PANAMA CITY BEACH — The new year promises to be anything but an unlucky number for visitors to Panama City and Panama City Beach. There’s much to look forward to, and this is just a sample:
If you really want to get the new year off to a healthy start, don’t miss the First Day Hike at Camp Helen State Park in Inlet Beach. A ranger-guided nature walk through beautiful oak hammocks to a gorgeous white sand beach beside a rare coastal dune lake habitat. Meet at 9 a.m. Jan. 1 at the Visitor Center.
Miracle Strip at Pier Park continues to grow. Not only can those with fond memories of the old Miracle Strip Amusement Park rekindle their recollections by riding many of the original attractions, but now the little ones also can make all-new memories on board the carousel, the Sea Dragon, and soon a car ride dating from 1949.
“This is cool, if we do say so ourselves,” the park owners posted on their Facebook page recently. “We are starting to refurbish a 1949 Allen Herschell Cars ride for next season. This is truly a historic/iconic ride and we’re lucky to have found one in descent shape. We’ll have it looking brand new in a few weeks and ready to ride in the spring.”
“I think it adds to the ‘nostalgia’ element of Pier Park,” said David Demarest, a spokesman for the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, in an email about the new addition.
Annual passes to the park are on sale for $89 (regularly $109). The park will be closed Jan. 7-31 for ride maintenance. The popular Butterfly Pavilion is expected to reopen in March.
Production begins in early January for a feature film set in Panama City Beach. “East SideStory” will be a full-on dance musical written, produced and directed by David Winters, who is also an award winning choreographer. Auditions have been held locally and in Tallahassee for dancers, supporting players and crew, and Winters has invited PanamaCity.com to visit behind-the-scenes as the film is in progress, so check with us regularly for updates.
One of the biggest events of the winter is the annual 30A Songwriters Festival, which brings top musical talent to venues all along the South Walton stretch of Scenic County 30A, from Rosemary Beach to Blue Mountain Beach, and everywhere in between. The party will be Jan. 18-20, with headliners including Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Suzanne Vega, Fastball and dozens more. Visit 30aSongwritersFestival.com for constant updates.
Shipwreck Island water park will reopen for a new year of wet and wild wonder on April 27 (tentative date, subject to change), and season passes will go on sale earlier in April. It will be open only weekends and a few other days until Memorial Day Weekend, when it will expand its hours to a full week schedule through the summer. Check ShipwreckIsland.com for details and updates.
Here are some other items of interest:
Stage: Kaleidoscope Theatre will present “The Boys Next Door” in January (check back in PanamaCity.com for upcoming story), “Sex, Please, We’re 60” in February, “God of Carnage” in March, and “Lettice and Lovage” in May (details at KT-Online.org). Among many shows the Marina Civic Center will host are the “Battle of the Batons” in January, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” in February, Hall & Oates and Pat Benatar in separate shows in March, and “Hair” in April (MarinaCivicCenter.com).
Screen: The Audubon Society has its annual “Travel and Adventure Film Series” in January. The Martin Theatre will host the world premiere of “Tumbling The Movie,” an independent feature film by a Bay County native, in April (MartinTheatre.com).
Streets: St. Andrews Mardi Gras Festivalhits the pavementFeb. 1-2, and Pier Park will fill its streets with Mardi Gras merriment Feb. 9. There will be no downtown Panama City parade this year; the Krewe of Massalina is cancelling its downtown festival, but will be joining the Krewe of St. Andrews in the 2013 St. Andrews Mardi Gras Parade on Feb. 2, as well as participating in the Pier Park celebration with the Krewe of Dominique Youx.
Sounds: Seabreeze Jazz Festival returns to Aaron Bessant Park in April (SeaBreezeJazzFestival.com), and Spinnaker will host “Rock by the Sea” in May (SpinnakerBeachClub.com). Winter residents can enjoy dances every Wednesday and Sunday through February at the Boardwalk Beach Resort.