The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park that was a much loved part of Panama City Beach for many years, closed in 2004. In 2009, we bought the original Carousel that still sat under the show pavilion in a derelict tractor-trailer on the original MSAP property and moved it to Pier Park. After having a wonderful first season, in 2010 we then bought the 2 remaining rides from MSAP, the Balloon Race and the Red Baron Ride. After much searching, we found the same make and model Big Eli Ferris Wheel in California since we could not buy the original MSAP Ferris Wheel. All rides were refurbished and brought back to their original glory keeping the feel of yesteryear and Miracle Strip Park was born. In 2011, we added a Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl as requested by our customers.
After the end of our 2013 season, we grew even more, and moved our property about 200 feet from where we resided within Pier Park. Our new location is 14 acres, and contains amazing scenery, a beautiful bridge separating the two sides of our park, and of course, the rides! We added many new rides since our original opening in 2009, and plan on doing so every year.
You will find that our park is quaint and surreal with beautiful hanging baskets filled with gorgeous flowers. Beauty abounds everywhere you look within our park. We pride ourselves on not just being a typical amusement park. In fact, we consider our park to be a “park with amusements”. We want each and every customer to be amazed not just by our rides, but by the landscaping as well. Each year we hope to add something new and we know many of you wait with much anticipation!
The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park had a special place in many people's hearts. We will never be as big or try to be like the great amusement park they created; we know that it cannot be replicated. We at Miracle Strip Park hope to help you and your family make new memories from riding rides from your youth among beautiful landscaping and a view of the Gulf. Come out and enjoy an evening among all the lights and beauty and step back in time. We promise you will enjoy it!
•1964 Allen Herschell Carousel
•1985 Zamperalla Balloon Race
•1975 Big Eli Ferris Wheel
•1952 Allen Herschell Red Baron
•1975 Eli Bridge Scrambler
•1991 Sellner Tilt-a-Whirl
•1980 Sea Dragon
•1949 Allen Herschell Car Ride
•1969 Allen Herschell Boat Ride
•1978 Zamperla Tea Cups
•1937 Jolly Caterpillar
•1969 Swing Sharks
•1966 Chance Trabant
•1975 Eyerly Rock O Planes
•1968 Eyerly Bullet
•1970 SDC Galaxi Coaster (RipTide)
•1966 Floyd & Baxter Bumper Cars
Miracle Strip Train
Kiddie Bumper Boats
The old-fashioned amusement park may yet prove to be another cultural relic peculiar to the 20th century, for surely it’s hard to imagine the popularity that sites like the Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach, Florida.
The tourist family draw that would become known as the Miracle Strip Amusement Park began with a single ride: The Starliner rollercoaster. Ultimately, as the Miracle Strip was a symbol of Florida’s coastal amusement parks, the Starliner became the symbol of the Miracle Strip.
The Starliner was established on a plot of land directly adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico – talk about your “location, location, location”! Designed in the “out-and-back” style by John Allen of Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters Inc. (then Philadelphia Toboggan Company), the Starliner was finished in time for the summer 1963 tourist season; at that time, this was the only Florida-built rollercoaster in existence.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 70s, rides surrounding the Starliner and thus flashing out a single outlier into a proper amusement park were provided by traveling carnival companies. Miracle Strip was therefore often given a different look – with the exception of that famous rollercoaster, of course – from any given year to the next.
In 1972, Ed Nielsen, owner of Birmingham, Alabama-based Fair Park, bought into the Miracle Strip to become a financial partner in operations. More importantly, several rides and arcade concessions were moved to the Florida site and the Miracle Strip had permanent features from year to year.
James Lark was something of a classic work-your-way-to-the-top story, staring work at Fair Park, becoming manager of the Miracle Strip Amusement Park in 1973, and ultimately accruing enough interest in Miracle Strip to became majority owner in the early 80s.
Around the same time, as was the usual wont of summertime amusement parks, to provide arcade games among the attractions. Miracle Strip even included games similar to casino games like slots and video poker which could be played for cash. Providing such games at amusement parks slike the Miracle Strip would cause tweaks to Florida gambling law throughout the decade.
The event that brought Panama City Beach, the Miracle Strip and especially the Starliner into the national spotlight was the quest to seat a Guinness World Record in 1983. Guinness Record-breaking was quite the fad in the 80s, and Floridians were naturally just as susceptible to the craze. Local radio DJ Jim King had in 1978 founded the Guinness World Record for longest continuous rollercoaster ride at seven days, but looked to extended that mark four years later.
And so, in 1980 did King tromp his old mark on the same good ol’ Starliner by staying aboard for a whopping 368 hours – that’s *16 freakin’ days* with just five-minute breaks every hour. Even wackier, the record lasted just a little more than two years, as a Columbia law student topped King’s mark at an amusement park in West Germany in August 1982.
Sadly, the 80s and the times of rides like the Abominable Snowman, Dante’s Inferno, the Dungeon and Route 63 would be the peak for the Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The park shut its doors in early September 2004 after opening for a day to provide soon-to-be-unemployed park employees a last go on the rides.
The rides at the park were broken down and sold to amusement parks throughout the country, but certain infrastructure of necessity remained in place on the lot. Despite the land’s selloff to a real estate concern looking to build high-rise condominiums on the site, the economic crash of the late 2000s hit coastal Florida fairly hard, and nothing has been erected on the original Miracle Strip Amusement Park grounds to date.
In fact, the Miracle Strip is something of an attraction for those into ghost towns and abandoned infrastructure. Check out the website Abandoned Florida for an extensive gallery of what remained on the site nine (and as of this writing, 14) years after the amusement park’s closure.
In 2009, local couple Ted and Jenny Meeks purchased the Allan Herschel-designed carousel which had been permanently erected on-site and had spent the previous five years in storage awaiting the land development that never came. The Meeks had the carousel reinstalled at Pier Park, a few hundred meters away from the original Miracle Strip site, in time for the summer 2010 season. That year, the Meeks added more rides, including a Big Eli ferris wheel of identical make and model as the Miracle Parks’ original.
By summer 2014, the new Miracle Strip had apparently been successful enough to allow ownership to relocate the park now boasting 20 rides onto a new 14-acre plot within Pier Park. The Meeks promised that “You will find that our park is quaint and surreal with beautiful hanging baskets filled with gorgeous flowers. Beauty abounds everywhere you look within our park. … We want each and every customer to be amazed not just by our rides, but by the landscaping as well.”
About the only thing missing from this second iteration of the Miracle Strip Amusement Park was the famous Starliner, but the Meeks were certainly thinking about this as well. In April 2015, Jenny Meeks told local media that she and her husband were “just sitting on ‘Go’ and as soon as we get everything worked out, we’re going to break ground” on building what would be called the Starliner 2.0. At that time, the grand opening for the refurbished original was to be late 2015/early 2016.
However, none of the Meeks’ plans for Starliner 2.0 would come to fruition. Though no one suspected at the time, Miracle Strip’s closure for the year in September 2014 would be the park’s last gasp.
Before the park could reopen for 2015, the Meeks had been slapped with a bill for back-due taxes originally reported at over $300,000 in total. By the time judgement on the couple had been passed in February ’16, that figure had swelled to $429,890; the 20 rides onsite had been auctioned off and dreams of Starliner 2.0 evaporated.
Today, the Miracle Strip Amusement Park exists only in the minds of the nostalgic who still remember the simpler times during which the place thrived, a product of a foregone age.
Miracle Strip Amusement Park ® 284 Powell Adams Rd, Panama City Beach, FL 32413