Boasting sugar-sand beaches, world-famous fishing, and sparkling emerald waters on the Gulf of Mexico, it’s no wonder Destin is such a popular spot in Florida for vacationers. Families also flock to the beach area for its water parks, theme parks, wildlife attractions, nature areas, and adventure sports. Whether younger or older, kids will love the opportunities to explore the wild, swim with dolphins, picnic on the beach, or race around a go-kart track. No matter how you choose to spend your time, check out the best places to stay and the best things to do on a family vacation in Destin to prepare for your trip.

Explore family resorts in Destin

Destin is a popular beach destination, especially for families with kids. The beaches and attractions make for memorable family trips with lots to see and do. If you’re planning a trip with the kids, check out the best family resorts in Destin to see what’s in store.

Relax at the Emerald Grande

The Emerald Grande is one of the best resorts on the Gulf Coast. The stunning property features rooms with balconies that offer panoramic views of the coastline and luxurious amenities like custom furnishings and lavish baths. Emerald Grande also lets you tailor your experience for families, complete with additional bedrooms and amenities for younger children or teens alike. You’ll have the sugar-white sands of the beach at your doorstep and the striking sunsets over the water in the evening. Emerald Grande is also close to the HarborWalk Village, where you can take advantage of top-notch restaurants, local shops, and exciting activities. You’ll find everything you need for dolphin cruises, jet skiing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, and more.

Enjoy a luxurious beach trip at Palms of Destin

Palms of Destin offers a lush, tropical escape for your family stay in Destin. The spectacular resort property is filled with tropical plants and palm trees with a lagoon pool and water features, so you’ll feel like you’re in a hidden oasis. The resort boasts amenities like a fitness center, on-site pools, a bar, a restaurant, and a complimentary shuttle to take you to the beaches. You’ll have several options for your rental size and number of bedrooms, so you can easily accommodate the whole family. If you want more space and privacy, Palms of Destin offers poolside villas with open-concept living areas, dining rooms, patios, a master suite, and a full guest bedroom. When you step outside, you’ll be right in front of the lagoon pool for sunbathing and swimming. Villas offer all the amenities of a room, as well as a kitchen, utensils, dishware, and other condo amenities.

Take it easy at Pelican Beach Resort

At Pelican Beach Resort, you'll find a welcoming family resort that comes complete with a variety of amenities kids and adults alike can enjoy right in the heart of the Emerald Coast. The resort has several pools, including one right by the beach and a kiddie pool for the little ones. It also has its own private beach, of course, that allows you to enjoy Destin's welcoming waters any time you like. You can pamper yourself with luxurious spa services, including a sauna and a steam room. When you're ready to explore Destin, this resort's Gulf Coast Guide can take you to the hottest spots, such as the Big Kahuna's Water Park, a family favorite.

Discover the best family vacation attractions in Destin

Destin has an array of attractions and experiences for families with kids of all ages, including wildlife encounters, thrilling theme parks, and relaxing nature experiences. Mid- to late spring is the best time to enjoy all of area attractions, as the water and weather are warm and the crowds are still low, but you'll still find a wide range of things to do in fall and winter if you want to miss the summer crowds. Whether you're planning a trip for the young or young at heart, check out the top family attractions in Destin.

Cool off at Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park is a fun-filled water park where you and the kids can cool off in the Florida sun. The popular water park has something for every age, including a lazy river, water rides and slides, speed slides, children’s splash areas, a wave pool, and more. You’ll also find kiddie rides and thrill rides, such as roller coasters, and other amusements, such as miniature golf.

See the sights at the Destin Harbor Boardwalk

The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a nostalgic boardwalk that stretches almost a quarter-mile along the harborfront. The boardwalk is not only the best place to find tour operators for parasailing, dolphin cruises, fishing charters, and watersport rentals, but it’s also home to many bars, restaurants, tourist attractions, and shops. The boardwalk turns into HarborWalk Village, a shopping and entertainment area with fireworks, live music, concerts, glass-bottom boat tours, parades, and other fun experiences.

Learn about local heritage at the Destin History & Fishing Museum

The Destin History & Fishing Museum offers a glimpse into the city’s past as a fishing village in the 1800s. You’ll see a lot of unique exhibits in the museum, including a massive collection of antique rods and reels, an old Seine fishing boat, and vintage photographs of early settlers and boat captains. You’ll also see mounted catches, such as sharks, mahi-mahi, marlin, and cobia. You can tour the museum on your own or choose a guided tour, and it's available no matter what time of year you visit. Kids will like the museum scavenger hunt.

Wander the trails in Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park is an expansive parkland on the beachfront that offers swimming, sunbathing, bicycling, hiking, camping, and picnicking. One of the most popular activities at Henderson Beach State Park is fishing, and you could find many great fishing spots throughout the park. You’ll also find walking trails to see the wildlife in the park and the coastal scrub area, which is one of the few remaining in the region. Henderson Beach State Park is also a great spot for bird-watching and provides a habitat for many shorebirds.

Race each other at The Track – Destin

The Track – Destin is a fun go-kart track that offers fun and friendly competition for the whole family. The facility features 5 go-kart tracks for different ages to join in on the fun. You’ll also find kids' country rides, bumper cars, and a family track with single and double go-karts for younger kids. Other attractions include miniature golf, bumper boats, an arcade, and a skydiving simulator. With so much to choose from, your whole family is sure to enjoy the experience.

See the beach from above with Destin Parasailing

Destin Parasailing is an exciting experience for families with older kids and teens. You’ll head out on the water in a boat and slowly drift into the air with a parasail wing, which keeps you suspended above the water to see the views. Destin Parasailing offers single, double, and triple parasailing rides, as well as video and photo packages as souvenirs. Children must be over 6 years old to go parasailing, and minors must have a parent present but are welcome to ride alone. Destin Parasailing offers a variety of other adventure experiences and outfits, such as pontoon boat rentals, personal watercraft rentals, charter fishing tours, and dolphin tours.

Make masterpieces with SandCastle Lessons

For a unique family vacation experience, book a session with SandCastle Lessons. The lessons are suitable for all ages and teach you all the tools and tricks to building sandcastles over 3 feet tall. You’ll not only have a fun day and memory, but you’ll gain skills that you can take with you on your next beach vacation with the family.

Encounter dolphins at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is the perfect attraction for animal lovers. The marine park is known for animal encounters with animals like dolphins, rays, sharks, and seals. When you visit, you’ll be treated to marine mammal shows and exhibits housing incredible marine life. The park also offers animal encounters that you can book, such as getting up close to a dolphin, swimming near dolphins in shallow water, and visiting with dolphins on the dockside. You could also play with penguins and harbor seals, hold snakes and lizards, or snorkel with stingrays and sharks. Kids will love the VIP Trainer experience, which has them shadowing an animal trainer for the day to learn about all that goes into caring for marine mammals.

Get out into nature at the Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk

If you’re looking for a low-key experience outdoors, the Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk is a great choice. The bayou access park has a fishing pier, beach access, and picnic spots. Much of the land is undeveloped wetlands that provide a home for bald eagles, osprey, woodpeckers, and other wildlife. You can walk over the wetlands and bayou on boardwalks to get a good view of the landscape and wildlife without disturbing the environment. The park is also a popular spot for fishing, but be sure to get there early to get a good spot on the beach or dock.

Find thrills at Urban Air Adventure Park

If you want to get out of the heat, the Urban Air Adventure Park offers a massive indoor space with adventure activities for all ages. The park features go-karts, obstacle courses, trampolines, wall climbing, bowling, ropes courses, and miniature golf. Young children will love attractions like the tube playground, while older kids can get the experience of free-falling with indoor skydiving. The park also has a laser tag course with fun themes, a bowling alley, and bumper cars. Another highlight is the tumble track, a trampoline course with soft obstacles for flipping, twisting, and handspringing.

Explore the Fort Pickens military site

Fort Pickens is an important historic military fort on Santa Rosa Island that played an important role in the American Civil War. Named for the American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens, the fort features 5 walls and several cannons and mortars. When you visit, you can stop in the Fort Pickens Discovery Center to learn about the history of the fort and the local environment and wildlife. The fort is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore, so you’ll have opportunities to play on the beach, have a picnic, or camp. The Fort Pickens Fishing Pier is one of the best places in the area to fish.

Take a banana boat ride

Banana boat rides are an exciting way to experience the area and enjoy views of Destin Harbor. When you book a private banana boat tour, you’ll go on a tour of the coast and out into open water, complete with music and pictures. At the end of the tour, you’ll move to a speed boat to see the rest of the coastal area. With so many options, you can choose a relaxing trip on the water or a thrilling ride. Whichever you choose, the kids are sure to have a blast and fun souvenir photos to remember the experience.

Have fun at Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

A trip to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone makes for a fun day out with the family with all kinds of amusements. The massive, air-conditioned facility features a redemption arcade, a laser maze, and a 4D movie theater. You’ll find concessions inside, such as pizza and ice cream. Outside, Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone offers an aerial ropes course, a spinning roller coaster, a bungee trampoline, and a dinosaur-themed mini-golf course. Another highlight is Bumper Wars Bumper Boats, a set of boats with water cannons for battles. You’ll also find water cannons on the shore to soak bumper boat riders.

See archaeological artifacts at Indian Temple Mound Museum

The Indian Temple Mound Museum is a great educational opportunity for the kids. The museum features interpretive exhibits with Native American and Floridian artifacts made of stone, clay, shell, and bone. You’ll also find artifacts from European explorers, pirates, and prehistoric people from the area. Many of the exhibits and artifacts come from the Fort Walton Mound, an archaeological site from 850 CE.