Panama City Beach – The Rest of the Story
Story & Photos By: David Crockett
Imagine a two week vacation on the white sandy beaches of Panama City Beach, Florida. The waves gently rolling in from the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf, the finest seafood to tantalize your pallet, and stress free days and nights to refresh you from a years worth of hustle and bustle.
Now imagine day three and later… your skin is a flaming red from the sun beating down on you, you can no longer get all of the sand out of your shorts, and all of that stress free living is causing a whole new type of stress! What now? There are still 10 more days before you head back to your daily grind.
This is where the rest of the story picks up. You see, Panama City Beach is not just sand and water. In fact, it’s like being in a huge playground with lots of rides and activities that can keep you entertained for weeks. And if you are willing to travel a short distance outside of this coastal town, you will find even more excitement and diversity… but let’s stick to Panama City Beach and save the rest for a later subject.
Pier Park is located on the West end of the beach and is similar to a huge outdoor mall that you can drive through. However, it is worth getting out of the car and walking. There are a lot of little shops to browse through, great restaurants to eat at, colorful buildings to see, and if you are still in the rest and relaxation mode: people to watch as they stroll along.
I mentioned restaurants because you will find a wide variety of choices. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, a German restaurant, seafood restaurants, coffee shops, and the list goes on.
While a mall would not normally be a place you would want to visit while on vacation, Pier Park is certainly worth it.
Gulf World Marine Park
Gulf World Marine Park is another one of those, “worth the time” places to visit. Now you may have visited marine parks in the past, but have you ever been offered the opportunity to swim with the dolphins? You read this right, if you are five years or older and at least 48-inches tall, you can make reservations to swim with the dolphins.
Besides swimming with the dolphins, this marine park includes many exhibits that include feeding sharks, alligators, Sea Lions, under water scuba demonstrations, and more.
This Zoological & Botanical Park is home to over 260 animals and is a non-profit organization that is both entertaining and educational. Besides viewing the vast array of animals, you may want to participate in some of their exciting hands-on programs.
Imagine being a, “Keeper For A Day” and spending part of your day caring for some of these wild animals and preparing them for a show. This exciting activity will be filled with animal husbandry such as: enrichment, training, food preparation, cleaning and more! You will have your own private encounters with some of our animals and assist with our Parrots and Pals show, which has a variety of animals.
Maybe that is a little over the top and you just want a little hands-on experience. No problem, Zoo World offers an, “Animal Encounter” program that allows you a short time with your choice of Gray Wolf, Patagonian Cavies, and more!
Any way you look at it, Zoo World will be a lot of fun for the whole family.
I could go on for pages telling about all of the things there are to do in Panama City Beach… and perhaps I will in follow-up stories. For now, the main thing to remember is that all of the travel stories about the sugar white beaches and warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico are true and certainly should be included in your travel plans. But there is a lot more to Panama City Beach than just the sand and water. There’s miniature golf, go-carts, scuba diving, exciting rides, parasailing, fishing, boating… this could be a long list. I haven’t even mentioned all of the annual events that take place!
The point is, don’t limit yourself to just sitting on the beach when there is so much more to see and do in the area. Of course you will want to watch the dramatic sunsets and maybe build a sand castle or two, but your time here will be so much more memorable when you throw in some of the local fun and adventures Panama City Beach has to offer.
More Photos Around Panama City Beach