Some of the best things in life are free, and this is certainly true in the Pensacola Bay Area.
Sure, we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Our legendary sugar-white sand and turquoise water were discovered in 1559 by Don Tristan de Luna, and Pensacola has been loved by explorers ever since. But what many don’t know is that there is a world of fun, free things to do in Pensacola after you visit our award-winning beaches.
From Perdido Key to downtown Pensacola to Pensacola Beach, you’ll find unforgettable things to do that are free year-round. Get to know our history, culture and wildlife and have some family fun with our list of 25 of Pensacola’s best free concerts, events, activities and more.
1. Visit Pensacola Beach
Let’s start with the most obvious option: Pensacola Beach. When most people think of Pensacola Beach, they picture popular Casino Beach with the iconic beach ball water tower and the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier. If you’re looking to socialize and be within walking distance of the pier, boardwalk, restaurants and shops – Casino Beach is a must. But, if seclusion and privacy are more your thing, a real hidden gem is located a few miles down Via de Luna Drive on Avenida 23. Here you can get away from the crowds and find an isolated spot to kick back and relax, with only the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. This has been my go-to spot for as long as I can remember. It’s the place I go, time and time again, when I want to get back to nature. If you enjoy wildlife and nature, but sure to explore the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail.
2. Enjoy an evening listening to music
One of my favorite Pensacola Beach events begins the first Tuesday in April and ends the last Tuesday in October. Bands on the Beach starts at 7 p.m. Tuesdays from the Gulfside Pavilion stage at Casino Beach. If you’re into propping your feet up on a cooler full of beverages while laying back in your beach chair listening to some of the greatest bands around the Gulf Coast, then Bands on the Beach is the event for you. This event appeals to all ages. Adults gather around the stage as the little ones show off their best moves in the front. The only requirements are to bring your best dance moves and a smile.
3. Take a walk-through St. Michael's Cemetery
Just a short distance from downtown Palafox Street lies St. Michael’s Cemetery, one of the two oldest cemeteries in the state of Florida. The eight-acre cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a testament to the diverse history of Pensacola. Historical research indicates that the site was in use as a burial ground beginning in the mid-1700s, however, the land was officially named a cemetery by the King of Spain in 1807. The cemetery’s earliest surviving above-ground marker is that of José Roig from 1812, which is associated with Pensacola’s Second Spanish Period (1781-1821). During that period of time, Pensacola drew immigrants from around the world. The cemetery is the resting place of captains of industry, victims of yellow fever epidemics and steamship explosions, along with those who died in childbirth, as infants, and of old age.
4. Veterans Memorial Park
Veterans Memorial Park, along Pensacola Bay, pays tribute to those who served in World War I and II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War. Here, you’ll walk along sidewalks lined with monuments and statues — including a half-scale replica of the National Vietnam Memorial. This is an ideal place to go for a contemplative stroll while exploring the memorials that honor the men and women who sacrificed themselves for our country.
The city of Pensacola has a charming, quaint feel. But when it comes to arts and entertainment, this coastal city knows how to make quite a scene. The city boasts the Pensacola Opera, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Pensacola, the historic Saenger Theatre and the accredited Pensacola Museum of Art, all within downtown’s historic core. Pensacola is the only city from Tampa to Mobile, Alabama to host such a diversity of cultural experiences.
On the free side of things, there are several art galleries throughout the area that feature local artists from around the panhandle.
6. Stroll Through Palafox Market on Saturdays
Walk under the canopy of crepe myrtle trees that align Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza in Downtown Pensacola on any given Saturday morning and you’ll find dozens of lively farmers and arts and crafts vendors selling organic goods at the weekly Palafox Market.
What began as a small, seasonal farmers market in 2007 has grown into a bustling, year-round, outdoor market that includes more than 100 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to homemade goods to handmade arts and crafts.
Palafox Market is located on Palafox Street between Wright and Garden streets. It’s open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine.
7. Relax and explore Perdido Key
Pensacola isn’t the only place with a great beach and great adventures. Perdido Key, located on a thin strip of land just west of Pensacola Beach, has so much to offer — whether you are a beach bum or a true adventurer. The beaches of Perdido Key are decorated with hundreds of varieties of seashells. Beware, you can easily lose track of time and spend hours combing the shoreline for these tiny treasures. Many come home with a bag full of shells and a sunburned back, so sunscreen is a must. Make sure to stop in at the famous Flora-Bama for a bushwacker and fresh oysters.
8. Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum
Experience hands-on history at the National Naval Aviation Museum located on board Pensacola Naval Air Station. See more than 4,000 artifacts and over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. Experience the thrill of flight in the Flight Simulators, catch all the drama and power of the amazing Giant Screen Digital Theater and refresh with a tasty lunch in the authentic Cubi Bar Cafe. Then take home the spirit of Naval Aviation with a unique memento from The Flight Deck Store.
*NAS Pensacola is currently only open to those with a DoD ID. A DoD ID holder may escort up to 15 people not to exceed two carloads onto the base.
With over 450 years of history, Pensacola is no stranger to those that came before it or the creatures that came along with it. From an 11-stop archeology trail to numerous points on birding and wildlife trails, we’ve got endless options to keep you entertained. Scroll through the list below to see a few of our most popular places.
10. Experience More on the Experience Pensacola App
Getting to Pensacola is easy, but leaving, that’s the hard part. Whether you’re in town on business or pleasure or one of the lucky locals, the Visit Pensacola App was built with you in mind. With geolocation features and an itinerary builder, finding what to do while in Pensacola is both fun, fast and easy!
The best featured free activity is exploring one of our passport trails. We’ve pieced together photo, oyster, cocktail, and other trails to guide you through the destination's must-dos.
Found a free activity we miss? Tell us below!