Southern Trip: Miracle Strip Amusement Park (6/21/2004)

Associated parks:

After a bit of down time visiting Michele’s grand mothers (and other family) near Daytona and Orlando fromThursday through Sunday, we headed out of central Florida and toward the pan handle… our destination being Panama City and Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

Now I will probably ruffle some feathers here, but I will say it… Michele’s one cousin heard we were going to Panama City and referred to it as “The Red Neck Riviera”. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect after that… but we soon found out.

We arrived at Miracle Strip at 4 pm… and the park did not open until 6. So we went and looked for someplace to eat. There wasn’t much to be found… at least we could not find it… in Panama City Beach. Panama City, a few miles away had places, but nothing that looked all that great here. Deciding not to brave the construction and head back into Panama City proper, we tried our luck locally.

We came across a restaurant called Sharkey’s. It looked promising. That is where it ended. After a run in with a rather unintelligent waitress, a hostess that was as dense as a palm tree, a manager that was a total jerk, and food that was mediocre at best and outrageously priced at worst, we headed toward the door (come to think of it, when we mentioned our “concerns” to the manager, he actually said, “Well, there’s the door.” Talk about customer service, or lack there of…). So just as I made point to say “GO to Mike’s Clam Shack in Wells, Maine if you visit Funtown USA in Saco… you’ll be gald you did!”, I will say “Stay the Hell away from Sharkey’s in Panama City Beach if you vist Miracle Strip… else you will be SORRY!”

Anyway, we arrived back at the park at 6pm and waited in the air conditioned car until the lines at the entrance dwindled. Not feeling like riding anything, Michele opted for the General Admission stamp ($5) while I got a ride wristband.

First destination was Starliner. I heard good things about this… words like Gem… and Classic… have been applied. It’s a PTC… its an Allen… it should have been good. It wasn’t. However, it was probably more due to the lack of TLC than of being a bad coaster. Rusted and ungreased wheels… a train that seemed like it was going to stall at the top of each hill on the out bound course… it left a lot to be desired. It was also rough… didn’t seem to be tracking very good. Another bad part… no air gates. You stand in line on the ramp and when the train is ready to load the op takes down the chain and it is first come – first served… no picking a specific seat. I was lucky… back seat on my first ride, front seat on my second. Two rides is all I decided to give it. Considering the way it screeched and the way it tracked and the way it nearly stalled on the hills, it brought to mind the Cyclone (Williams Groves infamous termite haven).

Next I headed toward the Haunted Castle. Not a bad little dark ride… actually kind of neat. Lots of twists and turns and ups and downs. And it is dark in there! I liked this a lot.

Dante’s Inferno (enclosed Trabant) and the Abominable Snowman (enclosed scrambler) were up next, followed by the Paratrooper and something that resembled the Flying Bobs / Thunderbolt style flat rides (not sure of the exact name or type of this).

Dante’s and the Snowman were good… nice long cycles, good use of lights, etc. The paratrooper was average. The Bobs style ride was “Eh…” and had a very short cycle.

Tucked away in the back of the park is the Log Flume. It is average at best. Only creative thing I saw… ropes strung from floor to ceiling of the station that acted as grab handles to pull yourself out of the boats. Running under the flume and in and behind some other rides is the car ride… Rt 65 I think it is called, but I could be wrong. I hopped a ride on this just for the heck of it. Neat little path under the flume… neat over and under bridge… neat little underpass under the train tracks… and neat 1950’s style “convertible” cars.

Before heading out, I grabbed one more ride on Starliner. This time it was a two train wait… but I managed to get a back seat again. I think it was because everyone else just decided to fill in from the front, even though it did not say that was required. Same lack luster ride… except for the tunnel. Things got painful in the tunnel. As the back of the train slammed down on the tracks, my body kept going with it. Suddenly it was going back up the next little hill… and most of my body went with it. However, my head and neck were still trying to go down and I felt something snap. It stun a little, let me tell you, and I had trouble moving my neck the entire next day.

Because of the lines, I passed on the drop tower, and we headed out.

What can I say about Miracle Strip Amusement park? Eh… nothing much. Small park… some good rides, some not. One that is odd… its not a good sign when the car ride leaves more of an impression me than does the coaster. While in line for the snowman, I did hear someone complain that their family spent around $100 to enter the park and then found that “there isn’t much here.”

What do I think of Panama City Beach? Michele’s cousin was right… it is the Red Neck Riviera… and that is being kind. As a matter of fact… that is insulting to all Red Neck’s everywhere. What a crappy place this was. Granted, it appears that they are trying to “improve things” as evident by the building boom of high rises… but until the older areas are revitalized or removed it won’t help. Because of this building boom, Miracle Strip is in its last season. The park is closing and being sold for development. Funny thing is, the neighboring waterpark is said to be staying, however when we were there, it was closed and looked abandoned.

As for the park’s demise. I hate to see any park go. I hate to see any coaster go. I believe in preservation of coasters as much as the next person. However, sometimes you just gotta ask… “is it worth trying to save everything?” Considering that Miracle Strip is closing, and Pavilion in Myrtle Beach SC is facing an uncertain future, I would be more concerned about the future of Pavilion’s Hurricane than the dark prospects for Miracle Strip’s Starliner. The loss of the Haunted Castle (and even the car ride) is sadder than the impending doom of the coaster. *** Edited 6/29/2004 6:22:46 PM UTC by SLFAKE***

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
Sad to hear about the sorry state of things at Miracle Strip. I wonder if the Starliner is in poor condition because the park has neglected to maintain it properly because of the impending closing of the park. I mean, why maintain it when there is really nothing to be gained in the long run from the investment.

The coaster looks like a good ride, so I can't help but think that, in another park and with better maintenance, the Starliner would be a great attraction. Rumor has it (beyond the Screamscape rumors) that some potential homes exist for this ride, so let's hope one of them comes through and turns this into the ride that it certainly should be.

It may have potential... if maintained. Like I said... dry, rusted rails and at train that did not seem to track very well all added up to a less than spectacular experience.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
I can imagine! But previous reports from when the park had a future suggest that the coaster is capable of so much more. It's a shame. Too bad that your experience wasn't what you had expected. I know I'd be pissed, or at least disappointed.

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