Bruce and I moved to Panama City, FL after he was accepted to graduate school at FSU. You may be thinking, wait FSU is in Tallahassee, and you would be right. However, it has an auxiliary campus in Panama City and because the university let him choose which campus he would rather be at, we chose the beach! Maybe it wasn’t a great idea because less than 3 months after we moved to Florida, Hurricane Michael wrecked the area. However, the community has come together and there’s some great things happening in this little city. So naturally, it is where I’ll start when talking about hidden gems!
Now Panama City Beach, FL (or PCB for all you spring breakers!) is no secret. Each year thousands of people flock to its sandy white beaches and enjoy the Florida sun. But I’m not talking about PCB, I’m talking about the little city across the bridge, where tourist rarely make it (unless of course they’re going to Hunt’s, which has to be the most famous restaurant in the whole area). Here’s some things you can’t miss if you’re in the area.
St Andrew’s Historic Downtown:
This is an area in Panama City on/and near Beck Avenue. There’s a small downtown with some great shops, a weekly farmer’s market on Saturdays (if you go, say hi to our favorite vendor- St. Andrew’s Pepper Company. Literally the best hot sauce, ever!), a great park and some of the only foot traffic you’ll see in Panama City. Here are a few of my favorites in the area.
St. Andrew’s Slice House
Bruce grew up in the pizza capital of the country, literally surrounded by nationally recognized pizza companies (Hello- Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven, CT) and he is VERY picky when it comes to pizza. He raves about this place. Although it is a little pricey(er) than your run of the mill pizzeria, you have to keep in mind that these are all specialty pizzas. Beware- even for big eaters, the full pizza there will fill 2 people up with leftovers for the next day. I would suggest getting a slice and a brew (they have a great selection of local beer too!) and hanging out with the locals there. If you’re still hungry, try another one of the Slice House creations!
Los Antojitos has the best Margaritas in the Panhandle! Or…at least the strongest!
This place has a fun happy hour with great views of the Bay. They often have live local music and serve some tex-mex favorites.
Oaks by the Bay
This has to be one of the best public parks I’ve ever been to. It marks the end of Beck Avenue in Panama City and goes right to the Bay. Although it took a beating in the storm, “The Sentry”, the largest of all the oaks, can still be seen holding court at the end of Beck Avenue. Definitely worth a stroll.
Little Village is a great eclectic little shop with a grab and go restaurant on the backside. This place just has a great vibe. Bruce and I go often to get a mimosa on Sunday mornings and just hang out on their awesome back porch or swing by Finn’s Island Style Grub and get the Island Nachos (with pork or jerk chicken) to share! It’s a great way to spend some time after visiting the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday.
The Trendy Side Boutique
A nicely priced (when does that ever happen?!) boutique shop. I love the pieces I’ve gotten from there and I wear them often. I love to stop by and see what new stuff they get in!
Amavida/ Vinny and Bay’s
These are both coffee shops that you should definitely check out before searching for a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Depending on what kind of coffee drinker you are depends on which I would suggest. Amavida is your typical, local roaster shop. It has great, “real” drinks without a lot of added sugar. This is where I would get my morning coffee and maybe an afternoon Latte. Vinny and Bay’s on the other hand has fun and festive drinks. They do pack a sugar high but man, they are good. If you’re a White Chocolate Mocha kind of person, this is your drink stop. Also nice to mention, they support people with developmental and cognitive disabilities by giving them work skills and hiring them in the shop. It’s a great place to stop by, even if you’re not a sweet coffee person.
No trip to the Panama City would be complete without a couple of Dive Bars. So if you really want to see Panama City’s local flair, check out some of these no frill, cheap watering holes!
No Name in Panama City, FL
I almost don’t want to spill the beans about this bar. It is on the bay with beautiful views, especially at sunset. It has cheap drinks and free snacks! What’s not to love? Now don’t expect any frills at this place, it is a local “dive” with run of the mill well drinks, but it is a great place to hang out with friends and catch up on the day. Also- keep in mind that people can still smoke in bars in Florida so the inside gets pretty smokey!
The Salty Hobo
Again, I almost don’t want to give up my favorite dive bar here but you should all know the glory that is the Salty Hobo. This (absolutely) no frills bar is the quintessential dive bar (hello $2 well drinks). Come here if you’re looking to hang with the locals in a place that is authentically the panhandle.
Next time your in Panama City (or PCB!) make sure to pop across that bridge for a little hometown fun! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!
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