From the sparkling waters of Perdido Key to the sun-kissed shores of Pensacola Beach, there’s more to the coastal city of Pensacola than meets the eye.
Known as one of the largest melting pots on the Gulf of Mexico, this northwest Florida beach destination is one of the USA’s oldest settlements. Featuring a lively downtown scene, fascinating history, a thriving arts community and delectable dining, Pensacola is the definition of a well-rounded paradise.
History Comes to Life in Pensacola
You’ll find more than 500 years of history begging to be explored in and around Pensacola. First up is Historic Pensacola Village, where you can tour over 20 landmark sites, including Fort George, the Old Christ Church and the 1778 British Well. The T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum offers permanent and rotating history exhibits throughout the year. If you’re seeking a bone-chilling experience, explore the paranormal side of the city with a guided ghost tour of Pensacola’s most haunted hot spots. Soul food and live jazz music are top draws in the historically African American neighborhood of Belmont-De Villiers. Stop by the Blue Dot Barbecue, where they’re kicking it old school by serving up the basics – hamburgers and ribs!
A demonstration of colonial-era life at the Historic Pensacola Village
Thriving Arts and Culture
Strolling down the streets of Pensacola, you can’t ignore the community’s passion for the arts. Check out the works of modern and contemporary artists at the University of West Florida’s Pensacola Museum of Art, or try your hand at wheel throwing and stained glass at the First City Art Center. A night out on the town wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, which offers Masterworks on its mainstage and musical activities for families. Another evening option: The Saenger Theatre hosts touring Broadway shows that will get your toes tapping.
Live mural painting, one of the many ways Pensacola embraces the arts
The Flavors of Pensacola
From white-tablecloth service to po’boys and craft beer, the culinary scene in Pensacola blends dynamic flavors. On Perdido Key at the Flora-Bama, choose from three dining options – all specializing in fresh seafood – beachfront Oyster Bar, family fun at the Ole River Grill or on the deck at the Yacht Club. Stop by Five Sisters Blues Café for a plate of comforting soul food – the fried green tomatoes can’t be missed. For more beachside dining, the Casino Beach Bar and Grille at the base of the Pensacola Beach Pier serves sensational seafood alongside white-sand and turquoise-water views. Don’t miss out on brunch at the George Artisan Bakery & Bistro, where you can kick off the day with a sparkling mimosa and dine on a decadent truffle mushroom omelet.
Ahi tuna nachos paired with cold drinks and views of the Pensacola Beach Pier at Casino Beach Bar and Grille
Outdoor Adventures Await
Whether it’s by bike, foot or kayak, you can answer the call to adventure in Pensacola however you see fit. Flock to Great Florida Birding Trail sites for a glimpse of the crested caracara; one favorite is Big Lagoon State Park for its Instagram-worthy photo ops of freshwater wetlands. View dolphins leaping through the surf at Pensacola Beach, or go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing from a pier is an option for those looking to reel in a big one, then end the day with an evening sightseeing cruise to experience one of Florida’s spectacular sunsets.
Kayaking the marshlands at Big Lagoon State Park
Fantastic Festivals and Celebrations in Pensacola
Lively festivals and cultural celebrations take place year-round in Pensacola, with the Foo Foo Festival a local favorite. Prepare to enjoy 12 fun-filled days of music, artist talks, culinary events, theater and more in late October and early November. The Pensacola Seafood Festival takes place annually in September – sample alligator, crawfish and lobster rolls. For a thrilling show in the skies, the U.S. Navy Blue Angel air shows at the National Naval Aviation Museum offers visitors a chance to watch flight demonstrations in early March through November and see shows twice a year. You also don’t want to miss the Interstate Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama beach bar, where competitors vie in a fish-throwing contest across the Alabama state line. In all honesty, it’s just an excuse to have a weekend-long beach party.
Winding up for a big throw at the annual Interstate Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama beach bar
Pensacola is served primarily by the Pensacola International Airport (PNS). This gateway to the historical sites of the Gulf Coast offers access to six airlines, 19 non-stop flights, competitive rates and facilities with a wide variety of amenities. The city is also easily accessed on a Florida Gulf Coast road trip.