DREAMSCAPES FALL/WINTER 2018
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THE MAGIC OF PANAMA CITY
 
(2018 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: STEVE WINSTON



Where can you experience an old Florida bay-side city and nearby world-class beaches?  Where the waters are always warm and the breezes always cool? Where the hospitality is Southern (y’all), and folks still say “hello” to visitors? Where delightful surprises pop up everywhere you go, whether it’s a hidden cove or a precious antique? Where the seafood on your plate is so fresh that it was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico an hour before?

Well, you’ve found it! Panama City is a Northwest Florida city with unlimited ecotourism opportunities and water sports as well as colourful historic districts filled with quaint shops and cultural and culinary scenes usually found in larger cities.

Proximity is key here with endless adventures all within your reach. East of the Hathaway Bridge you’ll feel the authenticity of the historic districts and experience the sights and sounds of local artists throughout the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. The nearby yet world-renowned white sand beaches are easily accessed by driving west over the Hathaway Bridge or by boat to uninhabited Shell Island or St. Andrews State Park. Positioned on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City sunsets are simply breathtaking. A fiery yellow sun morphs into orange and then crimson, creating a painted sky above the water as the sun sinks below the horizon. 

This is a different Florida . . . so far west it’s in the Central Time Zone rather than the Eastern. In fact, you’re much closer to Atlanta, Mobile and even New Orleans than Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

HISTORIC TOWN WITH DIVERSE PLEASURES

Panama City lives on the water! Charter boats provide the chance to catch your own dinner or take you to great scuba and snorkelling areas. Or, book a trip to Shell Island, an appropriately named barrier island blessed with powdery, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters that are ideal for snorkelling, and offering wonderful opportunities for dolphin watching and, of course, shelling.   

There are also dolphin-spotting cruises. Or, simply rent a kayak, sailboat, rowboat, paddleboard or jet ski and head out on the water yourself.

Back on land, explore the distinct areas of Panama City. Downtown features cultural facilities such as the iconic Martin Theatre, built in 1936; the Panama City Center for the Arts; eclectic art galleries; and a variety of excellent restaurants. The St. Andrews neighbourhood, right on the bay, still evokes the aura of the quaint fishing village it once was, and you’ll love the shops, restaurants and galleries along Beck Avenue. The aptly named Millville quarter has housed paper mills and shipbuilding enterprises for generations. Here, you’ll find a waterfront park and marina, an oyster bar so old it’s in the historic registry, a vintage art gallery and a variety of spots with unassuming charm that just make everyone feel like they’re at home with friends.

A NEW FOODIE DESTINATION

The “foodie” trend is flourishing in Panama City, where local chefs are inventing creative dishes. That’s not to say, though, that beloved old Southern favourites like shrimp ’n grits or chicken-fried steak aren’t still cherished. You’ll find more than 110 restaurants here, serving everything from classic Southern barbecue and Mexican cuisine to Thai and Middle Eastern fare. And seafood on the menus goes straight from the fishing boats to many of these restaurants.

Panama City even has a “trail” to celebrate perhaps its most treasured local seafood—oysters. Some of the most productive oyster beds on Earth are found in these waters. Follow the Panama City Oyster Trail (#PCOysterTrail), which takes you through 12 distinctive restaurants, each offering innovative ways to experience this delicious treat.

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP

You’ll never run out of shopping options in Panama City. In the historic neighbourhoods of St. Andrews, Downtown and Millville, wander among quaint boutiques selling fashion-forward styles. Explore antique shops with one-of-a-kind items that date back to the city’s days in shipping and manufacturing. In fact, you’ll even find an old-fashioned hardware store (third generation) where you’ll rediscover items you thought you’d never see again. 

National retailers and department stores line 15th Street (US Highway 98) and 23rd Street, and the Panama City Mall boasts 56,520 square metres of great shopping and dining venues. 

CULTURE, CONCERTS AND CONVENTIONS

The Martin Theatre, a 1936 art deco icon, brings nationally renowned acts to Panama City and hosts the Martin Marquee series, which combines drinks and a show. The Marina Civic Center features international touring acts and Broadway shows. You’ll also find interesting exhibitions and art forms at the Panama City Center for the Arts. And you can view the works of local artists at CityArts Cooperative, the largest creative-arts cooperative in Northwest Florida. 

Festivals fill the calendar year-round. Most notable is the Krewe of St. Andrews Mardi Gras festival, which draws krewes, floats and marching bands from across the nation. Another popular event is the Creative Conference, a two-day event celebrating, connecting and inspiring creative minds and the geek culture.

And, when it comes to culture, let’s not forget the kids. The Science & Discovery Center of Northwest Florida is a hands-on, interactive, just-plain-fun place for all ages.

There’s magic in Panama City. And it’s all just waiting to be discovered. 

Travel Planner

Panama City is easily accessible via major airlines serving Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Plan your getaway to Panama City, Florida, at

DestinationPanamaCity.com.

 
 
 
 
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