Have you visited the Florida Panhandle lately?
If not; well, what are you waiting for?
Right now is the perfect time to visit the area. Along with the beaches, great restaurants and activities, there’s a lot going on.
Just take a look.
It’s a change in attitude
in Pensacola Beach
when Hotel Margaritaville
opened its doors in late June. Gulf Coast’s favorite son, Jimmy Buffet lent his touch and brand to the 162 rooms and 24 suites property.
“We are thrilled to be here,” comments Tamara Baldanza, marketing director with the hotel.
Situated just so that visitors can enjoy views of both the gulf and the bay, the property has the typical features, such as a business center, health/fitness facility, pool and poolside Tiki bar, and more. In addition, there’s an on-site restaurant, Frank and Lola Loves Pensacola
(named after Buffet’s 1982 song)
that serves coastal cuisine and Land Shark Landing
, a great hangout place to enjoy the beach.
And for foodies, the area doesn’t disappoint either. New to the ever-growing dining scene is The Grand Marlin
(opened in March), with the North Drop Bar
. Located in Pensacola Beach, the restaurant serves coastal cuisine that the area is known for. Open for lunch
, menu items include crispy lobster fingers (hot appetizer, $13.95), wild American shrimp & grits ($16.75) and much more. In Pensacola, within the historic Belmont Devilliers neighborhood
, you’ll discover the Five Sisters Blues Cafe
. Here, you can enjoy good southern fare and good music. Some highlights from the lunch/dinner menu
include fried green tomatoes ($5.50), southern seafood platter ($13.99) and smothered pork chop ($8.99). The restaurant serves also serves Sunday brunch
Don’t miss out: Blue Angels Practice (August 18-19, 24-25; September 7-8, 14-15), Light of the Moon Tours (August 20-21; September 24-25) and 33rd annual Seafood Festival (September 24-26).
“Destin is still open for business,” says Mark Bellinger, president and CEO of the Emerald Coast CVB
. “We’ve been extremely fortunate. The beaches weren’t affected, and on one occasion we had a few tar balls.”
This summer the destination has promoted a FREE (yes, you read that right) Concert Series. Bellinger describes these as first-class concert, and this isn’t just a statement. Past performances this seasons have included Kenny Loggins and The Dobbie Brothers. And on August 15, the beach (more specifically, Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
) will be rockin’
with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Josh Thompson.
Any weekend is a great time to discover why Destin has been voted for 14 consecutive years a “Favorite Family Vacation Destinations” by Southern Living
readers. Trust me, I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from the beach, but once you do, you can explore places like Gator Beach
, the second oldest marine park in Florida. Take time to learn about Destin’s fishing history
and then take
to the water, bay or bayou to try your luck. Then cap off the evening enjoying yourself in such as places as Destin Commons
or HarborWalk Village
Mark your calendar: Red, White and Blue Celebration (August 19; September 2), Stand Up and Paddle (SUP) Jam at Fish Lipz (August 28; September 10) and 32nd annual Destin Seafood Festival (September 17-19).
What will you “be” in the Beaches of South Walton
Don’t worry if you can’t come up with an answer yet, because the area offers many possibilities for you to explore.
“We are showcasing all what this area has to offer,” says Tracy Louthain, director of communications with Beaches of South Walton TDC. “People come here for so many reasons, and we are saying that this is the year to try something new.”
So, why not be…
- adventurous and go zip lining at the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin.
- creative by taking a cooking class at Culinary Gallery or an art class at Studio b.
- energized as you spend time in the outdoors kayaking, YOLOing, hiking, or horseback riding through Point Washington State Park with Seaside Stables.
And if you need further incentive to visit the area, how does $250 dollars sound? Through September 30, stay three or more nights at one of the participating accommodations
, and receive
either a $250 gift card to Southwest Airlines or Silver Sands Factory Stores.
Don’t miss: 23rd annual Sandestin Triathlon (August 20-21), Santa Rosa Beach Centennial Celebration (September 11-12) and Autumn Tides (begins September 29).
Panama City Beach
wants to thank you for visiting their beaches, and they are showing it through a token of appreciation: a $25 AMEX gift card through their REAL.FUN.RANDOM ACTS., initiative, a part of SUMMER OF FUN
“It’s a cool idea the members of the Panama City Beach CVB came up with,” says Dan Rowe, president and CEO of Panama City Beach CVB. “Representatives walk up to random visitors,thank them for visiting the area and then hand them a certificate that they can redeem at the Pier Park Guest Service Kiosk for a gift card.”
“It’s one of the ways we can reinforce the fact that we are glad visitors are here.”
He adds that not only do they want to make it fun, but also encourage people to come down here.
In addition to the gift cards (ending on September 7), is another initiative called REAL.FUN.REWARDS.
, (ending on August 30) that encourages visitors to stay a little longer. For instance, if you book a three-night stay at one of the participating properties, you can receive a $50 AMEX gift card, a four-night stay will earn you a $100 AMEX gift card, and a five-(or more) night stay will get you a $200 AMEX gift card.
And while I’m talking about fun, you’ll be hard-pressed not to have any when visiting Panama City Beach. Whether it’s kiteboarding
the Ferris wheel at Miracle Strip at Pier Park, cooling
off at Shipwreck Island, visiting ZooWorld
or Gulf World
, or enjoying the beaches, you are guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
And families, don’t forget that WonderWorks
has recently opened in Panama City Beach as well.
Remember these Dates: REAL.FUN.MUSIC., (August 20-22), Pre-Season Tailgate (August 26-28) and 21st annual Lobsterfest at Schooner’s (September 16-19).
photo credit: personal photos