I love planning vacations and getaways. This year, I planned an eleven-day / ten-night trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, for my birthday. Who doesn’t want to go somewhere warm during part of the winter months?
The thought of walking in the surf along the sands of the Gulf of Mexico beckoned me and I began my planning.
The first decision was, where was I going to stay? I opted for a room at Casa Loma on the beach with a porch overlooking the Gulf. I could walk down the stairs and be on the beach in moments.
From there, I researched what there was to do in Panama City Beach. I spent a month there in 2021. That year my late husband and I took a trip to Shell Island, rode our bikes, ate at some fabulous restaurants, and played mini golf.
The only thing I wanted to repeat was the trip to Shell Island, an uninhabited, barrier island where there were abundant shells on the shore and the waters were calm.
This time, I wanted to hike some of the nature trails in the area, swim with the dolphins, and get a much-needed dose of saltwater therapy. I also left myself open to the discovery of activities that I hadn’t found in my research.
The Gulf Coast / Panhandle weather was temperamental. The beaches sported double red flags the day I arrived and for better than 50% of my stay. That meant that swimming in the Gulf was prohibited which left me more free time than I had anticipated.
What to do with that free time?
I decided to take time to check out Pier Park, an open-air shopping and dining complex. Although I found a number of interesting items I knew I could live without, I enjoyed strolling through the shops. Fortunately, I’m not into picking up tourist attraction items.
The Beginning of a Scavenger Exploration
I had driven past the Visitor Center several times and decided to see if they could tell me where I could find shopping off the beaten path. A large dolphin stands in the corner of the porch at the Visitor Center.
There I picked up my “Decor by the Shore” scavenger hunt booklet as suggested by the center’s attendant. If I collected better than 50% of the store stickers, I could bring the booklet back for a prize.
The first place near my hotel that next morning had gone out of business. On to the next place. Some were closed on Monday which meant that I would just have to return. I believe I explored 9 of the 13 stores and walked away with three treasures and the Visitor Center Prize.
At hip.sea, I found an eclectic selection of signs, vintage home decor,
and personal items. It was here that I found my new purse made from military tents and other heavy canvas items.
At Turtle Girls Market, you need to stop and take a selfie with the turtle outside.
and peruse through the various booths of hand-crafted items, repurposed items, and artwork.
Other stores had unique displays outside as well as inside.
I strolled from booth to booth, display to display in the charm of these Panama City Beach places.
My prize? Well, in addition to a new purse, a salt scrub for my hands, a meditating turtle, and an old library card catalog, I received a new beach bag and a silicone wine glass. Definitely, an activity I enjoyed.
All photos by R. Kojetin
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how you plan your vacation.
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Until next time . . .
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