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.
Although true time travel is still a thing of science fiction, Teddy and Jenny Meeks have captured a similar sensation at Miracle Strip Amusement Park. Though the original, decades-old park closed in 2004, the couple brought it back to life In 2009 by purchasing the 1964 Allan Herschell Carousel that had previously been one of its most iconic attractions. The Meeks installed the ride in a 14 acre park beside Pier Park, and its 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. Flowers cloak hanging baskets adding to the venue's picturesque nostalgia.
The fermentation specialists at Panama City Beach Winery craft their lush tinctures from a cornucopia of Florida produce, winning over the taste buds of various competition judges across the country. During the 30- to 45-minute tasting, guests can cleanse their palates with 10 to 12 of owner Larry Honeycutt's delicious concoctions, a bacchanalian cascade that includes everything from banana and guava to carrot and blueberry sparking. Honeycutt will talk guests through the individual characteristics of each libation, detailing cocktails and ideal pairings such as banana wine and peanut butter or tomato wine and bad comedians. Beverage testers will leave with a pair of souvenir wine glasses emblazoned with the palm-tree logo and a bottle of Category 5 sangria.
Before entering the upside-down laboratory of Professor Wonder, visiting scientists must pass through the psychedelic, spinning lights of the Inversion Tunnel, reorienting themselves in preparation for a day of activities both entertaining and educational. More than 100 interactive exhibits inspire excitement about natural phenomena, including a replica of NASA's Mercury capsule that visitors can climb inside of, a gallery of mind-bending illusions, and the lab where new scientists are grown in bed-sized petri dishes. Experience the winds of a category-one hurricane inside a simulator, guard a virtual soccer goal, and lie down on a bed of nearly 3,500 sharp nails without so much as a scratch. Additional activities include the indoor Ropes Challenge Course, which exercises bodies and minds as challengers navigate several stories of swinging beams and suspension bridges, and a laser-tag arena (not included with regular admission).
A 5,000-square-foot splash park, 50-meter Olympic pool with diving well, covered picnic shelter, and full concession stand await visitors to PCB Aquatic Center, which invites bathing-suit clad citizens to revel in its refreshing, state-of-the-art facilities. After emerging from locker rooms with heated showers, patrons can plunge into classes on lifeguarding, water-aerobics instructing, or basic and advanced pool figure-drawing or just relax and lap alongside other swimmers in the temperature-controlled waters. As scuba-geared divers explore underwater views in certification courses, children can splash their way into swim lessons led by certified water-safety instructors, before winding down from their amphibious education by winding down one of several water slides.
The quality of any education depends on the classroom, and there's no better place to learn to scuba dive than Key West. At Diving Key West, scuba experts take full advantage of the region's aquatic treasures, which include wildlife such as coral reefs and manta rays swimming in year-round 80-degree water with clear visibility. Classes range from scuba tours, charters, and lessons to tutorials in freediving, spearfishing, and snorkeling.