests can ride in a helicopter above the Emerald Coast while marveling at the beautiful scenery below. You can also look for sharks and dolphins while on your helicopter ride.

26. Bowl Underwater

Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill offers bowling fun for the whole family. This marine themed bowling alley is also a perfect rainy day activity in Destin.

27. Take a Banana Boat Ride

Kids (and adults) love experiencing a ride on a banana boat. You can book this excursion from various companies in Destin to enjoy a fun-filled ride on the water.

28. Go Parasailing

As with many of the excursions and water sports activities listed above, visitors can book parasailing experiences from different places in Destin. Soar high above the water for breathtaking views of the ocean and shoreline.

29. Build a Sandcastle

Who doesn’t love building castles in the sand? This is a fun and free activity that families can enjoy together while in Destin.

elaborate sand castle on the beach

If you want to up your sandcastle game, consider taking sand sculpture lessons to learn how to build elaborate sand castles while on vacation. You can then use your skills on future beach vacations.

30. Go Crabbing

If you’re looking for cheap things to do Destin on vacation, this is a great option. Just take flashlights (or mobile phones) down to the beach once it gets dark. You can often see sand crabs scurrying around near the water and in the sand.

Best Resorts and Restaurants

If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Destin, you’ll find plenty of amazing options. Many families prefer to rent condos or beach houses in order to have access to a full kitchen and laundry facilities.

These spaces also provide additional bedrooms and bathrooms for extended families and friends. If you’re interested in renting a beach home in the area, we highly recommend using the VRBO website. VRBO features Destin rentals of all sizes in various price points that can meet the needs of any visitors to the area.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel near the beach while still saving money on your trip, Destin offers lots of options. Our top choice for a budget friendly hotel in the area is the Hyatt Place Sandestin. This hotel features easy access to the beach as well as area restaurants and shops.

Visitors looking to splurge on their Destin vacation should check out the Henderson Beach Resort and Spa. This beautiful hotel offers gulf views, luxurious accommodations, and on-site restaurants. The Henderson Beach Resort and Spa also provides two resort-style pools with lazy rivers and entertainment.

Henderson Beach Resort in Destin
Henderson Beach Resort and Spa

In addition to beautiful resorts and family friendly accommodations, Destin is full of so many great places to eat. Whether you’re looking for waterfront dining with amazing views or fine dining establishments, you’ll find plenty of options. Visitors to the area love the multiple seafood restaurants with patios overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Additionally, the entertainment districts like Baytowne Wharf and HarborWalk Village offer lots of unique restaurants for families or couples to enjoy. For a full list of our favorite places to eat in Destin, we recommend checking out our post on the Top Restaurants for Kids in Destin, FL.

Destin FAQ

Those unfamiliar with the Destin area often have many questions about the popular beach community. Below, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about Destin. Feel free to comment below if you have additional questions.

Where is Destin?

The city of Destin, Florida is located in the panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City Beach.

When is the best time to visit Destin?

The best time to visit Destin depends on what you are looking to get out of your vacation. If you’re planning to spend time splashing in the ocean, you’ll want to plan a trip during the warmer months of the year. Destin tends to offer beach friendly weather during the months of May through September.

activities with text 30 Best Things to Do in Des

You’ll also find days with warmer temperatures outside of May and September, but you may also experience cooler temps during October-April. Since the weather is warm (or hot) during the summer months, you will find more crowds during this peak season. We recommend visiting Destin during early-mid May or during mid August-September to take advantage of beautiful weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices.

Destin vs 30A: Which is better?

The beach towns along Scenic Highway 30A offer clear water and white sandy beaches just like you’ll find in Destin. If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, you really can’t go wrong with Destin or the communities along 30A. We find that Destin is great for those families who are looking for lots of restaurant options and exciting activities.

Watersound Beach Club Pool
Watersound Beach Club on 30A

There’s so much to do in Destin that you could spend a week in the area and still not experience it all. The 30A area is much more laid back and is ideal for those visitors who enjoy smaller towns with a few restaurant and shopping options. 30A is also especially appealing to those who enjoy walking or biking while on vacation rather than driving to get from place to place.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Destin

I hope you found this guide of things to do with kids in Destin, FL super useful! Overall, Destin is a great place to visit with your family. You can easily spend all of your time relaxing and playing on the world-renowned beaches. If you do want to experience some kid-friendly activities, the options listed above are enjoyable for everyone!

What are your favorite things to do with in Destin, FL? Comment below to share your family’s favorite activity!

toddler on the beach with text overlay 6 best things to do in destin with toddlers

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  1. This was such a helpful post. My family and I are visiting soon and i have been searching for ideas with no luck until I ran across this. I appreciate you taking the time to share.

    1. Hey Lindsay,

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Destin is a super toddler friendly place, and I’ve always loved taking my toddlers there. You will be able to find lots of fun things to do in and around the city. Hope you have a great family vacation! Thanks for reaching out!

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