Nestled in the northwest corner of Florida, Pensacola is known for its pristine, relaxing, award-winning beaches, its historic charm and for being the home of the world-renowned Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron. Pensacola also boasts delectable coastal cuisine, an event calendar brimming with celebrations and festivals, sporting events, the arts, and more than 460 years of history to explore.
1. Sugar-white beaches and clear, emerald waters
You haven’t truly experienced Pensacola until you dig your toes into the sugar-white sand of its world-famous beaches. You can literally feel the stresses of life wash away as you float lazily in emerald-green waters along Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. The beach vibe is super chill. Come as you are and hang out with the locals at beach bars and restaurants and be sure to try Pensacola’s signature drink, the Bushwacker, a delicious chocolatey frozen cocktail. Your beach day should be stress-free and here, it is. These picture-perfect beaches are very accessible with ample, free parking. You can even leave the car behind and take a boat ride to Pensacola Beach aboard Pensacola Bay Cruises which departs from Downtown Pensacola.
2. 460+ Years of History
Pensacola is unique among beach destinations because it is a city with an old soul. Its roots date back to 1559 when Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna established Pensacola as the first European settlement in North America. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the city. You’ll feel the sense of community pride for the diverse cultural influences that are reflected in Pensacola’s architecture, local cuisine, and festivals. Experience life in 18th and 19th centuries at Historic Pensacola Village which includes 28 properties in Downtown Pensacola. The National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Lighthouse, and Museum, and several waterfront forts are also just a short drive from the heart of the city. Or, walk in the footsteps of past soldiers while exploring the vast brick battlements and labyrinth of arched tunnels of Fort Pickens – a pre-Civil War-era fort on Pensacola Beach.
3. Gulf Islands National Seashore
If it’s solitude you seek, you’re in luck, as a large portion of Pensacola’s beaches are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. These national parklands are federally protected and can never be developed. Go off-grid and immerse yourself in the spectacular natural surroundings where you can tour waterfront forts, hike coastal trails, camp, or cast a line. Or, simply find a peaceful stretch of sand, plant an umbrella and soak up unspoiled beauty on the miles of secluded shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway. There are four sections of the Gulf Islands National Seashore to explore - Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, Perdido Key and Naval Live Oaks.
4. Pensacola has the Blues!
Pensacola is proud to be the home base for the Navy’s world-famous Blue Angels. Every year, from March through November, the Blues perform in communities around the country. But only in Pensacola do they perform two awe inspiring air shows every year – a beach show in July and their Homecoming Show on Pensacola NAS every November. Pensacola’s hometown heroes can also be spotted spring through fall flying in tight formations overhead all around Downtown Pensacola and Pensacola Bay during practice flights. It’s a thrilling site to behold.
5. Outdoor Adventure
Pensacola is a vast outdoor playground to explore. Escape every day with plenty of trails to walk, hike or bike: historic trails, migratory birding trails, nature and wildlife trails, fresh and saltwater paddling trails. There’s even the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail for diving! Fishing is an outdoor lifestyle here, but you don’t have to be a pro to fish in the Pensacola area. Book a Gulf charter for deep-sea fishing or have a relaxing afternoon casting from shore. There are also ample opportunities to surf, scuba, sail and swim, or take a dolphin tour to get face-to-face with some of the area’s most popular beach residents.
6. Delicious coastal cuisine
Pensacola’s unique brand of coastal cuisine draws on the city’s colonial roots and proximity to the teeming fisheries of the Gulf. Whether your preferred dining style is toes in the sand, grouper sandwich in hand, an elegant waterfront restaurant with chef-crafted cuisine, trendy downtown dining, or something in-between, Pensacola is the place to satisfy those seafood cravings. Because of the area’s rich history, you’ll be able to find everything from French flavors and Spanish savors to southern Cajun cooking. Depending on your choice, the cuisine can be decidedly upscale but the atmosphere is always unpretentious and welcoming.
7. Arts & culture
Pensacola is highly regarded as a must-see destination for cultural happenings. The city boasts the Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Pensacola, the historic Saenger Theatre, and the accredited Pensacola Museum of Art, all within downtown’s historic core. Pensacola’s thriving visual arts scene includes the First City Art Center and numerous downtown galleries; an eclectic local theater scene highlighted by the Pensacola Little Theatre; and opportunities to catch touring acts at Vinyl Music Hall or the Pensacola Bay Center. And, quite possibly the best aspect: it’s sophisticated but not intimidating, meaning anyone and everyone can easily participate.
8. Events So Cool We Keep Repeating Them
One of the many things that make a trip to Pensacola memorable is the strong sense of tradition and unique events taking place. Mingle with locals at the weekly Palafox Market downtown and Bands on the Beach concerts, join the party on Gallery Nights, and get in on the fun at recurring signature events. These annual traditions include Pensacola Seafood Fest, Fiesta Days, Crawfish Fest, Pensacon, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Fest, FooFoo Fest, Taste of the Beach, and Frank Brown International Songwriters Fest, just to name a few. Several events draw tens of thousands of people - like the annual Mardi Gras celebrations, the Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss on Perdido Key where participants toss a dead fish over the Florida state line into Alabama, and two air shows featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. We guarantee, once you throw your first fish at Mullet Toss or watch the Blue Angels zoom overhead, we guarantee you’ll be hooked!
April 23 - 25, 2021 The Interstate Mullet Toss & Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party takes
July 7 - 11, 2021 / November 5 - 6, 2021 The U.S. Navy's premier flight demonstration team
Tuesdays, April - October 2021 Set up your beach chairs and sink your toes in the sand on Pensacola
November 4 - 15, 2021 The Foo Foo Festival is an eclectic mixture of art and cultural events
9. Best time to visit…is right around the corner!
Here’s a little insider secret - late summer is an excellent time to visit. In August and September, the family vacationers have cleared out, it’s still ideal beach weather and you’ll find better values on lodging. This is the perfect time to clear your schedule, clear your head and get rejuvenated.
10. Easy to get to, Hard to Leave
Visitors often say “Getting here was easy. Leaving is so hard.” Pensacola International Airport’s convenient location offers easy access to the vibrant downtown historic area and Pensacola’s sugar-white beaches. With Delta, American, United, Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, Silver, and Boutique Airlines now serving Pensacola, this airport is known for making flying easy. New routes are added regularly, so be sure to check and see if direct flights are available from your city. Visitpensacola.com is a great resource to plan your trip and discover even more reasons why Pensacola is the way to beach.