It’s one of the longest barrier islands in the world, and like many of the other cities along Florida’s Emerald Coast, boasts some of world’s purest sand beaches where white crystals from the Appalachian Mountains wash down into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the shores. Witness sugar-covered coasts, an array of other natural beauties, plenty of historic culture, and all the latest attractions and events at this uniquely low-key, family-favorite Floridian hangout.
Pensacola is connected by two long bridges, offering both a gulf-front as well as a "sound" side for travelers hoping for more of a calmer seaside experience. There are also numerous public beaches abound in the area, such as Casino Beach at the tip of Pensacola Beach Road, which offers lots of lively entertainment in the summertime and ample boutique shopping, eateries, and nightlife across the street at Quietwater Beach Boardwalk. Don't miss out on experiencing true beachside bliss by renting a bike or taking a drive out to explore both Fort Pickens Road and J. Earle Bowden Way, which connects Pensacola Beach to the Navarre Beach area. You’ll be taking in breathtaking, unobstructed views of the Gulf and patting yourselves on the back for having put together such a family-fun adventure. Here are eight things to do on a weekend getaway in Pensacola.
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Put These 8 Fun Pensacola Activities On Your Weekend Itinerary!
Friday Evening: Arrival
After checking into your Get started by booking the perfect rental in Pensacola, settle in and relax with an easy evening in Paradise. Go for a walk on a beautiful beach and then try some of the area's finest and freshest seafood for dinner. Here's what we recommend doing on night one.
1. Visit the beaches and parks
Start your trip by stretching your legs at one of Pensacola's beautiful beaches and parks. There’s a truly unique beauty to the glass clear waters, sugar-soft white sand beaches, and variety of pretty seashells at this Floridian joint, where you’ll find not just some of the best beaches in the entire Sunshine State-- but in the entire country. It’s been named by TripAdvisor as one of the top 25 best beaches in the US, while the nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore has been deemed one of the top 25 beaches in the world.
Land lovers will also rejoice knowing that there are an array of historical and well-preserved natural parks to explore all around town. The city’s parks range from quiet woodland areas on the Edward Ball Nature Trail or Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, to
scenic coastal settings filled with wildlife creatures in the Gulf Islands National Seashore or at Big Lagoon State Park.
2. Seafood galore
Craving fresh seafood? Well, Pensacola is definitely the place to race towards. Being right on the bay-- with the Gulf just beyond-- there are, unsurprisingly, a boatload of stellar seafood restaurants to choose from, with the two most popular local faves including, Grand Marlin and Crabs – We got Em. At the former, chow down on the oysters Rockefeller or the pan-seared swordfish. The grilled Mahi Mahi or Ahi Poke are pretty rad as well, and are said to beat even the dishes served up in Hawaii. At the latter, there are—you guessed it—crabs, crabs, and more crabs! Munch on some Blue Crab, the only crustacean caught wild in local waters, or stay safe with some traditional king crab and Alaskan snow crabs, or one of the savory dishes of raw oysters and fresh local red snapper. What’s more is that both eateries are located right on the water, so you’ll be dining amidst superb coastal views.
Quick tip: For foodies out there, make sure to head over to the annual week-long Seafood Festival in September. You’ll be eating your way to a culinary paradise.
Saturday: Enjoy the Sun and Sand
Start your Saturday off on the right note by sleeping in or going for a jog on the beach. If you want to spend the entire day resting on a chaise lounge by the water, go for it! If you'd like to break up your beach time with some fun local activities, here's where to start.
3. Go bird watching
Tweet and chirp in delight at the spectacular array of different birds that you’ll be spotting in and around Pensacola’s famous Beach Fishing Pier. From gulls and gannets, to ducks, loons, herons, and cormorants, this official bird-watcher hotspot boasts 1,471 feet of space where one can sometimes see more than 300 birds all at once! It’s been deemed by the Nature Conservancy as a must-go-to for bird aficionados-- as well as fishing fans, who often find themselves catching various Gulf species straight from the pier, including Mahi Mahi, Flounder, Spanish Mackerel, Pompano, and Tarpon. There was even a 50-pound sailfish hooked in not too long ago. Go reel in those big ones!
4. Discover a "Lost Island"
Tucked away on a narrow strip of land on the western edge of Florida lies a barrier island covered with rolling, white-sand dunes and filled with stunning views of the calm Gulf waters. You’ll also find an abundant array of wetlands, estuaries, and wildlife towards the northern part of this "lost island," which clusters several world-renowned nature parks all into one area, such as Perdido Key State Park, Big Lagoon State Park, and Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, which will have you immersing yourself in both wetland and wildlife bliss.
What’s more is that the area is also home to Lost Key Golf Club, a designated Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary golf course.
5. See an air show
More often than not, you’ll see highly-trained precision flying teams gracing the brilliant blue skies above Pensacola Bay during one of the town’s many awe-inspiring flight demonstrations. The area is home to the world famous Blue Angels, who can be seen practicing their amazing aerial skills at Pensacola Naval Air Station on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings throughout the spring, summer, and fall when the team is home.These fearlessly high-soaring Navy and Marine Corps elite flyers provide the nation with thrilling flight demonstrations each and every year. So head on over to Pensacola and be sure to look up, up, UP!
6. Take sunset pictures at the Pensacola Lighthouse
There’s nothing more romantic and charming than the sight of an old-fashioned light house, especially one that that’s been beautifully preserved and still works to keep ships at sea safe. Located inside the Naval Air, the historic lighthouse was built in 1869 and has almost one hundred eighty steps leading up a spiral staircase to the top-- where you can experience sweeping 360 degree views of the bay, as well as get a close-up look at the powerful French-made mega-lens. There’s even a cool cat-walk to stroll on, and the award-winning National Naval Aviation Museum just across the way to check out after the climb.
Sunday: Keep That Vacation Spirit
It's your last day in Destin and the last thing you want to do is think about going back. Here are a few things you can do that will help you keep that vacation spirit!
7. Eat brunch at Alfresco
Popular at all hours of the day, you can find amazing food at Alfresco, an outdoor area with permanently-stationed food trucks. Try the fish tacos at Z Taco and get some chicken and waffles to start your day at Banty Reds before heading across the bridge to the beach or going up Palafox Street
8. Stroll down Palafox Street
The award-winning main street of Downtown Pensacola offers everything from chic boutiques and trendy new restaurants to an all-around historic Southern charm that’s truly hard to beat. It’s a thriving scene of hustle, bustle, and fun, as well as utter relaxation, where visitors are able to rest up at any one of the shaded park benches in Seville Square or Plaza Ferdinand before grabbing some quick drinks from a local café along the brilliant waterfront. It’s known as the “gateway” to Pensacola, and has even been named one of America’s greatest streets for good reason. Not only is there a terrific local art scene with a two-fisted gallery punch, but even an array of musical and theatrical venues such as the Saenger Theatre, which has been deemed the “Grand Dame of Palafox.” Catch a live performance at the intimate Vinyl Music Hall (located in a 112-year-old Masonic Building), or have some good fun during Gallery Night, a neighborhood block party that livens up the streets one Friday each month with a unique atmosphere of music, art, food, and refreshments, as well as an assortment of eclectic musical styles. There’s even the popular Palafox Market that needs to be on every visitor’s list, where you’ll find dozens of lively farmers and arts and crafts vendors selling organic goods each Saturday under a canopy of gorgeous crepe myrtle trees.
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This article was written by Pamela Chan.