It’s Tuesday in PCB, but it might as well be Saturday. There’s a 45-minute wait at every restaurant, Pier Park is packed and there’s no way you’re going to find a parking spot at a beach access. Summer has officially arrived.
If you’re a local, it’s time to be a tourist – just not in Panama City Beach. Next time you find yourself waiting too long for something you’ve already done 15 times, head back to the car and head out to:
Adventures Unlimited, Milton
Tucked away just north of I-10 above Pensacola, Adventures Unlimited is the place to get away from it all (and have a blast doing it). Soar high over Coldwater Creek on a zip line canopy tour (highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart); take a team out to the ropes course challenge; or go canoeing, kayaking, tubing or fishing. Call ahead to reserve a zip line canopy tour. adventuresunlimited.com, 800.239.6864.
Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna
See Florida — underground! Florida Caverns State Park has the only air-filled cave in the state that is open for public touring. Experience amazing formations and natural air conditioning (the cave is about 65º year-round) as you descend an average of 45 feet below the earth’s surface. There are also several nature trails, including one with a “tunnel cave,” and a swimming hole. Note: no cave tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call ahead to make sure tour spots are available. floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns, 850.482.1228.
Pensacola Lighthouse, Pensacola
History awaits you at the Pensacola Lighthouse, built in 1858 and still in operation today on Pensacola Bay. Climb 150 feet to the top for sweeping views of the bay, Fort Pickens and the naval base. You can also browse the museum store or learn more at a free history lecture. pensacolalighthouse.org, 850.393.1561
National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola
Just across the street from the lighthouse is the spectacular (and free) National Naval Aviation Museum, the world’s largest at nearly 300,000 square feet. Free guided tours are available or you can browse on your own. Don’t miss the World War II section, complete with a full-size replica of the USS Cabot’s aircraft carrier island and flight deck. You can also catch an IMAX movie or put your flying skills to the test in a Top Gun Air Combat Simulator (previously used to train F-14 pilots). navalaviationmuseum.org, 850.452.3604.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, Wakulla Springs
At Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, you can take a guided riverboat or glass-bottom boat tour down some of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. Swim in the same waters or stay on terra firma to tour historic Wakulla Springs Lodge, a National Natural Landmark, or visit the old-fashioned soda fountain for a milkshake served from the world’s longest marble countertop. Call ahead for spring conditions to make sure the glass-bottom boat tour will be open when you visit. wakullasprings.org, 850.926.0700.
Air Force Armament Museum, Ft. Walton Beach
Bring your camera and take a self-guided tour of this free museum, with a number of indoor and outdoor exhibits featuring aircraft, bombs, missiles, rockets and interactive displays. Upon arrival you’ll see the fastest plane ever built: the SR-71 Blackbird. afarmamentmuseum.com, 850.651.1808.
Falling Waters State Park, Chipley
Just south of I-10 is Florida’s highest waterfall, a stream of water that cascades 73 feet down an ancient sinkhole bordered by magnolias and ferns. The waterfall changes based on rainwater levels so you may want to call ahead of time to find out what to expect. Other attractions in this 173-acre park include scenic hiking trails, a butterfly garden and a two-acre lake. floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters/default.cfm, 850.638.6130.