Gulf World Marine Park

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Updated November 24, 2018
Dolphin up close

After our crazy first night in Panama City Beach, we were so excited to explore the area. But man, it was COLD! It was a low key weekend full of laundry, school work, catching up on the blog and trying to stay warm.

We had been in touch with the folks at Visit Panama City Beach and they told us of several fun things to check out while in the area. One of them was Gulf World Marine Park. We made plans to visit Tuesday morning and the kids were super excited. 

At Gulf World Marine Park there are several things to do and you can easily spend 3-4 hours there without the kids getting bored. There is a section with these really beautiful parrots.

Though those were cool and all, our favorite bird to visit was the flamingo! There were these 2 huge flamingos just hanging out in this little pool of water. They were so bright pink and their beaks looked totally fake. Ada and Adali LOVED this part.

We went to the Feather & Furry Friends show where they had a few trained animals come out and do some funny things with the trainers.

Furry friend show

The kids thought it was pretty cute. I think their favorite was when this tiny bird climbed up a ladder. I don’t know why but it was so funny looking.

Bird ladder

Towards the end of that show they asked for a volunteer and since it was just us and 3 other people in the room (benefits of the off-season), Jax stole the show. He ended up with a rat on his head, but I don’t know if he even knew it. 

Jax show

After that show we went to the Sea Lion and Rough Toothed Dolphin show! I could not believe how big the sea lion was! 530 pounds that moved along and did tricks with no problems. It was really neat to watch.

Sea lion

Once again, towards the end of the show they asked for a very brave volunteer and little Miss Ada raised her hand and was picked! She was so excited.

Ada and seal

She sat patiently as the seal came over and gave her a huge sloppy kiss.

Ada kisses Sea Lion

I cannot believe that she didn’t freak out! She loved it and talked about that for several days after. 

Next up was the Magic Show. Though the audience was still very small it was nice to sit up front and see everything up close. I tried watching every move he made to see if I could figure out the tricks but I just couldn’t figure it out. The kids were thrilled and when he asked for a volunteer Jett was picked to go on stage.

Magic Jett

He helped with the coloring book trick and thought he was big stuff. He was given a small magic trick box to take home for being on stage. He was so excited.

Next up was the Bottle Nosed Dolphin show. Now, that was really neat!

Gulf World

There was 4 or 5 dolphins working with trainers doing various tricks. It was a high energy show and kept the kids attention the whole time.

Jumping dolphins

The best part of that show was when one of the trainers got in the water with the dolphins and she placed her feet on their noses and was pushed through the water. At one point the took her deep down in the water and came up fast allowing her to jump high out of the water and accross the pool. It was really cool and the highlight of the show. 

We couldn’t leave Gulf World without feeding the sting rays. We bought some chopped up fish that looked pretty gross. Jett was like, "So, we have to touch that?"

Jett dead fish

They told us how to hold the fish so that the stink rays would come up and get it out of our hands. It was a little weird. Watching the kids and Jonathan do it was close enough for me.

Jett feeding stingray

Call me a wuss if you want, but the idea of picking up chopped dead fish to feed a sting ray just didn’t sound appealing to me. I’m glad the kids liked it though. 

While it was a neat place to visit, we were not happy that there were several places where 'personal photography' was not allowed. While I get that they're just trying to make extra money through their "professional" pictures, they weren't that great and I didn't really see the point in not allowing us to take our own photos. That was my biggest complaint. It really killed the vibe for me.

We were excited to see that the gift shop had a press penny machine!

Kids press penny

This is what we try to find at cool places we go. The kids each get their own and for 51 cents per kid, you just can’t beat that! When we get home we drill holes in the top and bottom and they attach them with jump rings and make their own strand of press pennies. They love it that they get their own and we love that we only spend $2.04!    WIN / WIN

So, do we think Gulf World Marine Park is a family friendly destination in Panama City Beach? Yes! 

Our kids really enjoyed the day there. Although it would not have been something that we would have paid to go to (we aren't too into the touristy attractions) the kids did have fun and we think that any family would have fun for several hours at Gulf World. Just don't go into it thinking that you're at Sea World or something! (wink)


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Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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Posted February 10, 2016

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