Family Fun in Destin, Florida
Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park
Family Fun in Destin, Florida
By Linda Holloway, Photography by www.larryhollowayphotography.com
The story of our family life is maintained by everyday events and photos, but the family vacation is always the prime “memory maker.” To make the most of this special time, my husband, Larry, and teen grandson, Gunnar, hit the beach. Not just any beach, but the shores of Destin, Florida. We are not the only family who has found “beach paradise.” “Southern Living” named Destin “Number One Beach Town in the South” for 14 years in a row.
Known as the Emerald Coast, the sugar-white sands and emerald green waters sets this beach destination apart from most others. “Good Morning America” called the Emerald Coast one of the “10 Most Beautiful Places in America.” The sands that compose the beaches of Destin, Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island are among the whitest and cleanest in the world. Here, you will find 12 public beach access ways, world-class fishing, championship golf, family attractions and undeniably fresh seafood.
We found the perfect condominium at Destin Pointe on Holiday Isle—centrally located in the heart of Destin. We checked out of everyday life and into the Magnolia House Unit (condo # 303.) This 2-bedroom, two bath condo overlooks the pool, hot tub, grill and shuffleboard area. We enjoyed the spacious king size bed, complete with a comfy mattress in the master bedroom, and there are twin beds in the guest room. Of course there are TV’s galore and free internet service as well.
While the condo was beautifully appointed, I spent hours on the balcony gazing at the boats coming in and out of the Pass. Since Destin Pointe has 24 hour gated security, our family felt safe in our temporary beach neighborhood. Destin Pointe has condos to fit any size family, and you will also find cottages surrounded by beautiful lakes and parks. Take time for tennis and riding bikes throughout the complex also.
The six story mid-rise Magnolia House building boasts elevators, and is a short walk to the Gulf. Larry and Gunnar enjoyed fishing at the Jetties and the East Pass side of the beach offers amazing snorkeling adventures. The complimentary trolley service (seasonal) throughout the neighborhood was perfect for transporting us to the 2 pools, and delivering us steps from 3,000 feet of sea and sand. Yes, I got spoiled! Once at the beach, an attendant provides chairs and umbrellas, and lifeguards patrol the area. Take time to witness the magnificent sunsets along this slice of the Emerald Coast. www.destinpointe.com, 850-837-4800
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, opened in 2015, and has been a big magnet for all ages. Located on Okaloosa Island, and features 17,000 square feet of air conditioned space, housing a state-of-the-art redemption arcade, a 4D Movie Theater, and a Laser Maze. The Salvati’s Pizza Factory featured pies that Italy would be happy to claim. The outdoor fun for Gunnar began at the Tree Top Challenge ropes course. With 5 increasingly difficult levels, climbers scale and make their way across the rope elements challenging balance, agility, and skill as they make their way to the top to experience views of the Gulf from over 60 feet in the air!
A pre-historic adventure awaits at the 18 hole fully animatronic (think lurking dinosaurs) golf course, T-Rex Island. Children under the age of seven, rave about the Hatching Haven Adventure Golf. Here the friendly baby dinosaurs are sure to educate and entertain. Flip and soar on the Ptero Jump trampolines and navigate the lagoon as you engage your opponents in remote control Boat Battles. Don’t forget the dinosaur themed inflatable zone for bouncing. Ask about packages “Paks” for discounted ticket. www.wwazone.com
Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
If you drive by Big Kahuna’s, I can promise you may as well stop right then and save yourself some whining from the kids. The park’s most recent addition is the Kowabunga Racer, a 40-foot, head-first, nearly 5 stories, run for the checkered flag. Gunnar met new friends and they were off to the races. I noticed one of the most popular rides was the Tiki River Run where you can slide through tunnels and turns that take you through exciting waterfalls to a splash down pool. Families love the 49 different play areas. The younger kids’ slides are nested together and are perfect for all who enjoy a quiet escape. Relax by the giant wave pool or take it easy down the Lazy River—made especially for me! www.bigkahunas.com
Dining With Children
Fudpucker’s original restaurant in Destin was voted ‘Best Family-Friendly Restaurant’ by locals in 2014. Not only do they serve scrumptious seafood, but they have free interactive entertainment. Destin restaurants, with a reputation for great seafood, have a bit of a wait during high tourist season. Fudpucker’s found a way that tired sun-soaked children can be instantly transferred into energetic dancing stars while waiting to be seated.
The Fudnominals Interactive Dance Team performs nightly during spring and summer (check the calendar of events) and will have the whole family moving to the music on stage. The kids love the limbo, singing and games also. Another free activity is Gator Beach where we purchased food for the pet alligators. Fudpucker’s donates a portion of the proceeds of the sale of “gator bait” to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge. The onsite Alligator Museum featuring their Albino Alligator, Pearl, who can’t live in the wild, was very educational. Once seated, order the Crab Dip first—amazing! Then, pick your personal sea delights such as Shrimp Scampi and the Seafood Platter. www.fudpucker.com
Lucy Buffett opened Lulu’s Restaurant in Destin, Florida in 2015. The restaurant is located next to Legendary Marine at the foot of the Mid-Bay Bridge. Modeling the Gulf Shores restaurant, LuLu’s offers tons of free fun activities for the kids including a sandy beach next to Choctawatchee Bay, where a pail and shovel are essential. There is a Fountain of Youth water feature, hoola hoops, and cornhole games. During special events, clowns are brought in and face painting, inflatable slides and crafts are kid-pleasers. Lulu’s authentic Gulf cuisine is scrumptious but everyone should try a “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The nightly live entertainment alone is worth the trip. www.LuluBuffett.com/destin/
For more information contact Emerald Coast CVB, www.EmeraldCoasting.com