Gulf World Marine Park is an experience unlike any other. Give your family magical memories by getting up close and personal with sea life on your Panama City Beach vacation! Swim with dolphins, interact with penguins, and adopt a sea turtle! There’s so much to do and see that your kids will have plenty to tell their friends when they get home.
Be amazed by shows. On our recent trip, my son was in awe as he watched the dolphins perform flips, leaps and twists. The trainers swam alongside the dolphins, which seem to be quite bonded with the trainers. (The dolphins at Gulf World were born there or rescued and deemed non-releasable.) On super-hot days, sit in the splash zones…and maybe don’t warn the kids what’s coming their way!
After the dolphin show, have a laugh at the California sea lion and rough-toothed dolphin. It’s incredible to see these animals working together to “breakdance,” handclap, and kiss! All the while, you’ll learn facts and conservation tips about them. (Gulf World is the only North American facility that has rough-toothed dolphins.)
Then, it’s onto the show featuring the feathered, furry and scaly cast along with their trainers. (The majority of these animals were adopted from animal shelters.) In this one, guests join the cast onstage to interact with the animals!
Be an ambassador with a meet & greet. Touch, feed, and snorkel with the cownose stingrays in their new 20,000-gallon indoor habitat. Get up close and personal with African black-footed penguins by immersing yourself in their salt water habitat as you learn about these endangered creatures. Have a hands-on encounter with a harbor seal, or visit the sea turtles and nurse shark channel.
Get up close and personal with animals. We loved getting to know the birds, turtles, and penguins. There are truly so many animals to visit with, and the attractions are located both indoors and out.
The birds were so colorful and calm! We were able to walk down an indoor sidewalk to see a few macaws, and they were gorgeous!
We also saw alligators. It wouldn’t be Florida without them!
Be enchanted by a swim with the dolphins. There are several programs to choose from, but any of them will bring a priceless look to your kids’ faces! During the most inclusive option, the dolphins raise participants above the water by pushing them from their feet! Another option includes a fast ride with a dolphin while the rider holds onto their pectoral fins. While those may be better choices for older children, a hand-target (where a dolphin will jump to touch your hands) is perfect for all ages. There will be plenty of hugs, “handshakes,” and kisses to go around, no matter which program you go with.
Know before you go… It will take about three to four hours to see it all. There’s plenty of shade and there are air conditioned buildings onsite. Parking is free, and there’s a snack bar and grill so you don’t have to leave for lunch. (No outside food or drinks are allowed in.)
And don’t be so busy taking pictures that you miss being present in the moment! There’s a photo department for that! Tickets start at $14 and are least expensive when you purchase online. Kids under 4 are free. Swimming with the dolphins and other experiences will cost extra. Check out their website for details.
If you’re heading to Panama City Beach, decide on a day to visit Gulf World Marine Park. It’s a fun place to explore!
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