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Trip report-4/14-4/18

Slinger, Wisconsin
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Trip report-4/14-4/18

My family (husband, son (11), and daughter (8), just returned from our trip to Panama City Beach. We drove from WI, stopping in Franklin, TN on the way down and back. Drive was uneventful and easy overall, but LONG! We stayed at Celadon, which is located on the far west end of the beach. We've stayed there before and been to PCB at least 20 times so we are very familiar with the area. I must say, though, that I think this will be our last trip to PCB. The day we arrived was absolutely gorgeous; 80 degrees and sunny. We unloaded the car and made our way to the beach knowing that every minute in the sun is precious. We hung out at the beach for a couple hours and I made my way to the Publix grocery store on Back Beach Rd. to stock up on groceries for the week. I know that the groceries in PCB will always be at least 30% higher than at home, but I still feel it's highway robbery to charge someone close to $3 for a cheap loaf of white bread. I choose Publix because it's clean, good quality and sells Boar's Head lunch meat which is what we prefer. It's hard to stomach the prices, though. We try to bring as many "dry goods" from home to avoid spending too much on groceries while we're there.

Meals out: Ate dinner at Olive Garden at Pier Park and it was fantastic. Server was amazing and very attentive to us and the kids. Restaurant was clean, food was very good and despite the fact that it was a chain restaurant, we had a very nice meal.

Margaritaville at Pier Park: If I had to use one word to describe our experience it would be HORRIBLE. There was no wait which should have been our first tip off. We were immediately seated and given an oversized (too wide and too long to hold easily) menu, that was scaled back from what we remember from our first trip there. One look at the prices and we should have walked out. We were hungry and tired so we stayed. Reluctantly. We ordered an appetizer which was some sort of volcano shrimp. I think there were 5 or 6 small, deep fried shrimp for $13. I'm sure it cost about $1.50 to make them. Our meal came shortly after and this is where things really went down hill. I ordered a black and bleu burger, which was average. Husband ordered a burger, son ordered kids' mac n' cheese, and daughter ordered kids' chicken strips. Daughter's chicken strips were burned and smelled of fish. When I asked the server if the chicken was fried in the same batter as the fish, she said it was not. Could not have been the truth. I asked if we could order something else because the chicken was burned, and she reluctantly said "yes" and daughter also ordered the mac n' cheese. Mac n' cheese was from a box, looked like it had not been mixed well enough and cost $7. Wow. The icing on the cake was when the server brought daughter's food and something fell out of server's mouth. I don't know if it was a tooth, mint, gum or what, but it was disgusting and we just about got up and left. None of us finished our meals and nothing was good enough to box up and take home. $81 later we got up and left, feeling shameful that we said nothing to management. Our bad. We just wanted to get out.

The rest of the week was spent on the beach when the weather was decent, which was only a few days out of our week. The beach was in beautiful shape and the Gulf was gorgeous. No jelly fish, sea week, or anything else. Simply beautiful. One of the reasons I say we probably won't go back is the uncertainty of the weather. I would say half our week weather-wise was bad. Really bad. Cold, windy and then some rain. We plan a full year for a week of vacation that is spent sitting in a condo and that's not my idea of a great vacation. If we had two weeks, I would be OK with a few rainy or cold days here and there. The northern part of FL is always a crap shoot and I know that, but I'm not willing to take that risk anymore.

Spring break was not a factor while we were there and I actually took Front Beach Rd on several occasions and had no issues! Beaches were free of spring breakers in my area, too, and I was thankful for that. It was mainly families with kids enjoying themselves. I'm still very turned off at PCB as a whole with the run down shops, hotels, vacant places, etc. It's very much "hodge podge" and an eye soar. I'm surprised that the city has not done more development to improve the image of PCB. God knows they bring in enough money during spring break.

Bottom line is that I think we're ready to move on to someplace new. I'm not impressed by PCB anymore and if I go back to the Panhandle it will be to Destin or the 30A area. The weather is too unpredictable in spring and the area as a whole is unimpressive. The beaches are still amazing as is the Gulf, but I can enjoy the same thing further east on the beach. I think next trip will be to the Caribbean.

Saint Louis...
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1. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Bummer that you didn't have a relaxing vacation. I don't know if you can hold out another month, but May is much better than April, in my opinion.

I would agree that Margaritaville is way overpriced for the food and experience. Especially if you've got kids. There just getting by on Jimmy Buffet's name. The couple of times that we went inside, the music was so loud, you couldn't talk to the person sitting next to you. I suppose I would go there again if we were with people who really wanted to go there, but I know my wife and I will never go there again ourselves. You could send them a message here:


I don't know about the development though. I lived there back in '99 and 2000, and it has grown a great deal in the last 14 years. They are also in the beginning stages of expanding Pier Park. There's the newer amphitheater, and all of that development on the north side of Back Beach Rd which was almost non existent ten years ago.

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2. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Sorry to hear that the weather wasn't cooperative. I agree that May is typically better than April, but even if it's warmer, you can never predict the wind/rain...in PC or anywhere else. This year, the winter temps seem to be especially subborn...at least that is the case in Alabama. 30A and Destin will be of no help to you in the temperature department, as they are directly west of PC and no farther south. They are also no less expensive. If anything, those areas will be much pricier as they tend to be more "elite" for lack of a nicer word. For warmer early spring temps, the Tampa area is likely more predictable. But, i'm not sure it's any less expensive...or less rainy/windy at times:)

Interesting that you mention run down shops and hotels. I said similar in the late 90's, but I can only think of a few that still exist today. The condo boom of the early 2000's wiped out most of that stuff, although there are some places along the beach where things were torn down and never rebuilt because of the recession. The city can only do so much when it comes to privately owned properties. It can condemn and demolish old structures, and regulate new developments as they occur...but, it can't force the owners of vacant lots to develop them. Personally, I like being able to see more of the gulf from the road, so I don't mind the sporadic vacancy:) The areas where the city actually has control (beach accesses, parks, the new bikeway and landscaping on north Thomas, etc) are all looking nice in my opinion. But, PC is very different than 30A...more relaxed in some ways and less relaxed in others. Folks who want the 30A environment often hate PC for any number of reasons. Folks who want the PC environment tend to find 30A pretty, but "stuffy" and unrelaxing. It's definitely a very personal preference, and regular visitors tend to love whichever area they grew up visiting.

I definitely agree with you on Margaritaville. It's very tourist oriented and not a place I would personally recommend. It's all about the name IMO. I can think of numerous places I would choose first.

It sounds like the attraction of note and main item PCB has actual control over (the beach) was nice as always, and that's great to hear. If you decide to visit the panhandle again (maybe in May), please stop by here first for some restaurant recommendations.

Happy travels!

SE Indiana
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3. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Sorry you didn't have a 100% great time, but I enjoyed your report.

Destination Expert
for Panama City Beach
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4. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

I am so sorry the weather spoiled your trip. Winter and spring have been cold and unpredictable in the south so far. May is usually much better. As far as PCB goes, I think it looks so much better since the hurricane knocked all the tacky motels down years ago. Theyreplaced them with nicer condos and built Pier Park which is an improvement in my opinion. We also love Destin but they are just as expensive, if not a little more. Their weather is also the same since they are so close together. Love the trip reports so everyone keep them coming!

Slinger, Wisconsin
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5. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Unfortunately we can't come in May as my husband is a teacher and the kids have their break in April. I have seen an improvement in PCB as the years have gone on, but IMO it still doesn't hold a candle to the Destin or SoWal area. We stayed at Seaside two years ago and had a much better time. It's a totally different atmosphere. PCB is definitely more affordable, but there would have to be major changes for me to go back to PCB.

Jackson, Mississippi
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62 reviews
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6. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Sorry you didn't enjoy your vacation! I love PCB but try to avoid touristy spots like Margaritavillle. I tried it once for drinks and wasn't too impressed. We tend to stick to smaller local places like Dee's Hangout, Hognose Snapper, Mike's Diner..to name a few..I don't think you would have been disappointed with those... We don't like crowds so we always stay on the west end near Laguna Beach. It is quiet, no high rise condos, and very family friendly.

We used to frequent Destin but got aggravated with the crowds, high rise condos spoiling the few, and traffic..The panhandle weather is very iffy in April...We go in Mid May and even then have a few cooler days.

Hope you enjoy your next vacation!!

Lancaster, Ohio
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20 reviews
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7. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

Hey Kelli, we were there the same week you were, at cedalon based on your recommendation. The condo and location were perfect. But we had the same disappointment in the weather. But the beach and gulf were beautiful. We tried pompano joes in pier park and did not care for it at all. But we really enjoyed the rest of pier park- a great addition to the area.

8. Re: Trip report-4/14-4/18

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