Visiting the Pensacola area this fall? Don’t think you’ve missed out on everything this beach town has to offer just because the summer is over.
With a little help from Mother Nature, temperatures will be cooler, and the timing could not be better. Those of us who have been indoors dodging the heat can break out and enjoy the great outdoors again. Plus, several popular annual events take place outdoors during fall.
Here are 10 ideas – in no particular order – for an autumn outdoor adventure with your significant other or family:
1. Sit back and enjoy the ride
The Pensacola Bay Cruise ferry fleet offers weekend service through the end of October and speciality service for certain events carrying passengers to and from Downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Besides providing an easy way to visit some of the area’s most scenic locales and historic sites, it is also fun to experience the ferry ride across the waters of Pensacola Bay. For a more intimate setting, reserve a sailboat cruise or charter fishing excursion from any of the area’s local guides.
2. Rev it up
Prefer to stay on dry land? Couples may enjoy renting a motorcycle. Feel the wind in your hair as you cruise coastal highways and country roads on a Harley from EagleRider Pensacola.
3. Hike, bike or paddle a canoe
The area’s beaches are less crowded this time of year. Visit Perdido Key State Park if a beach day is what you are after. A little further upland, Big Lagoon State Park invites you to explore its saltwater marshes and pine forests. There are trails aplenty, a boat launch and opportunities to view local wildlife. At Tarklin Bayou Preserve State Park, hike among a diverse variety of native plants, some of which are rare or endangered. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch!
4. Visit a farm or haunted house
It’s fall y’all. The pumpkin spice is brewing. Pull the flannel shirts and scarves out of your closet, and enjoy the fresh air at one of the area’s local farms. October 26-27, Family Orchard Farms, also called The Nut Farm, in Molino will host a fall festival with hayrides, pony rides, games, costumes contests and a chili cook-off. For a spooky good time, Historic Pensacola’s Haunted House Walking and Trolley Tours depart from Voices of Pensacola the last two weekends of October. Stroll or roll through the historic district with a costumed guide. Rent a ghost meter to use during the tour if you dare. For even more screams, visit The Purgatorium in Myrtle Grove or the Hadji Haunted House in North Pensacola. Look out for ghouls and chainsaws!
5. Sample food, art and more
Pensacola’s festival calendar is jam-packed in the fall, giving visitors and locals a chance to sample some of the area’s best food, art and culture. Get inspired by the work of 200 local artists and craftsmen and let the kids create their own masterpieces at The Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival Nov. 1-3, also in Downtown Pensacola. Don’t miss the Pensacola Foo Foo Festival’s public art exhibit Fire & Rain (Oct. 31- Nov. 11), located outdoors in front of Artel Gallery (Here’s a hint: look up!). Other events to circle on your calendar include Pensacola Eggfest (Nov. 10), Pensacola Beach Art & Wine Festival (Nov. 10) and the Pensacola Greek Festival (Nov. 11-13).
6. Join the fan frenzy
Tailgating or spectating, you are sure to find a lively game day crowd at Blue Wahoos Stadium supporting the University of West Florida Argonauts football team, which competes in the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference. Single-game tickets are available for purchase. If car racing is more your speed, Five Flags Speedway hosts short track races in September and November, as well as the 2019 Snowball Derby (December 4-8).
7. Pitch a tent
The Mystic Springs Recreation Area in McDavid offers primitive camping options on weekends including a large group campsite for up to 25 campers. Located about 35 miles north of Pensacola, the camping area overlooks a crystal clear spring great for swimming or launching a boat or canoe to fish in the Escambia River. Additional accommodations and RV hookups are available at Lake Stone Campground in Century. The 100-acre campground and boat ramp totals 77 campsites with views of the freshwater lake.
8. See the Blue Angels
During the air show season (March to November), you might spot the Blue Angels, the Pensacola-based U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, practicing on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning in the skies over the National Aviation Museum. It’s also not uncommon to see the jets fly over Pensacola Beach as they return home from a weekend air show on Sunday evenings. To guarantee you don’t miss them, purchase tickets – they range from $7-70 – to the 2019 NAS Pensacola Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show, November 8-9. It is fun for all ages.
9. Hold on tight and take in the sights and sounds of the midway
Can you smell the funnel cake? The annual Pensacola Interstate Fair returns October 17-27, featuring more than 60 rides, live music performances, plus entertaining and educational exhibits. Not to mention the fair food! It’s fun for the whole family.
10. Trick-or-treat among wild animals
On each of the last three weekends in October, the Gulf Breeze Zoo hosts Boo at the Zoo, where families can enjoy all the fun of Halloween night, complete with costumes and candy while observing and learning about hundreds of animals. Vendors and community groups form a trick-or-treat trail between animal exhibits, so there is something to see at every turn. Special admission rates apply.