Travel like a local.


Mardi Gras, Shell Island & Annual Blessing of the Fleet in Panama City, Florida

Best things to do in Panama City Florida - Jan Johnson - Famous St. Andrews Sunsets

Famous St. Andrews sunsets

I’m really excited to interview Jan Johnson of Bayhouse Playhouse Vacations about Panama City, Florida. Jan’s tips for the best things to do in Panama City are awesome because she grew up in Panama City, left as a teenager, then came home to enjoy the beautiful beaches and affordable real estate. She loves the slow pace of life, small-town connections, and having the sand between her toes year-round.

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Best things to do in Panama City Florida - Jan Johnson - Inside the Chickee Hut at Little Village

View from inside the Chickee Hut at Little Village

Panama City, Florida

Panama City is located on the panhandle of Florida, and it is the largest city between Tallahassee and Pensacola. It is a four-season paradise with warm weather throughout much of the year.

Visitors can enjoy visiting Shell Island, walking through the neighborhood of St Andrews, or one of the many curated walking tours throughout the city. Some of Jan’s favorites are the historic walking tours, the ale trail, and the oyster trail. You can also take an airboat tour with Captain Dave to see an abandoned off-shore shrimp farm and alligators or rent a pontoon boat to visit the uninhabited Shell Island for an afternoon picnic.

Throughout the year, there are numerous festivals and local events. The city elects a Dog Mayor during Salty Dog Day in February, hosts the Blessing of the Fleet in April, and the Spirit of St Andrews Bar Haunt in October.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Destination Panama City Florida, the local visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Best things to do in Panama City Florida - Jan Johnson - Panama City Publishing Co walking tour

Panama City Publishing Co walking tour

Getting around Panama City

The local airport is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), which is about a 35-minute drive to downtown.

Jan says that, if you’re staying downtown, there’s no need to rent a car. Renting a bike or using Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around. Or you can go for a ride on the Bay Town Trolley, as an affordable and reliable option. If you decide to rent a car, visit Avis, Budget, or Hertz for the best offers.

When you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

Best things to do in Panama City Florida - Jan Johnson - History Class Brewing Co interior

Enjoying some drinks at History Class Brewing Co

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jan Johnson about Panama City, Florida. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Panama City, Florida
  • Green dots = best things to do in Panama City, Florida
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Panama City, Florida

Who is Jan Johnson?

Jan Johnson is a Panama City native who “ran away” to California at age 15 because she thought she was WAY TOO COOL for small-town life. Turns out, she didn’t know what she didn’t know, and after 33 years away, she returned in 2016 with her amazing husband, Paul Colaceci, and two tuxedo cats, Elton and Charlie. They are all happily living the Salt Life as they train HARD for retirement.

It didn’t take her long to plug into “what’s happening” in PC! Jan serves on the board of the Historic St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership, a local economic and community development nonprofit. She is also the Commissioner Chair of the Panama City Housing Authority, supporting the transformation of affordable housing after its near decimation from Category 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018.

For her “real job(s),” Jan writes grants for traditional and charter public schools, manages 3 Airbnb properties (save up to $65 with our referral link), and sells real estate, helping people buy, sell, invest, or find their dream (or vacation!) home right here in Panama City. Almost every sunny weekend from March through October, Jan and Paul can be found at Shell Island on their jet skis, watching dolphins frolic in their natural habitat. And that NEVER gets old!

Check out her guidebook on the best things to do in Panama City – Live ‘la Vida LOCAL” in Panama City!

You can connect with Jan on her website, on Facebook, and on Instagram. Get up to $65 off your first Airbnb adventure using our Airbnb referral link. Or you can get the 5th night free at Jan’s rental with this Visit Florida promotion.

Big thanks to today’s podcast partner – Bluffworks

This episode is brought to you, in part, by Bluffworks. Whether I’m traveling for business or pleasure, it’s important to have clothes that make me look good AND feel great. I wear Bluffworks jeans, slacks, dress shirts, and blazers because they’re wrinkle-free and are designed for the modern traveler. And if they get dirty, a quick spin in the washing machine and they’re good as new.

Go to and use the promo code from the image below to save 10% off your order. There are many styles to fit your needs so you can stay wrinkle-free when you travel.

Bluffworks Save 10 percent ad 2019-02

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Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Paris France - Nikki WangListen to the next episode when Nikki Wang of The Ways Beyond shares the best things to do in Paris, France. Nikki and I talk about the Church of Sacre Couer, how to visit museums for free, and Paris Fashion Week. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Panama City? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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Related episodes

To learn more about the best things to do in Florida, listen to these episodes: