Is anything better than a family vacation as a child?

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 6, 2013

The sunshine is calling my name. As each weekend nears, I get antsy thinking about what adventure the next couple of days will hold.

Then I remember, I’m in grad school. Weekends, and summer, don’t mean what they used to.

Summer as a kid was the best time. I remember Dad waking me up and carrying me to our camper early in the morning. It was already packed with treats and goodies and clothes and sunscreen and toys. Mom would think of just about everything, but the kitchen sink, to bring along with us to the beach.

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I would try to go back to sleep for the couple hour journey from Andalusia to Panama City Beach, but my excitement would get the best of me and I’d just toss around, wide-eyed.

When we weren’t staying at a campground, we’d stay at the Sandpiper Beacon Resort. It was the greatest place. The “resort” wasn’t what you think of as a resort now. It was a few buildings, beachside. BUT, there was a three-hole goofy golf course, shuffleboard and three pools on property – one heated and inside a large greenhouse type room. One of the outdoor pools had a raised mermaid at the bottom of it. I’ll admit, it used to make me nervous to swim by.

The best part about the Sandpiper was that there was a live talking parrot in the lobby, and an Indian trade gift shop where you could by seashells that had been crafted into things like turtles and birds.

Panama City Beach has changed, but back in the day, it was a world of fantastic smells, lights and sounds. There was Playland, an arcade that still exists, Petticoat Junction, an amusement park further from the beach and Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

I remember sitting in the family car for an hour or more trying to get from the hotel to the park. Traffic would inch by, but I didn’t mind. The people were so interesting to watch. College kids enjoying their freedom, other children would wave from passing cars, music blared from clubs and places I wasn’t old enough to go in.

Then, from a distance, with the windows down and the salt air blowing in, we could hear the fantastic “whurrrrrrrr-wishhhhhhhhh” of a wooden roller coaster up ahead as the lights from the park came into sight.

I remember the feeling of anticipation, excited to ride the log ride and train and nervous to go in the riding and walking haunted houses.

Thinking back, I can’t remember many vacations that topped simple family trips to the beach, and I can’t wait until my husband and I are able to take our future children to the Sandpiper Beacon.

Do you have a favorite family vacation spot? I’d love to hear about it, or even see photos. Send them to