Pensacola Travel Guide

USA  #10 in Best Florida Beaches
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Courtesy of Benjamin Schaefer/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Pensacola

Many of the best things to do in Pensacola revolve around its beaches and its military base. For instance, the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse – both located on the military base – are filled with history, and visitors might also get to sneak a peek of the Blue Angels demonstration squadron doing practice maneuvers. The Pensacola area's numerous shorelines are another major draw, from Pensacola Beach to the Gulf Islands National Seashore

How we rank Things to Do

Updated October 4, 2017

  • #1
    Things to do in Pensacola
    View all Photos
    #1 in Pensacola
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Pensacola Beach outlines the Santa Rosa barrier island and offers visitors two very different beach experiences. On the Gulf side, visitors are treated to unparalleled Gulf Coast views, as well as a powdery white shoreline and emerald waters. The soft sands that ribbon the Santa Rosa Sound side of the island are popular among families since they offer gentle waves and access to a boardwalk filled with fun shops and restaurants. 

    Keep in mind that although the entire island's beaches are known as Pensacola Beach, there are also names for the smaller strips of sand therein. For instance, Quietwater Beach is located on the sound side, stretching from the Portofino Boardwalk to the Pensacola Beach bridge tollbooth, and it's very family-friendly with its lifeguard protection and its "quiet waters." Casino Beach is located on the Gulf and has a host of amenities, including restrooms, changing rooms, lifeguards, a fishing pier and more. You'll find this beach just south of the intersection of Via de Luna and Fort Pickens Road. 

  • #2
    National Naval Aviation Museum
    View all Photos
    #2 in Pensacola
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The National Naval Aviation Museum is based on board the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. Founded in 1914, it's the oldest air station in the country and it's a rite of passage for all aviators and naval flight officers. Along with exhibiting more than 150 preserved aircraft, the museum also features exhibits showcasing the people and events that defined aviation history. NAS Pensacola is also home base for the Blue Angels, a demonstration squadron perhaps best known for its truly awe-inspiring aerobatic maneuvers. 

    Travelers describe their visit to the National Naval Aviation Museum as impressive, and highly recommend forking over a little more coin to watch the informative movies playing in the IMAX theater, which can vary throughout the year. Other travelers recommend inquiring if the Blue Angels are practicing since those practice sessions are free to watch. Practice usually takes place Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from March to November. Visitors also recommend taking the free guided tour of the museum, saying it provides a much richer experience than a self-guided spin through the museum. 

  • #3
    Historic Pensacola Village
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    #3 in Pensacola
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Historic Pensacola Village is a more than 8-acre complex encompassing nearly 30 properties (11 of which are open to the public). This district, which appears on the National Register of Historic Places, includes properties like the Lavalle House, the Lear-Rocheblave House, the Dorr House and Old Christ Church, which visitors can experience with a costumed tour guide. It also contains must-sees, such as the Wentworth Museum and the Voices of Pensacola multicultural center. 

    Travelers almost can't believe how much they learned about the city's fascinating history after visiting the Historic Pensacola Village. Many highly recommend taking advantage of the guided tour, since they say it offers a richer experience and the opportunity to see additional historic homes. 

  • #4
    Gulf Islands National Seashore
    View all Photos
    #4 in Pensacola
    Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This undeveloped and preserved stretch of sand and sea in the Gulf of Mexico, which reaches from Cat Island in Mississippi to Okaloosa in Florida, is beloved by locals and visitors for its pristine shoreline. 

    Recent visitors call the Gulf Islands National Seashore a beautiful, wild stretch of sand, referring to it as a "treasure" among the more developed beaches in the area. 

  • #5
    Perdido Key State Park
    View all Photos
    #5 in Pensacola
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Perdido Key State Park is a 247-acre barrier island positioned near Pensacola on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, there are wide swaths of white sandy beaches and undulating sand dunes, sprouting with sea oats and other beach vegetation. Although sunbathing and swimming are the main activities here, surf fishing is also popular. 

    Recent visitors appreciated how clean and peaceful this state park is: Some say there are just enough fellow visitors to make Perdido Key feel not completely isolated. Others enjoyed the nearby amenities, including restaurants – perfect for if you work up an appetite. 

  • #6
    Pensacola Lighthouse
    View all Photos
    #6 in Pensacola
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Pensacola Lighthouse was established in 1859, but these days, it serves as a history museum and offers a tremendous view of the Gulf Coast. What's more, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can climb the lighthouse's 177 steps to take in the incredible vantage point and take a peek inside the old keeper's quarters – now called the Richard C. Callaway Museum. Inside the museum, travelers can brush up on their U.S. Coast Guard and Civil War history, as well as the history of the lighthouse itself. 

    Recent visitors said they learned a lot from the history exhibits at the Pensacola Lighthouse, and they also say the views of the Gulf, Fort Pickens and the Intracoastal Waterway were amazing. 

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