15 Best Things to Do in Pensacola, Florida

15 Best Things to Do in Pensacola, Florida

It is always the smallest cities that stores in most amazing of attractions.

A gem like this lay on the westernmost end of Florida, by the name of Pensacola.

Even after being a part of the state, Pensacola is way different from Florida; in fact, it runs in a different time zone as well.

With all these essential unique qualities, it doesn’t come across as a surprise that Pensacola is packed with so many tourist spots.

Right from the sparkling beaches and parks to the interactive museums and restaurants, Pensacola has it all!

Palafox Street

Palafox Street in Pensacola
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If there is a place in Pensacola that is as important as the city itself, it’s the eclectic and tourist-friendly Palafox Street.

It came into existence when it was listed on a street plan in 1812 as Calle de Palafox, named after General Jose de Palafox y Melzi, a Spanish military man.

This well-thought-out street soon came to be filled with amazing retails, numerous dining options and theatrical venues – including the legendary Saenger Theatre.

The street is a beautiful amalgamation of vintage architecture, art, culture and history, all of which is underlined by pleasant live music! Honoured as one of the “10 Great Streets in America”, this ‘artery’ of downtown Pensacola is perfect – and a must-visit!

Saenger Theatre

Saenger Theatre
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most visited destinations on Palafox Street has to be the one and only Saenger Theatre.

Established in 1925, it is a huge and equally mesmerizing theatre, accommodating more than 1600 people.

Known as the ‘The Grand Dame of Palafox Street’ by the locals, the theatre stands as a sign to the fun and opulent times before the Great Depression – all of which is apparent in its vintage, lucrative design.

The theatre features all kinds of entertaining shows, such as Broadway musicals, an opera, ballet, comedic acts, theatrical performances, classical movies and so much more.

Thankfully, the website is always up-to-date with their oncoming shows - so that you can schedule your visit around the show you want to see and enjoy!

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore
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Being protected federally, Gulf Islands National Seashore is a natural paradise along the coast of Pensacola.

It is a group of barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico, with one foot in the southern United States, southern Mississippi and of course in Pensacola.

This stretch is equipped with facilities that will calm your soul and excite your mind. It is rich with sparkling clear waters, white sands, swinging trees and coastal marshes – but that’s not all!

An abundance of historic structures, trails, picnic areas and underground campgrounds are peppered across the area, enough to occupy your entire day with fresh fun.

Perfect for families and group of friends, this piece of heaven on earth is just waiting to be explored!

Urban Swinery

Pensacola’s Urban Swinery is a literal paradise for all the pork lovers out there!

Located at 9 Palafox Place, the place provides delicious pork-based dishes and wines, as the name slyly suggests.

It is a venture by the co-owners of the Global-Grill, a fine-dining restaurant. Urban Swinery, however, is a casual-dining place, where an uninhibited aura meets sophisticated vibes.

Apart from the titular items, the restaurant also serves varieties of dishes, including shrimps, oysters, vegetarian and even craft beer.

Some of their popular dishes include ‘Go Pig or Go Home’, pork ribs, duck salad, apple donuts and the combo board.

With helpful staff, prompt service, inexpensive and delicious menu and mellow vibes – Urban Swinery is a whole package, indeed!

Admiral Fetterman Field

Located in the Community Maritime Park, Admiral Fetterman Field is where you will find sports enthusiasts having the time of their lives!

It’s a multi-use stadium, used for football, soccer, special events and more importantly, baseball.

Its official name was given in 2015, to honour the late Admiral Jack Fetterman, who had an important role in the development of this beautiful Park.

It is the proud host of Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a minor league baseball team.

Overlooking the Pensacola Bay, it can comfortably accommodate more than 5000 people, who can take part in contests and sing-alongs, get to eat awesome food and have peculiar prizes, enjoy the team’s mascot - and not to forget - experience some amazing baseball!

National Naval Aviation Museum

Display at National Naval Aviation Museum
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Pensacola is not short on interactive museums and one of them happens to be National Naval Aviation Museum.

It came into existence in 1962 and stores more than 150 aircraft on its premises, all ready for you to experience.

Not only that, but it also houses spacecrafts and seemingly uncountable aerospace-related artifacts and displays.

The museum offers a lot of activities for visitors, including watching aircraft-related films and documentaries in the theatre and using their amazing flight simulators.

There is also a museum shop on-site, as well as a café.

The National Naval Aviation Museum is the best way to learn about the fascinating history of these flying vehicles – and that too in the right now!

Historic Pensacola Village

Also known as Seville Historic District, this vintage corner of Pensacola is fascinating for a variety of reasons.

The Historic Pensacola Village is a life-sized museum, featuring more than 25 restored buildings and a handful of alluring museums.

Spanning over 8.5 acres of land, the village is actually as old as World War II, as it dates back to colonial times.

Even if it’s less than a century old, the place stores the timeless history and rich heritage of America.

Some most-visited places include the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum, Voices of Pensacola, Museum of Industry and Old Christ Church.

If you want to lose yourself in America’s charming history, then Historic Pensacola Village is the one for you.

Seville Quarter

Shops in Seville Quarter
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Ever since it started in 1967, Seville Quarter has been Pensacola’s one true entertainment spot.

How so? Because it is an exciting house where you will find a club, a dance hall and a bar all in one place! Located on East Government Street, it all started from Rosie O’Grady’s Warehouse, a beer-and-peanuts saloon.

Accompanying it now are more places, that comes with their eclectic themes and exciting atmosphere.

There is a pool table and a karaoke machine; there are inviting dance floors, an open courtyard and jazz shows; and there are restaurants – serving delicious food, might I add - you definitely can’t visit in just one night.

Pensacola’s nightlife has become even more attractive, and it is all because of Seville Quarter!

Pensacola Museum of Art

Pensacola Museum of Art
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If there is any place that is the art capital of Pensacola, it is the Pensacola Museum of Art.

Adding more to its uniqueness are the facts that not only is it the only art museum in the city, but also stands tall in the place of a former jail.

It was, in fact, the city’s courthouse, shore patrol and police department, before being renovated in 1954.

The renovated museum now doesn’t hold vertical iron bars but is adorned with fascinating artworks and exhibits, including that by Picasso, Warhol, Dali along with collections of African art and even glass art.

The museum also holds art classes, lectures and workshops. Visiting a former jail never sounded this fun, isn’t it?

Pensacola MESS Hall

Don’t be misled by the name, Pensacola MESS Hall isn’t actually a mess.

Located in downtown Pensacola, it is a fascinating science museum, featuring displays of ‘Math, Engineering, Science and Stuff’.

It’s almost a decade old, having been established in 2012 by Megan and Jerry Pratt.

Their mission is a noble one – to educate and inspire the curiosity of those who understand and want to learn more about science.

Amazingly, it accommodates every age group, especially children.

You can enjoy several immersive exhibits, along with hands-on activities, adventurous experiments, interactive workshops and even camp sessions!

Honoured with the Best of the Bay award by the Pensacola News Journal in 2016, the MESS Hall combines education with fun! Who wouldn’t enjoy something like that?

Big Lagoon State Park

Big Lagoon State Park
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Arguably one of the best State Parks of Florida, the Big Lagoon State Park can be referred to as a huge recreational paradise!

It is spread over 705 acres of land, lined by the northern boundary of Big Lagoon and the Pensacola Bay to the east.

There is nothing the park misses out on – there are trails, boating and stargazing facilities, geocaching, picnic areas, bird-gazing and wildlife viewing and even wedding venues, to name just a few.

This amazing place came into existence in 1978, before which it was just a marsh or a basin swamp.

One of the best things about the park is that there are more than 70 campsites, equipped with electric and water facilities, which means you can make your Pensacola trip all about this wonderland!

Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
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If there’s anything that’s been shining consistently – may the sunshine or rain descend on it – on the Gulf of Mexico’s waters since the 19th century, it is the Pensacola Lighthouse!

Built in 1859, not only is it useful for the mariners, but it also stores the importance of this mesmerizing façade and the charming history of its times.

Climb those 177 steps to the top of the lighthouse and take in the beautiful view, comprising of Blue Angels, obviously, as well as the nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station and if you are lucky, you’d catch their incredible performances.

The Lighthouse also features the Maritime Museum, which is filled with displays and exhibits associated with the US Coast Guard and the industrial history – and something not to be missed.

Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach
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Being the westernmost end of Florida, Pensacola is blessed with beautiful beaches.

The shores of Pensacola Beach, along with Perdido Key, are federally protected – adding safety to the beauty.

White sand stretches for a long distance, paralleling the clear blue waters, which the visitors find extremely soothing.

You will find the beach lively sometimes; sometimes, it is quieter. Attached to it is the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and Observation post, which offers picturesque views of the sea and is a popular attraction.

Surrounding the beach are several shopping options, cafés, restaurants and bars, accommodations options, architecturally rich buildings, including novelty houses, and entertainment, making it one of the popular destinations of the city!

Fort Barrancas

Fort Barrancas
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A need-to-visit place on the Gulf Islands National Seashore is the ancient and charming Fort Barrancas.

Located on Taylor Road, it was built in 1844, having been established for the safety of the Pensacola naval base.

Even after all these years, the fort still features intact camouflaged artillery bunkers, brick-fortified cannon placements, hidden passageways, ammunition depots and areas for food storage, among others.

This 60 million bricks structure, with all its fixtures, is as historic as it is timeless – all of which can be experienced in the self-guided tours and ranger-guided programs they frequently organize.

With a picnic area, hiking trails and an onsite unique bookstore, Fort Barrancas is a historic tourist spot like no other.

The Fish House

Craving delicious, quality seafood in Pensacola? The Fish House is to your rescue.

Standing tall – and emitting a mouthwatering smell – at a little distance away from Seville Square, the restaurant has been in business for more than two decades now.

The menu is a tasty blend of fresh seafood dishes, sushi, house-smoked steaks and Grits á Ya Ya, a Southern speciality that has reached every corner of the world.

The restaurant also boasts a late-night menu, Sunday brunches, and a deck bar.

The ambience is inviting and mellow, the service is swift and the staff is just friendly!

It is, perhaps, for these many reasons that the restaurant - a favourite of celebrities - has won more awards than you can count!

Pensacola is a treasure chest of exciting things to do and mesmerizing places to visit.

It doesn’t matter whether you are there with your friends or family – Pensacola will provide the exact same tourist experience, if not better.