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7 Feb 2024
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Spring break is that magical time of year when the world seems to stretch out in front of you, full of promise and adventure. For families in Atlanta, the jewel of the Emerald Coast, Destin, Florida, calls with its sugar-white beaches and sparkling waters. But as any parent knows, the journey itself can be just as memorable as the destination—especially when you're herding kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers. Fear not! This guide is your treasure map to a road trip from Atlanta to Destin that's as smooth as the sands awaiting you.

Hitting the Road: Route Information

Your adventure begins on I-85 South, but the real journey kicks off when you merge onto I-185 toward Columbus, Georgia. From there, take US-431 South towards Dothan, Alabama. This stretch offers a beautiful blend of Southern landscapes that will be a balm to your city-weary eyes. After a brief flirtation with Alabama, you'll enter Florida, taking FL-79 South straight into the heart of Panama City Beach before cruising west on US-98 to Destin. Total travel time? Around 5 to 6 hours, depending on how often the call of the wild (or the call of nature) necessitates a stop.

Fun Stops Along the Way

The Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia

Just a bit off your route, this historic site where President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought refuge and relaxation is a fascinating pit stop. It's a chance to stretch those legs and soak in a bit of history without turning the trip into a snooze fest.

Landmark Park in Dothan, Alabama

About halfway through your journey, take a detour to this 135-acre park. It's not just a place to run off some pent-up energy; it's an opportunity to experience life on a 19th-century farm, complete with animals and a one-room schoolhouse. Perfect for kids of all ages and educational to boot!

Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, Florida

If you're making good time and the troops are getting restless, consider a stop at Gulf World. It's a great way to preview the oceanic wonders you'll be enjoying in Destin. From dolphin shows to sea lion encounters, it’s a splashy prelude to your beach getaway.

Dining on the Road

Columbus, Georgia: Minnie's Uptown Restaurant

For a taste of home-cooked Southern cuisine that will please even the pickiest of palates, Minnie’s Uptown Restaurant in Columbus offers a comforting pause. Their buffet is legendary and provides a variety of options to satisfy every family member.

Dothan, Alabama: Hunt's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Get a head start on the coastal vibes with a stop at Hunt's. Known for their fresh seafood and casual atmosphere, it’s a spot where you can relax and refuel before the final leg of your journey.

Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Kids

  1. Pack a Variety of Snacks: Avoid the hangry chorus from the backseat by bringing a mix of healthy snacks and indulgent treats. Think granola bars for a quick energy boost and gummy worms for those moments when only sugar will do.

  2. Entertainment Galore: Tablets loaded with movies, audiobooks, and games are a must. Don’t forget traditional car games like "I Spy" to encourage looking out the window and actually seeing the world you’re driving through.

  3. Frequent Breaks: Every couple of hours, give everyone a chance to stretch and run around. Use this time to explore the small towns and quirky roadside attractions you’ll pass along the way.

  4. Emergency Kit: Pack a first-aid kit, extra clothes, and any necessary medications. Include a few surprises, like new toys or books, to pull out when spirits start to flag.

  5. Flexibility is Key: The best road trips have a plan that’s set in Jell-O. Be ready to make impromptu stops, skip others, and sometimes just pull over to admire the view.

The road from Atlanta to Destin is paved with more than just asphalt—it’s lined with memories waiting to be made. From historic sites to delicious dining, and the odd sea lion show, your spring break road trip is bound to be an adventure that your family will remember for years to come. So pack your bags, load up the car, and set off on a journey to the heart of the Emerald Coast. After all, the family that road trips together, stays together—or at least has some epic stories to tell!

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