Panama City Beach Spring Break more Family Friendly than Ever

by March 2, 2009 • 25 comments

Spring Break 2009 on Panama City Beach will be more family friendly with regards to outgoing marketing efforts than it has been in several years, if ever.  This year, there is a greater emphasis on attracting families to our destination and activities planned reflect trying to cater to this market.

Each year tens of thousands of spring breakers descend on our beaches to enjoy great weather, shopping and tons of activities that our area’s businesses put on for this highly consumptive crowd.  This business is essential to the primary industry in our area, tourism.  Local businesses depend on this to jump start their revenue for the year.  It has been argued in the past that families have greater spending potential than college kids, therefore have a greater capability in pumping money into our local economy.  I totally agree with this, but I don’t agree that we can just shut down college spring break and expect the families to just show up.

This process must be gradual and will take time, but the effects will be lasting.  Starting this year, the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau is spending money on marketing to the family demographic.  In the next three years, we’ll see this category trend in the same direction that will ultimately lead to a family friendly destination where parents will feel safe bring their kids to the beach again.  Now, that’s not to say that we won’t see college kids doing keg stands on the beach any more, but the level of occurrence will be less.

With the growth and fertilization of Pier Park, finally families actually have something to do here in Panama City Beach.  In addition, activities are springing up left and right, with the help and creativity of the CVB’s staff.  I frequently receive emails from Susan Estler, Director of Marketing for the Panama City Beach’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of great ides that they are coming up with to help tell the nation about our area.  They are moving in the right direction with momentum picking up each week.

Two weeks ago, Daytime, a show geared towards daily lifestyles and entertainment content was in Panama City Beach for a long weekend experiencing everything from para-sailing to shopping and dining in our area.  With cameras in tow they braved the chilly weather with one of their main hosts, Cyndi Edwards.  Aired on their network will be five 3-5 minute segments that will serve as an expose of what makes Panama City Beach a great place to vacation.

Also new this year is an expansive campaign with Southern Living including an online sweepstakes driving families to our shores, weekly radio “Beach Report” on stations throughout the southeast and a series of family Focus Concerts at Aaron Bessant Park (tentative right now, but should have more details soon).

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1 Jellen March 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Good deal! You know, families enjoy the maze, go-carts, putt-putt and bumper boats too.


2 panama city beach resident March 3, 2009 at 8:09 am

what about our children jason????no real activities for kids !!!please let us know of any future plans for kids at the pier park…..thanks


3 Betty Sanders March 3, 2009 at 8:22 am

What a switch — and how quickly we forget! Wasn’t it only a few years ago when the powers that be were all in favor of building all those high rises to push out the ‘families’ and draw a more ‘high’ class clientele?


4 John March 3, 2009 at 8:29 am

Is it safe to rent my house
during spring break yet?


5 Mark Canfora March 3, 2009 at 8:40 am


A Celebration of Life & Family Event is scheduled for Easter Weekend- Saturday 4/11/09 at Aaron Bessant/Pier Park Amphitheatre . This gathering is presented by Mark Canfora Ministries with the support of many, many churches, businesses, Families 4 A Safe Panama City Beach, other organizations and individuals.

This IS NOT a TDC sponsored event.

More info at our web site.

Sponsors/Event Partners Needed & Welcome! A Community Meeting will take place and hosted by Families 4 A Safe PCB in Mid March….location to be announced.

We welcome and will promote the rapid (not gradual)move to bring families to the beach during all the weeks during spring break. As a resident, citizen and ministry director along with the “vast majority” in our community, we are thouroughly disgusted with the fact the TDC ignored the facts presented to them last spring and once again elected to bring MTV to host “their annual party” once again.

Hopefully MTV’s beach music this year…as in their past history, doesn’t involve songs about “killing police officers” and “raping and abusing women.” (See my previous posts)
These tragic, painful, life altering and factual events have already taken place here on our beach during college/student spring break.

We will stand in one voice and say “No More” to the TDC and other events that promote the abuse of women, children and our community as a whole.

Mark Canfora Ministries
330 865 1000


6 Lori Duncan March 3, 2009 at 9:07 am

I’m not sure where your house is located on the beach, but ultimately it’s up to us as owners to screen our guests. It’s a difficult thing to do from hundreds of miles away, I can tell you from experience. But so far, we’ve had 100% success in renting only to families and adult couples. I’ve learned what email inquiries “seem”, “look” or “sound” like they came from students. I’ve handled them with respect but respectfully reminded the prospects of our restrictions. I’ve had phone calls from students, usually girls, and I can tell by their voices, amazing. And so far, no parents have tried to “smuggle” their college kids into our place and leave them to party. Our resort has a no tolerance guideline and frankly, if we had been duped, they wouldn’t have passed through the gate and we’d have been called.

So it is safe to rent, if you know how to screen. I hope you get plenty of renters and wish you great success! By the way, getting back to the email inquiries…if you get an email address that says that’s a red flag. It could be a teacher emailing you from work, but that’s when you simply state something like, “…forgive me if this isn’t the case, but rental inquirers for the month of March and April are reminded of our strict age limit policy…” I’ve never gotten a negative response, but thanks for my forthrightness, and sometimes the kids will ask where they might inquire next.


7 Lori Duncan March 3, 2009 at 9:34 am

Something got left out of my sentence in the last paragraph, I think it was the way I formattted it. It should have said, “…if you get an email address that says, “” that’s a red flag!


8 Jacob March 3, 2009 at 9:50 am

I haven’t seen anything posted about the new Wonderworks on this web site yet. This looks like the same upside down Wonderworks building that you see on International Drive in Orlando. Lots of virtual reality stuff for kids to do. Speculation is that it may be going up somewhere near the old Miracle Strip part of the beach. I don’t know that it is a done deal, but I believe it is in the “works”.


9 Jim March 3, 2009 at 10:41 am

Perhaps most of you are empty nesters now. If not, you would be reminded, daily,that young children go to school every day, except for a few weeks during the summer and an occasional spring or fall week out.’Families will never fill all of your vacancies or your restaurants and gift shops, during March and April.

You can bash the young adults all you want to, but when they decide they aren’t welcome in PCB, a lot of businesses will be hurting. When March rolls around and everything is still empty, you might re-think this, but it will be too late.

It is unfair to label all of these young adults as obscene with no morals. There are as many ‘adults’ and young children that cause problems for their neighboring guests as there are ‘spring breakers’.

I guess you will want to discourage winter visitors next, because they frequent the early bird buffets and are looking for free things to do.


10 SAM March 3, 2009 at 11:17 am



11 jamnolfin March 3, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Jacob, the new Wonderworks will be next to Walgreens and the new steak house. It will be owned by the same people that own Ripleys. Ive heard there will be a over the road walkway connecting the two.


12 Walter Kraszewski March 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

It’s about time that Panama City Beach stops being an alcohol nipple for College Students. Take a walk through our E.R.s during Spring Break and see the real
results of the alcohol abuse that is being advertised and promoted here for young people.

You say businesses can’t make it without this population of drunks think again. Cities that kicked them to the curb like Fort Lauderdale are doing just fine and I don’t see a problem in the Destin area. Why because they wanted and expected better things.

To build a better community a family friendly community Panama City Beach Businesses have to raise their expectations and change their associates.

This city can’t continue to be known as the Biggest Alcohol Bash in the world if it’s City Fathers and Business decide to let the nipples dry up for the college trade.

You’ve got to sow the right seeds to get the plants you want. Weeds will continue to grow anywhere if you let them.


13 Lori Duncan March 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

An example of successful tourism sans drunken college students, is Branson in Missouri. The streets are filled with vacationers, money flows freely into the shops, restaurants and show-houses. Now I’m not inclined to country music (except for Jimmy B) but little ole Branson has managed to enjoy an ever-increasing tourist trade every year without succombing to alcohol binging and wet t-shirt contests. There is no reason PCB can’t enjoy continued prosperity with family friendly offerings, besides having the most beautiful beaches in the USA.

One other note: besides enjoying families as our guests, we also get honeymooners, young couples with toddlers, older couples, families who either home school (they can vacation anytime) and families with children who have vacation breaks the new way, not taking full 3 months in summer, but shorter breaks throughout the year. So I am sorry but I can’t really dismiss families with school age children only gettting a few days for vacation. And “empty nesters” is not a dirty word.


14 Bryan Durta March 4, 2009 at 8:26 am

Great points Lori. Another example of a successful area that doesn’t rely on “party tourism” is Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge. They seem to do a great job of attracting tourists year-round. And I don’t recall seeing any businesses prominently advertising things like XXX toys and movies, wet-t contests, and tobacco pipes for families to see as they drive down the parkway.


15 Bryan Durta March 4, 2009 at 8:37 am

Promoting “Family Spring Break” is a great idea. However, I would suggest one change. We need to be marketing for “Family Spring Break” tourists at the same time as “College Spring Break”. The current TDC/CVB “Family Spring Break” marketing campaign was designed to bring in tourists AFTER the 4 weeks of College Spring Break, NOT at the same time. Something has to be done to help all of the family-oriented accomodations during March.


16 Betty March 4, 2009 at 10:05 am

The comments concerning Branson, Gatlinburg, etc., all of which are great places to vacation, but comparing them to Panama City Beach is like comparing great boulders to tiny pebbles. Those places are famous for having many attractions and lots of things to do. What does PCB have to offer the young set except the beach?

The establishments that sell alcohol must enforce age limits so that alcohol is not so readily available to underage kids — harder to do certainly with the college age crowd but should be strictly enforced with all young buyers.

The hotels and motels should take a more active role of informing their guests concerning responsible drinking and not just turn a blind eye and deaf ear so they can keep on making the big bucks that Spring and Fall Breaks bring in.


17 Chris March 4, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Don’t think the comparison to Gatlinburg is very good either. Gatlinburg is a centrally located vacation spot. The amount of people that area can draw in a 6 hour radius (i.e. long weekend car drive) is huge compared to the amount of people in the 6 hour radius of PCB. Not to mention the amount of people, PCB’s radius is 1/2 as large in square miles due to the fact its located on the coast.


18 Lori Duncan March 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Let me mention something about what I know concerning Branson. The traffic there is very congested, as it grew faster than the city planners anticipated. However, you can look around in any parking lot, busy roadway or even the highways leading there, and see license plates from the west coast to the east coast and everywhere in between. I suppose Gatlinburg, as mentioned by Bryan, would be the same way. But in our part of the country, most towns are really tiny, and spread out with farms and acres of woods in between. Yes, we have great attractions, but they are just different ones. We have country stars, comedy shows, Silver Dollar City, great restaurants and a water park. We have lakes and rivers, and bugs and trout and oh, did I mention bugs yet? But still, yes, we have a lot to do for those who like these things. It attracts folks from all walks of life, all ages.

Now let’s look at PCB. There is tons to do, anything relating to water. Great fishing, restaurants, awesome shopping, Gulf World, a water park, St. Andrews, summer concerts, and a host of other special events throughout the year. No, you can’t compare the venues, but why should either one require partying til you puke in order to have fun? I really do have a feeling that other successful coastal towns have been through the same growing pains as our fair city. I suppose part of those pains include allowing college spring break to occur, then hopefully it will phase itself out.

As our leaders look to the future of PCB, I believe in the longrun, they see it in our best interest to attract more and more family friendly attractions. I believe in PCB, and I see great things on it’s horizon.

Yes, Bryan, let’s continue to promote family spring break all through March AND April. I know I am, and the more property owners can stand firm and encourage families, not partiers to come here, the better that transition will be for everyone.

Footnote: Anyone out there every watch Beach Patrol: Panama City Beach? Or is it Ocean Force? I think they changed the name. Anyway, a little more consistency on the part of the officers during spring break would be nice. Maybe they just seem like pushovers for the camera, but some of those kids should be sent home in a taxi after a night in cuffs…not patted on the back and told, “just don’t do it again okay?” Maybe they’d think twice about breaking the law and putting an ugly face on our town.


19 Bryan Durta March 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

We have plenty of potential tourists within driving distance. Hopefully this town will eventually realize that our “seedy” elements hurt our efforts to grow tourism and need to go.


20 David March 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Let the kids have there fun. I have been to PCB 3 times for spring break, had a great time each year. Was never in the ER, never passed out. Met my wife the last time I went. We went to college 20 hrs apart. Been married for 11 years. This past June we brought our 2 kids for a 2 week stay at the Holiday Inn Sun Spree. Had a great time. There are alot of kids who go to PCB for spring break have a safe great time. If I was not allowed to go PCB 13 years ago, I would not have a wonderful wife, and 2 great kids. There are probably more success stories from spring breaks in the past


21 brenda March 9, 2009 at 12:38 am

we are plaining a family vacation to pcb 4-6-09-04-11-09 is this a safe time to bring my two children?


22 Bryan Durta March 9, 2009 at 12:52 am

Unlike the next 3 weeks which are very family un-friendly, most of PCB will be fine by then. But I would still avoid any of the college spring break oriented hotels since there will still be college students on break. Where are you planning on staying?


23 Jan Nelson March 19, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Ocean Force/TruTV — is not true. The show description says “PCB” but the actual footage isn’t PCB, at all. It is Huntington Beach CA. It’s deceiving because they show equipped lifeguards/rescue teams, etc.. If you are a parent watching this program thinking its PBC and allowing their kid to go because the beach seemed monitored; it’s quite misleading. Since, PCB doesn’t mandate or educate invited visitors re:beach safety. PCB governs its beaches by flags alone. Good Grief.


24 John March 31, 2009 at 9:47 am

I suppose that this group will try and do away with Thunder Beach and all those loud bikes and those partying bikers.


25 Tammy September 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm

May be getting a great deal on timeshare at the casa blanca at pcb. week 13 March 27-april 3 2010. That appears to be the end of spring break next year. is it safe I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. Please reply soon. Thanks