Just a few years back when we planned a trip to Panama City with my wife to visit old friends, we heard that the old Miracle Strip park had been reopened with lots of its old rides refurbished and/or brought back to life. This was enough to make me curious since I grew up on those rides in my childhood years! By the time I reached my early teens I rode for the first time the Big Eli Ferris wheel with the woman who turned out to be my future wife- though I didn’t even know it all those years back, I was just being nice to the sweet girl who asked me to join her on the ride...
The Big Eli Ferris Wheel had been one of the more popular attractions at the Miracle Strip Amusement Park since 1975. This ride gets its name since it was built by the Eli Bridge Company. This particular ride has a rich history, and it goes back to the time to when the original Miracle Strip Theme park opened in 1963. Added to the park in 1975, this vertical wheel fixed with neon lights along the rims produced a beautiful image while the ride spun throughout the night. It was the perfect ride for romantic couples, and induced subtle adventures that could give you more reasons to tightly hold your partner's hands. If you’ve never been on a Ferris Wheel like this, you know that fear of heights is a rush in itself. The new owners claim that for the reopening in 2010 they were able to find a similar make and model of Eli Ferris Wheel since the original was sold off to another amusement park around 2003 or 2004.
Well to start things off- the view from the very top is simply beautiful. You could see all the rides in the park as your wheel reached the peak. The spacious 14 acre park area with all of its amazing scenery featuring a beautiful bridge separating the two sides of the park could also be seen from the top. Every time our little sky bucket reached the top, my soon-to-be future wife would grab my hands tightly as we felt that familiar thump in your chest you would get as you crested the peak and then zoomed downwards. When we revisited the Pier Park in the summer of 2015, t he look on her face when I surprised her that day when we pulled up to the entrance made it even more amazing, and then I knew I had planned the day well.
The ride- overall, took 10 minutes but was well worth the time. The fact that you can get an incredible view of the entire park and the entire city skyline is something that just cannot be ignored. This Ferris Wheel had a proud placement near the entrance so that it made sure that you knew you got to see an iconic ride before you see the rest of the park. At night is was even more so since it was beautifully lit with all that neon light, creating a welcoming ambiance for all who entered the park.
Having since closed down in 2015- Miracle Strip at Pier Park owners sadly relocated many of its attractions to some other theme parks. For those people who want to experience the original ‘Big Eli’ Ferris Wheel from the original park, you can go to Lake Winnepesaukah in Rossville Georgia where this amazing piece of history is still entertaining its guests.