PANAMA CITY — A recent travel agency report ranks the Panama City area as one of five top destinations for U.S. travelers in 2022.
The Panama City area ranked No. 4 in the Expedia 2022 Travel Trends Report. It is important to note, large travel agencies often include Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, and other neighboring cities as part of the greater Panama City area.
Twenty-seven miles of sugary white sand taping the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico is likely the biggest draw to Panama City Beach. And on the east side of the Hathaway bridge, a blossoming food, arts, and culture scene in Panama City is creating a new destination pulse for U.S. travelers.
“Panama City Beach is one of the most desirable beach destinations in the nation and this study from Expedia confirms that fact along with the many other accolades Panama City Beach has received like “No. 2 Emerging Destination in the World” by Tripadvisor and the “Top 25 Most Popular Beaches in America” by Newsweek,” said Lacee Rudd, Visit Panama City Beach Public Relations Manager. “The Real. Fun. Beach is the perfect place to relax, unwind and play. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, an adrenaline rush or here to experience our amazing dining options, there are plenty of ways to make the most out of your Panama City Beach experience.”
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President and CEO of Destination Panama City Jennifer Vigil said the ranking is directly related to the local flair and wide open spaces presented by the “very welcoming” local businesses and community.
“When you go on vacation, you want to do what locals do, whether that’s eating oysters at Hunt’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant (1150 Beck Ave.), or stopping by Patches Pub (4723 Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach) for a beer when you’re leaving St. Andrews State Park (4607 State Park Lane in Panama City Beach),” Vigil said. “The area offers a very high quality food and cultural scene throughout the county.”
The city of Panama City was dealt an immediate population blow of about 16% three and a half years ago when Category 5 Hurricane Michael ripped through the 35-square-mile city. However, the misfortune cleared a pathway of opportunity for new business, residents, and regional collaboration. Alongside a rather sustained beach side tourism industry in Panama City Beach, historic downtown Panama City twinkles a gem of economic potential, refreshing itself with an assortment of new businesses, sensibly city-run projects and facilities, cultural attractions and restaurants, and first-time residential developments.
“I do credit a lot of our success to the people that live in the community,” Vigil said. “The welcoming hospitality to guests is another reason why people love to come to this area.”
Vigil’s office is located on the 2nd floor of the recently constructed Destination Panama City visitors center. The building’s colors glow even in the daylight and reflect the natural colors of the St. Andrews Bay that sits nearly always placid just a few meters away. A colorful life-size LovePC public art sign is a selfie magnet that attracts anyone who loves the city, or simply wants to let the world know they have visited (use #LovePC on social media).
The life of the city is surrounded by water, which is perfect for tourists and travelers who are looking to take in the simple things on their vacations. And, despite the robust building going on, the general rhythm of the local people remains as conciliate as the bay’s waters.
All of this will play well with travelers, according to the report. The Expedia study discovered U.S. travelers want to leave the COVID-19 pandemic behind and whisk away to a mental space – and travel destination – void of panic and worry.
The study, which included 12,000 travelers across 12 countries, found when making travel plans for 2022: 38% of travelers plan to prioritize relaxation, 36% will use the vacation to gain a sense of contentment and well-being and 24% plan to send less time on their devices to maximize the present moments on their trips.
With everyone’s lives interrupted by the rules and regulations brought as a result of COVID-19, Vigil said, “pandemic fatigue” has set in for some.
“They’re stressed out because of everything and they want to go someplace that they can just relax. We have a lot of ecotourism, the bay, wide-open spaces … all of those places that people can get away and have reprieve from that pandemic fatigue,” she said.
While tripping in Panama City, here are some things travelers can do that will prove to be gratifying:
- Take in the salty air for endless hours at nearly 100 access points on Panama City Beach, visitpanamacitybeach.com/things-to-do/beaches/beach-access-points-and-map/.
- Stay fit at the Downtown Boxing Club, 320 Luverne Ave., downtownboxingclubpc.com.
- Learn local history over crafted beer at History Class Brewing Company, 6 E. Fourth Street , historyclass.beer.
- Graze a bit with tapas and charcuterie, and one of the largest local selections of wine, at Burgunbarrel, 1125 Beck Ave., facebook.com/burgunbarrel.
- Take a walking tour of Historic St. Andrews starting at the Panama City Publishing Co. and Museum, 1134 Beck Ave., historicstandrews.com/PublishingMuseum.
- Catch a nighttime poetry, acoustic, or comedy performance at the Lie’brary on Beck, 1123 Beck Ave., facebook.com/LiebraryonBeck.
- Take in the salty air on the bay front with live music, food trucks, and bar at Papa Joe’s Bayside, 4601 U.S. Highway 98, papajoesbayside.com.
- Peruse local photography in historic downtown at The Light Room, 306 Harrison Ave., thelightroompc.com.
- Be involved with local art by making your own at a class Panama City Center for the Arts, 19 E. Fourth Street, pccenterforthearts.com.
- Taste a variety of Panama City cuisine and restaurant offerings with A Taste of Panama City Food Tours, 301 Harrison Ave., atasteofpanamacityfoodtours.com.
- For your outdoors appetite: fishing charters, dolphin tours, boat and kayak rentals, jet skis and paddle boarding adventures, and sailing excursions are readily available. Go to destinationpanamacity.com/water-great-outdoors for a list of vendors.
- Download a map of the Panama City oyster trail to find more than a dozen local offerings of freshly shucked oysters, and see a list of stores that offer daily local caught seafood at destinationpanamacity.com.
- Coming soon!: A mural trail that covers murals of Bay County, from the east end of Panama City Beach to the heart of Panama City. Visit the Bay Arts Alliance online for updates, www.bayarts.org.