Panama City Beach, Florida, is the spring break capital. Its famous white sandy beaches and crystal turquoise waters, piers, Pier Park, and stretch of Front Beach Road are a well-known vacation hot spots. This past March, I spent a week in Panama City Beach with my old college roommates; we stayed with relatives of one of my old roomies so we didn’t have to worry about a hotel, and while we spent a lot of time simply lounging around the house, we also spent a good portion exploring the area and taking in the wonderful scenery.
1. Eat at Margaritaville
On our first evening in PCB, we decided to eat at none other than Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (the above picture is of my blueberry pomegranate margarita). Though the building was beautiful and the food was good, I think my favorite part was the atmosphere. We sat outside and had a pleasant view of the beach and the pier right across the road, and as it was the dinner hour, in-house entertainment included two talented guitarists singing beach songs. Obviously, the menu includes margaritas and seafood, but there’s plenty of other options for those not in the mood for either; and if you’d like a souvenir, there’s a gift shop attached.
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
Address: 16230 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32413
Website: Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
2. Wander Pier Park
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Pier Park is a colorful strip of buildings that house many specialty clothing shops, restaurants, knick-knack shops, and more - and all the way at the end there’s even a mall. My friends and I took two different days to walk around, do some window-shopping, and stop in at the Emerald Coast Mirror Maze. It cost 10 USD to do just the maze, though they also have laser tag, and a challenge where you race through a room full of lasers while trying to avoid touching the lasers (to me it sounded kind of like being a secret agent…). If you want to do all three, you can do so for a discounted price.
Emerald Coast Mirror Maze
Address: 701 Pier Park Drive Suite 107, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32413
Website: Emerald Coast Mirror Maze
3. Visit St. Andrews State Park
I’m proud to say I suggested we visit this neat and historic state park. We spent the day walking some gorgeous white sandy beaches, climbing over rocks, wandering trails full of tropical brush, and taking pictures on a pier. We did walk the Gator Lake Trail but (fortunately?) we didn’t see any gators. We did, however, see many very large pelicans (see picture above). I have to say, it was really cool to watch those things glide through the air. One of the best parts about this excursion was that it only cost us the group car price of 8 USD to enter the park.
St. Andrews State Park
Address/Directions: St. Andrews State Park is located three miles (4.8 km) east of Panama City Beach, off State Road 392 (Thomas Drive). From Highway 98 turn south onto Highway 3031 (Thomas Drive) and follow it to Highway 392. Turn left to enter into the gates of St. Andrews State Park
Website: St. Andrews State Park
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4. Explore a neighboring town
One of the best things about Florida is its scenery; I thoroughly enjoyed taking scenic drives where views of the ocean were unobstructed, and we enjoyed a couple of different days seeing parts of neighboring towns. We explored a little of the historic St. Andrews in Panama City, grabbed some coffee from an independent coffee shop, and took pictures at a local community park. We also spent a fair amount of time wandering around the mall in the town of Lynn Haven, which is where we were staying. All but one of us had never been to a Bealls outlet, so we spent a good amount of time in there.
St. Andrews Marina
Address: 3151 West 10th Street, Panama City, Florida, 32401
Website: St. Andrews Marina
5. Experience Club La Vela
Club La Vela is the biggest nightclub in the U.S, and I can tell you firsthand that their slogan “party with thousands” is no exaggeration. Now, full disclosure, I have to admit that I wasn’t excited about going here - clubs are not my thing at all. But I have to give Club La Vela props, because if you don’t like the club vibe, there are more laid back areas, such as the Two Buck Saloon and the Rock Arena that has a live band, which is where I hung out with one of my friends, while the other two went to a glow party (the only downside was that it was extremely smoky). Because of all the different rooms, we all enjoyed ourselves. Overall, it’s an experience, and I can say I did it; the real kicker is the cover charge though. If you really want to go, I highly recommend you get there as early as possible because the entry fee goes up the longer the night goes on. We tried to get there early enough for the 15 USD cover charge, but by the time we got to the front of the line, it had gone up to 30 USD - and of course, drinks aren’t free. You can also go during the day and hang by the pool when there’s far less people and a happy hour!
Club La Vela
Address: 8813 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32408
Website: Club La Vela
6. Spend the day at the beach, of course!
On our last day, we spent the entire day at the beach. It was sunny and gorgeous, the sand was white and soft as sugar, and I lost count of the times I looked up from my book to watch the water (occasionally catching a boat or a para-sailer). Toward the afternoon, we met up with some other friends we had known in college and played frisbee on the beach. At the end of the day, we topped it off with dinner at Scampi’s seafood restaurant (where I had some delicious gator jambalaya). That was definitely my favorite day, and I think what Florida is supposed to be about - taking the time to relax on a beach and enjoy simple pleasures. *Side note: By the way, the seagulls are not afraid of people. If you have food, they will find you…
Scampi's Seafood & Steak
Address: 4933 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32408
Website: Scampi's Seafood & Steak
7. Head out to Shell Island
There were a few things on our list we didn’t do, and sadly Shell Island was one of them. A part of St. Andrew’s State Park, you have to take a boat or tour shuttle over; there you can go snorkeling or boating, meet some dolphins, or of course, collect sea shells!
Address: 5711 North Lagoon Drive, Panama City Beach, Florida
8. Check out Conservation Park
I would also have loved to visit Conservation Park, because it seems right up my alley. There are 12 different recreational trails and boardwalks through Cypress domes and lush green swamps and marshes. And, hopefully you’ll catch some interesting wildlife while you’re there!
Address/Directions: From the intersection of Panama City beach Parkway (US 98) and State Road 79, travel west on Panama City Beach Parkway approx. 1.2 miles (1.9 km). Turn right on Griffin Blvd just past the La Quinta Inn. Proceed north to the end of Griffin Blvd, Park entrance is on left. Follow Conservation Drive to the parking lot.
Website: Conservation Park
9. Go to Shipwreck Island Water Park
So..... which ride do you miss the most?Posted by Shipwreck Island Water Park on Thursday, 9 February 2017
Sure, there’s the ocean, but the ocean doesn’t have water slides. So, if water slides are what you’re after, Shipwreck Island Water Park has that and more. Complete with a wave pool, lazy river, a water zipline, and a couple of kids areas, there is something for everyone. Be sure to check out attractions such as Pirates Plunge, Raging Rapids and Zoom Flume!
Shipwreck Island Water Park
Address: 12201 Hutchison Boulvevard, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32407
Website: Shipwreck Island Water Park
Do spring break your way
Whether you want to party hard or just enjoy the beaches, PCB certainly has something for everyone. No matter your vacationing style, this fun, explosive town will provide you with everything you need to do spring break your way.
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