But often I don't love the Caribbean... I don't love waiting to clear customs, the currency exchange (where often you feel bamboozled) and I don't like that you can't take an unfettered, peaceful stroll down the beach without being mobbed by hooligans and vendors.
That is why this Memorial Day, I'm going to recommend visiting Panama City Beach Florida, right here in the Good Ole U.S.A. as the kick off to your summer fun. Panama City Beach is gorgeous... with 27 miles of re-nourished white sandy beaches and emerald water reminiscent of the Caribbean, you simply can't go wrong with a trip to this sun drenched haven. Panama City Beach, where the rooms are plentiful and reservations are easily booked on a moment’s notice. It's been two years since the Gulf Oil spill so I say.. 'It's safe to go back in the water!'
Off the Beaten Path
Panama City Beach's tiny International Airport is served primarily by Delta Airlines, so without a question this means that you will be stuck with an undesirable connection out of ever-expansive Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The more prudent option is to fly directly into nearby Destin/ Fort Walton Beach Airport. From there, simply rent an auto and make a short and scenic ninety minute commute to your PCB lodgings. With all the activities, shopping and dining opportunities Panama City Beach has to offer, you're going to need a rental car and the charges won't be as high at the more accessible airport. Getting there may take a little bit of an effort, but is well worth the effort.
Complete with bunk beds, pull out couches, and a furnished kitchen... a one bedroom condominium will easily accommodate an entire family. What could be better? Not every dime of your vacation budget will have to be spent on time consuming and pricey eating out...
A popular family friendly destination to sunny Florida is Seychelles Condominium Resort. This high rise property has beautiful, unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico and is located directly on the pristine white sandy beach.
Although the check in staff was not the most receptive when answering routine questions, the property is equipped with fast elevators and adjacent to a favorite Panama City Beach restaurant and beach club, Schooner's... When making your reservations, however, be sure to request a condo on the opposite side of the popular nightclub. On weekends their live music goes long into the night and can actually prove to be a drawback.
What's Not to Do
There is no better place for you and the young ones to visit during your Panama City Beach stay than the Gulf World Marine Park.. With popular movies like 'Dolphin Tale' and 'We Bought a Zoo' currently out on DVD, there's a new found appreciation for these micro-parks that love and care for each of the wildlife they harbor.
Gulf World even has a mini celebrity to boot... A small bottle-nosed dolphin, named Roux Brees. The sole survivor of 347 porpoises that washed along the Louisiana coastline after the Deep Sea Horizon oil disaster. Ironically, although Roux's injuries were sustained from the mistreatment of other dolphins, he was the only one to survive. Abandoned and unable to fend for himself in the wild, he was graciously taken in by the caring Gulf World staff where he now frolics happily with his new welcoming pod.
tsunami of fog photo enveloping the high rise condominiums of Panama City Beach. Don't forget the camcorder or high res camera on this hair raising helicopter excursion. If you're lucky, you may be the next one to capture an amazing sight that will create the next web sensation.
Discover the fast-growing sport of stand up paddle boarding on a pleasurable outing to Lake Powell. A mix between surfing and kayaking, paddle boarding is an easy activity all members of the family will most assuredly enjoy.
This hour and a half outing is a unique opportunity to soak in the sunshine and the serene surroundings of Camp Helen State Park. Paddling across the lake is a great way to burn some serious calories as well as gaining a newfound appreciation of Florida's bountiful wildlife.
Kids of all Ages
Andy's Flour Power
No trip to Panama City Beach would be completed without a experiencing a breakfast at Andy's Flour Power Restaurant. Entrees range from their legendary French toast to the mouth-watering Crawfish Julie. Crawfish Julie combines crawfish, vegetables and cream to create a truly delicious sauce that is served over a poached egg and homemade biscuit.
Consistently voted Best Brunch on Best of Bay, this very reasonably priced bistro uses only the freshest ingredients for an amazingly healthy fare that actually tastes great. Owner John Certo II usually will make his rounds to each table, spreading a warm family type ambiance as well as checking on the guest's satisfaction and well being. This chef is rich in character and long on heart, certainly a reality star in the making...
A tad on the pricey side, you may want to consider an early arrival... With reasonably priced entrees, the Early Bird offerings are probably your best option and you will surely be impressed with the swift, dutiful service.
The eclectic menu is wide ranging and diverse... Where else can you find 'boars shank' and sushi on the same offering? But don't pass on the stuffed filet, which is grilled to perfection.
Honky Tonk Women
Become reacquainted with your honky tonk roots at the popular nightclub, Ms Newbys. Ms Newbys is both a package liquor store and roadhouse bar all rolled into one. If you want to let off a little steam and kick up your heels, then this is the venue for you. However, if you have an aversion to loud garish music, sleeveless shirts, and low cut halter tops... or in the event that you are a non smoker, do not attempt this local haunt. The crowd is lively and entertaining to say the least...
So Much To Do, So Much To See...
Panama City Beach harkens back to a time when things were slow and easy... When visiting you will most assuredly wish that you had more time... just for the beach. With locals of such an easygoing nature, you will want to return... year after year. Truly feeling that you are a member of family in this tight knit, sun-soaked Florida enclave. Yes, it's safe.... Go back in the water. Go back to Panama City Beach, Florida.