Panama City Beach and the surrounding areas are popular destinations for all walks of life. Families, college and high school party-goers, retired seasoned citizens...they all come for different reasons, proof positive that this area literally has something for everyone.
This post isn't about any of that.
I am writing this informative piece as a warning to those who may not be that familiar with the area. Sure, there are plenty of fun events and great things to see and do during your time here and I do plan to touch on that in the future. For now, we'll focus on the things you should avoid. I have made these mistakes, so that you don't have to. You can thank me later, preferably in the comments section below.
1. The ocean when purple warning flags are flying. The purple flag warns of "marine pests" in the water. I don't know what the hell that means, nor do I want to.
2. The bathrooms at Sweet Dreams. You would think that "bathrooms" is a easy, cop-out pick, but the ones in this dingy, but fun, dive karaoke bar have avoided cleaning since the mid 70's.
3. 15th street at 4pm. It's like everyone in the entire city going in both directions got off work at the exact same time and 15th St. is their happy hour.
4. Hooters. Hooters should be avoided in every city, simply based on the low quality, over priced food. Yet, some people still go for the eye candy. So if you do decide to come to our Hooters, allow me to be the first to welcome you to our city and also apologize for your eventual disappointment.
5. Bealls Outlet during Snow Bird season. Have you ever been in a discount outlet store when a tour bus full of old Canadians and Midwesterners unloads? I don't recommend it.
6. Tan Fannies. I'll give you one guess as to what type of establishment this is. Yes, it's a strip club. At least that's what we're told. Rumor has it that they only have one dancer who only has one arm. So she can only spin in one direction on the pole. I can't make this stuff up.
7. Panama City Mall. This is so depressing. Once the hip, new shopping area of Pier Park opened on the beach, the in-town mall began to slowly die, store by store. Now, it's just a pathetic shell of what it once was. There is no need to go there, unless you're shopping for some sort of bling accessory for your cell phone, or those pajama pants that look like jeans.
8. Billfish Tournament. This annual fishing tournament/show-n-tell for yacht owners is like the Alamo (or Holy Grail, depending on how you look at it) for wealthy, pretentious cougars looking for a mate. It is also a popular event for young, trashy gold diggers. The combination of which is akin to crossing the streams for Ghostbusters. If you don't have a nice boat to show off, you're just the Marshmellow Man. And no one likes the Marshmellow Man.
9. Friday Fest. This is actually a decent event, held the first Friday evening of each month throughout the Summer and Fall. What puts this on the list is its popularity among the local, jorts-wearing, rednecks and their litters of unruly children. That's not something I want to deal with after a long work week.
10. Front Beach Rd. during the months of March and April and June and July. This is the main drag along the beach, which passes by a number of bars, clubs and shops. During the spring break and summer crowds, this turns into a cruising strip that doesn't move. For days. Us locals know to get anywhere, you take Back Beach Rd.
11. Parker. Those of us on the beach side know not to cross the bridge into Panama City unless absolutely necessary. Once you do though, the deeper into the city you get, the closer you get to Parker. If you want some old, used tires, or lice, then maybe this is the place for you. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.
12. The pool at LaVela. A night at "the world's largest nightclub" can be a great time. But be sure to follow this one, very important rule: Do Not Touch Anything. And especially don't get in the pool. There isn't enough chlorine in the world to kill the super-virus that may be festering in those waters once the 500,000 drunken college kids have their way with it.
13. Golden Coral during Snow Bird season. (See #5 and add a never-ending food buffet to the mix. Just deadly.)
14. The Outrigger. I've actually had some fun times at this dive bar. Cheap, strong drinks and a good, digital jukebox. Why then, did it make the list? I recently learned that this is the hangout for the local Swinger's club. I no longer go, in fear that they may mistake my presence as an interest.
15. Locos. This is the Walmart of Mexican restaurants. If I am going to have Mexican for dinner, I expect it to be prepared and cooked by real Mexicans. Not some Emo, middle class, white high schooler who can't wait to get back to the Dashboard Confessional on his iPod. This area has some really good Mexican restaurants, where the food is made with love by authentic Mexicans. Locos is Americanized assembly line garbage.
16. The "Kiddie Pool" at St. Andrews State Park. (See #9) Plus, there have been some sightings of hammerhead sharks. The waters are warm, crystal clear and inviting, and truth be told, I'd actually rather swim with sharks than screaming children, but either way, I'm going to avoid it.
17. Dodges Chicken. This is a chicken joint located in a gas station. It's a popular late night spot to get a cheap, greasy meal after leaving The Outrigger, located directly across the street, but c'mon. It's a GAS STATION.
18. No Name on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Located at the foot of the bridge, No Name is one of my favorite hangouts. Good drinks, free popcorn, goldfish and potato chips, and a great outdoor deck overlooking the bay. That said, it's a really small building that can hardly handle the Friday after work crowd. And the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the time when anyone and everyone who ever left this town comes back. And they all know that No Name is the spot for their annual reunion. Do the math.
19. Waffle House. I dig Waffle House, but we have a better alternative here. It's called Corams. So when you're visiting and have a hankerin' for eggs, pancakes and grits at 2am, skip Waffle House and head to a Corams.
20. Super Walmart. The idea of Walmart has always angered me. No, I'm not a "save the forest," big-business hating, hippie. It's because everyone who ever goes to Walmart always leaves complaining about the crowds. You know there is going to be a crowd there. Be it 2pm, or 2am. And yet you still go. And then I have to listen to you complain about it. Here's a little secret: go to KMart. They still exist, but no one realizes it. You can get the same crap, for the same price and you'll be one of maybe 6 people in the entire store. No KMart in your area? Try Target, Dollar General, or a damn grocery store. We have all of those here in PCB. Same crap, less people. I haven't been inside a Walmart since 2007 and somehow, I've managed to survive. And yes, I'm going to continue to be a pretentious douche about it.