Tourist season on Panama City Beach is winding down, but many restaurants and attractions are staying open, or going on reduced hours, year-round.
PANAMA CITY BEACH â€” Labor Day traditionally has marked the end of the summer season, when shops and restaurants that depend on tourism shut down for the fall and winter.
However, that’s not so much the case any more, as mostÂ beach businesses now remain open year-round, catering to “shoulder season” visitors, long-term winter residents and late winter/early spring family vacationers. But even so, there are still a number of places that will be hanging the “closed till 2019” sign on the front door, while others â€” such as area scooter rental centers â€” will operate on reduced hours, and others (like Coconut Creek, for example) are closed only onÂ Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
As Yonnie Patronis, co-owner of Capt. Andersonâ€™s Restaurant, explained in a 2012 interview with The News Herald, closing for the winter months has traditionally cost less than trying to keep the restaurant open.Â Patronis said during the late fall months before the seasonal closure, the restaurant staff serves barely 20 percent of the customers they do in the summer months. To cover overhead, the 750-seat restaurant needs to do 400-500 dinner meals each night. In the summer, itâ€™s not unusual for the restaurant to do 2,000 dinner meals in one night.
“As a rule, in the winter months a lot of businesses are forced to shut down because financially they would lose more money staying open,” Patronis said. “The deeper we go into the winter, the more financial damage that occurs. … Itâ€™s a function of lack of volume.”
Annual fall events like Emerald Coast Cruizin’, Thunder Beach and Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam have increased the autumn tourism numbers in recent years, but many businesses still make adjustments for the reduced traffic.Â Here are some particulars for the season:
Shipwreck Island Water Park, 12201 Hutchison Blvd., has three more days left in its summer season. Shipwreck â€” which was recently ranked the No. 3 water park in America, according to Trip Advisorâ€™s Travelerâ€™s Choice Award â€” will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 and 2, and from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3. After that, it won’t reopen until spring of 2019. For more information, visit ShipwreckIsland.com or call 850-234-3333.
Angelo’s Steak Pit,Â 9527 Front Beach Road,Â will be open for the season through Oct. 27, with plans to reopen in the early spring of 2019. Until then, the restaurant willÂ open daily at 5 p.m. For details, callÂ 850-234-2531 or visit Angelos-SteakPit.com.Â
Capt. Anderson’s Marina, 5550 N. Lagoon Drive, is home to numerous fishing and sight-seeing vessels that will operate on reduced hours in the autumn.Â For instance, the Shell Island ferry will close on Sundays as of Sept. 4, ending its season on Oct. 31; and the Capt. Anderson III sight-seeing tour will operate from 1-4:30 p.m. daily from Sept. 5 to Oct. 31, reducing to Thursday and Saturday only for Oct. 1-25, before ending its season.Â For more information, visit CaptAndersonsMarina.com or call 850-234-3435.Â
Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant, 5551 N. Lagoon Drive, won’t close for the season until mid-November. They will have special hours for Labor Day Weekend,Â opening at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but closed Monday. Afterward,Â regular fall hours will have the restaurant openingÂ at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sunday. For more information, visit CaptAndersons.com or call 850-234-2225.
Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center, 8602 Thomas Drive, is open year-round, though hours vary by season. For details, visit EmeraldFallsAmusement.com or call 850-234-1049.
Fun-Land Arcade and Snack Bar, 14510 Front Beach Road, is open from early morning to late evening seven days a week during the summer, but will change to fall hours Sept. 4, opening at 3 p.m. Fridays, 7:30 a.m. Saturdays, and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays (closed Monday through Thursday). For details, visit Funland-arcade.weebly.com or call 850-481-9721.
Gulf World Marine Park, 15412 Front Beach Road,Â used to close at the end of the summer but now stays open year-round. Hours vary by the season.Â Currently, the park is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23, hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., closing only forÂ Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For details, visit GulfWorldMarinePark.com or call 850-234-5271.
Panama City Beach Aquatic Center, 16200 Panama City Beach Parkway, is currently on its “School’s Back” schedule. It will shift to an autumn schedule Sept. 10-Nov. 4, with reducedÂ winter hours Nov. 4-March 3, 2019.Â Pool covers will be back on during someÂ times of the day, and the pool closesÂ at temperatures of 35 degrees or below. Early morning swims from 6-8 a.m. will be cancelled if the temperature is predicted the day before at 38 degrees or colder. For details, visitÂ PanamaCityBeachParksAndRecreation.com or call 850-236-2205.
Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise, which sails out ofÂ 5325 N. Lagoon Drive, will end its season on Oct. 27. Regular cruise schedules are found on the calendar at PirateCruise.net, or call 850-234-7400 for details.
Sea Screamer, 3605 Thomas Drive at Treasure Island Marina, continues its season through November and returns to the waves in March 2019. For details, visit SeaScreamer.net or call 850-233-9107 or 850.235.3000.
Saltwater Fishing: According to a chart from the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, the following fishing seasons are closing in coming weeks and months: Greater Amberjack closes at the end of October; and Red Snapper closed July 20 (changes to the season are pending). But note that other seasons open in the fall: Gag Grouper opens in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties in September; Stone Crab opens Oct. 15; Snook opens in September; Spiny Lobster opened Aug. 6; and Gray Triggerfish opened in August. For a complete at-a-glance chart, visit MyFWC.com.