Are you visiting Pensacola on a budget? You may be short on cash, but that’s no reason to be short on fun this fall. Pensacola offers numerous fun, free things to do this autumn that makes visiting a must, no matter your budget. Here are five fun, free events you won’t want to miss.
1. Gallery Nights
Once a month, the streets of Downtown Pensacola close to vehicular traffic for a combination art festival and street party with no admission charges whatsoever.
Gallery Night has been a Pensacola tradition for more than a decade. For fall 2018, Gallery Nights are scheduled for Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and on the very last day of autumn, Dec. 21.
Official hours are 5 to 9 p.m. for October and 6 to 10 p.m. for November and September, but the streets don’t just roll up at that time, remaining closed until midnight for the official after-party.
Each month’s event has its own theme, and they are typically announced a few weeks prior to the event. Traditionally, the November Gallery Night has been the year’s most popular, but every month brings thousands to downtown Pensacola to enjoy the sights and sounds, with live music and artistic expression lining the streets. Downtown’s art galleries typically open their doors wide with special exhibits during Gallery Night, and nightlife venues add to the festivities, with open-container laws eased allowing you to stroll down the streets with a cocktail or glass of wine in-hand.
Ample food vendors and art vendors sell their wares during Gallery Night, but you can easily have a great time without spending a dime.
For more information, visit www.gallerynightpensacola.org.
2. Hit the beach!
In most places in the U.S., you’d have to be a polar bear to consider a fall beach trip. But in Pensacola, the average highs are in the high 70s in October, the low 70s in November and the low 60s in December, so the beaches are absolutely not off-limits.
Sure, you’ll need to check the forecast, and the later into the season it gets, the less likely it is you’ll want to take a dip in the shimmering, clear water, but there’s no bad time of year for a walk down the sugar-white sands of Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key.
There are plentiful free facilities in both locations, and this time of year, the crowds are smaller, so finding free parking won’t be a challenge. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the paradise.
3. Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival
The first weekend of November heralds the arrival of Pensacola’s biggest and most beloved arts event of the year. The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival celebrates all the arts in a free three-day event, Nov. 2-4.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the festival takes over the adjoining Olde Seville Square, Fountain Park and Bartram Park in beautiful historic downtown Pensacola, as well as some of the adjoining streets.
The main draw for many is the region’s most respected and largest juried fine art shows, featuring artists working in virtually all media as well as an exciting Invited International Artist each year. But that’s just one part of the event, which also features music, dance and dramatic performances, a Heritage Arts section focused on crafts and traditions, and on Saturday and Sunday, a children’s festival with many fun, free activities for the kids.
Visit www.ggaf.org for complete information.
4. Get the Blues
The same weekend as the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, Pensacola’s hometown heroes, the Blue Angels, return to their home base for a spectacular homecoming air show.
Scheduled this year for Nov. 2 and 3 at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Pensacola’s west side, the show is anchored by the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squad showcasing its thrilling aerial maneuvers. Each show also features several other dynamic air acts as well as static aircraft displays on the ground and tons of other activities for the family.
If you can’t make it to Pensacola that weekend, you won’t necessarily have missed your shot at seeing the Blues. Practices open to the public are scheduled for Oct. 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31 and Nov. 1. The Oct. 17 practice is scheduled to include an autograph session with members of the team at the world-famous National Naval Air Museum on base, which is itself a must-see free attraction.
5. Foo Foo Festival
The first few weeks of November really are one of the best times of the year to visit Pensacola. Centering itself around the dual powerhouses of the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival and the Blue Angels Homecoming Show as well as the Pensacola Marathon and the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival, Foo Foo Fest adds dozens more cultural, educational and entertainment events to the calendar through Nov. 12, including many free options.
Among the free events on this year’s Foo Foo Fest calendar are:
- The Sunday’s Child’s UNITY project and Courage Wall in the University of West Florida Historic Trust’s Museum Plaza, through Nov. 12;
- Cubed Luminous, a stunning digital arts festival in Museum Plaza, scheduled for Nov. 8-11;
- The launch party for “Nightmare Theatre,” a classic “horror-host” TV show featuring classic B-movies hosted by Baron Mondo Von Doren, El Sapo de Tempesto and Mittens the Werewolf, scheduled for Nov. 9 at the WSRE Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio on Pensacola State College’s main campus;
- Science on the Streets, featuring exhibits and activities from the Pensacola MESS Hall along downtown’s Palafox Place between Government and Intendencia streets, through Nov. 12;
- Back on the Blocks, a street festival featuring a musical battle of the bands as well as barber and other musical performances in the historic Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood on Nov. 10;
- Jazz for Justice, a full day of jazz music headlined by national recording artist Eric Lindell, Nov. 11 in Seville Quarter’s Party Plaza.
Foo Foo Fest encompasses more free events as well as several ticketed events. For complete information, visit www.foofoofest.com.