Pensacola Beach, Florida is a combination of emerald-green Gulf waters that kiss white-sand beaches. Fly or drive to this beach community, which is situated on the barrier island of Santa Rosa, nestled in the Gulf of Mexico. The Santa Rosa Island Authority’s free beach trolley eases travel from many Pensacola Beach vacation rentals to popular attractions. Start planning your itinerary of things to do and see in Pensacola Beach, a destination famous for its fun in the sun.
1. Visit Historic Pensacola Village
Stroll through the Historic Pensacola Village in the heart of downtown Pensacola, and let your family experience what life was like in this coastal town centuries gone by. Twenty-eight properties within this Pensacola National Register Historic District feature styles from Victorian to French Creole and from Colonial times to World War II. Purchase tickets in the Tivoli High House Shop for a costumed guide to take you through beautiful attractions, including the Greek Revival-style Dorr House built in 1871, the Lavalle House of 1805, and Old Christ Church on Seville Square, built with stained-glass windows in 1832. Explore museums on your own, including the Museum of Commerce, Museum of Industry, and the McMillen House. The University of West Florida Historic Trust runs the village.
2. Tour the Voices of Pensacola
At Voices of Pensacola on Government Street, your family can sit in ultramodern oral history eggs to hear and watch videos of people telling their stories about life in Pensacola. The second level of the museum is run by UWF Historic Trust and includes the Hilton-Green Research Room, which holds photos, maps, and documents of the area’s history. Shop for mementos at the gift shop to share with friends.
3. Enjoy the Pensacola Children’s Museum
In the first-floor Discovery Gallery of the Pensacola Children’s Museum on Zaragoza Street, children ages 10 and younger enjoy an interactive, hands-on experience that recreates life in Pensacola during the 1600s and 1700s. On the second floor, they can explore the area’s Native American, multicultural, military, industrial, and Civil War history. You can shop for children’s books and toys, including Historic Pensacola brand wooden toys by Melissa and Doug at the museum’s gift shop.
4. Get a Fast Thrill at Fast Eddie’s Fun Center
Plan a full day of family-friendly activities at Fast Eddie’s Fun Center. True to its name, this destination is filled with fun attractions, including go-karts on four unique tracks. Kids shorter than 54 inches tall can drive in junior racer karts or ride with Mom or Dad in double-ride karts. Drivers who are age 16 and older with ID can race on the competition speedway, complete with a checkered-flag finish. Let your baseball stars shine at the batting cages while the family golf pros putt at the mini-golf course. Start water wars with water balloons for silly, wet fun, and after you dry off, enjoy pizza, hot dogs, cold drinks, and ice cream at the snack bar. Then close out your day with gaming at the arcade.
5. Walk the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Rosa Sound is home to the heart of Pensacola Beach, the popular Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. Snap photos at the Shell, the famous landmark at the boardwalk’s amphitheater, then treat yourself to Mom’s Beach, the unofficial name for Quietwater Beach. Known for its shallow, calm, and clear water, this beach is a great place for the little ones to hunt for hermit crabs, search for sand dollars, and splash around while you relax. Before you settle in, stop at Salty Beach Outfitters for a pair of sunglasses and a souvenir T-shirt. Hungry? Take everybody to Cactus Flower Cafe to chow down on a California-style Mexican meal, or savor New York-style pizza at Papa’s Pizza.
6. Fish on the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier
Walk out on the 1,470-foot Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier for great fishing and sightseeing. When the kids drop their fishing lines in the sparkling emerald-green water, they might catch flounder, bluefish, mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel, or more. Buy a fishing ticket, bait, and rent fishing gear on the pier from the folks at Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier. When your crew gets hungry, order from the pier menu, which includes hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish sandwiches. You’re likely to see sailboats, along with dolphins, manatees, and sharks swimming by the pier, and if you stay long enough, you’ll catch a spectacular sunset.
7. Explore Fort Pickens
Fort Pickens, a United States military fort, stands tall at 1400 Fort Pickens Road. Built mostly by slave labor and completed in 1834, this fort is among those that never fell into Confederate hands during the Civil War. A strong protector against foreign and domestic invaders, Fort Pickens also served as a prison at one point but now serves as a national park. Kids can stand in the prison cells, explore the guard towers, and climb on the cannons at this historic fort. After your adventure, take the family to Peg Leg Pete’s, a pirate-themed restaurant, to enjoy seafood or burgers, and relax while the kids have fun at the on-site playground.
8. Parasail or Take a Boat Tour With Key Sailing
See the sights of Pensacola Beach and surrounding areas from the sky or on a boat with Key Sailing. Boats made especially for parasailing are United States Coast Guard-inspected and run by USCG-licensed captains and crews for safety throughout your ride. Sail in the air for 10 to 12 minutes, about 500 to 600 feet off of the water. Your whole family can enjoy the ride at once on a parasail that holds up to 12 people at a time. For touring on the water, ride the Pelican, Key Sailing’s glass-bottom boat, and enjoy an exciting 2.5-hour dolphin and eco-tour experience through the beautiful Gulf or bay waters.
9. Surf and Paddle
Make the kids laugh while you get the hang of surfing or stand-up paddle boarding. Rent boards, paddles, beachwear, and gear from Innerlight Surf Shop, and just add water. Founded by a surfer in 1969, this shop’s staff makes sure you enjoy a safe and fantastic experience on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
10. Spend the Day at the Gulf Breeze Zoo
Travel about 17 miles east of Pensacola to the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo, which provides a home for more than 900 animals. When you arrive at the zoo, ride the zoo’s Safari Line Train to see animals—from antelope to zebras—roam free in a 30-acre animal preserve. Feed the giraffes, hang out with the Nile hippos, watch a family of gorillas play, and see exotic birds up close. When hunger strikes, your kids will enjoy their children’s meals served with safari hats at the zoo cafe.
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