"It really is a BMXers heaven," boasts Bill Madden, founder of Emerald Coast Dirt and Vert. And he should know—he was a #1 NPSA Pro BMX biker and is an expert at building tracks and jumps. His passion helped shape the center's impressive dirt jumps and USA BMX–sanctioned track, which hosts weekly races. He also oversaw the construction of a 9,000-square-foot skate park, which encompasses a street course, challenging ramps, and extra-challenging loop-de-loops. The facility is constantly maintained for safety, and parents are always welcome to watch the action from provided chairs.
The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music. On Sunday nights at the Fort Walton Beach location, a comedy show cranks up the revelry at 9 p.m. after the dueling pianos stop for a rest.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. The menu includes military specials and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 32-ounce booze buckets filled with fruit-flavored rum or other fruity libations. Honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
The recreational sailors at The Island Watersports maintain a fleet of sea-worthy vessels including safe, stable WindRider trimarans. During four-hour sailing stints, up to four people can pile onto the netted canopies and center cockpit to trade the buildings, highways, and Earth elementals of solid land for the freedom of the sea. One person chosen by the group to guide the craft receives a 15- to 20-minute lesson covering the basics of catching breezes for fuel and operating the foot-pedal steering controls. The tri-pronged craft supports up to 800 pounds, and the fully battened main sail on a rotating mast keeps the ship stable even during fish stampedes. MP3 players can belt out favorite songs when plugged into the boat's audio system, and guests are encouraged to bring along a small cooler filled with seaworthy beverages and snacks. Island Watersports' current sailing season will end in October but may go into November if weather permits and the boats don't get grounded for sneaking out to Make-Out Reef. The Island Watersports reopens for the next season on March 1.
Under the right guidance, the clear blue waters around Destin's harbor become visible from every angle—the air, the surface, or deep below. Destin Snorkel leads a comprehensive roster of area adventure tours, granting guests total flexibility to join or leave their excursion at any time. Guides steer one of three boats through the bay, keeping all their participants' needed snorkeling or snuba gear onboard and unhaunted by pirate ghosts to allow frequent plunges into waters rich with seashells and wildlife. When not pausing at shallow-water dive sites, boats embark on day cruises for dolphin sightseeing tours or at night to showcase fireworks over the harbor skyline. Sea kayaks also allow visitors to venture off on their own into the waters around Crab Island and Holiday Isle.
Alternatively, FFA-certified flight instructors provide a different perspective, soaring over the coastline in beach-discovery flights. During any of the cruises and tours, guides may expound on the local ecosystem and the harbor's history, revealing whether the town's first civilians ever taught dolphins how to open their eyes above water.
Captain Larry maneuvers the Sea Blaster––a 73-foot speedboat––on four different cruises in the Gulf, departing from the HarborWalk Village. Dolphin cruises speed through the water during the day, coming up close to dolphins as they leap out of the sea in an effort to distract humans while they steal their sunglasses. With the addition of snorkeling, passengers strap on a simple breathing apparatus and paddle through the crystalline waters. Others spy dolphins during the sunset cruise, as the horizon burns pink and orange, or watch fireworks burst over the water from the Sea Blaster’s deck every Thursday evening.
S.E.A. Chase Watersports outfits oceanic explorers with kayaks and pontoon boats for leisurely exploration of Destin's waterfront. Nestled under a pontoon’s shade, instructors teach guests go over Emerald Coast boating rules. They then allow customers to set sail or kayak, cruising through the Choctawhatchee Bay to Crab Island, Noriega Point, or past Poseidon’s luxury yacht. Guests with fishing licenses and their own gear can rent the 18-foot pontoon boat, which is replete with fishing holders and a live well.