Affordable Pensacola Family Vacation Ideas

Pensacola Beach

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?

Since I’m a Pensacola native and love the area, let me help you answer that.  Here’s my first tip.  Try to schedule your vacation during one of Pensacola’s awesome festivals or Art Gallery Nights.

Pensacola Beach

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.

Parasailing over Pensacola Beach at Sunset
Parasailing over Pensacola Beach

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

Pensacola - Home to the Blue Angels
Pensacola – Home of the Blue Angels

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.

Pensacola Lighthouse

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

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.

Geocaching Tour

Earn Geocaching coins for completing the "Explore Pensacola GeoTour"
Earn Geocaching coins for completing the “Explore Pensacola GeoTour.”

Create an account on, 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?

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Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

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.

Alicia Taylor

Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

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.


  • 30 minute Oven Baked Shrimp Risotto with Basil and Pecans • TaylorLife

    July 16, 2017 - 11:41 pm

    […] up in a coastal town in the Florida panhandle, I developed a deep love for fresh seafood.  Shrimp is a favorite. I even […]

  • Hollybee

    March 8, 2016 - 8:12 am

    I would love to check out the fort and of course the beach! I am a huge history gal and love anything to do with it, so yes the fort would be a must stop for me!!

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 8, 2016 - 12:13 pm

      If history is your thing, Pensacola is the place. We are the first established settlement in the US.

  • Tamason Gamble

    March 4, 2016 - 3:03 pm

    Wow, this looks like a great place for an adventure. What would I do first? Probably put up a tent for camping and then jump in the kayak!

  • Adriana

    March 4, 2016 - 2:48 pm

    It looks like you had so much fun! Pensacola is gorgeous!

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 4, 2016 - 5:38 pm

      I live here – we always have a blast

  • Janeane Davis

    March 4, 2016 - 7:01 am

    The first thing I would like to do is hit the beach and then I would like to see the lighthouse at night. That would bookend a great day for me!

  • Michele

    March 4, 2016 - 3:14 am

    I think the first thing I would do is the geocaching. I have never done that and it sounds so interesting! Then it would be off to those white sand-sit under an umbrella and read (probably dripping wet from the swim in those gorgeous waters!

  • Carol Bryant

    March 4, 2016 - 12:03 am

    I would love to explore anywhere I could take my dog with me, as I love pet-friendly vacations. It looks like a fab place to get to know!

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 4, 2016 - 5:39 pm

      There are many pet-friendly trails and areas in Pensacola. We are an animal loving place.

  • laura

    March 3, 2016 - 10:41 pm

    this looks like such a great place to go on vacation!

  • chastity

    March 3, 2016 - 8:18 pm

    This makes me want to plan a vacation now! I haven’t been to Florida in 10 years…guess its time to go back!

  • Keikilani

    March 3, 2016 - 6:58 pm

    I’d totally be hitting the beach first! Been too long since I have been in the ocean.

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 3, 2016 - 6:59 pm

      Well, it’s not the ocean. It’s the Gulf of Mexico – so the water isn’t nearly as cold.

  • Pam

    March 3, 2016 - 6:30 pm

    We love visiting Pensacola! It’s not too far from us. The lighthouse is really cool to check out.

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 3, 2016 - 6:58 pm

      I really want to check out that Ghost tour. We are local, so we visit the museum quite a bit, but I haven’t been to the lighthouse in years.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    March 3, 2016 - 5:58 pm

    Wow, it sounds like there are so many great things to do there! I’d love to do the Light of the Moon tour. It sounds like a blast!

  • Nicole Escat

    March 3, 2016 - 5:01 pm

    First, I’m going to our room, and then going to the beach. I’d like to have a vacation with my family.

  • Jessica

    March 3, 2016 - 4:33 pm

    I’m a wicked beach bum and have a slight infatuation with lighthouses. My favorite must-see would be a visit to the Pensacola Lighthouse! I’d love to do the “haunted” night tour!

  • Neely

    March 3, 2016 - 3:40 pm

    Wow this seems like a great place to vacation!

  • Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy

    March 3, 2016 - 3:16 pm

    We like zip lining so that would be fun.

  • Heather Lawrence

    March 3, 2016 - 2:14 pm

    I would love to go and dig my feet in that brilliant white sand. We never had a chance to visit Pensacola when we were in Florida (we ran out of time) so I am going to have to add this to our must visit list.

  • Vera Sweeney

    March 3, 2016 - 11:55 am

    We would do the beach first! I love the weather and everything about Florida when we have gone.

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 3, 2016 - 11:56 am

      Have you ever been to the beaches in the panhandle? They are completely different than other beaches in the state.

  • Ashley @irishred02

    March 3, 2016 - 8:54 am

    I would love to be there right now instead of here where we are going to get more snow lol

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 3, 2016 - 11:09 am

      LOL so opposite of me. We just moved back home from Minneapolis. If I never see snow again, I’m happy

  • robin masshole mommy

    March 3, 2016 - 5:53 am

    We don’t camp, but if there are hotels in the area, we would love to visit that area!

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 3, 2016 - 11:08 am

      Yep – there are hotels – there are several on the beach and not far from Downtown

  • Jaime

    March 2, 2016 - 8:34 pm

    First things first, I’d have to check out the beach! I have friends who have lived in and visited Pensacola, but it’s one of the cities I haven’t visited in Florida yet! I need to change that soon.

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 2, 2016 - 8:36 pm

      If you haven’t visited the Gulf Coast, you are in for a treat. The beaches are beautiful, but we offer more than just beaches!

  • Pat Mallette

    March 2, 2016 - 3:08 pm

    The City Council should pay you for this!

    • Alicia Taylor

      March 2, 2016 - 7:50 pm

      I wouldn’t argue if they wanted to do that 🙂

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