Although true time travel is still a thing of science fiction, Teddy and Jenny Meeks have captured a similar sensation at Pier Park. In 2009, the couple purchased the 1964 Allan Herschell Carousel that had been an iconic attraction at the now-closed Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The 30 horses and two chariots were immediately swarmed with giddy riders—some children, and some adults who fondly remembered feeding the horses wooden apples at the carousel's former home. The spinning steeds so charmed the locals that Teddy and Jenny began a more comprehensive revival. They bought Miracle Strip's 1985 Balloon Race and 1952 Red Baron rides, and when they couldn't find the park's original 1975 Ferris wheel, they hunted for one of the same make and model.
The Big Eli wheel now awards its guests views over the Gulf of Mexico and several other classic rides, including a Tilt-a-Whirl and train cars that kids crank by hand. Flowers cloak hanging baskets, and topiaries mimicking animal figures accent sandy paths, adding to the venue's picturesque nostalgia. Teddy and Jenny have also installed a butterfly pavilion, about which Bay Life magazine reports that visitors can glimpse 700 flying specimens, hatching cocoons, and caterpillars drawing up blueprints for wings.
Panama City visitors and natives are never more than a hop, a skip, and a parasail away from aquatic amusement, thanks to Adventures at Sea’s more than 60 locations, most stationed behind Panama City Beach's hotels and condos. The staff rents out pontoon boats for trips to Shell Island and pulls up to six riders on inflatable banana boats with a speedy jet ski. Experienced crews captain charter fishing trips and give fishers everything they need to catch trophies such as king mackerel, red groupers, and Stanley Cups that got away. After action-packed days filled with sunny memories, visitors can rent a lounge chair and soak up the sunset.
Captain Larry maneuvers the Sea Blaster??a 73-foot speedboat??on four different cruises in the Gulf, departing from the HarborWalk Village. Dolphin cruises speed through the water during the day, coming up close to dolphins as they leap out of the sea in an effort to distract humans while they steal their sunglasses. With the addition of snorkeling, passengers strap on a simple breathing apparatus and paddle through the crystalline waters. Others spy dolphins during the sunset cruise, as the horizon burns pink and orange, or watch fireworks burst over the water from the Sea Blaster?s deck every Thursday evening.
As its website states, it's always 5 p.m. at The Wine Bar, located inside Wine World Miramar Beach. Guests can select from a generous selection of lunch items that include soups, salads, and sandwiches. For hungrier patrons, the menu is adorned with larger dishes such as blackened grouper, crab cakes, and gourmet macaroni and cheese. The Wine Bar also stocks myriad craft cheeses from around the world, which customers often pair with a refreshing glass of wine.
As breezes drift in from Sandestin Marina on the Choctawhatchee Bay, live blues tunes also permeate the air at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack. An eclectic Italian American menu offers dishes such as escargot Milano, which comes sautéed in garlic, olive oil, and fennel seeds. Entrees include gourmet pastas such as chicken parmesan and fettuccine bolognese, as well as familiar fare including wild buffalo meatloaf and cedar planked salmon.
Helen Back believes a meal should be about more than just food. That's why its menu serves up the right portions to enjoy while watching a golf game or lounging on an outdoor patio. Try a white-sauce pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives or down a bowl of nachos covered in spicy meat and jalape?os, while washing down your meal with one of the frequent drink specials from the full bar. Weekly specials include free pizza for members of the military and motorcyclists, and the restaurant's connection to the community also extends to fundraising for local youth and the Special Ops Warrior Foundation.