I recently went to Pensacola for the first time for my cousin’s wedding and traveled down a few days early to experience both the beach and the downtown area. I have been to the Florida Panhandle in the past as my boyfriend lived in Tallahassee during his Florida State University days and beyond. However, this was my first adventure to the beach where I gawked at the white sand beaches and calm blue waters. The town was surprisingly quaint and sleepy – a great escape for a mini vacation!
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Panhandle of Florida with a total population of approximately 52,000 people. A sea port on the Pensacola Bay, the city is protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa and connects into the Gulf of Mexico. The city has a huge military presence, as it was the first Naval Air Station commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1914. The Blue Angels are also stationed in Pensacola and often perform their aerial acrobatics for a fun show in July.
The beach is located approximately 20 minutes from the downtown area, so renting a car and driving over is recommended (parking is free after a $1 bridge toll). The beach is famous for its white soft sand and calm warm waters. The most popular beach, which will be the first you encounter over the bridge, is Casino Beach. Casino Beach has the most amenities with restaurants, changing rooms, vendors, umbrellas and a large fishing pier.
Palafox Street, Downtown
Palafox Street is the main area for downtown Pensacola, featuring the best shops and restaurants. With a bustling art scene, visit the Blue Morning Gallery or attend Gallery Night, occurring one Friday each month. The Palafox Market is a farmer’s and craft’s market that takes place every Saturday year-round.
National Naval Aviation Museum
The National Naval Aviation Museum is rich with history and houses over 150 resorted aircrafts. The museum is located approximately 30 minutes from the downtown area. Best of all – admission is free!
Located next to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum offers stunning views of the Gulf Coast after climbing the 177 steps. With guided tours available, admission is $7 for adults.
Eats & Drinks
Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille
Located at the south end of Palafox Street and overlooking the Palafox Pier Marina, Jaco’s is the perfect place to eat right on the water. The crab cake salad comes highly recommended!
Peg Leg Pete’s
There is one place to go in Pensacola Beach and that is Peg Leg Pete’s. This seafood restaurant and oyster bar has great daily specials and features a very kitschy interior with license plates covering their wooden walls.
Ruby Slipper Café
The Ruby Slipper Café is the place to go for brunch. Founded in New Orleans, the restaurant has an exceptional southern breakfast.
For a quick breakfast or lunch bite, look no further than Bagelheads with some unique varieties.
For dockside dining, head to Fish House for more upscale southern seafood. Their world-famous dish is Grits a Ya Ya – YUM!
Pensacola Bay Brewery
The Pensacola Bay Brewery is both a micro-brewery and a bar. Tours are conducted most Saturdays with the Tap Room open every day. The establishment is cash only and features both indoor and outdoor seating.
Seville Quarter has it all with seven rooms boasting different themes and atmospheres. With live music, entertainment and saloons, the Seville Quarter is your nightlife destination.
I was surprised at the lack of luxury accommodations available with most of the properties remaining very affordable. I stayed at the Pensacola Grand Hotel, and while a historic and well-maintained hotel, there is a freight train that runs right by the hotel throughout the night, causing some restless sleep. My recommendations below:
★★★★: Margaritaville Beach Hotel (Beach)
★★★: Courtyard by Marriott (Downtown), Hilton Pensacola Beach (Beach)
★★: Holiday Inn Express (Beach)
Have you ever been to Pensacola? What was your favorite part? Did I miss anything?
I’d love to hear from you!
xx Jet Set Steph