Gideon Thomas wasn’t looking to grow vegetables when he came to the Florida Panhandle; he was looking to grow a cultural hub that would earn the title as one of the “most beautiful beaches in the world.” If only Thomas was here today and had a Facebook or Instagram account to see how Panama City Beach shaped up, he would be proud that his vision came true.
Photo Courtesy of State Archives of Florida
Eighty years ago, the thought of Panama City Beach as a tourist hotspot was deemed crazy. No one saw the future in that “ugly white sand” that is now admired worldwide. Thomas, on the other hand, saw the natural beauty and was determined to make the beach what it is today—a highly desired vacation destination attracting 13 million visitors a year.
Earlier this month marked the eightieth year since Thomas made his vision a reality, when he officially opened Panama City Beach for business on May 2, 1936. Throughout the decades, the waterfront town grew from mom-and-pop stores to Pier Park’s large shopping centers and from beachfront homes to high-rise buildings and condominiums. PCB really made its mark as the place to be as its calendar is now swarmed with year-round events, expos, and concerts, including national music festivals such as Pepsi’s SpringJam and Gulf Coast Jam. The endless opportunities for fun are as boundless as the Gulf of Mexico.
Celebrating the beauty and history of Panama City Beach, we decided to list 10 things we love about it:
THE BEACHES Panama City Beach is not shy about flaunting its most valuable assets, the heart and soul of the area—the beaches. So of course this had to be our number one reason why we love Panama City Beach. The beauty of the white sand against the emerald to blue Gulf of Mexico is unmatched.
THE FOOD There is heat in the kitchen! We love the diversity and flavors created by our chefs and restaurants in Panama City Beach. The heart of the Panhandle, Panama City Beach can also be considered as the heart of culinary delights in Northwest Florida.
THE CULTURE We may be a small city, but we are very diverse in culture. In fact, Panama City beach is listed as one of the top artsy cities in the US. We’re well rounded in museums, performing arts, concerts, and more. That’s what makes this area as a “small” city so special.
Image Courtesy of News Herald
THE EXPERIENCE The beach experience here in Panama City Beach is unlike anywhere else. We have so much to do and experience that you really focus on the land and what it has to offer. When you remember your experience here in PCB, you’ll remember all the fun you had, what you had to eat, what you saw, and the people you met. You won’t remember the stress of everyday life, or being distracted by your phone or technology, because Panama City Beach is a place to relax and have fun.
THE PEOPLE Maybe it’s because we get our daily dose of beach therapy, but the people of Panama City Beach are some of the friendliest ever. Strike up a conversation with one and you the likelihood of toasting to drinks at the end of the night are high.
Image Courtesy of Visit Florida
THE WILDLIFE There is so much to see here, it’s unreal. From land to air to water, you have critters of all sorts to keep an eye out for. Forget the average sparrows you typically see in your backyard and set your sights on pelicans, eagles, herons, cranes and more. Take a walk on the wild side and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of a black bear family or a Florida alligator. Catch the waves with a family of dolphins, or maybe even spot a sea turtle or manatee swimming beneath your paddleboard or kayak. Start making a list, because sighting these creatures is an experience you and your family will never forget!
THE COMMUNITY Hands down, the community of Panama City Beach has a big heart and as a small city, we all care about each other. We’re proud of all the fund-raisers we host, like Stuff the Bus toy drive during the holiday season, Emerald Coast Relay for Life, the annual Wine Tasting Fundraisers, and many more.
THE LIFESTYLE The relaxed lifestyle is why it’s so appealing for visitors and locals alike. There’s nothing better than waking up to a beach view, casually grabbing some coffee, and hitting the waves. You might even decide to make PCB your home after you get a taste!
Image Courtesy of Pier Park
THE ARCHITECTURE Unlike those brick homes you’re used to seeing on screen, drive around Panama City Beach and you’ll find cute, colorful beach homes, or our high-rise condos with floor-to-ceiling windows. Even our shopping centers have a charming look to them. Need we say Pier Park?
THE ENDLESS ACTIVITIES From ecotourism to watersports and shopping to museums and parks, there’s never an excuse not to have fun in Panama City Beach. Catch the dolphins in the wild, go sightseeing, explore one of the many fascinating parks… There’s always something for everyone. Panama City Beach was built on the foundation of fun.
These are just some of the many reasons we love Panama City Beach. Celebrate 80 wonderful years with us and let us know what you love about PCB—don’t forget to come visit us of course!