Having grown up spending holidays and family vacations in Panama City Beach, I’ve seen it grow up as well. My grandparents retired to PCB (common shorthand for the city) in the 1970s. As a kid it was my paradise. Nothing could compare to the Miracle Strip Amusement Park except the sugar-white sand and the crystalline bands of blue and green water of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly, the amusement park closed in 2003 (I was there on its final night) and the coast is now lined with condo and hotel resorts book-ended by two pristine beachfront state parks. On my most recent visit, I stayed in a building so high it had its own weather pattern. It’s a spectacular phenomena known as “condo fog.”
Glorious vestiges of Panama City Beach’s past are still evident, from beach hotels to legendary establishments like Thomas’ Donuts and Snack Shop. Open since 1971, it’s a tradition in my family to stop at Thomas’ to revel in the fried, doughy goodness before leaving whatever beach accommodations we happen to be staying at for spring break or fall break or any other break we can squeeze in.