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Vacationing in Panama City Beach

Updated on July 20, 2016

Panama City Beach is world famous for both its family-friendly beaches and nightlife scene, making it a destination that truly appeals to anybody from any walk of life. The subtropical climate -- with long hot summers and short mild winters -- makes it enjoyable year-round. Vacationing in Panama City Beach should be on your list of things to do.

Development has exploded in the past decade, and tourism and population numbers continue to climb. Whereas 10 years ago one major shopping hub was the only game in town, businesses now line both sides of US Highway 98 stretching from Panama City Beach to Panama City proper. The area also has a strong military presence, with NAS Panama City Naval Base and Tyndall Air Force Base being located here.

Things to do

Two marinas, Panama City Marina and St. Andrews Marina, serve boaters seven days a week. Transportation is available from the marinas to popular spots in the city.

St. Andrews State Park boasts a mile and a half of beach if you want to work on your tan. Visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, scuba and snorkeling. The calmer waters around the jetties are particularly suited for children. You can enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables. Two nature trails are ideal for bird-watching, with herons and ibis being easily spotted. Guests who want to stay overnight can choose between RV and tent campsites. Boat tours operate between Spring and early Autumn. The park is also a popular wedding venue.

Island water park offers a vast children’s area with safety and fun in mind. A lazy river and wave pool are favorites too. For the more adventurous, exciting water slides provide a burst of adrenaline.

Along the Gulf of Mexico, there are three piers for fishing. Another pier extends into the Grand Lagoon.

Parasailing, helicopter tours, and bungee jumping are a top pick for thrill seekers. You can go on a pirate cruise, swim with dolphins, or charter a deep-sea fishing expedition.

The Panama City Beach area is also a shoppers paradise.

Pier Park is a popular shopping spot, as it boasts not only more than 120 stores, but also an IMAX theater. For live entertainment, look no further than Tootsies. And dining options abound.

In Panama City proper, locals and visitors alike enjoy Panama City Mall, which also includes a Carmike Cinemas.

Of course, there are beach novelty stores aplenty scattered throughout the area, such as the famous Alvin’s Island, offering a variety of souvenirs ranging from hermit crabs, to personalized air brushed T-shirts, to boogie boards, to bikinis.

Dining in the area offers something for everyone. Known for local seafood, many restaurants offer everything from shrimp skewers to fried grouper sandwiches to grilled snapper. If your tastes run in other directions, there are a variety of options offering burgers, Southern-style fixings, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and German fare.

Local bars and nightclubs offer a diverse music scene. If you want karaoke, you’re covered. If you want to hear covers of old favorites like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jimmy Buffett, you can find that too. A wealth of talented local musicians add to the scene. And DJs offer up lively dance music to keep you moving all night.

The civic center, theater, and arts center host concerts, plays, and exhibits to provide a well-rounded cultural experience.

You can attend a free concert series at Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Just bring a blanket or lawn chair and sit back and relax while you enjoy the tunes. Genres span the blues, classic rock, indie, and country.

The Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam is a country music festival held on Labor Day Weekend. You can purchase tickets for a single day of entertainment, or buy a three-day pass. The 2016 lineup includes Eric Church, Brad Paisley, and Jake Owen.

If tennis or basketball are more your style, visit the Frank Brown Recreational Center.

The Baytown Trolley transit system makes it easy to get around, whether you’re going shopping, hitting the beach, or headed to work.

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Vacationing in Panama City Beach

Vacationing in Panama City Beach is a great way to experience paradise.
Vacationing in Panama City Beach is a great way to experience paradise.

Places to stay

Calypso Resort and Towers: This resort is located on the west end of the beach near Pier Park and the Panama City Beach fishing pier. Beachside free-from pools with snacks from the Tiki Bar and Grill, swaying palm trees, grills to cook up the day’s catch, covered parking, and a fitness center are highlights.

Celadon Beach Resort: This 23-floor resort offers breath-taking views, with master bedrooms facing the Gulf of Mexico. Swimmers can enjoy a gulf-side pool or the seasonally heated indoor pool and spa. A tennis court and fitness center cater to those focused on maintaining healthy habits while on vacation. And guests can beat the heat by enjoying the climate-controlled walkway from the parking garage to the resort’s main lobby.

Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort: This retreat is a self-contained paradise, spanning a mile of private white, sandy beach, plus there are 11 pools, four hot tubs, and a huge Polynesian style free-form pool with waterfalls and special effects lighting to suit every need for enjoying the water. And be sure to look your best by utilizing the on-site salon. Edgewater has 10 lighted, Plexicushion tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course -- with golf cart shuttles provided, and shuffleboard courts. The Wellness and FItness center offers aerobics classes in the studio and in the pool. And the resort hosts a range of activities for all ages throughout the summer months.

Emerald Beach Resort: This luxurious vacation property sits on 1,000 feet of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The resort is an easy walk to Pier Park. And the walkover features the Sky Bar and a sushi bar. Five swimming pools (two beachside), two hot tubs, and two tiki bars are ideal spots for relaxing. There is also a full-service Starbucks on site. The fitness center and day spa can help you keep your body in tune. The 10,000-square-foot convention center and eight high-speed elevators make this a great place to do business.

Grandview East Resort:This haven is a 17-story boutique complex with just over 60 units, meaning the beach won’t be overly crowded. The shaded pool provides relief from Florida’s hot sun while letting you still enjoy the outdoors. You can grill some surf and turf at the picnic area. And then burn it off at the fitness center. Or you can while away the hours in your comfortable room. There is parking beneath the building and across the street.

Long Beach Resort: This beachfront complex is a perfect spot for your Gulf Coast getaway. You can take a swim in the lagoon-style pool or sunbathe on the surrounding deck. There are two more Polynesian pools, two hot tubs, and a poolside bar and grill. If you’ve been out fishing and want to grill up your catch, just use one of the community barbecue grills.

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