We took a family trip to Panama City Beach and it was wonderful! The city has worked in recent years to become a family-friendly destination, and it shows where we stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort and the nearby attractions. This month marks the twentieth anniversary of having my navel pierced at a convenience store in Panama City Beach, so it was great to see all of the changes to what used to be known mainly as a Spring Break spot.
Since we have two preschoolers, one of the draws for us at this hotel was the water play area, Aqualand. Connected to the main pool area, there are tables and chairs to sit at while your kids are playing, a shaded area with lounge chairs that I took advantage of for nursing in, and all sorts of water fun. The website for the hotel has a live cam so you can check it out in action!
The hotel sits directly on the gorgeous, jewel-colored water of Panama City Beach. All of the rooms have a balcony with an unobstructed view of the beach. One of the hardest things about going to the beach with little ones is ALL THE THINGS you need to drag there. It was so nice to just have a short walk to the sand, and if we had to go back up to the room for a snack or nap or just a break in the air-conditioning, it didn’t feel like we had done so much work for nothing.
Our hotel has four different options for dining, including a better than average breakfast buffet, a pizza shop, a steak and seafood restaurant and our favorite, the poolside grill. Being able to grab a delicious sandwich or burger in our swimsuits was wonderful. There are also poolside servers that walk around to take food orders or for an ice cold beer while you enjoy the pool or Aqualand.
There were a variety of family-friendly entertainment activities, including arts & crafts and pool games. There was always music playing on the pool deck, either live or by a DJ. They had a Polynesian Fire and Dance show one evening and a magic show another. Each night they turn the pool deck into an outdoor movie theater with kids movies playing as hotel guests relax on the lounge chairs facing the screen.
There is a small store on site with floats, sunscreen, and other sundries. It was great to truly not have to leave the resort for anything, although we did venture out a few times.
Nearby attractions included Gulf World Marine Park, Shipwreck Island Water Park, mini golf and go-kart parks, an IMAX theater, and Pier Park, an outdoor shopping mall with over 1.1 million square feet of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. I try to plan all my vacations around places that have a homemade fudge shop and Kilwin’s Chocolate & Ice Cream, located in Pier Park, might be my favorite one ever. (Note to self: three pounds of fudge is not enough.)
The only real negative we found was that the rooms are a bit dated. But the beds were comfortable and each room comes with a full-sized fridge with freezer and a microwave. With one very picky eater, it was so nice to be able to bring the foods from home we knew she would eat as well as snacks and beverages.
Since we went on a holiday weekend, we were concerned that it would be too busy to relax. We were pleasantly surprised that the resort was so large, we never felt crowded or that there weren’t enough chairs.