Panama City visitors and natives are never more than a hop, a skip, and a parasail away from aquatic amusement, thanks to Adventures at Sea’s more than 60 locations, most stationed behind Panama City Beach's hotels and condos. The staff rents out pontoon boats for trips to Shell Island and pulls up to six riders on inflatable banana boats with a speedy jet ski. Experienced crews captain charter fishing trips and give fishers everything they need to catch trophies such as king mackerel, red groupers, and Stanley Cups that got away. After action-packed days filled with sunny memories, visitors can rent a lounge chair and soak up the sunset.
A 5,000-square-foot splash park, 50-meter Olympic pool with diving well, covered picnic shelter, and full concession stand await visitors to PCB Aquatic Center, which invites bathing-suit clad citizens to revel in its refreshing, state-of-the-art facilities. After emerging from locker rooms with heated showers, patrons can plunge into classes on lifeguarding, water-aerobics instructing, or basic and advanced pool figure-drawing or just relax and lap alongside other swimmers in the temperature-controlled waters. As scuba-geared divers explore underwater views in certification courses, children can splash their way into swim lessons led by certified water-safety instructors, before winding down from their amphibious education by winding down one of several water slides.
The quality of any education depends on the classroom, and there's no better place to learn to scuba dive than Key West. At Diving Key West, scuba experts take full advantage of the region's aquatic treasures, which include wildlife such as coral reefs and manta rays swimming in year-round 80-degree water with clear visibility. Classes range from scuba tours, charters, and lessons to tutorials in freediving, spearfishing, and snorkeling.
Although true time travel is still a thing of science fiction, Teddy and Jenny Meeks have captured a similar sensation at Pier Park. In 2009, the couple purchased the 1964 Allan Herschell Carousel that had been an iconic attraction at the now-closed Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The 30 horses and two chariots were immediately swarmed with giddy riders—some children, and some adults who fondly remembered feeding the horses wooden apples at the carousel's former home. The spinning steeds so charmed the locals that Teddy and Jenny began a more comprehensive revival. They bought Miracle Strip's 1985 Balloon Race and 1952 Red Baron rides, and when they couldn't find the park's original 1975 Ferris wheel, they hunted for one of the same make and model.
The Big Eli wheel now awards its guests views over the Gulf of Mexico and several other classic rides, including a Tilt-a-Whirl and train cars that kids crank by hand. Flowers cloak hanging baskets, and topiaries mimicking animal figures accent sandy paths, adding to the venue's picturesque nostalgia. Teddy and Jenny have also installed a butterfly pavilion, about which Bay Life magazine reports that visitors can glimpse 700 flying specimens, hatching cocoons, and caterpillars drawing up blueprints for wings.
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Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf welcomes land-loving children, adults, and seniors for a high-seas putting adventure. Pirate ships, dungeons, caves, and waterfalls adorn the two 18-hole courses of challenging angles and tricky terrain. Play all 36 holes with this all-day pass for multiple chances to win the ultimate hidden treasure—mini-golf bragging rights to lord over your family, colleagues, or date. Experienced club swingers can practice their short game while novice putters can strive for that elusive hole-in-one or the zen-meditation exercise of the hole-in-none.