Welcome to Pensacola

Whether it’s a short trip away or your main vacation stay, the beautiful beaches, nightlife, watersports and an array of family attractions make this waterfront city a must-see destination. It might have a small town feel, but there’s a huge amount to keep you busy in Pensacola. As one of the sights of the first European settlements in the New World, there’s also a fantastic range of forts, museums and cultural sites for history buffs to enjoy.

History of Pensacola

Pensacola has a history that stretches back 450 years, which means there’s much more to experience than just the spectacular natural sights. If you’re a history buff who likes nothing more than a battle site or the architecture and museums of one the first European settlements in the New World, there’s enough to keep you informed and entertained for at least a couple of weeks.

Historic forts

The Pensacola Bay Area is home some fantastic historic forts, many of which are still standing. Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, Fort Barrancas on the Pensacola Naval Air Station and Fort McRee in Perdido Key are three of the best you can still visit. All three of these forts remained in use through WWII and are open for the public to explore.

Museums

Historic Pensacola Village

Located in the downtown area, Historic Pensacola Village has 27 properties that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 11 of which are open to the public. That includes Christ Church, one of Florida’s oldest surviving church buildings, as well as a number of houses the public can visit to get a rare insight into local life in the 18th and 19th centuries.   

Museum of Commerce

The Museum of Commerce is located inside a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse and features a reconstructed streetscape of typical businesses that would have operated in Pensacola between 1880 and 1910. Exhibits include everything from historical toys, leather goods and a print ship which contains an extensive collection of antique printing presses. Horse-drawn buggies add to the nostalgia.   

Museum of Industry

Housed in the historic Hispanic Building, the Museum of Industry illustrates the rich industrial heritage of the Pensacola area. That includes brick making, lumber, railroad, fishing and other vital industries that were behind Pensacola’s transformation into a thriving commercial centre.  

Pensacola Children’s Museum

Geared towards children aged 13 and under, the Pensacola Children’s Museum is a great way to explore history through play. Children can dress up in old-fashioned outfits and explore colonial cottages, military forts and trading posts. There are also plenty of interactive and interpretative exhibits that trace the history of Pensacola from its Native American roots.  

T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum

This museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of the local area, with the City of Five Flags exhibit as its highlight. This exhibit tells the story of Pensacola through the ages, told through artifacts, photographs and stories pieced together through archaeological and preservation efforts. If that wasn’t enough, the museum building itself, an elegant Mediterranean Revival three-story property, is a must-see attraction in its own right.

National Naval Aviation Museum

The National Naval Aviation Museum is one of the most popular museums in the state of Florida, and rightly so. With more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft, including the first plane ever to cross the Atlantic and a WWII era plane flown by President George H.W. Bush, there’s something to interest visitors of all ages.  

James Houston Jones Historic Park

Located about an hour north of Pensacola in the small town of Century, the James Houston Jones Historic Park is certainly worth the drive. The Park is home to three museums which explore the everyday lives of the town’s residents at the turn of the 20th century. There’s a boxcar museum with actual rail cars and parts that were used at the time, and a post office museum, which is dedicated to memorabilia from the old mill, which was once the focal point of the town.  

Pensacola CULTURE, ARTS & CRAFTS

Ballet Pensacola

This not-for-profit organisation offers dance classes for children aged 3 and upwards and aims to enhance the cultural life of the local community by putting on regular, high-quality dance performances. There are also adult classes available for beginners through to advanced.

Belmont Arts Center

Since its inception in 1999, the Belmont Arts Center has been an ‘artistic hatchery’ for all different types of creative arts and crafts, including pottery, glasswork, music and visual arts. The raison d’être of the center is to expose people of all backgrounds and ages to different forms of art through a range of workshops, classes and outreach programs.    

Blue Morning Gallery

Looking for the perfect souvenir from your trip to Pensacola? This fine arts gallery features work by more than 50 local artists, including local art students and award-winning artists.

Pensacola Little Theatre

Founded in 1936, the Pensacola Little Theatre group has been providing theatrical experiences to the children and adults of Pensacola for more than 80 years.

Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

If you like nothing more than the thrill and sense of occasion that comes with a live orchestra performance then the unique program of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra is sure to have something for you.

Quayside Art Gallery

The Quayside Art Gallery is the largest co-op gallery in the southeast, with 3D works in glass, clay and precious metals. There are also watercolours, photography, inks and art work in a range of mixed media formats, ensuring every artistic taste is catered for.

BEACHES, SURFING, PARKS & RIVER CRUISES in Pensacola

Some of the world’s most pristine beaches can be found along the barrier islands that are home to Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. If you’re booking a Florida beach vacation then you’ll have everything you need, with warm seas, white sands and a wide array of watersports on offer.  

If it’s a little park life you’re looking for then world-renowned parks such as Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Perdido Key and Big Lagoon State will give you a glimpse of this spectacular coastal ecosystem at its best.

Pensacola ECOTOURISM, WILDLIFE & THE GREAT OUTDOORS

With mile upon mile of unspoiled shoreline, visitors won’t have to travel far to enjoy the magnificent beaches and the unique wildlife that call the Gulf Coast home.

Protected Feathered Havens

If you like nothing better than a peaceful stroll on an unblemished white beach with nothing for company but a flock of nesting seabirds then this is the perfect spot for you.

Here you’ll find vast colonies of least terns diving for fish in the near shore waters and black skimmers, soaring inches above the waters of the Gulf and skimming for food with their beaks. You’ll also see plovers and sanderlings darting between the receding waves, as well as squadrons of brown pelicans and the incredibly elegant blue herons. Throw ospreys and great bald eagles into the mix and you have the ultimate birdwatcher’s dream.

Secret Turtle Lairs

Green, loggerhead, kemp’s ridley and even the occasional leatherback turtle creep to shore at night to lay their eggs on the beaches of Pensacola and Perdido Key. After laying up to 130 eggs, the turtles escape back to the safety of the sea. 60 to 80 days later, the tiny hatchlings dig their way out of the sands and make a mad dash for the Gulf. Some visitors will even be lucky enough to spot a hatchling as it makes its way to the sea.  

sport in Pensacola

With baseball, football, hockey and ‘little Nascar’ all on offer in Pensacola, you’re sure to get an authentic taste of American sporting life. The Blue Wahoos are the city’s baseball team and they play their home games at the 5,000 seater Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, which overlooks the beautiful Pensacola Bay. The bayfront stadium is also home to the newly inaugurated University of West Florida Argonauts college football team.

From October to April, fans of slap shots and body checks will be able to see the Ice Flyers at the Pensacola Bay Center, while short-track racing fans can enjoy the Five Flags Speedway and the annual Snowball Derby in December.

Shopping in Pensacola

As you’d expect from any self-respecting American city, Pensacola has its fair share of retail attractions, from vast shopping malls to quaint boutiques.

East Central Pensacola

East Central Pensacola boasts two large shopping centers, namely the Cordova Mall and University Towne Plaza. Here you’ll find an excellent range of shops selling jewellery, apparel, sporting goods and everything in between, as well as plenty of chain restaurants. The area’s also home to Miles Antique Mall, which is a great place to rummage for antiques.  

Downtown Pensacola

The streets of Downtown Pensacola are lined with an eclectic mix of independent and unique shops where visitors will find everything from artisan soaps to gourmet treats. If it’s high-end fashion you’re after then head to Palafox Street.

Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key

The beaches of Pensacola and Perdido have a number of shops selling all you’ll need for a day at the beach. There are also some excellent options if you’re looking for souvenirs or a special gift.

Pensacola Hotels

Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach

Located right on the beachfront and next to some of the whitest sand you’ll ever see is the Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach Hotel. You can walk directly from the hotel straight into the warm seas of the Gulf of Mexico, which plays host to a number of watersports activities. Or, after a day experiencing the many historic sites of Pensacola, you could unwind on your private balcony or enjoy a drink at Gilligan’s Tiki Bar. With an excellent range of amenities and a seasonally heated outdoor pool, this hotel has everything you could need during your stay.

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