It isn’t hyperbole when Panama City Beach touts itself as having “the world’s most beautiful beaches.” The city has 27 miles of sugar-white beaches outlined with the amazing emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrew Bay.
The city and its incredible beaches have been a favorite destination for vacationers for as long as anyone can remember, offering fun and exciting outdoor adventure, award-winning dining, and some of the best music festivals in the country.
When planning your trip to Panama City Beach, schedule your vacation around one of these toe-tapping, hand-clapping music festivals.
1. Panama City Beach Mardi Gras And Music Festival
Shouts of laissez les bon temps rouler (“let the good times roll”) pierce the evening air as revelers gather for the annual Panama City Beach Mardi Gras and Music Festival.
The party kicks off on Friday with a float tour on Pier Park. This is your chance to get up close to the spectacular ornate floats that will be featured in the parade the following day and where masked riders will be tossing trinkets and goodies to the revelers who line the parade route.
Friday is set aside for the kids with a children’s parade and fun zone with activities before the music fest kicks into high gear with an authentic Second Line Parade where you can dance down the street behind a wailing brass and drum combo followed by the music of Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band and fireworks at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday is wall-to-wall music at both Aaron Bessant Park along the beaches of the Gulf and Celebration Stage at Pier Park featuring the music of the Swinging Medallions, the “rocking fiddler” Waylon Thibodeaux, and the great 60s group the Guess Who, bringing their big hits “These Eyes” and “American Woman” to the stage.
The Krewe of Domonique Youx’s Mardi Gras Parade begins at 4:15 p.m. through Pier Park with the day ending at 7 p.m. with another fireworks display.
It helps if you come armed with the downloadable parade route map to help you navigate to the festival stages and for the best place to view the Mardi Gras parade.
There is plenty of parking at Pier Park and best of all, you can do a little shopping while you’re there with over 124 stores and dozens of eateries ranging from quick snacks at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to the country and downhome cooking (and honky tonk atmosphere) of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.
2. Cajun Festival
What could be better than a day of fun in the sun on the gleaming white beaches and emerald waters of the Gulf? How about strolling up to an open-air hangout for a frozen margarita? Now add to that a bit of foot-stomping Cajun music.
That’s what you will find at Schooners. Known as Panama City Beach’s “last local beach bar,” the vibe at Schooner’s hasn’t changed much since it first opened in the 1960s. Located directly on the beach, the bar and restaurant hosts this 7-day festival that will have you shouting “aiyee!”
Each day of the festival, Schooner’s celebrates Cajun culture with the spicy hot sounds of the Bayou Boys, the Zydeco Gents and Heat, and more Cajun bands. Of course, there is also incredible Cajun food including crawfish gumbo, red beans and rice, and jambalaya.
And if you can handle it, you could win a cash prize in the annual crawfish eating contest. Each contestant gets 3 pounds of the crustaceans, and the first one to finish wins. Think you have what it takes? Just don’t look them in the eyes.
3. ParrotHead Rendezvous
As the song says, oh, “the stories they could tell.” And that’s the theme for this year’s ParrotHead Rendezvous, a gathering of Jimmy Buffett fans (ParrotHeads) that is touted as the “best ParrotHead party north of Key West.”
Each year, over 500 people flock to Sharkey’s on the beach, where you’re invited to bring your own cooler, rent a tent, and catch the Caribbean vibe with great Trop Rock music and musicians performing on the Rendezvous deck.
The Friday and Saturday night events wrap up with a huge nighttime jam session. When you get hungry, Sharkey’s has some incredible dishes on their menu including Caribbean Nachos and Gator Bites (yes, real alligator) for appetizers and delicious main dishes like their highly recommended Mango Mahi Salad.
Parking is extremely limited at Sharkey’s, but additional public parking is available only a few short yards north on the opposite side of Front Beach Road.
4. Seabreeze Jazz Festival
The Seabreeze Jazz Festival is as cool and smooth as its name implies. For 5 days, top national and local smooth jazz artists take to the stages at Aaron Bessant Park right on the beach with those sea breezes making it even more extraordinary.
Now entering its 23rd year, the festival has been rated one of the top 10 best jazz festivals in the country by JazzIZ Magazine. Each day the festival ends with an exciting all-star jam session. A highlight of the festival is the jazz brunch and dinner cruises aboard the Solaris Dinner Yacht, which takes you around the beautiful St. Andrews Bay with live jazz music filling the air from the open-air deck.
The lineup of performers for the Seabreeze Festival is growing. Check the latest schedule online. There are many different ticket packages available running the gambit of prices. Visit the fest’s official website to purchase the package that’s right for you, but get them quick! The festival is wildly popular and some ticket packages are already sold out.
Front Beach Road, which runs parallel to the beach, is lined with affordable accommodations. Some offer discounts for festival attendees. Visit the Festival accommodations page online.
5. Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam
It all happens at the Frank Brown Park Festival Site beginning Thursday night with a special kickoff concert. There are single night tickets available for the kickoff and 3-day tickets for the remainder of the festival. The 3-day pass includes admission to the Thursday kickoff. There are also discounted tickets for first responders and military, VIP seating, and more. Visit the festival’s website for ticket information.
Onsite parking is available at Frank Brown Park but it comes at a premium — $50 for general parking and $75 for platinum, which puts you closer to the main gate. You may want to consider riding one of the free shuttle buses.
6. Summer Concert Series
Every Tuesday From June To August
Rock and roll and the beach go hand in hand. Every Tuesday throughout the summer, Panama City Beach hosts its Summer Concert Series, and it’s not only rock music that’s featured. In fact, the concert series features an eclectic array of musical genres performed by some of the best singers and musicians in the area.
Admission is free, so grab your cooler, pack a picnic dinner, stretch out a picnic blanket, or unfold the lawn chair and enjoy the show with its gorgeous backdrop – a Gulf Coast sunset. And your leashed pet is welcome, too.
Getting to Panama City Beach is easy with non-stop flights to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport via Delta, United, and Southwest Airlines.
7. SandJam Music Festival
September 30-October 2
Alternative rock takes center stage at the fourth annual SandJam Music Festival. And what a stage it is. All performances are directly on the white Panama City Beach with the crashing surf of the Gulf of Mexico in the background.
The lineup for this year’s event hasn’t been announced yet, so keep an eye on the Panama City Beach website for updates and ticket information.
8. Grand Lagoon Bloody Mary & Music Festival
Grand Lagoon is a beautiful area of Panama City Beach that is known as the “epicenter of entertainment, adventure, and dining.” Each year, the Grand Lagoon hosts a variety of music and events including the Bloody Mary & Music Festival.
Held at the Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf and Spa Resort on Jan Cooley Drive, the festival celebrates the cocktail by pitting local bars and restaurants against each other to win the coveted “Big Tomato” award.
Besides paying homage to the cocktail, the festival also features music by local entertainers.
Leave plenty of time during your visit to Grand Lagoon to spend some time with Shell Island Shuttle. Shell Island offers dolphin cruises, kayak trips, and snorkeling in the stunningly clear bay at the St. Andrews State Park jetty.
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