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Need to get away for a long weekend? Want to catch some rays and enjoy the beach without crowds of people stealing your sun? Then you definitely need to plan a trip to Destin, Florida, situated in the Florida panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City on the Gulf of Mexico’s Emerald Coast. Don’t know where to start your getaway planning? Read on!

Accommodations:

The Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, 1500 Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast Fort Walton Beach, FL, 32548, US. This is a beautiful yet affordable hotel right on the beach and just a short drive (or walk) over the bridge to Destin. It also has a five-story waterfall and swim up Grotto Bar (seasonal). Sun yourself by one of two crystal clear pools or watch your children frolic in the kiddy pool. The hotel also offers a Kids’ Program during the summer. Rates range from $65 per night for a standard room to $135 for suites during the off-season, a bit higher during the summer.

Attractions:

Shopping: Large outlet malls in Ft. Walton Beach, Destin as well as in Foley, AL (about a hour drive west on I-10) Between the three of them, you’ll find just about any store you’re looking for.

Other Activities: Charter deep-sea fishing, volleyball, golf, and tennis are available as well as wind sailing, parasailing, jet skiing, miniature golf, water slides and amusement parks. The Gulfarium, museums, Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base are conveniently located nearby.

Food/Entertainment:

AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar: For a casual relaxing night on the beach, visit AJ’s. Reasonable prices on food (great grilled fish sandwiches) and an open-air, tiki hut style atmosphere. Live reggae music. It’s also a good place to visit for lunch. Get there early to get a seat right on the water!

NightTown: If you want to dance, a visit to NightTown is a must. NightTown offers a club atmosphere on one side of the club (dancing, club-music) and rock music and pool tables (and sometimes live bands) on the other side of the club in The Other Bar. $7 cover charge, and there are drink specials every night of the week.

How to get there:

You can fly directly into Fort Walton Beach, but you can sometimes save up to $100 roundtrip if you fly into Pensacola or Panama City, both of which are about a 45-minute drive to Destin. If you are planning to get a rental car anyway, it might pay to shop around. Driving: From Interstate 10, take either Exit 4, 10 or 12. Go south to U.S. 98, then take U.S. 98 to Fort Walton Beach. Go over the bridge to the island and the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort will be on the right one mile after the bridge.