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.
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.
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.