Miracle Strip Amusement Park
Miracle Strip Amusement Park was a world away from the large, mega-theme parks of Florida. Located just across from the Gulf on Panama City Beach, at 12000 Front Beach Road, Miracle Strip resembled more the traditional seaside boardwalks and trolley parks of yesteryear. Opened by Jimmy Lark in 1963, Miracle Strip grew up beside the Starliner roller coaster and just kept getting bigger and better.
The park had been well maintained, with attractive landscaping added in a mid-1990's renovation. A nice touch was the many covered bench swings that took the place of stationary benches throughout the park. Parents could sit, gently rocking, and relax while the kids took yet another ride on the biplanes or bumble bee ride.
By the end, there was a full compliment of typical carnival rides lining the midway at Miracle Strip: Big Eli Ferris Wheel, wave swinger, merry-go-round, musik express, paratrooper, teacup ride, spider, train ride, Looper (loop-o-plane), Sea Dragon (swinging boat), Shockwave (Kamikaze), bumper cars, mini-enterprise, the O2 drop ride, a variety of small scale versions and spinning rides for the small fry, and more.
Many of the rides are deserving of special mention:
The Abominable Snowman. Passing beneath the big guy, you entered his igloo (and the rare pleasure here of air conditioning, making a stop in worth it alone). Inside was a typical Eli Scrambler ride, but with atypical strobe lighting and a pounding sound system.
Dante's Inferno. Through the grinning devil's mouth awaited a Chance Trabant.
The Dungeon. A Tilt-a-whirl was hidden inside the funky yellow dome next door to the Spider. The spider web theme continued inside with webs painted on the walls and black tubs on the ride.
The Haunted Castle. This was a great, old fashioned cheesy dark ride with two passenger cars that bumped along dark corridors past day-glo horrors. Lights would flash on suddenly to reveal yet another chicken wire protected monster, and there was even the requisite rotating tunnel.
And, of course:
The Starliner. A fine John Allen designed wooden roller coaster. It ran nearly the length of the park and the roar of wheels on rails -- and the screams of happy riders -- could be heard from almost anywhere.
At one time it held the American Coaster Enthusiasts "Coaster Classic" designation, but the addition of new trains with seat dividers made it ineligible in later years.
Although the park had apparently been losing money for several years in the post-9/11 tourism slump, things had been picking up, so the announcement made by owner Billy Lark in April, 2004, that that year would be the park's last season came as a bit of a shock. But Lark had sold the land out from under the park and Labor Day, 2004, was the park's last day of operation. After 41 years of continuous operation and more than 20 Million visitors, Miracle Strip was gone.
Photo of Miracle Strip in the 1960's from the Florida State Archives Photographic Collection. Color photos from the 1990's by Robert H. Brown, Copyright 2005.
This site Copyright (c) 1997-2011 by Robert H. Brown