With a vibe that’s part coastal tradition and part contemporary cool, Panama City, Florida, has a downtown that beckons those looking for something a little different. While this is the largest city between Pensacola, which is less than three hours to the west, and Tallahassee, two hours east, it still has a small-town atmosphere. In this central Gulf Coast location, the “old Florida” culture is still very much a part of what has become an eclectic destination with a bit of a salty side.
Sitting on the shores of St. Andrews Bay, Panama City and its Historic St. Andrews community have flourishing downtowns that are a tribute to their coastal legacy. Bay County History Museum (133 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-818-0964) and the Panama City Publishing Museum (1134 Beck Avenue, Panama City, FL 32401; 850-872-7208) tell the captivating stories of Spanish explorers, coastal economies and local lore. Learn even more about area history by enjoying the historic walking trails, two self-guided trails in Historic St. Andrews and Downtown Panama City.
Shopping along these streets is a treat for those looking for special treasures. Local entrepreneurs and makers comprise a unique collection of shops and galleries which stand beside local eateries and more.
The Little Mustard Seed (437 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-818-0691) is a curated collection of home décor, furniture, apparel, jewelry and gift items that has become a local favorite. The variety is amazing and shoppers can also enjoy their homemade fudge & hand dipped ice cream.
Accents Home Décor & Gifts (428 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-872-1234) is owned by a mother and daughter team who stock an array of items, from furniture, wall décor and lamps to children’s gifts, accessories and keepsakes.
Baywitch (424 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401) has “all things magical and wondrous” on display. Tea, herbs, jewelry, books, crystals, incense and local art are just some of the items here. The owners, two self-proclaimed witchy women, focus on organic and fair-trade items and frequently host events aimed at allowing guests to gather, conjure and flow.
L.H. Bead Gallery (550 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-257-5800) is known regionally for its large selection of gemstones, beads, leather, chains and findings from vendors worldwide. It is also home to the lamp work beaded jewelry creations of artist and owner Lisa Hanna.
Native Spirit Museum & Gallery (1101 Beck Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-890-9905), in historic St. Andrews, displays and sells authentic Native American artifacts and decor from the Florida panhandle and surrounding areas. The museum is free to the public and showcases Pre-Columbian shell, bone, stone and clay artifacts along with the work of many artists.
Panama City Center for the Arts (19 East 4th Street, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-640-3670) is home to nearly 30 diverse exhibits each year, along with interactive classes and special events that offer fun and entertainment for the entire family. The creative downtown space also includes a gift shop featuring locally created items.
The unique mix of shops also includes outfitters helping carry on the tradition of getting out on the area’s diverse waterways. C & G Sporting Goods (137 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-769-2317) carries fishing gear for both novice and expert and nearby, Sunjammers (1129 Beck Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-235-2281) rents and sells kayaks, SUPs and all the accessories.
Thistle & Thorn (304 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401) offers a surprising combination: libations, light fare and tattoos! With a retro art-deco lounge atmosphere, the changing curated menus include brunch items, salads, charcuterie and more. In the back, The Prominent Goat tattoo studio is a popular spot for beautiful body art.
History Class Brewing Company (6 East 4th Street, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-801-2337) is a brew pub with taps filled with their own beers and walls filled with stories of local history. Pretzels, wings, salads and sandwiches are featured on the menu. Harrison’s Kitchen & Bar (5 Harrison Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-979-5550) is the newest addition to Panama City’s downtown, serving coastal and Southern dishes with beautiful views of the Panama City Marina and St. Andrews Bay.
In St. Andrews, Copper Tap Grille (1316 Beck Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-740-3333) prides itself on a menu of made-to-order, healthy seafood and multicultural specialties. For a more casual atmosphere, local icon Hunt’s Oyster Bar (1150 Beck Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-763-9645) is known for its fresh local seafood, including ice cold raw oysters, shucked behind the bar.
For those looking to buy their fresh catch, Buddy Gandy’s Seafood Market (3004 West Highway 98, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-784-0663) and Tarpon Dock Seafood Market (234 Beach Drive, Panama City, Florida 32401; 850-769-6029) are known for the freshest local seafood in town.
If you go
The Panama City Mural Trail features more than 15 murals (with more to come) on display throughout Panama City’s historic neighborhoods. The trail is a project of the Bay Arts Alliance, undertaken with the goal of creating “Art on Every Corner.” Local and nationally known artists have added their creative vision to the destination’s downtown canvas.
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