Unique experiences in downtown Fort Walton Beach

Downtown Fort Walton Beach has changed a lot in the last decade. Many businesses have come and gone, and some have stood the test of time. Unique new businesses now mingle with long-standing ones, and excitement is picking up as local entrepreneurs seek to breathe new life into the historic downtown district.

“It’s starting to happen down here,” said Jim Maas, owner of Maas Coffee Roasters. “I’ve been here 12 years, and it’s becoming the place to be.”

Beginning at Eglin Parkway to the west and ending at Perry Avenue to the east, historic shops in downtown Fort Walton Beach front Miracle Strip Parkway and back up to the parallel road of Brooks Street. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights in this walkable streatch of downtown Fort Walton Beach.

 

EAT & DRINK

Whether you're craving a taco, a coffee or a good Italian dinner, downtown Fort Walton Beach has you covered.

One place that is sure to intrigue both locals and visitors is Magnolia Grill. Self-dubbed as, “The museum that serves food,” Magnolia Grill offers Italian cuisine and local seafood within the walls of a 1910 catalog house.

Oh, and that museum aspect? The restaurant is filled to the brim with local antiques, historical pieces, photographs, and if you are lucky enough to meet owner Tom Rice, local stories, too.

As for a caffeine fix, Maas Coffee Roasters may be small, but their brew is mighty. Maas roasts his coffee beans weekly to serve his customers the freshest brew available.

 

SHOP

Wondering what type of shopping you will find downtown? From clothing boutiques and antiques to surf and skate shops, there is definitely something for everyone.

3 Dogs and a Chick allows even the four-legged members of the family to shop. The dog bakery offers fresh and natural treats as well as other specialty pet products.

“Call us the healthy lifestyle store for dogs,” said owner Nicole Cummins.

Buccaneer Gift Shop is another niche store you won’t want to miss. The local souvenir and vintage store offers “a little bit of everything” according to owner Jeff Ring.

“We’ve become definitely a destination here,” said Ring. “We’ve been in business since 1972, and everyone wants to take a photo with our big Coke bottle out back.”

 

LIVE

Need a haircut, a new tattoo or maybe a fun night out? There are lots of unique services and opportunities waiting to be explored downtown.

Enlightened Studios, for example, is a multi-faceted venue that operates as a recording studio, music venue, coffee shop and church depending on the night of the week.

There is also the new attraction, Ratchet Hatchet — an indoor ax-throwing range that puts even the best dart game to shame.

And don't forget tattoo parlors. Downtown Fort Walton Beach is home to four parlors offering different artists and atmospheres.

Brittany Garrity of Tattoo Zoo said it all comes down to client preference when choosing a tattoo artist, and downtown Fort Walton Beach has plenty to choose from.

"We have five artists here, and we get guest artists in every month," she said. "Tattoo Zoo is the oldest tattoo street shop downtown. Jim Wolfe opened it in 1990. It was originally a biker shop."

 

EXPERIENCE

Besides the businesses, there is also a thriving community in the downtown district that everyone is welcome to be a part of.

Donna Harris of Run With It, a running shoe and accessory store downtown, said she has hosted a weekly running group on Tuesday nights for the past eight years.

"All paces are welcome," she said. "We run a 5K and then we all meet back here for free water, ice pops and beer."

There is even a Downtown Fort Walton Beach Organization that hosts monthly artwalks, bi-monthly farmer's markets and quarter-annual lady's night events throughout the year. For more information, visit http://www.downtownfwb.com.

There is also Fort Walton Landing Park, which offers a large playground for children, a green space, a boardwalk, a dock, a stage and picnic tables along the Santa Rosa Sound. Several festivals and events are held at the Landing Park every year.