Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Things To Do

Florida Panhandle a haven for budget travelers

The gleaming white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Florida's Panhandle draw millions of visitors each year, but this area isn't known for glitz, glamour and high-end hotspots like some of Florida's other beaches.

Instead, the Panhandle offers a laid-back vibe, Southern hospitality and family atmosphere. The region caters to budget-conscious travelers who often drive from nearby Southern cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., or New Orleans.

Hotel and restaurant costs climb during the peak summer months, but even the priciest Panhandle resorts are generally less expensive than Miami Beach, Naples or the Florida Keys. And the Panhandle offers many opportunities for great memories visiting local attractions that cost nothing at all.

White sand beaches

From Pensacola in the western Panhandle to Apalachicola in the east, you'll find more than 200 miles (about 320 kilometers) of relatively undeveloped beaches. Walk the sand in the early morning or late day to glimpse a spectacular sunrise or sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Because the beaches don't get lots of traffic — except for a few towns that draw college spring breakers in March — shell seekers often make unique finds such as small conch shells and sand dollars. Beachgoers often glimpse pods of dolphins frolicking in the distance and schools of stingrays gliding just offshore.

During the busiest months, some beaches offer free outdoor concerts. Pensacola Beach offers live music every Tuesday night from April to October, visitpensacolabeach.com.

National Naval Aviation Museum

The museum is at Pensacola Naval Air Station and is open to the public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, navalaviationmuseum.org. The museum offers an extensive collection of vintage military aircraft from all eras of flight and has numerous hands-on displays that give visitors a taste of what it was like to be a naval aviator through the generations. On most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings March through November, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron practices in the skies above the museum. Visitors are treated to a full, jaw-dropping performance by six of the world's best fighter pilots. Team members gather inside the museum after some practices for an autograph session with visitors.

A village by the seaside

The picturesque village of Seaside — seasidefl.com — is along the Gulf of Mexico between Destin and Panama City and includes some of the priciest beach homes in the region. Developed in 1981 as a planned resort community, Seaside was the setting of the 1998 film, The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. Seaside is known for its pastel beach bungalows built in the old Florida tradition and for its landscaped walkways and public areas. The town has upscale boutiques and restaurants, but there is lots of fun to be had in Seaside without spending any money. Seaside often has live concerts during the evenings in its outdoor amphitheater. Visitors are encouraged to pack a picnic and enjoy the music.

Wentworth museum and Historic Pensacola

A collection of historic homes, museums and other sites— www.historicpensacola.org — highlights Pensacola's history dating to the mid 1500s under Spanish, French, British, Confederate and American control. Admission to the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum is free. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For a look inside the historic homes in Historic Pensacola Village, you can take a tour for $6. The University of West Florida archaeology department often conducts digs in the area and visitors can get a close-up look at a dig in progress.

The Destin docks

The sign welcoming visitors to the well-known Panhandle resort city of Destin calls the town "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village." The sign is an homage to a time when the area was known for its fine snapper fishing and shrimping rather than high-rise condos, but fishing remains a huge part of local culture. Destin has a large charter boat fleet and visitors can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars searching for marlin and mahi on a deep-sea fishing expedition. For visitors who don't have their sea legs or who don't want to spend serious money trying their luck at offshore fishing, Destin's fishing docks still offer an entertaining stroll. Fishermen unload and clean their catch and display the fish for passers-by to view, and the large grouper, snapper and other fish are usually an impressive sight.

Harborwalk Village and the Emerald Grand resort — emeraldgrande.com — on the west end of Destin have a variety of events year-round and make a fun place for visitors to stroll before or after checking out the day's catch.

 
Comments
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Want to drink free whiskey with country star John Rich in Tampa?

Want to drink free whiskey with country star John Rich in Tampa?

Here's an offbeat way to start your Memorial Day weekend right.
Updated: 2 hours ago
New restaurants: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

Some new eats on the horizon in Tampa Bay.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita Festival This year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflow...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Well, it's different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

Well, it's different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

Plus everything else to see on stage this week in Tampa Bay.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Last chance to eat at Lee Roy Selmon's in Tampa

Last chance to eat at Lee Roy Selmon's in Tampa

The original location is closing as the chain phases out.
Updated: 2 hours ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn't backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn't backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It's been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since.
Updated: 2 hours ago
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF's US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF's US Festival tribute

So many music festivals in Tampa Bay this weekend.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Margarita Festival schedule, set times: When to see the Wallflowers, Everclear and more

Tampa Bay Margarita Festival schedule, set times: When to see the Wallflowers, Everclear and more

It's anyone's guess as to whether this weekend's ugly rains will hold off long enough for the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival to crack open some 10,000 bottles of tequila in Curtis Hixon Park.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Updated: 2 hours ago