Miracle Strip Amusement Park, 8-21-04

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I’ve never been able to visit Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach, FL. It’s out of the way of everything and was a nine-hour drive from Ft. Myers, FL. I’ve always planned to visit someday when I’m in the area. That’s why I’d always said the Starliner was my hardest coaster credit. Then I heard news that the park will be closing at the end of this season, so I had to go. I heard that the park was pretty horrid and scummy, so I almost didn’t go. I was busy making coaster trips to other locations. Then I had an opening one weekend in August and it was now or never. Even with what I’ve heard of the park, I knew I had to go to see experience it for myself. I knew I’d be kicking myself for not going after it had closed. I considered going to the ACE Miracle Strip event during Labor Day weekend, but I knew that the park would be insanely crowded. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t visit then because hurricane Frances swept through Florida then.

Still, I almost aborted the trip because of the nine-hour drive. I could make it to Atlanta, GA in less than 9 hours. I could have made it to Myrtle Beach, SC in 11 hours. I almost considered flying in, but a last-minute ticket to Panama City, FL was around $500! Even with about a week’s purchase before departure, the price was still $347 round trip! I could fly to California for that price! So it was decided…I would take the pain and drive up.

I left Ft. Myers around 7 am. My plan was to go north on I-75 and then west on I-10. I-75 had moderate traffic. On my way up, I passed Port Charlotte on I-75, where hurricane Charley had hit about two weeks prior. It looked like someone dropped a bomb on the city. There were a lot of mangled metal and destroyed buildings.

I-10 was rather dead! Of course, being a University of Florida graduate, I had to boo FSU as I passed Tallahassee. I-10 seemed to have a lot more rest stops on the way. It seemed like a rest stop was there every 1 to 2 miles! I-75 has its share of interesting billboards, but if you thought the Café Risqué I-75 billboards were exciting, I-10 has some interesting ones too. There were many billboards for a place in Panama City called “Dirty Dick’s Crab Shack.” Insert your own joke here.

With the time difference, I expected to arrive at Panama City Beach at 2 pm, but I encountered sparce and heavy rain, three gas stops, many pit stops, and a Black Angus burger stop at Burger King. I didn’t arrive at Miracle Strip until around 3 pm. On the way, I saw Cobra Adventure Park and they had a Dragon Wagon! I almost stopped for this credit, but I was so tired of riding Dragon Wagon coasters. That and boomerang coasters are getting kind of old to me.

I drove by Miracle Strip and the place didn’t seem like a hellhole. That is, until I saw a car in the parking lot. It was a beat-up car from the 1970’s with a big anarchy symbol spray-painted on it and “I hate you” all over the car. I hope I don’t meet the owners of this car! I wanted to take a picture of it, though.

I bought my $17 armband and entered the park. It didn’t look scummy to me. In fact, it was pretty clean! Park guests seemed to come from the right side of the train tracks too. I wondered what park the other people who said it was a hellhole went to.

I headed to the Starliner first. The wait for this out and back wooden coaster was 5 minutes. I entered the clearly-marked coaster entrance, but I kept on seeing people enter through the exit. Maybe the entrance wasn’t so clearly marked. I sat in the back row of the train. I usually find a lot of airtime on out and back coasters. I didn’t get much airtime during the “out” part. I got a few pops of airtime during the “back” part. Overall, the coaster wasn’t too exciting. Still, you know I’d ride it multiple times on this trip.

I then headed to the O2 Tower. I walked right on this one. What can we say about S&S space shot towers? This was a 2-in-1 shot tower. It shot you up (like Dr. Doom’s Fearfall at IOA), holds you at the top, and then drops you down. On one side of the tower, there was a big umbrella for the ride op. A guest stuck out her legs so far that she was touching the top of the umbrella as she was being pulled up. Man, if she had her legs stuck out as she came down, somebody would be coming home with one less body part!

After the thrilling space shot tower, I headed back to the Starliner and waited 10 minutes this time. I entertained myself as I saw people enter through the exit again. This time, I sat in the middle car. During the “out” part, I encountered a few rough parts, but I only got airtime during the “back” part again. I was still unimpressed by the Starliner.

Then I headed over to the Sea Dragon, a swinging ship ride. There was no wait for this ride. What can you say about a swinging ship ride? It swings you back and forth. I did get some airtime during the apexes of the swings though. This ride was notable because it was the only ride where a ride op said “Welcome to the Sea Dragon, keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times…” during the beginning and “Thank you for riding the Sea Dragon – enjoy your day at Miracle Strip Amusement Park” during the end. The other rides seem to just think you know to get off when the ride stops.

It was back to the Starliner again and I waited 15 minutes this time. It’s strange on how the line became longer as the day went on. I sat in the front car and like the middle, it was a rough ride during the “out” part and had a few airtime pops during the “back” part. I was still unimpressed.

Next up were the Swings. No wait for this flat ride. Again, what can I say about Swings? You sit there and go around in a circular motion.

It was time to take a break from the Starliner because the line was getting long. I descended into other parts of the park. I headed to the Paratrooper ride, which had a few minutes wait. Like the Swings, the Paratrooper just takes you round and round in a circular motion. What more can I say about a Paratrooper?

I had passed by the Abondable Snowman and Dante’s Inferno rides and I wondered what was in there. I thought they were Gravitrons, which make me sick. I decided I must find out, even if I do hurl. I waited about 10 minutes for the Abondable Snowman and it turned out to be an indoor Scrambler. I had been on an indoor Scrambler at Conneaut Lake Park in PA. The Scrambler was a pretty good Scrambler. It really “scrambled” me! I’ve been on very weak Scramblers in my life (I call these “Poachers”). Still, I liked the indoor Scrambler at Conneaut Lake Park, if only for the weird and funky paintings on the wall. I don’t know what they were, but the paintings of figures were certainly weird and funky.

Next up was Dante’s Inferno. I waited 10 minutes for this one. I thought that this was going to be a dark ride. I’ve been on Dante’s Inferno at Morey’s Piers in NJ and it was part of their collection of dumb dark rides (they have one on each pier!). Dante’s Inferno was no dark ride, but something like Crazy Camel that was at Busch Gardens Tampa (I think they’re called Trabants). So on this ride, we go up and down and then up and down again in a circular motion. It wasn’t a bad ride, but people seemed more thrilled when it went backwards. There’s nothing like going up and down in a circular motion backwards, I suppose.

I decided to take a short dinner break. I had a chicken sandwich and beer-battered onion rings. The chicken sandwich was pretty good, but the beer-battered onion rings were excellent! They had great flavor and quite a kick! I don’t suppose they used bottles of Bud for the onion rings. It must have been Sam Adams!

After dinner, it started to rain, so I wandered to the rides under cover. I decided to ride the bumper cars, which had about a 10-minute wait. After riding Knoebel’s Skooters, I could never look at any other bumper cars again. Why? The Skooters are the best bumper cars I’ve ever ridden. You can really spin out other riders by colliding into one of the rear corners of the skooters. If you wack them hard enough and in the right place, you can spin them out. See what you learn from “World’s Wildest Police Videos?” Anyway, the bumper cars at Miracle Strip had these huge rubber padding around the cars. You hit the cars and it’s like running into marshmallows. There are no wild spinouts here! There was a lot of traffic congestion, so it was just like L.A. traffic.

After the bumper cars, I headed back to the Starliner. I had to get a POV video before it got too dark. By this time, the entire queue area was filled and it was about a 25 minute wait. I decided to ride in the back for a smooth ride. I took the back seat. This ride was quite different from my other rides. Boy, it was fast! Who turned up the juice on this? I got air on the “out” and “back” parts. I became impressed by the coaster, but it took hours for the Starliner to warm up to a wild ride. The Starliner isn’t a top 10 coaster, but my final ride on it was the best.

I spent the rest of the day shooting video and photos of the park. I had to preserve the park in some way, for it would be gone soon. As I walked around the park, I wondered what would be built where I was standing. Would it be a parking lot for the soulless condos or the clubhouse? Would it be the pool? Perhaps we need to drive by this place in a year and see what’s there.

I waited 15 minutes each for a final ride on the Abonable Snowman and Dante’s Inferno. I saw a bit of the Hawaiian hula dancing show as I waited for the Snowman ride. The show didn’t seem so bad, but people seemed to be drooling over the hot men and women.

I took a walk around the park and it was pretty crowded. Lines for the rides were long. Even the swings had a 15-20 minute wait! I left around 9 pm. I stopped for the night at a Super 8 Motel on I-10. The room was $63. It was pretty clean, but I don’t think I would pay $63 for that room again. I would have paid $50 max. Oh well…I didn’t have a reservation because I didn’t know where I would end up at the end of the day.

Overall, I didn’t think there were too many impressive things about Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The flat rides seemed like rides you would find at most amusement parks. It didn’t seem to have a special feel, like Knoebel’s or Kennywood. Still, it wasn’t a hellhole or scummy by any means. I think I will miss Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

I'll miss this park..

I went to it several times when I lived in Alabama. The first time for a band contest, and times after that with friends because we had such a good time there and in the rest of Panama City.

I remember the water park, Shipwreck Island alot because it was the first waterpark I ever went too. I was stuck in Alabama for 2 years, and I knew I'd be back in Ohio again at some point but Soack City was still years away from being built.

I remember the park having almost a carny type feel to it no matter where you looked, but it just seemed to work. The entrance to Dante's Inferno still sticks in my mind as the first time we went to the park, it was night and lighted so well.

I went back several years later to help do sound for a friends band for Spring Break at Club La Vela and I made a sidetrip to the park. It was still the same. Almost stuck in time.

Glad you finally made it there, and I'm sure I will, along with alot of other people, miss this park. *** Edited 9/15/2004 1:55:46 AM UTC by Red Garter Rob***

June 11th, 2001 - Gemini 100
VertiGo Rides - 82

I went closing night after my only other visit way back in 8th grade. Wow I still loved it. Maybe I'm just a sucker for smaller traditional type parks, but I find them more charming with their quirks and all. It's just too bad MSAP is gone forever now.

By the way, it's "abominable".

I survived a Japanese typhoon and the Togo flat ride of death!!!!!!
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
I am VERY VERY happy I drove the 12 hours to see this little park a few months ago with great hosts Bill and Jill. :-) I had never been to Panama City in my life and was thankful to have had the opportunity to go out of my way to visit.

It's truly a gem and as soon as I entered the park I felt a bit sad that it was going to close down soon after. In any event we all had a blast and enjoyed the park while we could.

RIP Miracle Strip. :-(


<-----who doesn't expect many more of those long nutso drives anytime soon!!! Yikes!

*** Edited 9/15/2004 3:34:53 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

Barry H said:...On the way, I saw Cobra Adventure Park and they had a Dragon Wagon! I almost stopped for this credit, but I was so tired of riding Dragon Wagon coasters. ...

Good thing you didn't waste your time.

A.) It's not a coaster -- it's powered.

B.) They don't let adults ride.

rollergator's avatar
I love Dragon Wagons....then again, I'm not an *adult*. :)

MSAP...sorry I only got to visit twice, not sure what might even be salvageable after Ivan. Starliner certainly showed some intensity to go with its classic John Allen layout and *impeccable* maintenance, and SHOULD be relocated. The dark ride, Trabant, Scrambler, and most certainly the O2 Tower still have what it takes to thrill more guests, and I've heard a few parks mentioned as *potential recipients* of the remnants of MSAP.

Tina, we had an EXCELLENT time hosting, and even though WA wasn't at its best, Miracle Strip more than made up for it!

P.S. The park's signage misspelled *Abomnible* (or some variant thereof), so I'd certainly feel free to take some poetic license...;)

I was wondering about the effects of Ivan as well. I was thinking that, depending on the storm track, there may not be that much tear down after all... just simply remove what the strom brought down.


While Panama City is surely feeling the effects of Ivan, it missed a direct hit with the storm making land fall further west in Gulf Shores Alabama... home to Waterville USA and their Cannonball Run.

I know the Lake Winnie staff has been taking down their rides at MSAP over the last 2 weeks, and expected to be out of there no later than the end of this week - so most probably a lot of the rides have already been dismantled to a great extent since the land is supposed to be handed over in the next 30 days.

Who knows what will happen at Waterville - time will tell.

rollergator's avatar
....hoping Lake Winnie takes that *Zierer-brand* Wave Swinger....:)
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
Well, if they take that godawlful torture chamber known as the Kamikaze (Shockwave) from MS they can put it right next to the Torture-O-Pain. :-) Add Coney's Round-Up and any rusty Tilt-A-Whirl and you will have your own sadistic themed "area" of the park. LOL!


The Kamikaze had actually left prior to the end of the season - going to Australia.
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
Wow! That far? Good riddance. ;-)


rollergator's avatar
ROFL @ Tina....I was gonna say "that MIGHT be far enough"...:)

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