Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy some good old fashioned family entertainment? There are several regional amusement parks and family entertainment centers that offer everything from miniature golf to roller coasters.
We have complied a list of notable amusement parks that are within a day-trip drive of Fort Walton Beach so you are sure to find the perfect place for you and your crew.
OWA: Foley, Ala.
There’s an all-new amusement park in the region with the opening of The Park of OWA in Foley, Alabama, last month. Pronounced like oh-wah, the name is inspired from the Muscogee Creek language to mean “big water,” its website explains.
This 14-acre park has it all, from a full-sized roller coaster to spinning tea-cups and even toddler-friendly kiddie rides.
“We have rides for small kids all the way up to the thrill-seekers,” said Kristin Hellmich, director of marketing and public relations for the park. “The park is 14 acres with a total of 21 rides, including our signature steel coaster, the Rollin’ Thunder, which is a 600-foot-long coaster that takes guests on a 90-degree drop and goes 50 miles per hour.”
Besides the rides, there are a variety of games that families can enjoy together, two restaurants and two souvenir shops within the park. Also, if you plan to visit during the weekend, entertainers rove the streets in the park with musicians, face-painters, balloon artists, stilt-walkers and more.
“OWA is a total of 520 acres, and will be a five-year build-out,” she said. “The OWA resort is going to be opening in phases with a shopping and dining component that will be opening in late October. We will also have a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater opening later in the fall where we will be holding festivals and events.”
One aspect that makes OWA unique is the ownership of the park.
“The project is owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians based in Atmore, Alabama,” said Hillmich. “They are the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, and this is their first investment in a family friendly destination.”
When it comes to Northwest Florida locals, Hellmich said OWA is the perfect day-trip getaway.
“It definitely lends itself well to road trips as it is about two to two and a half hour’s drive from Destin, so you easily arrive here and enjoy the day,” she said. “We offer same-day re-entry admission, so visitors can come and go throughout the day as they please.”
Want to Go? The Park at OWA is at 10113 Foley Beach Express in Foley, Alabama. Prices are $34.99 for adults and $27.99 for kids 42 inches and under. Children 3 and under are free. There are also senior and military discounts, and group rates. Call 251-923-2111 or visit www.visitowa.com.
Sam’s Fun City: Pensacola
Venture to Pensacola for a one-of-a-kind adventure at Sam’s Fun City. This family entertainment center boasts not only carnival rides, laser tag and miniature golf, but also a seasonal water park, Sam’s Surf City.
“We have 14 acres and a majority of that is Sam’s Fun City,” said Paul Costlow, the park’s director of marketing. “We have 19 rides including bumper boats, laser tag, and an 18-hole miniature golf course that winds through both parks.”
Costlow said when it comes to family entertainment, Sam’s Fun City has pulled out all the stops catering to young and old alike.
“Our laser tag is very popular with kids and adults — especially military folks. We have a 30,000 square-foot arcade building with 80 games and a full-service restaurant with a pizza and pasta buffet.”
Sam’s Fun City was established in 2001 with Sam’s Surf City opening a few years later. As a staple of the Pensacola community, Costlow said they strive to offer locals an extra incentive to enjoy the park.
“We open up Sam’s Fun City every Friday night for ‘Sunset at Sam’s from 6 to 9 p.m. with a fireworks show and reduced priced tickets,” he said. “We also host a Hero’s Day every year honoring local military and first responders; all active duty or first responders get in free and their families get reduced combo tickets to all the rides and attractions in both parks.”
This year’s Hero’s day is scheduled for Aug. 26.
Want to Go? Sam’s Fun City is at 6709 Fun City Blvd. in Pensacola. For pricing or more information, visit www.samsfuncity.com or call 850-505-0800.
The Track: Destin
For a stay-cation sort of day, take the family to The Track; Destin’s very own amusement park. You will find something for everyone from Kid’s Country swings and carousel rides for toddlers to the Hurricane 360 and Sky Flier thrill rides for the more daring members of the family.
“We are truly a family friendly environment,” said Meg Norwood, vice president of marketing for the park. “It’s a safe, fun place to bring the whole family. You just can’t come here and not have fun.”
Visitors, 11-year-old Raven Meade and her Aunt Rachel Gurley recently celebrated a birthday at The Track and checked out the park’s newest ride, the Hurricane 360.
“I want to ride it again!” said Meade, after riding it for the first time.
“That was awesome!” echoed Gurley. “I usually can’t do spinning rides, but that was phenomenal.”
When asked what the most popular ride at The Track is, Norwood nodded at the wooded go-cart track.
“The Wild Woody is our most popular ride,” she said. “The whole family can do it.”
The Wild Woody is the largest of the five go-cart tracks in the park featuring a three-story wooden track. In addition to the go-cart tracks, visitors can enjoy two miniature golf courses, bumper boats and bumper cars, an indoor arcade and the Kid’s Country.
“We have been in the Destin community for a long time,” said Norwood. “Next year, we turn 30 and it’s neat that every day more people come here to have fun.”
Want to Go? The Track Family Fun Park is at 1125 Highway 98 East in Destin. For pricing or more information visit www.funatthetrack.com or call 850-654-4668.
Race City: Panama City Beach
Head east to Panama City Beach for some good down-home fun at Race City. Locally owned and operated for 32 years, this amusement park includes go-carts, an arcade, black-light miniature golf and the area’s only roller coaster among other rides and attractions.
“We came down here in the fall of ‘84 and started a go-cart track that we opened in June of ‘85,” said Les Thompson, owner and president of the park. “We only had one track, and 12 used go-carts, and we called it Super Speed Fun Park at the time.”
Thompson said that over the years he and his business partners, Danny and Michelle White, added new attractions every year, until they became the popular destination they are today known as Race City.
“Now, we have a total of 18 attractions plus the arcade and we employee 130,” Thompson said. “We have the most popular go-cart track in Panama City called the Golden Gate; it’s an elevated track and features a bridge that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.”
Besides the go-carts — which are the most popular attraction at the park — Race City boasts one of Northwest Florida’s few roller coaster rides.
“We are the only complete amusement park around here anymore, I think,” said Thompson. “We cover eight acres and are only a half-mile off the beach on Front Beach road.”
As for the indoor attractions, Race City offers 85 games, a 9-hole black-light golf course and a mirrored maze attraction.
“We have 7,000 square-feet for our indoor attractions with all of the latest most popular games featured in our arcade,” said Thompson. “We follow the market really close with that.”
Want to Go? Race City is at 9523 Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach. For pricing or more information, visit www.racecitypcb.com or call 850-234-1588.