Does "Throwback Thursday" have you reminiscing about simpler times? Located on 27 miles of sparkling white sandy beaches, Panama City Beach, Florida has been the classic American beach town for generations of visitors. Known for Southern hospitality and a welcoming family atmosphere, this beachside community still packs a nostalgic punch, even as luxury condominiums have become more commonplace than the seasonal hotel or motel of yesteryear. Modern family members of any age, though, will appreciate the resurgence of vintage amusement parks, storied eating establishments and even retro mini-golf just steps from the Gulf of Mexico.
"Panama City Beach has a rich history and many of our businesses have been family-owned and operated for generations," shares Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Dan Rowe. "But what's great about our town is that the classic family beach vacation still exists here - parents appreciate sharing memories from their youth with the younger generations, and the kids just appreciate the fun and the beach."
In the spirit of "Throwback Thursday," below is a listing of timeless attractions in Panama City Beach:
Miracle Strip Amusement Park
Originally founded in 1964, Miracle Strip Amusement Park has provided generations of beach-goers with thrills and memories in the heart of Panama City Beach. After a grand re-opening in April 2014, the park now mixes original vintage rides like the 1964 Carousel and 1966 Bumper Cars, with a water playground, state-of-the-art batting cage, and the RipTide Roller Coaster. The Starliner, Florida's first roller coaster, is being refurbished and rebuilt and is expected to open for riders in 2015. For more information, visit www.ms-pp.com.
Gulf World Marine Park
Gulf World was founded in 1969 and is the perfect place for the entire family, featuring daily shows with dolphins, sea lions, reptiles and tropical birds. Over the years, the marine park has matured into one of Panama City Beach's jewels for its charismatic trainers and commitment to rehabilitating local marine life. Intimate arenas allow spectators to get up close and personal with all animals and even swim with dolphins after the show. For more information, visit www.gulfworldmarinepark.com.
Since 1959, Goofy Golf has offered families the opportunity to putt through alligator mouths, between the legs of dinosaurs, or alongside spacecraft headed for Mars. These statues are works of art in their own right and a timeless testament to the birth of putt-putt golf as a favorite family activity. This family-run business is a fixture on Front Beach Road and allows players to overlook the emerald water while shooting for a hole-in-one. For more information, visit www.visitpanamacitybeach.com/listings/Goofy-Golf.
Owned by the Thomas family for more than 40 years, this classic beachside institution is open six days a week and serves classic diner breakfasts and fresh donuts with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Thomas' Donuts might be the most scenic donut shop anywhere and hasn't changed much in appearance since first opening their doors. But it's the smell of the Gulf breeze co-mingled with fresh donuts and the aroma of hot coffee that keeps locals and visitors coming back. For more information, visit www.thomasdonutandsnackshop.com/.
Camp Helen & St. Andrews State Parks
Originally built in the 1930s, the "Big House" log cabin and collection of vintage Rainbow Cottages at Camp Helen State Park offer outstanding views of Lake Powell, a rare coastal dune lake. At St. Andrews State Park, the historic turpentine mill and saw mill on display date back to the late 1800s, but both parks are perhaps most famous for their long stretches of natural beach, lined with towering sand dunes and waving sea oats. For more information, Click Here.
Funland Arcade & Snack Bar
Vintage photos of the Funland Arcade & Snack Bar help visitors realize just how little the place has changed since first they began dishing out the fun in 1953. While many of the token-operated games and ticket-redeemable prizes are newer, stepping inside is still a nostalgic step back in time, and a far cry from the ultra-modern motif offered at the new Dave & Buster's just down the street. Instead, Funland offers old-fashioned family fun on a small scale, served with can't-miss classics like hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and drinks. www.funland-arcade.com
Man in the Sea Museum
The museum, founded in 1982, showcases exclusive collections, treasures, and artifacts dating back to 1500. Visitors can climb through a submarine, check out displays of early diving equipment and visit SEALAB-1, the world's first working undersea habitat. Most modern advances in SCUBA were invented at Panama City Beach's Naval Experimental Dive Unit, and the man in the sea preserves and documents much of this evolving history. For more information, visit www.maninthesea.org
Captain Anderson's Restaurant & Waterfront Market
For more than 45 years, Capt. Anderson's has innovated many of the Gulf Coast's classic dishes and won the loyalty of millions of customers and friends. Thanks to fresh, locally sourced seafood delivered by fishermen daily straight to Anderson's marina, the restaurant received Florida Trend's Golden Spoon Award for 15 years before being inducted into the Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2005. Overlooking the Grand Lagoon, Captain Andersons has offered generations of diners the opportunity to dine early and watch as fishing fleets unload their catch. For more information, visit www.captanderson.com/.