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Famous for its natural beauty and rich history, Pensacola boasts miles of picturesque shoreline, fascinating museums and outdoor adventures. From the unique exhibits at the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum to state parks that provide opportunities for hiking, camping, swimming and boating, this westernmost city is a blend of natural spendor and historic landmarks. An alluring coastal town with endless opportunities for exploration, here are the best things to do in Pensacola.
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One of the prettiest beaches in Florida’s Panhandle, Pensacola Beach features postcard-worthy views along its shoreline. Perfect for a sunny afternoon, dig your toes in the white sand and admire the emerald waters. Beachgoers find it tough to peel themselves from the picturesque beach, but you can also take a stroll along the Pensacola Beach Pier to indulge in fresh seafood and colorful sunset views or enjoy exploring the underwater aquatic life with a day of snorkeling.
You can explore the world’s largest Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, as it is also one of the most-visited museums in the Sunshine State. The fascinating National Naval Aviation Museum features 150 beautifully restored aircraft that you can admire. It showcases the Naval Aviation’s rich history, and meander through the museum to observe interesting exhibits and more than 4,000 artifacts that highlight the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aviation. Experience Flight Simulators, watch a video on the Giant Screen Digital Theater and pick up a souvenir at The Flight Deck Store.
Go back in time at Fort Pickens, where you can explore one of the only forts to remain in the hands of the Union through the Civil War in Florida. It’s a captivating place to explore if you’re a history enthusiast, as you can meander past the officer’s and prisoner’s quarters, the mine chambers and the interior gun rooms. The 19th-century United States military fort sits at the end of a long stretch of white sand beach, where you can climb atop the cannon and admire the old brick walls and low arches.
Offering you the chance to explore a piece of Florida’s rich history, take a day to explore the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. Located across from the National Naval Aviation Museum, you can climb up 177 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse and capture beautiful panoramic views of the Gulf Coast. On a clear day, you can find stunning views of the Pensacola Pass, three historic forts and the historic Navy Yard. Afterwards, head to the fully restored Keepers’ Quarters to find a museum on local history.
The perfect spot to get acquainted with the city, take a self-guided tour along the tree-lined Palafox Street to enjoy outdoor cafes, boutique shops, art galleries and its Spanish Renaissance and Mediterranean-style architecture. It’s considered the hub for entertainment in Pensacola, where you’ll find a lively scene throughout the day. Visit the Palafox Market for fresh produce, baked goods and antique treasures, then catch a live performance at the Vinyl Music Hall, an intimate concert club in a 112-year-old Masonic Building.
Considered the crown jewel of Florida’s Emerald Coast, Perdido Key and Perdido Key State Park sits in the northwest corner of the state. Its beaches are Carribean-like quality, showcasing tranquil landscapes of rolling, white-sand dunes and stunning emerald-hued waters. Pack a picnic and enjoy the view under the shade of a covered pavilion, or enjoy the outdoor adventures on offer, including kayaking excursions and boat charters.
A scenic, 705-acre coastal park, Big Lagoon State Park is a great spot to get out and enjoy some of Florida’s natural landscapes. You’ll find various ecosystems such as pine flatwoods and saltwater marshes, which attracts an array of diverse local wildlife such as alligators, sea turtles and migratory birds that you can spot from the lookout towers. You’ll find a beautiful beach area to soak up the sunshine, along with camping facilities and opportunities to go kayaking and canoeing.
A perfect place to take in the action of minor league sports, catch a local Pensacola Blue Wahoos game at the Blue Wahoos Stadium. Sports fans can catch a game from April to September, as the team is a Double A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Meet the team mascot, Kazoo, and enjoy a game of classic American baseball in one of the most premier facilities in Minor League Baseball. The multi-use facility provides one of the best views in sports, with the scenic Pensacola Bay beyond the outfield walls, creating a unique backdrop.
When you need a dose of culture, head to the Pensacola Museum of Art. Housed in the 1906 Spanish-style old city jail in Pensacola’s Downtown Historic District, the small museum showcases 20th-century art from notable artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Andy Warhol. You’ll find an array of art pieces to explore, from works on canvas to sculptures, African tribal art and European glassware. There’s also a Children’s Art Room and educational programs for adults such as workshops and lectures.
Boasting over 30 acres of exotic wildlife, Gulf Breeze Zoo is home to antelope, deer, zebra and rhino. Nestled in beautiful botanical gardens, the wildlife preserve features an array of kid-friendly adventures, from feeding a giraffe to a free flight aviary. Head to the Farmyard to feed and pet goats, pigs, sheep and llamas get a close-up view of gorillas and hippos. Take a ride on the narrated train ride, meet a zookeeper, and have hands-on encounters with a variety of new furry, scaly and feathery friends.