By Mandy Fernandez
Visitors come to Pensacola every year for a getaway. And who can blame them? Our beaches are breathtaking. Downtown is one of the most vibrant and fastest growing hubs along the Gulf Coast region. People may not realize, however, that the museums in Pensacola are a great escape too – an escape into inspiring history filled with unique people. Visiting local museums is your ticket to being in the shoes of the explorers who once inhabited this area.
As we celebrate National Museum Day, I dare you to explore and learn more…
Step back in time with colonial settlers and meander through Historic Pensacola Village. Take an in-depth, guided tour Tuesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. to see the Old Christ Church, Lavalle House and Lear-Rocheblave House. Historians will take you to hidden spaces and share fun facts that you may miss otherwise.
Hear distant whispers in Old Christ Church as it was once occupied by federal troops during the Civil War. The Lavalle House is a cottage style home and the only one of French Creole kind depicting life in Pensacola from the early 1800s. The Lear/Rocheblave House is a Victorian beauty that sits in picturesque Seville Square and contains objects used in the 1920s.
But if the timing doesn’t work out to take a tour, you can self-guide through other treasure-filled places like the John Appleyard Storytelling Cottage, T.T. Wentworth Museum, Museum of Commerce and Museum of Industry. Seize the “One Ticket, Seven Days to Explore,” deal that allows you to mark your territory through the museums. Pick the places that interest you most and revisit your favorite spots twice.
Get cozy in the John Appleyard Storytelling Cottage as you listen to local history expert John Appleyard tell stories that remind you of family and friends. Then walk in the shoes of Trader Jon inside the T.T. Wentworth Museum. See his wild U.S. Navy memorabilia collected over the decades and often traded for drinks in his former bar business. Learn what Pensacola life was like while under five different rulers - why it’s known as The City of Five Flags. From lumber to railroads and fishing, the Museum of Industry reveals past trades. In the Museum of Commerce, you can stroll down a 1890s era street and hop aboard an antique trolley car.
Little (and big) kids can stand aboard a tiny vessel inside the Pensacola Children’s Museum. After they leave command of the ship, they can break bread with Native Americans or simply have a pretend picnic before learning about Northwest Florida wildlife. Toddlers will be laughing and parents will be beaming as their children learn through play.
Voices of Pensacola is a multicultural center that fuses the past, present and future together. Patrons can listen to individuals telling stories from the past. They can also record new ones and archive them for future use. This museum’s visitors can look through a vast collection of regional maps and photographs.
Meet Pensacola’s pride, the Blue Angels, and sit alongside aviators at the National Naval Aviation Museum. This attraction is free, nestled on Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fly away, if only in your mind, with Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard pilots. Be astonished by over 150 aircraft spread among 350,000 square feet of exhibit space. Purchase a ticket and join a flight simulator or take in a state-of-the-art motion picture in the giant theater. You can easily spend a whole day here before walking out with pride after meeting some of our country’s greatest heroes.
If you’re up for a physical task, climb the 177 steps to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse to experience one of the most breathtaking views of the Gulf Coast. The lighthouse was built in 1859 and served to light the way for ships and sailors. Today it serves as a museum and popular place for picture-taking and haunted ghost tours.
You have so much to discover among the Pensacola museums…
Visit a museum in any order you please.
Where history meets fun and life on the seas.
Walk from top to bottom, or side to side.
Each will fill you with wonder and pride.
Come escape into one today.
You’ll be glad and amazed, I say.