Pensacola is one of the best places to visit in the Sunshine State year-round, thanks to its miles of immaculate white sand beaches, emerald waterways, and vibrant downtown area.
There is more to the city than what meets the eye; in the 1550s, it was the site of the first European settlement in the United States. You may witness historic structures from the Spanish era that today serve as museums, stores, and restaurants.
In Big Lagoon State Park, you can explore the trails, swim in the emerald-green, pure water, and get in touch with nature. Some of the most enjoyable things to do in Pensacola are the Living History demonstrations at Old Pensacola Village.
Here is a list of the top ways to discover this fantastic city and learn more about it.
1. Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach is the obvious choice, to begin with. The Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and well-known Casino Beach with its recognizable beach ball water tower come to mind when most people think of Pensacola Beach.
Casino Beach is a necessity if you want to mix with people and be close to the pier, boardwalk, restaurants, and stores. However, if quiet and seclusion are more your style, there is a true hidden gem on Avenida 23, a few miles along Via de Luna Drive.
You may escape the people here and find a secluded area to unwind with nothing but the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. Many people frequently visit this location when they wish to reconnect with nature. Please make sure to explore the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail if you appreciate wildlife and the outdoors!
2. Explore Perdido Key
Map It: 14202 Perdido Key Dr, Pensacola, FL 32507, United States | Phone: 800-874-1234 | Website | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free
There are other places with fantastic beaches and exciting activities besides Pensacola. Whether you are a beach bum or a true explorer, Perdido Key, which is situated on a little patch of land just west of Pensacola Beach, has a lot to offer.
Perdido Key's shores are adorned with thousands of different kinds of seashells. Be careful; it's easy to become sidetracked and lose track of time while searching the coastline for these tiny treasures.
Sunscreen is essential because many people return home with a bag full of shells and a burnt back. Don't forget to stop by the renowned Flora-Bama for some fresh oysters and a bushwhacker.
3. Enjoy Innerarity Point Park
Map It: 3835 Cruzat Way Pensacola, FL 32507 | Phone: 850-595-1647 | Hours: Sunrise to sunset | Entrance: Free
This project covers about four acres where you can attend community gatherings, go fishing or kayaking, or just bring your children to enjoy the playground. It's relatively low-key, and a great place to sit back and relax.
There are restrooms that include rinse-off areas, as well as an ADA-accessible boardwalk so individuals in wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers can enjoy the space too!
5. Enjoy the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail
The 8.5-mile Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail Eco-Trail highlight the distinctive features of the island ecology surrounding Pensacola Beach. The route, which spans the whole length of Pensacola Beach, invites people to run, swim, drive, bike, walk, and even run to each of its 29 destinations.
Each stop offers opportunities to take photographs and maps to help you navigate your exploration while telling a unique tale about the local flora and fauna.
Pensacola Beach's nearby and offshore waters are home to a wide variety and abundance of marine life. The Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail describe the various shark, fish, crab, shrimp, and other species of sea life you might find depending on the season while snorkeling or scuba diving.
6. Visit Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve, which spans more than 4,000 acres, is home to four endangered pitcher plant species as well as other unique and threatened plant species.
Only along the Gulf Coast can you find the carnivorous white-top pitcher plant, which is only found between the Apalachicola and Mississippi rivers. The ecosystem of the wet prairie supports about 100 other uncommon species of plants and animals, such as the Chapman's butterwort, sweet pitcher plant, and alligator snapping turtle.
Visitors can glimpse the untamed and stunning Tarkiln Bayou from a boardwalk. After having a picnic, visitors can trek around the nature trails to see the uncommon creatures and flora. Visitors can also day trek across the park to Perdido Bay for a more daring excursion.
7. Catch a Performance of Bands on the Beach
Map It: Various locations | Website | Hours: Tuesday evenings May through September | Entrance: Free
Enjoy some live music next to the crashing waves of the ocean while feeling the sand beneath your feet. Pensacola doesn't get much better than this!
Each time Bands on the Beach takes place, hundreds of people flock with their fold-out chairs to take part in the ongoing, seasonal event you won't want to miss.
8. Enjoy the Quayside Art Gallery
The Quayside Art Gallery is the place to go if you enjoy art exhibitions. It is the best free show in town and the biggest co-op gallery in the Southeast! In addition to the oil, watercolor, photography, ink, and mixed media formats, they also have 3-D works in clay, glass, fiber, precious metals, wood, and more.
The two-story building was built in 1873 and served as the headquarters and social hub for the Germania Steam Fire Engine and Hose Company. It was located one block north of the square-rigged sailing ships' wooden quays or wharves.
The structure is still primarily the same as when it was home to the 2.5-ton horse-drawn steam pumping engine known as the "Marie Louise."
10. Explore the National Naval Aviation Museum
Map It: 1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508, United States | Phone: 850-452-8450| Website | Hours: Daily: 9 am - 4 pm| Entrance: Free
On the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the National Naval Aviation Museum offers interactive historical experiences.
See over 150 magnificently restored aircraft representing the aviation of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, together with over 4,000 artifacts.
Fly through the air with the help of the flight simulators, take in all the drama and power of the incredible Giant Screen Digital Theater, and refuel with a satisfying meal at the real Cubi Bar Cafe. Then, bring a one-of-a-kind keepsake from The Flight Deck Store home to capture the essence of Naval Aviation.
11. Walk Through Palafox Market
Map It: 121 N Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-434-5371| Website | Hours: Summers from 9 am - 2 pm | Entrance: Free
On any given Saturday morning in Downtown Pensacola, you may stroll beneath the crepe myrtle trees that line Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza and find dozens of bustling farmers and artisans selling organic goods at the Palafox Market.
A lively outdoor market with more than 100 merchants offering everything from fresh vegetables to homemade items to handcrafted arts and crafts has developed out of what started as a modest, seasonal farmers market in 2007.
Between Wright and Garden streets, Palafox Market may be found on Palafox Street. Rain or shine, it is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
12. Visit Veterans Memorial Park
Map It: 200 S 10th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-434-6119| Website | Hours: Daily: 6 am - 10 pm| Entrance: Free
Veterans Memorial Park honors soldiers who served in World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. It is located along Pensacola Bay.
You can stroll along pathways dotted with memorials and statues in this area, including a scaled-down version of the National Vietnam Memorial. This is the perfect location for a quiet stroll among the memorials honoring the people who gave their lives for our country.
13. Take a Spooky Walk Through St. Michaels Cemetary
Map It: 6 N Alcaniz St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-436-4643| Website | Hours: Daily: 9 am - 5 pm | Entrance: Free
One of the oldest known cemeteries in the state of Florida, St. Michael's Cemetery, is located not far from downtown Palafox Street. The eight-acre cemetery is a symbol of Pensacola's rich heritage and is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Despite the fact that historical research suggests that the location was used as a cemetery as early as the mid-1700s, the King of Spain only formally designated the area as one in 1807.
The José Roig above-ground grave monument dated 1812, which is connected to Pensacola's Second Spanish Period, is the cemetery's oldest remaining gravestone (1781-1821).
Pensacola attracted immigrants from all over the world at that time. The cemetery serves as the final resting place for prominent businessmen, those who perished in shipping explosions and yellow fever epidemics, childbirth, and old age.
15. Eat at The Grand Marlin
Map It: 400 Pensacola Beach Blvd.Pensacola Beach, FL 32561 | Phone: (850) 677-9153 | Website | Hours: Daily: 11 am - 9 pm | Entrance: Free
The Grand Marlin Restaurant has the main dining area with an oyster bar that is shucked to order, an outside North Drop Bar that looks out into the stunning Santa Rosa Sound, as well as private conference spaces.
The finest cuisine, including the freshest local seafood, is served at this Pensacola Beach restaurant with an island-chic vibe. Daily menus are created and printed to take advantage of the local bounty.
16. Walk Through Downtown Pensacola
Pensacola, the first European settlement in the United States, has a 450-year history that is both colorful and rich. Downtown Pensacola is the center of the city. It is a vibrant fusion of modern advancement and steadfast historical resolve.
Take some time to stroll through downtown to check out the different cafes and local shops!
17. Rent a Canoe at Blackwater
Map It: 6974 Deaton Bridge Rd. (entrance to Blackwater State Park) Milton, FL 32583 | Phone: (850) 623-0235| Website | Hours: 24/7 | Price: Dependent on boat
Open all year long and prepared to meet your canoeing, tubing, and kayaking requirements, the Blackwater River is the ONLY unpolluted sand river still existing in the United States; because of its rarity, the State of Florida bought it and made it a State Forest.
A full roundtrip service is provided by Blackwater Canoe. At the conclusion of the river journey, they pick you up, park you, and take you upstream to the launch site.
You will come across Blackwater State Park toward the end of your journey. There are sizable pavilions, restrooms, and outdoor showers available. Your journey will come to a finish back at your automobile. Simply kayak, tube, or canoe the beach.
18. See a Show at the Saenger Theatre
Since it first opened its doors in 1925, generations of people from the Pensacola area have passed by the iconic Saenger Theatre to take in performances of comedy, drama, dance, and music.
The Saenger stage's diverse entertainment lineup also includes a yearly Summer Classic Movie Series and nationally renowned touring acts like concerts, comedians, and kid's shows.
19. Explore Pensacola Village
Map It: 205 E Zaragoza St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-595-5993 | Website | Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm | Entrance: Free
Visit Historic Pensacola Village for the day to learn about the rich history of the country's first European colony. The village, which spans 8.5 acres within the footprints of the ancient Spanish and British forts in downtown Pensacola, is made up of 28 museums, historic homes, and other buildings.
The Village always has something going on. You can take it upon yourself to check out what it has to offer with a self-guided tour; or you can register for some of its events and classes to get the true hands-on experience!
20. Go Wine Tasting at Beyond the Grape
This the most famous wine bar in Pensacola, where you can try the wine before you buy. The top wines and meads produced in Florida are among a vast variety of superb, small-production wines from throughout the world.
Take home bottles of wine, craft beer, or wine smoothies, or enjoy a glass at the bar. They have more than 500 different types of wine. Local to foreign, sweet to dry, exotic to traditional. With our Onto the Canvas workshops, get together with your friends for an evening of painting and wine tasting.
21. See Dolphins With Jolly Sailing
Map It: 655 Pensacola Beach Blvd., 715 Pensacola Beach Blvd. Pensacola Beach, FL 32561 | Phone: (850) 723-6142 | Website | Hours: Daily: 8 am - 7 pm| Entrance: Dependent on trip
Onboard one of our motorized boats or sailing ships, you can take part in a dolphin cruise, a secluded beach excursion, snorkeling, sailing, wildlife viewing, a Blue Angels practice cruise, a sunset cruise, and a dinner cruise.
Up to 28 people can travel together in groups on our 42' power tritoon, Jolly Dolphin, which offers exceptional comfort. This is perfect for parties, corporate events, and family gatherings. Alternatively, you can pick a private, personalized cruise on one of our six-person powerboats.
The Pensacola Beach Pier One Marina is the departure point for our dolphin trips. We provide half-day and full-day excursions on Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. In addition, they are accessible for celebratory occasions, including birthdays, anniversaries, engagement announcements, and other occasions.
22. Enjoy an Evening at Play
Map It: 16 Palafox Pl Ste 200 Suite 200, Pensacola, FL 32502-5628 | Website | Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 7 pm - 2:30 am | Entrance: Free
Invoking the spirit of your childhood while providing you with the most significant components of maturity, Play is a community-focused pub with a cast of local characters that range from brilliant trivia savants to bar game addicts.
Play is Pensacola's favorite neighborhood pub with a side of fun, serving up over 20 different rotating microbrews, a variety of classic and modern arcade games, pool tables, skeeball machines, air hockey, and much more.
23. Stroll Through Plaza de Luna Memorial
Map It: 900 S Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-436-5670 | Website | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free
Plaza de Luna is a waterfront park that bears the name of the Spanish Conquistador Don Tristan De Luna and is situated at the southern end of Palafox Pier.
The splash fountain for kids and a life-size statue of De Luna are the park's most prominent features. Fishing spots, a waterfront walkway, concessions/vending, and parking are other features.
24. Visit the Gulf Islands National Seashore
Map It: 3500 Park Rd, Ocean Springs, MS 39564, United States | Phone: 228-230-4121 | Website | Hours: Daily: 9 am - 7 pm| Entrance: Free
Along the barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Islands National Seashore provides possibilities for recreation and protects natural and historic heritage. The protected zones comprise portions of seven islands as well as the mainland.
25. Visit the Historic Plaza Ferdinand VII
Map It: East Government St and, S Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-206-7231 | Website | Hours: Daily: 6 am - 11 pm| Entrance: Free
The Plaza Ferdinand VII is a public garden and park in the Florida city of Pensacola's Historic Pensacola Village neighborhood. Between Government and Zaragoza Streets on Palafox Street is where you may find it. It was given the name Ferdinand VII after Ferdinand VII of Spain, who ruled Spain from 1813 to 1833.
26. Destination Archaeology Resource Center
A hands-on museum featuring the history, tradition, and archeological sites of the area. The Destination Archaeology Resource Center is a public archaeology museum housed inside the Florida Public Archaeology Network's main office in downtown Pensacola.
You can read here to discover more about the beautiful archaeological sites spread all around the state. We have displays about both on-land and underwater archeological sites in our exhibits.
In the eight regions of the FPAN, we highlight heritage sites that are accessible to the general public using both conventional and interactive displays, such as touchscreens, tablet computers, and objects. Additionally, throughout the year, our museum provides a number of free exhibitions, activities, and programs.
27. Peruse the Graffiti Bridge
Map It: N 17th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free
The Graffiti Bridge, a distinctive work of art that has become a well-known landmark for both tourists and locals, can be seen in the westernmost city of the Florida Panhandle.
Local children, artists, and graffiti fans make vows of love, support, and individualism on an abandoned railroad overpass used by the CSX Transportation Company off 17th Ave in Pensacola, Florida. The 17th Avenue Railroad Trestle has been ornamented since 1935.
Almost anything you can conceive becomes a reality on the bridge, as Picasso once stated. The bridge has witnessed its fair share of memorials, holidays, cheerleading, drawings, insignias, love notes, congrats, sports-themed messages, and class of "whatever year" statements across the years.
28. Explore Fort Pickens
Map It: 1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561, United States | Phone: 850 934-2600 | Website | Hours: March 1 - October 31: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m, November 1 - February 28: 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.| Entrance: $25 per car
Open sunrise to sunset in the Fort Pickens area. Bookstore opens from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the entrance. Program times can be seen at the entry.
Download the National Park Service app to get information on self-guided tours. Advice: Stop 14 offers a fantastic view of Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort does not permit dogs. Please refrain from climbing the historic buildings and cannons.
29. Pensacola Childrens Museum
Map It: 115 Zaragoza St, Pensacola, FL 32502, United States | Phone: 850-595-1559| Website | Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am - 4 pm| Entrance: Adults: $10 Child: $5
Come participate in Pensacola history. Children 10 and under can explore interactive displays on two floors. The town of Colonial Pensacola is on the first floor.
The Publix Supermarket, Strickly Briks Makerspace, a Colonial schoolhouse, and a Native American display are just a few of the galleries on the second floor.
The Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola Museum of History, and Historic Pensacola Village are all accessible with a single Historic Pensacola ticket.
30. Visit Gulf Breeze Zoo
Map It: 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563, United States | Phone: 866-620-1825| Website | Hours: Daily: 9 am - 5 pm| Entrance: $26 per person
A 50-acre zoo, the Gulf Breeze Zoo is situated in Woodlawn Beach, Florida, close to Gulf Breeze and Navarre. Visitors can witness over 900 exotic creatures there while riding an African preserve train, including rhinos, hippos, Western lowland gorillas, and orangutans.