Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Pensacola, FL

  • Published 2022/08/04

It’s always the smallest cities that store the most amazing attractions.

One such gem lies on the westernmost end of Florida and goes by the name of Pensacola.

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

Given its unique qualities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pensacola is packed with many fascinating tourist spots.

From sparkling beaches and parks to interactive museums and restaurants, Pensacola has it all.

Are you interested in discovering them for yourself?

These are the best things to do in Pensacola, Florida:

Explore the Iconic Palafox Street

The road of Palafox Street in Pensacola

Anthony Dezenzio /

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 retailers, numerous dining options, and theatrical venues, including the legendary Saenger Theatre.

Buildings along Palafox Street

Cynthia Catellier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The street is a beautiful amalgamation of vintage architecture, art, culture, and history, all of which are underlined by pleasant live music.

Honored as one of the 10 great streets in America, this “artery” of downtown Pensacola is perfect and a must-visit.

Rainy day at Palafox Street

Infrogmation, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch a Live Performance at the Saenger Theatre

Exterior of 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 vast and equally mesmerizing theater, accommodating more than 1600 people.

Known to the locals as the the “Grand Dame of Palafox Street,” the theater stands as a sign of the fun and opulent times before the Great Depression—all of which is apparent in its vintage, lucrative design.

The theater 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 Saenger Theatre’s website is always up to date with their upcoming shows, so you can schedule your visit around the show you want to see and enjoy!

Surround Yourself with Nature at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Daytime view of Gulf Islands National Seashore

Colin D. Young /

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 southern Mississippi and another, of course, in Pensacola.

This stretch is equipped with facilities that will calm your soul and excite your mind.

The waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore

forestpath /

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 campsites are peppered across the area, enough to occupy your entire day with fresh fun.

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

Grab a Bite and a Beer at 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, craft beers, and wines, as the name slyly suggests.

It is a venture by the co-owners of 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 a variety of menu items, including shrimp, oysters, vegetarian dishes, and even craft beer.

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

With a helpful staff, prompt service, an inexpensive and delicious menu, and mellow vibes, Urban Swinery offers the whole package.

Watch a Sports Match at Admiral Fetterman Field

The field of Admiral Fetterman Field

Navarre0107, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 that functions as a venue for football, soccer, and, most importantly, baseball games.

Its official name was given in 2015 to honor 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 5,000 people.

Attendees can participate in contests and sing-alongs, eat fantastic food, win peculiar prizes, enjoy the team’s mascot, and witness some amazing baseball games.

Tour the National Naval Aviation Museum

Display at National Naval Aviation Museum

James Kirkikis /

Pensacola is not short on interactive museums, and one of them happens to be the 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 space crafts and seemingly uncountable aerospace-related artifacts and displays.

Exterior of National Naval Aviation Museum

James Kirkikis /

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

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

The National Naval Aviation Museum is the best place to learn about the fascinating history of these flying vehicles, as well as how they operate today.

Aircrafts in National Naval Aviation Museum

James Kirkikis /

Explore Historic Pensacola Village

Exterior of a building at Seville Historic District

James Kirkikis /

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

Historic Pensacola Village is a life-sized museum featuring more than 25 restored buildings and a handful of fascinating 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.

Sidewalk at Seville Historic District

James Kirkikis /

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

The most frequently visited places here 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 spot for you.

A cottage at Seville Historic District

James Kirkikis /

Experience Pensacola’s Nightlife at Seville Quarter

Shops in Seville Quarter

James Kirkikis /

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

How so?

Seville Quarter is where you will find a club, a dance hall, and a bar all in one place!

Located on East Government Street, it all started with Rosie O’Grady’s Warehouse, a beer-and-peanuts saloon.

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

There is a pool table and a karaoke machine, inviting dance floors, an open courtyard, jazz shows, and restaurants serving delicious food.

You definitely can’t visit this place for just one night.

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

Admire the Displays at the Pensacola Museum of Art

Exterior of Pensacola Museum of Art

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Adding to its uniqueness is that it is not just 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 no longer holds vertical iron bars but is now adorned with fascinating artworks and exhibits, including pieces by Picasso, Warhol, and Dali, along with collections of African art and works of glass art.

The museum also holds art classes, lectures, and workshops.

Visiting a former jail never sounded this fun, don’t you think?

Learn Something New at the Pensacola MESS Hall

Windtube in Pensacola MESS Hall

MeganPratt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t be misled by its name, as the 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.

Honored with the Best of the Bay Award by the Pensacola News Journal in 2016, the Pensacola MESS Hall combines education with fun.

Who wouldn’t enjoy something like that?

Enjoy a Nature Retreat at Big Lagoon State Park

Aerial view of Big Lagoon State Park's boardwalk

Colin D. Young /

Arguably one of the best state parks in Florida, Big Lagoon State Park can be referred to as a vast 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, birdwatching and wildlife viewing areas, and even wedding venues, to name just a few.

Observation tower at Big Lagoon State Park

Venot /

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!

View of the sunset from Big Lagoon State Park

Fsendek /

Visit the Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Daytime view of Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Carolyng1972 /

If there’s anything that’s been shining consistently—may 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, it is not only useful for the mariners, but it also stores the importance of this mesmerizing façade and the fascinating history of its times.

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

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

Relax at Pensacola Beach

Scenic view of Pensacola Beach

Michael Rosebrock /

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

The shores of Pensacola Beach and 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 incredibly soothing.

Iconic signage of Pensacola Beach

Derek Gordon /

You will find the beach lively sometimes, while other times, 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, cafes, restaurants and bars, accommodations options, architecturally rich buildings, novelty houses, and entertainment, making it one of the city’s popular destinations.

Surf shop at Pensacola Beach

Lacey Lin Photography /

Go Back in Time at Fort Barrancas

Daytime view of Fort Barrancas

William Silver /

The ancient and charming Fort Barrancas is a must-visit place on the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Located on Taylor Road, it was built in 1844 and was 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.

Passageway at Fort Barrancas

Kanokwalee /

This 60-million-brick structure, with all its fixtures, is as historic as it is timeless.

All of it can be experienced through the self-guided tours and ranger-guided programs they frequently organize.

With a picnic area, hiking trails, and a unique on-site bookstore, Fort Barrancas is a historical tourist spot like no other.

Canon on the grounds of Fort Barrancas

William Silver /

Feast on Mouth-Watering Seafood at the Fish House

Craving delicious, quality seafood in Pensacola?

Head to the Fish House.

Standing tall and emitting mouth-watering scents a little distance away from Seville Square, the restaurant has been in business for more than two decades.

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

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

The ambiance is inviting and mellow, the service is swift, and the staff is friendly.

It is, perhaps, for these many reasons that the restaurant is a favorite among celebrities and has won more awards than you can count.

Create Summer Memories at Perdido Key State Park

Aerial view of Perdido Key State Park

George Dodd III /

Perdido Key State Park is a 290-acres tourist spot in Pensacola that features white sand beaches, sapphire waters, sweeping dunes, shaded picnic sites, and more.

It is the home to unique and endangered animals, including the Perdido Key beach mouse.

Anglers of all experience levels enjoy surf fishing here.

Picnic shelters at Perdido Key State Park

Jacob Boomsma / ​

Family trips are made enjoyable by the covered picnic tables overlooking the beach.

Put on sunscreen and head to the beach excursion of a lifetime at Perdido Key State Park!

White sand beach of Perdido Key State Park

Fotoluminate LLC / ​

Appreciate the Artworks on Display at Quayside Art Gallery

The renowned Quayside Art Gallery hosts several exhibitions and art shows every year.

You can examine some of the most beautiful and captivating artwork with your friends at Quayside Art Gallery.

If you have an eye for stunning artwork, this place is a must-see on your Pensacola vacation since you may discover amazing artwork in various mediums.

They feature a diverse array of art, including pottery, jewelry, glass art, paintings, sculptures, and a ton more.

In addition, Quayside Art Gallery provides entertaining seminars for a more engaging experience.

Shop for Fresh Items at Palafox Market

Shopping in the Palafox Market is a favorite activity for residents and visitors.

Among the items sold by merchants at the Palafox Market in Downtown Pensacola are fresh vegetables, live plants, baked foods, fine art, and antiques.

The products for sale come directly from onsite merchants who cultivate, make, or create them.

To support a variety of regional skills and community interests, the products and vendors at Palafox Market vary every week.

Rain or shine, Palafox Market is accessible every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tour around Pensacola Museum of Commerce

Exterior of Pensacola Museum of Commerce

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Historic Pensacola Museum of Commerce offers visitors a unique look into the past and has a range of genuine stores that were popular then.

The Museum comprises restored buildings dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Museum, available every day for self-guided tours and situated on Zaragoza Street, is a particular favorite among history buffs and kids.

The Museum comprises twenty properties, some of which are historical interpretative sites.

A print shop, a petrol station, a tram, and establishments selling toys, leather goods, tools, and music are among them.

Historic stores with toys, home products, music, hardware, and leather goods are on display.

Discover Places at Downtown Pensacola

Aerial view of Downtown Pensacola

Bown Media /

On the city’s shoreline, you may find downtown Pensacola.

One of the best tourist spots to explore in Pensacola is the downtown area, which has a ton of entertaining activities and attractions.

This thriving area is home to 19th-century structures, posh hotels, regional dining options, trendy boutiques, and a ton of enjoyable and laid-back activities.

Buildings at Downtown Pensacola

Steven Frame /

Spend the day exploring Downtown Pensacola while connecting with your loved ones, friends, or significant other.

You may enjoy various activities in this busy area, like shopping, sipping cocktails, walking around the area, going to art galleries, seeing live performances, discovering local history, and much more.

Alfresco dining at Downtown Pensacola

Leigh Trail /

Final Thoughts

Pensacola is a stunning and lively city on the same-named bay’s shores.

You may spend a memorable vacation in Pensacola, Florida, by yourself, with family, or friends while participating in a variety of activities.

The best things to do in Pensacola include going to the beach, attending a live performance, touring a museum, taking in some local sites, and a ton more.

Golfers, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy many historical, cultural, and other attractions.

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