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Some of the top things to do in Fort Walton Beach offer a glimpse into a storied past of diverse inhabitants — indigenous people, Spanish explorers, and pirates, to name a few — as well as a vision of the future. Museums that delve into the history of Fort Walton Beach, as well as marvels of modern weaponry, are waiting to be discovered, with wonderful shopping and dining in between.
On the shores of Santa Rosa Sound, Downtown Fort Walton Beach reflects the ebb and flow of life on the water. Eclectic shops, locally owned restaurants, and lively watering holes play on a eclectic vibe.
Several Downtown restaurants live double lives as pubs with live music on select nights. Props Brewery and Grill is a veteran owned spot with juicy burgers and house made drafts. If you’re into people watching, grab a seat on the porch at Fokkers Pub. The sports bar is right next door to Burrito del Sol’s colorful Cantina, where music pours onto the street late into the night.
A few Downtown shops and cafes have back-door entrances that open up to The Landing, the city park that sits on the sound. Early morning strolls under centuries-old oak trees call for a daily brew from Maas Coffee, plus a bag of hand roasted beans to take home.
Grab some burgers from The Cowhead and treat the kids to a picnic on the docks before heading to the playground. Or, watch the sunset over the water before settling in at Toast Tapas & Wine Bar. For a laid back night with friends, KC’s Sandbar is open late with beach fare, live music and creative cocktails just steps from the water.
Native Americans once called Fort Walton Beach home, and the Indian Temple Mound Museum offers a glimpse into their daily lives. The museum holds one of the finest collections of early Southeastern pottery. Artifacts come from early settlers, local pirates, and European explorers, including a portion of brigantine leather armor. Serious researchers make use of over 1,400 items housed in the museum’s archives.
The Indian Temple Mound Museum anchors Heritage Park & Cultural Center that includes the Fort Walton Temple Mound, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, and the Civil War Exhibit Building.
The journey into the past extends beyond museums. Antique shops, like DeFrance Antiques, are within walking distance to Downtown and contain treasures waiting to be discovered. Heirloom furniture, vintage jewelry, and original artwork are easy scores.
The Emerald Coast Science Center is an interactive museum that encourages playing with the exhibits. Science lovers get to conduct experiments in the main hall, and meet exotic birds, reptiles, and native woodland critters. All the animals are named after famous scientists!
Emerald Coast Science Center’s state-of-the-art SMALLab is one of only three small labs of its kind in the country. It’s akin to a room sized iPad and families are encouraged to get up on their feet and interact to solve puzzles and play games. The science center also hosts fun events throughout the year, like regular Planetarium Nights and STEAM Summer camps.
The Air Force Armament Museum houses an extensive collection of weaponry and aircraft from the early days of World War I through high-tech armaments of today. Many of the museum’s artifacts were developed at the adjacent Eglin Air Force Base. The museum is the only facility in the United States dedicated to the display of Air Force armament.
Highlights include the fastest plane ever built and the biggest bomb, too. Twenty-nine aircraft are on display, four of which hang from the rafters inside the museum, and a cockpit simulator lets amateur aviators feel what it’s like to take to the skies.
From international cuisine and museums with unique artifacts, to coffee shops on the bay and antiques with new life, experience the diversity that makes Fort Walton Beach the creative hub of the area. A treasure trove of inspiration awaits.