Pensacola, Florida makes an ideal family vacation destination. Farther removed from the Daytona/Panama City party spots, it is full of rich history and culture, and still, retains that southern coastal charm people have learned to expect from the south.
So, what does Pensacola have to offer?
Pensacola Beach’s famous sugar-white sands and vibrant green waters make it a gem on the Emerald Coast. Come play in the warm water, build a sand castle or hit a local restaurant. Some of the best seafood restaurants in the country call Pensacola Beach home. Here’s looking at you Peg Leg Pete’s and Flounders.
Are you looking for more adventure and a little less lazy? Rent a wave runner for some all out water fun – or see the beach like you’ve never seen it before. Soar 1/4 mile above the water in a parachute tethered to a speed boat. Watch wild dolphins jump in the emerald waters and see the crystalline sand glisten in the sun. Parasailing isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a great teen and adventurous adult activity.
Just because Pensacola Beach is quiet and family oriented, doesn’t mean it’s not a nighttime hot spot. When the sun goes down, the temperature goes up, and beach goers get a great night life experience with the best live, local bands and beach bars.
Alicia’s Tip: Don’t forget the sunblock. Also, a beach umbrella is a worthwhile investment.
Fort Pickens Gulf Island National Seashore
Plan a day to visit Fort Pickens. This massive complex is a substantial part of, not only Florida history but also American history. Learn about the fort’s history from the Civil War forward. The fort once housed Apache prisoners, including Geronimo (Goyaałé), and held a prominent place in American history.
Situated on the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore, climbing to the highest points of this massive fort affords gorgeous views of the surrounding beaches. You can see the emerald coast and shining white quartz beaches reaching for miles.
If you are traveling by RV, make reservations and camp at the Fort Pickens Camp Ground. It’s convenient to Downtown and Pensacola Beach.
Alicia’s Tip: Don’t forget the camera! Fort Pickens’ unusual architecture makes a great spot for memorable vacation photos.
Naval Aviation Museum
When you’ve had enough sand and surf, visit the largest aviation museum in the world. Pensacola is also home to the Blue Angels and hosts the Naval Aviation Museum. Since it’s free to public and open daily (except Christmas and Thanksgiving), it is a natural fit with your vacation schedule.
Attractions include a Lunar Module Replica, Blue Angels aircraft, and some of the earliest planes to take to the clouds. Don’t miss the flight simulators, either. If after walking the 300,000+ square-foot museum, you need a break, catch a movie in the newly updated Laser Powered Giant Screen Digital Theater.
Alicia’s Tip: Since most of the museum is indoors, it makes a great mid-week visit when you’ve had enough sun. If you plan your visit right, you may even catch the Blues practicing – or get to see one of their shows.
Don’t venture far from the Naval Aviation Museum just yet. After the museum closes, stop in at the Pensacola Lighthouse and enjoy the Kid Friendly Light of the Moon Tour. Local legend holds that the lighthouse is haunted. In addition to learning about the 1800’s Keeper’s Quarters, the staff regales visitors with ghostly encounters. The visit culminates with a trek to the top for a stunning Gulf of Mexico panorama.
Alicia’s Tip: If everyone in your party is 13+, you may enjoy the Ghost Hunt instead. Imagine exploring a legendary haunted lighthouse with real ghost hunting equipment!
Canoeing, Zip Lining, Kayaking, Camping and Tubing
If you are up for a little bit of a drive, Adventures Unlimited offers the best low-key water adventures on the Gulf Coast. Get lost in nature. Enjoy the day canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. Or, simply sun on one of the deserted river islands. You can also camp under the stars with the overnight river excursion.
Alicia’s Tip: This is a genuine woodland adventure. So, be sure to bring hats, sunblock, sunglasses, and a food-filled cooler. Also, bring a bag so you can round-up your trash. Remember, you may encounter indigenous Florida wildlife including snakes, spiders, or alligators.
Create an account on Geocaching.com, bring your GPS and enjoy one of four Pensacola Bay Area Geocaching tours. Each tour focuses on a different unique quality.
Learn about Escambia County’s wildlife major conservation efforts on the Escambia County Tour.
The UWF tour explores the University of West Florida’s campus. It includes the Edward Ball Nature Preserve Trail and Boardwalk.
If you complete the Explore Pensacola Geotour you earn souvenir Geocaching coins. This fun tour focuses on Pensacola’s long history under five flags and some of our older architecture
Alicia’s Tip: Don’t forget the GPS.
Now, the only question is when you come to Pensacola, what will you do first?
We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.