Emerald Coast Science Center has 5,000 square feet of gallery space filled with eye-opening, family-friendly exhibits on principles of biology, physics, earth science, and technology. In the Hall of Life, there are microscopes where you can peer at bodily cells, as well as a replica intestine that unfurls to reveal its surprising length of 17 feet. At Color & Light, you can interact with mirrors, colorful lights, and a domesticated rainbow. And in the Critters room, kids get to meet such museum residents as Tickles the Snake and Rosy the Tarantula.
At Fort Walton Beach Bowl, all 24 lanes light up like Christmas trees as sounds of pins crashing together and players hooting and hollering soothe the ears like a well-sung carol. For the last 17 years, the same family has kept these lanes glossy and fed the digital turkeys that live in the automatic scoring system. In between slinging pin-smashers, kids can sip on pop while grownups can share rounds from pitchers of beer, and on special nights, bowlers can sing karaoke.
Housed in a yellow barn, Batter's Box Family Fun Center is a flourishing farm with batting cages and miniature-golf challenges. At the 18-hole, tropical-themed Adventure Island Course, miniature golfers move their tiny feet past putting obstacles that include fountains and the shipwreck of the S.S. Minnow. At the fun center's five batting cages, softballs and baseballs catapult themselves at bat-wielding hitters. Having chosen between softballs and baseballs, batters can pick their cage based on its pitch speed, which ranges from a slow softball arch to a 70-mph fastball. Those looking to host group events or celebrate their birthdays at Batter's Box can rent an upstairs party room where guests mingle and indulge in gourmet cupcakes.
More sweets abound at So-Yo Frozen Yogurt Shop, a haven of self-serve frozen treats that boasts 15 different flavors on a given day. Guests crown crested caps of yogurt with 30-plus toppings before kicking back on a country-style outdoor deck to revel in their custom creation.
The Breeze Cinema 8 and The Ridge Cinema 8 may be independently owned, but they keep up with technological advances as well as any megaplex. Both theaters present the latest Hollywood blockbusters in crisp DLP-digital projection and resounding audio from Meyer Sound speakers. Select flicks are even rendered in RealD 3D, which sends heart-pounding car chases racing over the audience's stadium seats and lets Steven Spielberg's name gently graze your cheek.
The theaters have occasionally attracted big-name visitors in the flesh, including veteran Marcus Luttrell, the real-life model for Mark Wahlberg's character in Lone Survivor. It also occasionally plays special sing-along versions of family movies such as Frozen.
Dreamland Skate Center accommodates wheeled escapades in a recently updated facility that features airbrushed wall art and refinished flooring. After lacing up pairs of roller, speed, or inline skates, duos can orbit the baby-blue rink while listening to DJ jams or whistling a medley of cartoon theme songs. Cosmic laser lights permeate the premises on Friday and Saturday nights, when the center extends its hours until 11 p.m. In the laser-tag area, glowing beams propel competitors into hiding or spur them into action against faux foes. Nearby, an arcade attracts stationary visitors with air hockey, driving games, and a colorful prize wall.
At Skater's Choice, a separate roller rink in Parker, athletes test-drive skates atop colorful carpet in an area with lockers before zooming to the rink or forgoing rolling in lieu of arcade games.
Experienced instructor, trainer, and cowgirl Cheryl Glass brings her vast knowledge of all things equine to Horse Rides of Pensacola. Originally a trail-ride outfit, Horse Rides of Pensacola has grown over the past decade to include camps, lessons taught by trained instructors, and charitable events. During camps, kids learn riding techniques and also participate in fishing, wild blueberry picking, access to water slide, and arts and crafts activities. Introductory classes teach pupils equestrian techniques, grooming riders with the fundamentals of equine safety, anatomy, and proper form before they move on to more intense classes such as Equine 101 or Advanced Equine 101. Camps available for children of age three or older.