Stories from Pensacola Beach

Stories from the Beach

A Family That Plays Together

The prettiest beaches on the planet make a great backdrop for a family vacation to remember

Before you set up your umbrella and chairs on Pensacola Beach, consider these essentials for optimal family-trip success. Granted, the kids might not realize that they are playing on one of the most astonishing beaches on the planet. But that's okay. Keep them distracted by the surf, the sand, the kites, the paddleboards and the dolphins. Then let the day unfold.

For Kids

Shops here know what it takes for family-trip survival. Sunscreen, floppy hats and bottled water are a must. Then gear up for some proper family fun on the beach. It's amazing how a tiny plastic shovel and pail translates into hours of fun for small kids. Coach them from under the umbrella as they try to keep the third floor of their sandcastle level.

Hunting for seashells is another great way to keep the kids occupied. Bring a small net and watch their joy multiply as they pull tiny shells from the gentle surf. Most hotels and resorts on Pensacola Beach offer fun kids programs that give Mom and Dad some free time. From scavenger hunts and field trips with the High Tide Kids Club at Portofino Island Resort to dive-in movies and interactive pirate shows along the lazy river at Holiday Inn Resort, an engaged kid is a happy kid.

For Teens

Teens will likely want to venture out on their own to meet other teens. Area outfitters offer safe water excursions on people-powered and motorized vessels. Let them rent a kayak and set out on an adventure. Several beach outfitters offer Surf Camp in the summer, the perfect way for your teen to do something cool with people their own age.

Satisfy their need for speed with a spin around a go-cart track. They can also take a Jet Ski lesson and learn how to skim across the top of the bay or strap into a parasail for a thrill ride they will certainly text their friends about. For the more feet-on-the-ground types, inquisitive teens will find plenty to spark their imaginations on ranger-led tours of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Tours pass through historic forts and habitats rich with native critters.

For Tweens

Let's review. Little kids: Keep them busy. Teenagers: Let them do their own thing. For the in-betweens, you need a deeper game plan. So be prepared to throw a little bit of everything at them.

From the same place you got the plastic shovel and pail, pick up a kite and a football. Those will come in handy. Or let them loose on the Portofino Boardwalk to do their own shopping. The surf and t-shirt shops have all sorts of colorful souvenirs to draw them in. Sign them up at Fitness Onboard for a paddleboarding lesson on Little Sabine Bay. The calm waters and trained outfitters make this a safe and fun adventure. And a Dolphin Excursion, offered by area charters, is something your tweens will talk about well into their teens. If you have exhausted your options, keep this surefire hit in your back pocket: mini golf.

All Together Now

You've all got to meet up when everyone gets hungry. Gather your group for some quality time at local eateries that keep family fun in mind. At Flounder's Chowder House, tables overlook Flounder's Beach on the bay, with beach volleyball and a playground to occupy the kids. Flounder's is a favorite for birthday parties, and the kid's menu features such crowd pleasers as Seven Seas Mac-n-Cheese and Blackbeard's Chicken Planks.

At Peg Leg Pete's, also located on the bay, head to the lower level and set up at a picnic table next to the kids playground. You probably won't get the kids to eat oysters, but it seems like every table here starts with a dozen fresh ones. Not to worry. Order Grouper Nuggets and Banana Dreamboat shakes for the little ones and then focus on the amazing grown-up seafood here.

You know you are in the South when dinner starts with dessert. Friendly servers at Crab's start the table off with Honey Buns to share: fried biscuits doused with sugar and cinnamon with honey on the side. Devour fresh crab legs and watch the kids giggle at you in a bib while they feast on chicken tenders and burgers. Try the region's signature drink, the Bushwacker, and let the kids feel grown up with a slice of Bushwacker pie. Following the sweet theme, checks here come with a round of Blow Pops.

However your family is made up, you'll find plenty of activities to keep everyone engaged. Find special deals and discounts to help plan the perfect family vacation to Pensacola Beach.

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