Suggestions for Beach Attractions

by May 22, 2008 • 20 comments

Dana Holloway sent me a letter she is sending the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau with suggestions for varying beach attractions that are centered around the family and goaled at being free or affordable in order to attract visitors that want to do more than sun at the beach.

It reads:

I am writing you in an effort to help find ways to improve PCB’s attractions without spending much money, and to help prevent any new taxes being imposed on residents here to pay for sports complexes, convention centers or the like. Please take the time to read and consider my suggestions.

Most people who choose to vacation in PCB are not wealthy. And, in reality it is going to be a long time before PCB is able to attract large groups of people with a lot of disposable income. That being said, it is important for us to first concentrate on providing lots of inexpensive or free entertainment while keeping in mind that our biggest sell is the beach. Playing up lots of fun, cheap beach activities will sell our beaches and make us stand out from other beach communities.

Right now the ‘attractions’ we advertise are still too pricey for the average family. Have you priced what it cost to take a family of four to a local attraction? We obviously cannot tell those businesses what to charge for admission, but we can provide our guests with cheaper entertainment alternatives. An attainable goal for us is to make PCB a fun and affordable place for the average family to come. Rental units on the beach cost quite a bit and we obviously can’t control that either, so let’s concentrate on what we can do to make Panama City Beach “the best affordable family vacation destination in the US” by providing cheap or free entertainment on our beaches for lots of family fun and memories. After we do that – we will see more and more people with lots of disposable income choosing our beach over all of their other choices.


more after the break.

Campfire nights on the beach. Once a week during our busiest seasons, have several designated areas on the beach for huge campfires. Perhaps a local coffee house could be convinced to set up a table at each location to sell hot chocolate and hot cider. Let the public bring their own coolers, etc. too. Perhaps some of the firemen or others can be persuaded to volunteer their time to help build the fires. And, may be tree cutters or landscaping companies with junk to discard can donate the stuff to burn.

Sand Castle contests – once a week or day during peak season. Winner’s get $25 or two Free Beach Chair rentals for a day of their choosing or something. Try to attract the big time sand castle contests to PCB too.

Sandboxes. On Saturdays or Sundays, rope off several areas on our beaches with cute attractive signs that joke about ‘world’s largest sandbox’. Have a bunch of little digging toys in a box that all the kids can use.

Pet Obstacle Courses. Every so often set up pet obstacle courses on the beach and advertise the entertainment. You can get local vets and pet store owners to set up a table or two during the events too – because everyone loves to shop for their pets. Encourage more rentals to allow pets, and play that up in advertisements. Attract Pet Shows or contests to our town.

Music on the beach. Use the County Pier location or the Boardwalk’s outdoor pavilion to host a “writer’s night” once a week. The musicians will be free and people can watch music while watching the ocean. Just make sure the free musicians don’t play any loud crazy music that will upset older residents.

Moonlight Dances at the beach. Attract groups like the lady’s Purple Hat clubs, etc. here by advertising music and dancing on the beach. The Boardwalk’s outdoor pavilion is a good place for it. They have to be able to sit or dance while on the ocean to make it unique. Lots of those little lady’s have money to spend and they don’t require extra policemen on duty to keep them under control.

Attract Antique Car Shows or groups to our town – at the park. Those guys usually have money to spend and they don’t usually require us to hire extra policemen either.

Morning Exercise Groups on the beach. Have several meeting places designated on the beaches so every morning all the ladies or guys know where to go if they want to exercise with others by the water. Post signs at each site.

Story Time on the Beach. At different locations have someone sit by the water and read about sea life to the children. The reader can bring little toys to make it even more interesting for them. You can solicit volunteers such as teenagers, older folks, teachers, librarians, etc. to do the reading each day or once a week or weekends.

Affordable Beach Massage. Let and encourage some local massage therapists put up small attractive resort style tent (not cheap crappy looking ones) to give massages at affordable prices on the beach. The tents should be closed on two or three sides for privacy so that the customer can watch the ocean waves, but the other beach guests can’t see the massage be given. I’d pick out one style tent and tell all the massagers that they must use that same tent if they want a permit to give massages on the beach. And, make them all charge the same prices. That way – visitors always know where to go get the massage and how much it will cost them when they walk over there.

It’s ALL about the Beach. Play up the relaxing and the fun on the BEACH.

We definitely need a designated BEACH TROLLEY that only goes up and down Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive, and perhaps on some areas of Middle and Back Beach Roads just near restaurants and Grocery Store. Have it go as far as Pier Park and as far as Captain Andersons. One of the best things about Anna Maria Island is that you don’t have to drive anywhere.

Snowbird Pass. During January and February give a FREE Snowbird Pass to anyone who comes by the Visitor’s Center and shows you their out of state license and proof that they are staying here more than two weeks. Convince local retailers to provide 10-50% discounts to all Snowbird Pass carriers. Get Publix manager, restaurant managers, the Zoo, hair salons, and lots of other places to all participate. THEN – really advertise this to all the Northern States and Canada. It might help Snowbirds decide to give PCB a try over some other place this winter. Find Ways to Get more Snowbirds here!

Christmas at the Beach Party. Have Snowman sand building contests, sand tree building contests that can be decorated with battery operated lights. Have campfire and tables selling hot chocolate, etc.

Have Story Telling night at the beach around a campfire?

MOVIE night at the beach. If not too costly – set up big movie screen on or near the County Pier once a month or once a week during peak season and let everyone sit at the beach and watch a G or PG movie. Someone can set up a popcorn booth and sell canned cokes or hot chocolate too. The Beach Tram can take everyone back to their rental units, houses or condos after the movie.

Instead of Shakespeare in the Park – How about Pirates on the Beach night or other little plays? You can solicit volunteers to perform plays from high schools or other schools or groups.

How about promoting kite boarding at our beaches too? Everyone loves to watch those guys.

My objective was to come up with low cost entertainment, on or near the water, and to attract groups of people that do not require PCB to hire extra police staff. We want to stop attracting the loud and rowdy groups because ultimately that will not get us where we need to be. For an example of what happens to a city when it attracts mainly loud and rowdy groups just look at Daytona Beach. It’s not such a pretty place any more.

Thank you for taking time to read my suggestions. I appreciate all of your efforts to help PCB turn into something we can all be proud of.

Dana Holloway

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1 Sherry May 22, 2008 at 7:22 am

Awesome suggestions! These are the type of activities that locals and tourists want to be a part of. I hope they take time to seriously evaluate your suggestions.


2 Ed Jordan May 22, 2008 at 7:34 am

I noted that the bands listed did not feature any name bands–better names will attract people.

I would also suggest a Triathlon or a Marathon for the area.


3 jamnolfin May 22, 2008 at 9:19 am

Good ideas but if you want people to respect you dont call the Gulf of Mexico a ocean. Nothing says ignorant tourist like not knowing the difference. I was born and raised here and that drives a bug up my posterior.


4 WWW May 22, 2008 at 2:27 pm

These really are some excellent ideas. One thing that PCB is slowly evolving towards is the “community” attitude. Right now, there is not a whole lot more than Pier Park, Frank Brown Park and some city functions that actually promote locals to gather together. Locals can be full-time residents and part-time regulars. Extend the snowbird pass to locals. Many businesses would like to promote locals coming to visit during the off-peak season.

Many of these proposed functions promote the sense of “community” this area has been lacking, IMO.

Thank you for sharing.


5 Dave Wilson May 22, 2008 at 6:46 pm

These ideas are all “Super”. I would add that the Intracoastal Waterway as well as the beach area could be used to attract tourists too. With gas prices being what they are, boaters are looking for ways to save money. Photographers love the intracoastal for its wildlife, commercial fishing boats, etc. Don’t forget the “birders”…
Thanks for seriously caring about our community Dana!


6 Jason Koertge May 23, 2008 at 11:55 am

jamnolfin, find someplace else to be rude.


7 Sharon Hodges May 27, 2008 at 7:55 am

Great ideas! I do hope the Beach Chamber of Commerce and the TDC and the Mayor’s office will read this letter and present it for discussion at their next meetiing. The author is correct about the majority of people visiting here not having a lot of extra spending money. It’s all about the beach and having good clean fun.


8 Tony Santilli May 27, 2008 at 8:27 am


Great Suggestions!

My company BEACH BOUNCERS offers a movie screen and projestor package that is portable and can be shown on the beach. We work with a number of resorts in the area. If you are interested please call at 850-625-6285

Thank You


9 Maureen May 27, 2008 at 8:33 am

To Ed Jordan: Better named bands will want money; those still struggling a bit will play anywhere, anytime, for nothing except the applause. To jamnolfin: Lighten up. The Gulf is a larger part of the whole, and I’m betting that if you’re at Walmart and someone says to you “think I’ll get wet in the ocean today” your gonna know what ocean they’re talking about. If you fain ignorance by asking “what ocean?” then who’s going to look like an idiot. We don’t all march to the beat of the same drummer, jam. I was under the impression that there was already a triathlon in the area, but I could be mistaken. Offering locals discounts on popular attractions is already in use at many fun stops. Gulf World, the Zoo, the pool at Frank Brown Park, and others I’m sure, already offer local’s discounts. Perhaps more could also do that. As far as the snowbird pass is concerned, let’s not forget that the regulars, the locals, are actually the economic base for PCB. Extending some discounts their way would be an enormous gesture. Some very good suggestions from Dana as well as a few others. Thanks for getting the ball rolling Dana.


10 Robert Parrish May 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

Great Suggestions! Just wanted to remind everyone that as far as Antique Cars the 4th Annual Emerald Coast Cruizin will be held November 3 – 8 in Panama City Beach, and will attract more that 3,000 classic cars owners and their familes, from all over the Southeast, I am the show promoter and I am working very hard this year to promote this event. to bring thousands of familes, and car owners to Panama City Beach for a week long event this year. Please visit our website:, or call me with questions 662-587-9572. Thanks Robert


11 Jim May 27, 2008 at 9:02 am

Dana, I like the way you think. All of these things are good. I expect some of this is going on already, but no one knows about it. I know the triathalons are going on and concerts in the park are going on. Perhaps the Chamber or TDC could find a way to get this information to the public. I noticed that PCB visitors center personnel were at the State line, giving out free gifts at the welcome center. If they knew about these events, they could share the information.

If anyone had known, prior to their visit, more visitors probably would have stopped at the Visitors Center to receive the free gifts and information.


12 Michael Ray May 27, 2008 at 9:52 am

Dana, what a bunch of great ideas !! We are there several times a year, and at least once the whole family (kids & grandkids) come with us. Always looking for things to entice the little ones, and I think the sandbox idea would be great! Your ideas(and other ideas) would, I think be implemented by entrepreneurs or for profit companies with the capital to invest, and don’t think this would be all bad. I would certainly hope the TDC and other governing bodies would heavily partner with and support such endeavors. You’re right, there’s not a lot of money to spend, but there is some, most would not complain about a “fair” admission charge. Anyhow, I congratulate you for having the foresight to see the real future of PCB. We’ll be looking for your ideas becoming reality when we’re there.


13 Jacob May 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

A lot of great ideas and exchange of thoughts. Jason’s site definitely works!! I know it is a different environment, but Mallory Square on Key West does a fantastic job with their sunset festivities on their pier. They have local artists, craftmakers, musicians, magicians, and other performers every night to enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the susnset on Key West. VERY family friendly and it works for them.


14 David May 28, 2008 at 3:11 pm

I like the trolley idea. Gatlinburg, Tenn has a great trolley system. It’s a pain to get in the car and drive every where. Would use the trolley if there was one. Will be in PCB 6-14 to 6-22. Hoping to have a great time.


15 Sharon Ernst May 28, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Great ideas Dana! I visit quite often, and when the whole family comes down, some of the attractions are quite expensive!

One of the things we love to do is attend the air show when Tindall AFB holds them. I’ve often wondered why they couldn’t do the show out in the Gulf so people could all come down on the entire length of the beach and enjoy it, rather than crowding highway 98 over to the AFB, I can’t imagine it taking much more fuel to fly the aircraft right along the beaches. We get a thrill when a couple of them fly over, and sure would enjoy just walking down to the beach to take in a whole show!! The local food vendors, hotels, and businesses along the beach could also benefit from visitors who would surely patronize them while the show was going on too!

Panama City and Panama City Beaches are such a wonderful, beautiful place to work and live in this country, I wish I could be a full-time resident, and surely hope all the residents that do get to live there realize how lucky they are to have such beautiful, friendly surroundings!

Thanks for some great suggestions!


16 Bob June 1, 2008 at 9:05 am


Thank you for suggesting some Great Ideas!! I hope someone pays attention to your ideas and the response from others these ideas.


17 Joe June 3, 2008 at 11:02 am

Great ideas. How about some beach/pier fishing tournaments? Volleyball tournaments. Sailboat races.


18 boston richie June 7, 2008 at 7:16 pm

good ideas, glad someone is thinking. bottom line is that the more things there are going on , the more reasons people will have to come here. also, some ideas are presently done, but more advertising would make them more of a draw.


19 Roger July 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

Has there been any development on these ideas? These need to happen. What committee with the city would be responsible for creating these? If there isnt one currently lets create one.


20 Judy Pelon August 12, 2008 at 7:02 pm

I would like to see us have some festivals that would attract vari8ous people. Example Mideval, Neptune Festival like Virginia Beach does, sand sculpture festival and more. Every weekend of the year, our community could hold some sort of festival to keep the crowds coming. Frank Brown is a great place to house many festivals. We get good crowds in the summer, but we really really need to boost our energy in bringing people during the winter. I have a place in The Villages, and every night of the week, there is a band and dancing in the town center. You know that there is always somewhere you can go for entertainment. Music and dancing and live entertainment is a big draw.

We have to use our best resources. We have wonderful restaurants, and a food festival on the beach honoring all the restaurants in PC and PCB could be a big draw and bring the local businesses to join in. When you promote our business, they will join in and help to promote PCB and PC