Long popular with spring break students and vacationers all year-round, Panama City is along Florida's beautiful panhandle, with stunning beaches fronting the Gulf of Mexico. This coastal vacation favorite that's becoming more popular with gay visitors in recent years is just a 2.5-hour drive from Pensacola, which hosts its huge Gay Memorial Day celebration each year; and it's 3 hours west of the state capital, Tallahassee.
Downtown Panama City has one long-running gay hangout, the Fiesta Room Lounge (100 Harrison Ave., 850-763-1755), which is set in an old brick building and has a bit of the feel - with its frilly architectural details and big windows - of a building in the New Orleans French Quarter. As it's a bit of a drive from downtown Panama City to the popular resort area of Panama City Beach, where you'll find the popular gay bar Splash, the Fiesta Room is a handy option for those staying close to the city itself. Regulars come here for the good drink prices and fun drag shows. The crowd is fairly mixed.
Catering heavily to Panama City Beach's huge spring-break crowd, which is mostly straight but has increasingly seen an influx of gay visitors in recent years, Splash Bar (6520 Thomas Dr., 850-236-3450) is a lively, sprawling compound just across the street from the Gulf of Mexico beaches, and a short drive from numerous resorts and condos. Inside there's a good-size dance floor and a big patio that's sheltered from the elements - the staff is friendly and welcoming, there are drag shows as well as stripper depending on the night, and the drinks are reasonably priced. To get here, take Thomas Drive bridge over Grand Lagoon, and follow Thomas Drive (Hwy. 392) for about 2 mi to the Coral Reef condos, at the corner of Raven Street - Splash is across the street.