Powdery white sand blankets the beach that dips into the cerulean waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Mile upon mile, the voluptuous curve of the shore draws a pristine location where the Florida lifestyle reaches its zenith. The slogan “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” captures the allure of Panama City Beach without a sliver of exaggeration. The tiny enclave straddles a narrow but long crescent of the Emerald Coast, some 2 hours west of Tallahassee, where paradise seems to have descended on earth. That is if your idea of paradise encompasses an easily island living on a serene beach where palm trees frame the horizon, charted by sparkling waves.
But do not let the enticing tranquility of nature here deceive you. Among its many world-class designations, Panama City Beach – together with its larger neighbor Panama City – is a coveted spring break destination. March here brings about a raucous awakening from the winter off season, packed with activities that attract all sorts of college students – from sorority sisters to university athletes to all-A math majors. Here is another world distinction the twin cities (often referred as a single city) in Northwest Florida boast - "Spring Break Capital of the World."
The hordes of weary students looking to put the semester on hold began flocking to Panama City in the 1990s. Since then, their numbers have swelled to half a million, growing by the year. The universities they come from spread from the US to Canada to Germany, and all the way to Australia. The endless parties that snaked through the city and spilled on the beach attracted MTV. Every time the station arrived in town for its Spring Break series, it enticed even larger crowds to travel to Panama City – and the parties got only wilder.
If you are planning a Panama City escapade this spring break, high on your to-do list should be Beach Bash Music Fest. Proclaimed by Rolling Stone Magazine to be the “biggest daytime beach party in the USA,” the fest brings together the hottest national performers for several days of hit entertainment. This year, Panama City Beach, one of the three locales that host the Beach Bash, will reverberate under the rhythms of Lil Jon.
Another “biggest in the USA” party is WET & WILD, which boasts a huge foam pit, said to be the largest in the country. In the heat of the rave inside Hammerhead Fred’s, thick foam rains down to create a sticky yet thrilling dance floor. This is another Panama City mainstay that has been perpetuated on TV.
A much-anticipated recess from exams and papers, spring break in Panama City affords some of the best fetes in the US, toppling year-round destinations like Daytona Beach and Miami. Even if you do not weave your way to all the parties bouncing at once in the city and on the beach, the festive spirit is for sure to sweep you in – and carry you to the soirees worth going to.
Yet, be advised that festive (and often drunk) spring breakers and their shenanigans have begun to wear on Panama City residents. In recent years, the local government has attempted to reign in on the party spirit that many have complained has got out of hand. This is not to say that the fun has been drained out – Panama City remains the top spring break destination – but there are some new laws that you need to be aware of. The month of March comes with some temporary postulates such as a ban on drinking on the beach and a mandate that bars close at 2am rather than the usual 4am. Before you head to Panama City, check the city and county regulations - better to be informed than sorry.
While not many think about exploring Panama City and the immediate region when on spring break, a rendezvous away from the bars and toward the city sights will reveal a place rich in culture and nature. Panama City Beach flaunts two state parks – St. Andrews State Park to the east, and Camp Helen State Park to the west, forming what is often referred to as “The Undiscovered Florida Coast.” St. Andrews State Park offers excellent opportunities for camping, scuba diving, surfing and snorkeling, while Camp Helen displays a string of ecological wonders – from a rare coastal dune lake to brackish fresh-and-saltwater mix to marine communities of marsh, swamps and scrub oaks.
While not famed for their amusement parks, Panama City and Panama City Beach are low-key, theme-park gems. From Race City and Cobra Adventure Park to Shipwreck Island Water Park and Gulf World Marine Park, there are plenty of thrills to keep you busy for a day. Various rides, go-karts, mini golf, arcade games as well as marine life exhibits sprawl around the two cities, ready to rival even the largest of booze-infused bashes.
And talking about liquor – one thing it goes well with is a delectable meal. Panama City Beach’s nickname, “Seafood Capital of the World”, might sound presumptuous after recognitions for the world’s best beaches and best spring-break venue, but it is truly on point. Here, you can sample the finest fare of jumbo Gulf shrimp, blue crab, Grouper and Cajun crawfish. While a slew of sleek restaurants cater to all sorts of budgets and preferences, the freshest and tastiest offerings are in the city’s seafood markets. If your accommodations come with even the tiniest of kitchenettes, fix yourself a seafood dish – even if you are not a cook at heart, it will be appetizing.
This spring break, whether you go to Panama City for the dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn parties, the breath-taking nature, the flavorful cuisine or a combination of all three, pick your pack carefully. It needs to be light and sturdy at the same time; small enough to schlep around and, yet, sufficiently large to carry all your necessities; easy to reach into but also secure against theft.
The Mountain Khakis Limited Edition Tote is all these – and more. It is a trusted companion with remarkable versatility that befits both a beach escapade and a sightseeing spree. Rendered in bomber 20oz canvas, it is highly durable and water resistant - the perfect combination to withstand any obstacle your busy week on the Emerald Coast presents. Equipped with recycled climbing rope handles and available in several chic prints, the tote channels the relaxed lifestyle of Panama City as well as the blissful practicality that defines Florida’s beaches. It is the ultimate spring-break-in-Panama-City accessory.