If you’re looking for the perfect spot for a family beach vacation, you can’t go wrong with sunny Pensacola. White-sand beaches, amusement parks, protected wild shorelines, and historic forts await you in this beach city that promises the perfect mix of relaxation and unique thrills. Here are some of the best things you can do in the area with the kids, all waiting just minutes from your beach-front Pensacola vacation rental.

1. Soak Up the Sun at Pensacola Beach

Drive over to this popular, lifeguard-posted beach on Santa Rosa island to enjoy laid-back entertainment for the whole family. Little ones love playing with sand toys and splashing in the water, and older kids can snorkel through the clear waters or rent some stand-up paddle boards. If you’re traveling with a canine companion, head over to one of the dog parks. When the sun starts setting, take a walk along the boardwalk to pick up some souvenirs or enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the oceanfront restaurants.

2. Have a Blast at Sam’s Fun City

Featuring everything from an indoor play area with blow-up structures to a water park with a winding tube slide, Sam’s Fun City is the perfect family destination rain or shine. Here, you can cruise along the track in go-karts, play a round of mini golf, enjoy a game of laser tag, or hop into the bumper boats. From the Ferris wheel to the arcade, Sam’s Fun City offers entertainment for tiny tots and older kids alike.

3. Check Out the Pensacola Lighthouse

For a bit of maritime history and a fun lighthouse experience, you can’t miss the Pensacola Lighthouse. Walk through the museum at the bottom before climbing to the top of the lighthouse to see the lantern up close while enjoying unbeatable views of the shoreline. For an extra special experience, older kids are sure to enjoy one of the specialty tours such as the spooky Ghost Hunt, and you might also catch one of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstrations.

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4. Step Back in Time at Fort Pickens

Of all the towering forts in the Pensacola area, Fort Pickens is a favorite among families with older kids due to its sprawling layout, old canons, and corridors and chambers ripe for exploring. Book a tour of the fort to see prisoners’ quarters, officers’ quarters, gun rooms, and dark mine chambers while learning about the rich Civil War history of the 19th-century fort. Before heading back to your Pensacola vacation rental, step through the natural history museum, or enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

5. See the Aircraft at the National Naval Aviation Museum

Take a guided tour of this aviation museum to see more than 4,000 artifacts and planes used by the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Check out the restoration hangar before taking a 20-minute trolley ride of the area behind it housing dozens of aircraft. While younger kids enjoy marveling at the collection of 150 aircraft, older kids can try the flight simulators, and the whole family can enjoy an IMAX film to take to the skies on screen, topping off an exciting day.

6. Explore Perdido Key State Park

Pensacola is famous for its unspoiled shorelines, and Perdido Key State Park is the perfect place to enjoy those secluded beaches and the surrounding wilderness. Younger kids love looking for starfish, seashells, and other treasures in the sand while older kids can enjoy renting a few kayaks to look for wildlife along the quiet backwaters. Be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins while you kick back on the white-sand beaches.

7. Visit Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park

Give your kids an educational experience while marveling at beautiful macaws with a trip to this rescue center for the colorful exotic birds. Rescued macaws, cockatoos, peacocks and more are kept in a recreated natural habitat, and visitors can feed the birds from their hands or let them perch on their shoulders. The colored paths lead past caged exhibits with parrots and more, and free-roaming birds may cross your path. Don’t miss the big, flightless emus that roam through the park.

8. Find Seashells Along Gulf Islands National Seashore

If your family can’t get enough of Pensacola’s natural beaches, stop along this untouched shoreline where drifting sand dunes meet warm water that’s ideal for boogie boarding, surfing, or stand-up paddling. Take the short drive from your vacation rental to stop at one of the free parking areas and carry the towels and recliners from your rental down to the beach. Kids of all ages love searches for tiny, unbroken seashells. Keep an eye out for herons and other waterfowl during your stay at the beach.

9. Check out the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum

After snapping a few pictures of the old city hall, step inside the beautiful building to walk through two stories of exhibits highlighting Pensacola’s rich history. Older kids and teens are sure to appreciate the Civil War artifacts and Coca-Cola memorabilia, and little ones can step into a kid-sized trading post, camp site, and other recreations from days gone by. You can also catch one of the Living History demonstrations, which range from woodworking to butter churning. Both self-guided and guided tours are available.

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