Pensacola is a historic beach city in northwest Florida, in the United States of America. It is in Escambia County, Florida's westernmost county, at the tip of the "panhandle". The city is home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the National Museum of Naval Aviation and many historic districts that skirt the downtown area. Surrounded on three sides by water, the Pensacola area is full of history, shipwrecks, beaches and spectacular vistas.
Pensacola should not be confused with its neighbor, Pensacola Beach, covered in a separate article.
Pensacola has the nickname "The City of Five Flags." Only the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce actually uses that name, but it's a convenient short-handed way of describing the city's history. Over the past 450 years, Pensacola has been owned by five nations: Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Confederate States. It was also inhabited by various Native American tribes, but sloganeers never seem to include them.
When the Panzacola Indians arrived in Pensacola thousands of years ago, they found old growth pine forests, thicketed with massive pine trees so large, it would take two or three men to wrap your arms around the trunk. These trees provided so much shade that there was almost no undergrowth on the forest floor, and traveling through the woods was easy. Since there isn't much food to be found in pine forests, the tribes tended to live near the water, where fishing was plentiful. Not much is known about these early inhabitants of the area: they left few artifacts behind, and all of the tribes that lived in Pensacola prior to European colonization have gone extinct.
European colonization began with the Spanish: Juan Ponce de León (of Fountain of Youth fame) sighted the area first, and later Spanish explorers were excited by the well-protected, deep water bay. They recommended settlement, and in 1559, Tristán de Luna y Arellano arrived at the bay and founded the first European settlement in the United States. He named it... Puerto de Santa Maria. It failed miserably. He sent his men on worthless scouting missions into the desolate pine forests, lost all of his ships in a hurricane (with the supplies still on board!), and was so incapable and uninspiring that his men mutinied. He lived, thanks to the intervention of Catholic missionaries in the town, but once Spanish ships arrived a few months later, the remaining Spaniards quickly abandoned the settlement. Spain didn't return...
Until 1698. They had rediscovered the bay five years earlier during a mapping expedition. Since the bay was still a tempting harbor, and there were many old growth pines at the nearby Blackwater River that would be perfect for shipbuilding, Spain decided to resettle the bay. This time, the settlement was named Bahía Santa María de Filipina. Still not Pensacola! However, the name 'Panzacola' was written on explorer's maps for the area, and the name was starting to gain informal use. The settlement was poor, small, populated mostly by prisoners, and suffered many setbacks. It remained this way for many years, when...
In 1719, France, led by the governor of French Louisiana captured Pensacola from the Spanish at the outset of the War of the Quadruple Alliance. There was almost no resistance from Pensacola: no one had bothered to tell the Pensacolians that they were at war! The befuddled city greeted the French with open arms, expecting the ships from Mobile to trade supplies, not bullets. After taking control, they didn't do much with the city. The French burned Pensacola during their retreat in 1722, and the Spanish resumed control of the (pillaged, charred) city...
Until 1763, when Great Britain won Florida from the Spanish as a concession following the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War. In exchange, Spain was allowed to keep Cuba, and was also given Louisiana as a gift from the French, in exchange for their help during the war. Not a bad trade. Great Britain was proud of its new city, and they put a lot of effort into improvement. It was declared the capital of the new colony of British West Florida, and they built most of the streets in downtown Pensacola that are still used today. This period of British prosperity didn't last too long though, because...
In 1781, Spain recaptured Pensacola, along with the rest of Florida, as an ally of the United States in the American Revolutionary War. Bernardo de Gálvez, the general of Spanish Louisiana, was instrumental in winning the city during the Battle of Pensacola. When the Spanish fleet commander lost a ship and refused to send any more into Pensacola Bay, Gálvez used his powers as governor to commandeer one of the ships from Louisiana and personally sailed it into the harbor, under constant cannon fire from the British. The other ships in the fleet soon followed, somewhat emasculated, one imagines. With Florida now in Spanish control, Spain controlled all of the Gulf Coast, and parts of the Mississippi River, which resulted in a lot of discontent among United States settlers in the south. They wanted water access, and their agitation for a seaport eventually inspire a young general named Andrew Jackson, who...
In 1821, finally succeeded in capturing Pensacola, and Florida, for the fourth and final time: it was now owned by the United States of America. The Adams-Onís Treaty made the acquisition official, giving Pensacola and all of Spanish Florida to the Americans. This was a boon for Mississippi and Alabama, which finally gained access to the sea. It wasn't so great for General Jackson, who was made Governor of Florida, a job he hated, and later quit. By this time, Pensacola had become the largest city in Florida, and was one of the most important ports on the Gulf Coast. In 1845 the territory became the 27th United State. The United States invested a lot in Florida, building forts here, increasing a military presence. They built shipyards, which a hundred years later would become Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.
In 1861 Florida seceded from the United States to join the Confederate States of America. For four years, Florida fought with the South as part of the American Civil War. Contrary to initial expectations, this war did not end well for the South. Even worse for Pensacola, the Confederacy single-handedly destroyed the city's economy. Confederate Colonel John Beard, afraid that Union troops would capture Pensacola, ordered his men to "destroy every foot of lumber, all saw-mills, boats, etc.," along with anything else that may be of use to "the enemy." The city's economy never fully recovered.
Pensacola rejoined the United States in 1865, beginning a long decline for the city. The lumber industry began to rebuild, but by the 1930s, every old-growth tree in northwest Florida had been cut down, leaving nothing but small, newly-planted pines. Pensacola Bay, the entire reason for the city's existence, was unable to accommodate modern ships, which required deeper water. The city council declined to dredge the bay to make the water deeper, and the harbor declined to near nothingness. Most of the shipping moved to Mobile.
Today, the military is a driving force in Pensacola's economy. The Pensacola shipyards were re-purposed, and became the first naval air station in the United States in 1913. NAS Pensacola is home to the Blue Angels and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. All naval aviators are, at some point in their career, trained at NAS Pensacola. The base employs more than 23,000 people.
Often described as having three-and-a-half seasons, Pensacola has a subtropical climate with short, mild winters and hot, humid summers. Typical summer conditions have highs in the low 90s °F (32-34 °C) and lows in the mid 70s (23-24 °C). Afternoon or evening thunderstorms are common during the summer months. Due partly to the coastal location, temperatures above 100 °F (37.8 °C) are rare, and last occurred in June 2011, when two of the first four days of the month recorded highs of over 100 °F.
In winter, expect brisk, cool, dry days. The average high in January is 61.2 °F (16.2 °C), and the low is 42.8 °F (6.0 °C), though freezing temperatures occur on an average fifteen nights per season. If you come from a northern climate, you can survive a Pensacola winter with nothing more than a sweater or light jacket. Pensacolians, on the other hand, drag out the parkas when it hits fifty degrees.
Spring and fall are both mild times to visit. The temperatures tend to stay around sixty to eighty degrees, there's less risk of tropical storms, there's less humidity, and the thunderstorms are less powerful. It's a good time to sunbathe too, when the sun is bright but mild.
No matter what time of year you visit, you should bring an umbrella. Pensacola is one of the rainiest places east of the Mississippi, and there is no dry season or wet season: rain can hit at any time of the year. The city receives 64.28 inches (1,630 mm) of precipitation per year, with a rainy season in the summer. The rainiest month is July, with 8.02 inches (204 mm), with April being the driest month at 3.89 inches (99 mm). Spring and summer have 'popcorn showers,' a peppy euphemism for thunderstorms that seem to exist solely to soak you unexpectedly, then disappear, leaving you to enjoy the sunshine again. Always, when visiting Pensacola, have some plans for indoor activities, in case your outdoor plans get rained out. There are many popular indoor activities that will keep you entertained.
June to November is known as hurricane season. Hurricanes are powerful tropical storms with high wind speeds, rain, and coastal flooding. While Pensacola is vulnerable to hurricanes, they don't hit every year, and most of them are pretty weak. After nearly 70 years without a direct hit, Pensacola, Florida was hit directly by Hurricane Erin (catagory 2) in August 1995 and major Hurricane Ivan (catagory 3) in September 2004. Hurricane Dennis brushed the area in July 2005 causing moderate damage. Visitors will usually have plenty of notice if they keep up with the media.
Pensacola International Airport (IATA: PNS), . Currently served by six airlines providing direct service to Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Atlanta, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago O'Hare, Memphis, Charlotte, Washington National, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale.
From the airport, you can rent a car, order a cab, or use the Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) bus system.
Numerous companies offer car rental service from PNS, and this will be your best option for traveling around the city. Alamo , Avis , Budget , Dollar Rent-a-Car , Hertz , and National Car Rental  all offer services at the airport. In addition, Enterprise Rent-a-Car , and Thrifty Car Rental  have locations just off of airport property, and offer complimentary shuttle service to their offices.
Taxi cabs are authorized to charge an additional $1 to pick up anyone from the airport, and there is an $11 minimum charge for the use of a taxi from the airport. However, this charge is lower than most cities in the United States, and in fact Pensacola taxi cab fares are among the lowest in the nation; due to the large size of Pensacola, taxis are an expensive way to travel the city but an effective and easy way.
Bus route 63, by ECAT, services the airport every sixty minutes on weekdays, beginning at 6:10AM and ending at 5:10PM. On weekends, bus route 63 arrives every two hours, beginning at 8:10AM and ending at 4:10AM. Route 63 ends at the Penacola Junior College campus; from there, the bus becomes route 43, traveling to the University of West Florida, or you can get off and wait for route 41 (Bayou Blvd, Cervantes, and 12th Ave), route 42 (ECAT central station), or route 58 (downtown via 9th Ave, then to NAS Pensacola and the Naval Hospital.)
Mobile Regional Airport (IATA: MOB), . Located an hour's drive from Pensacola, in Alabama, Mobile Regional Airport is usually more expensive than landing at PNS, but can occasionally save you a couple-hundred dollars on flights. Typically, any flight that requires a layover in Atlanta will be cheaper at Pensacola; if a flight doesn't require a layover in Atlanta, it may be cheaper to land at Mobile. From Mobile, rental cars are available at the airport, or a Greyhound bus can take you to Pensacola for about $20. To get to the Greyhound station via Mobile's public transportation system, use van route 19, which connects with bus route 1, which connects with bus route 9, which will take you to the Greyhound station.
By car, Pensacola is located about three hours west of Tallahassee and three hours east of New Orleans via I-10, and three hours south of Montgomery via Hwy 29 and I-65. Interstate 10 travels east-west through Pensacola, and is the easiest way into the city. However, the I-10 corridor through the Southeast U.S. is considered one of the most boring stretches of road in the nation; nothing but pine trees for miles and miles.
Highway 90 is a smaller road that travels parallel to I-10, and meanders through many small towns. If you don't mind a slightly longer drive in exchange for better scenery, Highway 90 may be worth the extra driving time. Travellers on 90 should note that the road forks in Pensacola; the local name of the northern fork of Highway 90 is Nine Mile Road, and it mostly avoids the city. The southern fork goes by many names; Mobile Highway,Cervantes Street, and Scenic Highway. It's longer, and travels through the heart of Pensacola, but the view of Pensacola Bay from the bluffs along Scenic Highway is one of the nicest vistas in town.
Highway 29 is a rural highway that connects Pensacola with Interstate 65. If you're travelling south the Pensacola, through Alabama, using Highway 29 as a shortcut from I-65 can save you about two hours.
Interstate 110 is a six mile long north-south interstate spur that connects I-10 with downtown Pensacola.
Greyhound offers service to Pensacola from their station on Pensacola Boulevard, just off of I-10. Their station is open seven days a week, from 5:15AM to 7PM, and from 9:30PM to 11:45PM. The Greyhound route through Pensacola is east-west, and travels along I-10. Anyone wishing to travel north will have to make a transfer in Mobile, Panama City, or Tallahassee. From the Greyhound station, city bus service from ECAT is available via route 50, though you will have to walk to Pensacola Boulevard, and cross the busy street. The ECAT bus arrives heading southbound to the ECAT central bus station every thirty minutes after the hour, from 6:30AM to 7:30PM. Do not take the northbound ECAT route 50 that arrives twenty minutes after the hour; the northbound bus will add another hour to your travel time.
Driving is by far the best way to get around the Pensacola area. With the exception of downtown, parking is plentiful and free. Downtown has street parking and a few parking garages, most of which have small fees during the work day, from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday. Downtown parking is free on the weekends, but may be scarce during special events. Travel through the city may be confusing for the first time driver; some of the major streets have multiple names, the most notorious of which is FL SR 296, which also goes by Bayou Boulevard, Brent Lane, Beverly Parkway, Michigan Avenue, and Saufley Field Road! In addition, many major thoroughfares curve, or run at odd diagonals. A map will come in handy. I-110 is a major interstate running north-south through Pensacola, and provides a very handy guidepost for travel through the city.
There are bicycle lanes throughout town along most major roads, but they're not easily noticed unless they are actually being used; look for small lanes on the side of the road with a bicycle symbol painted on the asphalt. Downtown Pensacola is great to see from a bike, especially the old Seville area and the historic district. Bicycle rentals are available Downtown with Emerald Coast Tours. They also offer free bicycle deliveries to downtown hotels.
ECAT, 1515 W Fairfield Dr, ☎ +1 850 595-3228, . M-Sa 5:30AM-7:30PM, Su closed, exact times depend on route. editECAT provides public bus service to Pensacola and the immediate area, stopping at shopping centers and hospitals. The bus service doesn't serve the entire city, budget cuts have reduced the availability of routes, service is curt, and the routes are long and slow, but the buses are almost always on time. Route maps are available on the bus, and the bus driver can answer simple questions about how to get to most major destinations in Pensacola. For route planning, call the ECAT bus office ahead of time.
To board an ECAT bus, arrive at the bus stop at least ten minutes early; buses can't be flagged down. Have your money or ticket ready, and ask for a transfer before paying; the bus driver doesn't have to give you a transfer if you forget to ask. You receive one transfer for free, which is good for two hours; additional transfers are ten cents. Tickets are $1.75 per adult, $1.25 for older children and students with a valid student ID, 85¢ for Medicare card holders, and free for young children; make sure to have exact change! Unlimited day passes, seven-day passes, and thirty-day passes are available at the transit center. Bicycle racks are available on all ECAT buses, but make sure to remind the driver when you're disembarking that you need to retrieve your bike!
Taxi service in Pensacola can be expensive due to the long driving times required to get from one end of town to the other. Don't expect to find a cab when you need a ride, nor to hail one; usually you'll need to call the cab company, and expect a wait. A few taxi-stands are located in downtown Pensacola (good luck finding them), and at the airport. Rates for taxi cabs are set by city ordinance, and are as follows:
$2 for the first one-ninth mile.
.25¢ for each additional one-ninth mile ($2.25 per mile.)
.50¢ for each bag of luggage over two bags.
.50¢ for each passenger over the age of thirteen.
.50¢ for trips between 9PM and 5AM.
$18 per hour for waiting
There is also a minimum charge of $11 for any taxi ride from the Pensacola Regional Airport, plus a $1 surcharge if the cab fare is over $11.
Yellow Cab of Pensacola, 3434 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 850 433-3333, . The largest taxi service in Pensacola, and in existence since 1909, it typically has the shortest wait times for a cab, and their cars are clean and well-maintained.edit
Roddawg Express Taxi Service, 213 S Navy Blvy, ☎ +1 850 554-8015. A unique taxicab experience where the cab is almost like a rolling jukebox; the ride has a thousand watt stereo system and a great entertainment selection.edit
Mr Taxi Dispatch Solutions, ☎ +1 850 554-6707, . In addition to taxi services in city limits, also offers service to towns and cities as far away as Atlanta.edit
The Seven Wonders of Pensacola
The residents of Pensacola often joke about the kitschy buildings and attractions around town. A newspaper compiled a tongue-in-cheek list of the most famous pieces of, uh, architectural exuberance, and the result is the Seven Wonders of Pensacola. None of these are worth a long trip or a stop, but you can see them from the road, and might see them around while driving.
12th Avenue Tunnel, (12th Ave, south of Fairfield Dr). Ancient, long-limbed live oaks spread their branches over the road here, like a leafy, sun-dappled tunnel.edit
17th Avenue Graffiti Bridge, (17th Ave, north of Bayfront Pkwy). Officialy, this is the 17th Avenue Railroad Trestle, but everyone calls it the graffiti bridge; there's not a single inch of exposed concrete left on this short span. Police don't bother the vandals here, who are mostly just high school students proclaiming that "Travis 'hearts' Jaime!"edit
The Crystal Ice House, 2024 Davis St (Jordan St intersection). This small building looks like a tiny castle made of carved ice, and is made of white concrete and mica so it sparkles. This roadside stand used to sell ice for iceboxes in the 1930s, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.edit
The Jolly Green Giant, 4301 N Davis Hwy (north of Fairfield Dr). He watches over Bailey's Farmers Market, hoping to attract curious motorists to the vegetable stands. He shrunk in 2004 from 32 feet to 25 feet when the farmers market moved into Pensacola city limits, and city sign ordinances forced a size reduction.edit
Southern Scrap Sculpture, 2911 N Palafox St (south of Fairfield Dr). At 30 feet, this sculpture made entirely of scrap metal is impossible to miss while driving by the Southern Scrap company. It's supposed to depict a construction crane dropping scrap metal, but it's been compared to everything from a robot flower to a vomiting dragon.edit
Hadji Shriner Temple, 800 W Nine Mile Rd (west of Pensacola Blvd). This small convention center, owned by the Shriners (the fez people with the tiny cars), looks like a miniature replica of the Taj Mahal, complete with towers and a gold-colored dome.edit
Spaceship House, 1304 Panferio Dr (View from Via de Luna Dr, 2 miles west of Fort Pickens Rd). Located in Pensacola Beach, this novelty home is built like a retro flying saucer, complete with stuffed aliens in the living room windows.edit
In lieu of another Blue Angels photo, here is a photo of Wall South, a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.
Naval Air Station Pensacola, S. end of Navy Blvd, ☎ +1 850 452-3100, . The Naval Air Station is the single largest employer in Pensacola, and is the driving force of the city's economy. Pensacola holds a high degree of respect for its military base, and NAS Pensacola returns the favor by offering attractions for the public and allowing public access. First built in 1826 as a Navy Yard, the location was chosen due to Pensacola Bay's deep waters and importance as a naval port on the Gulf of Mexico. In 1913, following the invention of the airplane, Pensacola was chosen to become the first naval aviation station in the country, and today, still remains the primary training base for all Navy and Marine flight officers. Visitors to the base can get a brief glimpse of a military base in person, and can visit the many historic attractions. When you first drive into the base, a guard will ask which attractions you wish to see, and will issue you a vehicle hangtag for those destinations. Most of these attractions are on Radford Boulevard or Taylor Road; if you stray too far off the beaten path, prepare to be interrogated by a very inquisitive military police officer.edit
The Blue Angels, . The elite jet-fighter pilots of the U.S. Navy are stationed at NAS Pensacola for part of the year, and if you're in the west portion of Pensacola at 8:30AM when they practice, you may be able to see them performing flight maneuvers overhead. Typically, the Blue Angels perform two public air shows a year for Pensacola; one at the beach, and one at NAS Pensacola, and these air shows are massively attended. However, locals in the know skip the air shows, and go to the Naval Aviation museum for their Tuesday and Wednesday 8:30AM practices instead; a few times a month, the Blue Angels practice just above the museum. The museum even has a special viewing area for you to do this, and afterwards on Wednesdays, the Blue Angels will sign autographs and answer questions for spectators. Try that at the air show! Free.edit
Fort Barrancas, Taylor Rd, ☎ +1 850 455-5167, . Meaning 'bluffs' in Spanish, Barrancas has been a popular site for military forts; the British, the Spanish, and the U.S. have built forts here to protect Pensacola Bay. One of three military forts built around Pensacola Bay by the United States, Fort Barrancas is still in extraordinary condition, and easily accessible, unlike its sister forts Mcree and Pickens. Tours of the main fort are offered daily at 2PM, and tours of the advanced redoubt are available Saturdays at 11AM. The remainder of the time, the fort is relatively abandoned, and you can oftentimes get free reign of the ruins to explore. Free.edit
National Museum of Naval Aviation, 1750 Radford Blvd, ☎ +1 850 452-3604, . 9AM-5PM. The Naval Aviation Museum is the most popular tourist destination in Pensacola, and it offers a comprehensive look at the history of flight in the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. The 150 beautifully restored aircraft are the biggest draw here; make sure to check out the Blue Angels jets hanging in the atrium! Kids will enjoy the flight simulator, and the IMAX theater shows a visually stunning documentary, the History of Flight. Free, but donations welcome. $8 for IMAX tickets.edit
Pensacola Lighthouse, 190 Radford Blvd. Lighthouse lovers may want to check out the black-and-white Pensacola Lighthouse. Built in 1858 to replace an earlier, inferior lighthouse, it became a target during the Civil War for Union soldiers at Fort Pickens, aiming for the Confederate-held Fort Barrancas. $5 to climb to the top; museum free. edit
Historic Downtown Pensacola, 205 E Zaragoza St, ☎ +1 850 595-5985, . M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su closed. This group of historic buildings, called the Pensacola Historic Village includes many museums such as the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum, a museum of history, The Museum of Commerce and the Museum of Industry. The Old Christ Church built in 1832 is also included in this group of buildings and has been recently refurbished. Guided walking tours are available at 11AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM of the historic homes in the quaint, shady area around Seville Square. $6, $3 for children. Free admission to T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum.edit
Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S Jefferson St, ☎ +1 850 432-6247, . Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su Noon-5PM, M closed. This museum is housed in the Old City Jail, a Spanish revival structure in downtown Pensacola. The collection focuses mainly on art from the 20th and 21st century and has many well known artists represented in their collection including Alexander Calder, Miriam Schapiro and Louis Comfort Tiffany. They present many special exhibitions throughout the years, and have previously hosted exhibitions of art by Picasso, Rodin, and Andy Warhol. $5 admission, $2 for students and military, free on Tuesdays.edit
St. Michael's Cemetery, 6 N Alcaniz St, ☎ +1 850 436-4643, . 9AM-5PM. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this cemetery is on eight acres across the street from the Pensacola Civic Center, on the edge of the historic district. It is one of the oldest cemeteries in Florida, officially designated by the Spanish in 1807. Free.edit
Veterans Memorial and Wall South, (intersection of Romana St and Bayfront Pkwy), . A large park along the Pensacola bayfront honoring Veterans of all of America's Wars, the memorial was built as a place to honor America's veterans without needing to make the trip to Washington D.C. Includes a one-half scale version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. and other monuments dedicated to World War I and II and the Korean War. It is easily found by looking for the AH-1 Huey Cobra helicopter on Bayfront Parkway. Free.edit
A band plays underneath the oaks at Evenings in Olde Seville Square.
The beaches of Pensacola, with their famous sugar-white sand, are the city's most popular attractions. However, while the city of Pensacola is surrounded entirely by water, there are no beaches in the city limits. Instead, you'll have to travel to one of the beachside communities, which are a short drive away. Pensacola Beach is nearby, and very popular with both tourists and locals, with many restaurants, hotels, amenities and shopping, while Perdido Key is just a short drive further, and is more quiet and pristine.
Diving opportunities here are mostly sunken ships, which are not only historically interesting, but provide homes for entire ecosystems. The most popular dive is the newly "reefed" aircraft carrier Oriskany approximately 24 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass; the wreck is nearly a thousand feet long! Another dive includes the USS Massachusetts that was used as a target for artillery fire after being decommissioned in 1919. She sits in 30 feet of water near Pensacola Pass and is known to be an unpredictable dive. For spearfishers, the Russian Freighter is a popular dive, with grouper, snapper, and lobster available. Travelers interested in diving should check with one of the four dive shops in town for more information and for boat charters.
Dive Pros, 7203 W Hwy 98, ☎ +1 850 456-8845 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 850 456-0025), . Summer M-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 9AM-5PM; Winter M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-6PM, Su 9AM-5PM. edit
Birdwatchers should check out Big Lagoon State Park, just west of the city, where birds of prey are easily spotted in the dead trees overlooking the water. At Big Lagoon, keep an eye out in early spring after particularly heavy showers, when migrating birds are often forced to land and many unusual birds can be spotted. The University of West Florida's Edward Ball nature trail meanders through swampland, allowing a rare glimpse at wetland birds, such as brilliant yellow tanagers and red-winged blackbirds. And of course, shore birds and seabirds are easily spotted near the coast.
Pensacola Civic Center, 201 E Gregory St, ☎ +1 850 432-0800, . Large enough to seat 10,000, the civic center in Pensacola attracts bands, live concerts, and conventions. Past performers have included Celtic Woman, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow, and Kiss. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, but you can save money by picking them up in person, at the box office.edit
New Year's Eve Pelican Drop, (41 N. Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502), ☎ 850.434.5371, . 5PM-12:30AM. Throughout the evening the giant Pelican (14 feet tall, with a 20-foot wingspan) is perched above the celebration on a 100-foot platform at the intersection of Palafox and Government Streets. Although Palafox and Government Street will be closed to traffic, area restaurants are open and additional vendors will be providing refreshments). Live performances on three outdoor stages provide ongoing entertainment throughout the evening. The popular kids' area features the special kids' countdown at 8PM with confetti and the "bubble stomp." At the stroke of midnight, the whole city celebrates as the Pelican descends amidst fireworks and more confetti.edit
Emerald Coast Tours, 701 South Palafox St., ☎ 850-417-9292, . Historic tours of Downtown Pensacola by Segway or bicycle. Bicycle rentals. Historic Walking Pub Tours. The only Segway tour operator between New Orleans and Clearwater, FL. edit
Evenings in Olde Seville Square, Seville Square, ☎ +1 850 438-6505, . Th 7-9PM, Summer months only. A free concert is held every week in downtown Pensacola during summer, and the events are popular, attracting upwards of ten thousand listeners during popular days! The style of music varies; recent musicians include the Pensacola Civic Band, bagpipers, country singers, big bands, swing music, Caribbean music, and cajun-style bands. Bring your own chairs, or a blanket, since no seating is provided; some snacks are available at concession stands along Alcaniz Street, if you decide not to bring your own. Free.edit
McNabb's Running Club, 600 E Gregory St, downtown, ☎ +1 850 433-6789 (email@example.com), . Tu 6PM. Every Tuesday night hordes of people venture out to McGuire's for the weekly Pub Run. Meet at 5:45PM for registration in the parking lot in front of the double decker tour bus at McGuire's. Participation is free and open to all. The route wanders through downtown and ends back at McGuire's approximately 5km later. Every level is represented, from avid marathon runners to those walking the entire route. After the run, join fellow runners inside McGuire's for free appetizers and cheap pitchers of a local brew. Complete 10 runs and earn a McGuire's t-shirt.Free. edit
Hopjacks Trivia Night, 10 S Palafox, downtown, ☎ +1 850 497-6073 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . W 9PM. A popular destination in downtown Pensacola on Wednesday nights. Often between 10 and 20 teams competing for numerous prizes; including free bar tabs, a $50 Hopjacks gift card, and boot schwag. Entry is free and there is a team size limit of 8. The best team name each week also wins a round of shots. Sprinkled throughout the game are several "fast finger" questions, in which the first team to scrawl the correct answer on a piece of paper and bring it up to the judge wins a separate prize (usually a bottle of wine or hats/key chains). Be sure to check out the surprisingly gourmet bar menu, famous for their pizzas, and the impressive beer list.Free. edit
Fiesta of Five Flags, Multiple venues, ☎ +1 850 433-6512 (fax: +1 850 438-5572), . The Fiesta of Five Flags celebrates the history of Pensacola and its founding by Spanish governor Don Tristan de Luna. Many separate events are included under the Fiesta of Five Flags banner, and include float parades, boat parades, balls, golf tournaments, scavenger hunts and sand castle contests, among other events. The fiesta's most popular event is a stylized re-enactment of the landing of Don Tristan de Luna. Free.edit
Gallery Nights, Palafox St, downtown, ☎ +1 850 432-9906 (email@example.com), . Fr. Downtown Pensacola is home to a large number of art galleries and unique stores, and on Gallery Night, they stay open late, bring in food and wine, invite some musicians, and have a party! The event is a great way to meet Pensacola artists, view some great art, and shop while noshing on free food. Dress up nice, because shorts and tee shirts look out of place in this crowd. Free.edit
Pensacola Seafood Festival, Seville Square, ☎ +1 850 433-6512 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 850 438-5572), . F Sep 25 noon - 11PM, Sa Sep 26 10AM - 11PM, Su Sep 27 11AM - 5PM. For seafood lovers and fans of Southern cuisine, this is one of two important events in Pensacola to attend! With free admission, free live music, hundreds of artist booths, all set in beautiful downtown, the Seafood Festival is a perfect way to spend a weekend. For foodies looking for a taste of Pensacola cuisine, try the grits-a-ya-ya; grits served with shrimp, cheese, bacon, and fried onions. Fried grouper is popular too, but avoid the crawfish, which are out of season in September. Free admission, food $5-$15.edit
Pensacola Crawfish Festival, Bartram Park, near Main St and Barracks St, ☎ +1 850 433-6512 (email@example.com, fax: +1 850 438-5572), . F Apr 30 noon - 11PM, Sa May 1 10AM - 11PM, Su May 2 11AM - 5PM. The main event at the crawfish festival is, of course, mind-blowing amounts of ruby-red mudbugs. Most of the crawfish here is served boiled, and very spicy, with red potatoes and corn, but 'fancy' foods are available too, like crawfish poboys and gumbo. In addition to the food, there's a crawfish eating contest, crawfish races, bayou bands and Southern music, and a kids crafts festival. $5 daily, $10 for a weekend pass. Children under 12 free. Food $5-15.edit
RadioLive!, 201 E Zaragoza St (Pensacola Museum of Commerce), ☎ +1 850 474-2787 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Every other Th 6-8PM, doors open at 5PM. Sponsored by WUWF, the Pensacola public radio station, RadioLive! is a radio broadcast featuring Southern music, with a live audience. Musicians include quirky indie singers, country musicians, soul singers, swing bands and folk music, and it's a fun way to get to know the musical vibe of Pensacola! For admission, bring a canned good to donate to Manna Food Pantries, and be sure to arrive on time; late arrivals disrupt the show. Free.edit
Sunsets at de Luna, Plaza de Luna (south end of Palafox St). Th 5:30PM. Watch the sun set at Pensacola's new waterfront park, while listening to musicians play. Free.edit
Palafox Market, Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, Palafox Street (just north of Hwy 98), . Sa 8AM-2PM May-Sep. Fresh produce, live plants, baked goods and antiques are just a few of the items offered by vendors at Palafox Market in Downtown Pensacola. The market is open every Saturday, rain or shine. Many items originate directly from vendors who grow, make, or create the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and art for sale.edit
Mardi Gras in Pensacola is a time to let your cookie jar down, dye it purple, then march into the streets or bars for shiny beads, moon pies, liquor and fun. Don't go too wild though! As a family-friendly Mardi Gras destination, excessive drunkenness and exposing yourself will earn you a visit from the city police, which isn't worth a few extra good 'throws'. Also, Pensacolians like to keep their partying confined to the weekend, so there is no parade on Fat Tuesday. The odd scheduling does give a unique benefit: you can see all three parades in the Pensacola Area on the weekend, then travel to Mobile or New Orleans for their spectacular, and ribald, Fat Tuesday parades.
Krewe of Lafitte Parade, Corner of Spring St and Garden St, to Palafox Pl, to Government St, . F prior to Fat Tu 8PM. The Krewe of Lafitte parade is the only night parade in Pensacola, and conveniently passes by most of the bars downtown, giving it a much more adult atmosphere than the other two Pensacola Parades.Free. edit
The Grand Parade, Corner of Spring St and Main St, to Garden St, to Palafox St, back to Main St, ☎ +1 850 436-7638 (email@example.com), . Sa prior to Fat Tu 2PM. With more than two hundred floats and over a hundred thousand spectators attending, the Grand Parade is Pensacola's largest parade. Since Pensacola is so small, plan to arrive early if you want a good spot along the parade route, and expect to either walk a long way or pay for parking. This parade is very popular for families, but adults can go to the raucous after party, which is held at a different bar each year at sundown following the parade.Free. edit
The Krewe of Wrecks Parade, the last of the three Pensacola Mardi Gras parades, is held at 2PM on Sunday afternoon at nearby Pensacola Beach.
Ball season begins in January and lasts until the parades before Fat Tuesday, with a very high concentration of balls centered around Valentine's Day. These balls are a great excuse to Balls are one of the most important fundraisers for Mardi Gras Krewes, and some of them can be very lavish indeed! It's a great excuse to dress up, socialize, dance, drink and nosh. Some of these balls are restricted to Krewe members only, while others are open to the public: the best way to learn where and when is to check the 'Local' section of the newspaper. Make sure to follow the dress code, which is usually either black-tie formal or costume. (Hint: the more sequins on the costume, the better.) Balls are always limited to those 21 and older.
Les Petits Enfants Cordova Mall Ball, Cordova Mall, 5100 9th Ave, ☎ +1 850 416-4660 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . One Sa in Jan. Pensacola's most popular Mardi Gras ball is limited to the first 2500 ticket buyers. Features a silent auction and catered food from some of Pensacola's best restaurants. All proceeds go the Sacred Heart Children's Hospital. Black-tie formal.$50. edit
Cordova Mall, 5100 N 9th Ave, ☎ +1 850 477-5355, . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. A large indoor shopping mall located at the intersection of 9th Avenue and Bayou Boulevard. It is surrounded by many small shopping areas and provides a great place to wander around on a rainy day.edit
Downtown Pensacola, Palafox Pl (south of Cervantes St), ☎ +1 850 434-5371 (email@example.com), . Offers an eclectic shopping experience, mainly on Palafox Street and the surrounding area. Popular shops include Distinctive Kitchens, a kitchen accessories store with chef-led cooking classes, Running Wild, a specialty store for runners and joggers, and Dollarhide's, an upscale music store. Most businesses are open until 5PM on weekdays, until 2PM on Saturdays, and closed Sundays.edit
Duh, 501 N 9th Ave, ☎ +1 850 439-0640. This garden and design center provides outdoor and indoor ideas for your home. The environment of the store is a sight to see and they spend a lot of energy finding pieces from the around the world to enhance their stock, including importing from Italy twice a year. Prices range from $5 to $8000, so there's something for every budget!edit
Eden Garden Supply, 5044 N Palafox St, ☎ +1 850 439-1299. A hydroponic and organic gardening shop. Learn how to grow your own fruits, vegetables and flowers year round or how to get a jump on the growing season every year. Indoor and outdoor growing systems, check with their staff for anything from prebuilt beginner systems to help in building your own special growing areas. Only hydroponics shop between New Orleans, Gainesville and Atlanta.edit
J.W. Renfroe Pecan Company, 2400 W Fairfield Dr, ☎ +1 800 874-4929, . This rustic store has built a thriving business off the humble pecan, which you can still buy here in a traditional burlap sack, shelled or unshelled. Besides plain nuts, they also sell them in candies and conserves alongside a wide selection of traditional Southern food. Try their fudge or praline; they're always generous with the free samples!edit
Palafox Farmer's Market, Martin Luther King Plaza, Palafox St, ☎ +1 850 434-5371, . Jun-Oct, Sa 8AM-1PM. As the only farmer's market in Pensacola, this Saturday summertime event attracts farmers, cooks and artists.edit
Pensacola Hardware, 20 E Gregory St, ☎ +1 850 438-3186, . M-F 7AM-5PM, Sa 7:30AM-noon. First opened in 1852, Pensacola Hardware is the oldest continually running business in Pensacola. In addition to hardware, it now sells kitchen supplies and folk art.edit
T&W Flea Market, 1717 N T St, ☎ +1 850 433-4315. W, Sa-Su 6AM-5PM. This large flea market is a great place to scrounge for antiques, good deals, and unique knick-knacks. The best shopping is Saturday and before 3PM; the other days have much fewer vendors. edit
University Mall, 7171 N Davis Hwy, ☎ +1 850 478-3600, . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Located directly off Interstate 10 on Davis Hwy, it is the second mall in the Pensacola area; beginning in 2008, major renovations began to convert the mall into an outdoor shopping center. Until these renovations are complete, only the anchor stores Belk, Sears, and JCPenney remain open.edit
Yard sales are very popular in Pensacola on Saturdays, and it's common to see a half-dozen fluorescent signs fighting for space on an electric pole. Start early, around 7AM, before the best buys are snatched up! Popular yard-sale destinations include the affluent homes on Scenic Hwy, the old neighborhood of East Hill, the subdivisions of Nine Mile Rd, and the city of Gulf Breeze, just south of Pensacola.
Located on the Gulf Coast, with good harbors, Pensacola has access to a wide variety of fresh seafood, and many restaurants in the area proudly use fresh-caught fish and shellfish in their meals. Red snapper is bountiful in the waters here, but good luck finding it; most of it is shipped to New York City, where it can fetch a higher price. Locals in the know often hit the docks when the fishing ships come in, when a small bribe can net you a beautiful snapper at bargain prices. Gulf shrimp are cheap and plentiful here, and most dining establishments have it on the menu in some form or another. Mullet fish are an oily, strong-flavored species of fish, popular only because of its dirt-cheap price. It can be bought for a dollar a pound, and is always served deep-fried, like catfish; locals often eat the tails like they eat potato chips. And although Pensacola is a little late to the raw fish party, incredible sushi can be found here, made with fish caught from the docks.
Being in the southern United States, Pensacola also features many restaurants that specialize in traditional southern cooking; having grits, a ground corn porridge, for breakfast is a source of pride for many Southerners. Pecans and peanuts are grown by many farmers in the Florida panhandle, and Pensacolians put them to good use in pecan pie, pecan ice cream, roasted peanuts, and especially cajun-spiced boiled peanuts. And all this southern food is washed down with sweet iced tea; the best places boil sugar and water into a syrup, and add this to their brewed iced tea, along with oranges or lemons to make a true Southern-style sweet tea.
Offered at convenience stores, country fairs, high school football concession stands and farmer's markets, boiled peanuts are an ubiquitous snack food in Pensacola. Usually using fresh peanuts from farms in the north part of the county, the raw nuts are boiled in salted water until soft in the middle. Both spicy and plain varieties are available, and are usually just a dollar or two for a bag. If you've never had them before, expect your first reaction to be "slimy."
Grits are offered anywhere breakfast is served; even the fast food chain Whataburger has them in the mornings. Expect to pay just a dollar or so for plain, buttered grits, and more if you want any fancy ingredients added, like cheese or bacon. Hominy grits, made from lye-soaked corn kernels, popular in other parts of the south, are hard to find in Pensacola.
If you're lucky, you might find yourself invited to a southern fish fry. Do not turn down this invitation. An important part of southern food tradition, fish fries can be used as fundraisers, as celebrations, or just a cheap way to bring friends and family together. Traditionally, catfish is the main course, but in Pensacola, mullet fish is popular too. Fried fish is usually served with hush puppies, and coleslaw, french fries, baked beans, and grits can all make an appearance. Plates usually run $5 or less at fundraising events, but unless you have really cheap friends, it's free at fish fry parties.
Bagelheads. M-F 6AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7AM-3PM. A small, city chain of shops featuring fresh-baked, from scratch bagels, Bagelheads has become a hip morning hangout for college students. Try their veggie cream cheese, made with freshly cut, crisp vegetables for an awesome (but still not healthy) breakfast. Skip the coffee though, unless you like rubber-tasting Community Cup brews; stick with their cinnamon-y House Latte, or their excellent cappuccinos. $1-5.edit
Blue Dot Barbecue, 310 N De Villiers St, ☎ +1 850 432-0644. M 11AM-2:30PM, Tu-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 12:30PM-5PM. Open since 1947, this Pensacola institution has a cult-following for their burgers and smoked rib sandwiches, which are the only items on the menu. Service is very curt, and they may close early on some days, or not even open at all, if they "feel like it."$4 hamburgers, $7.21 rib sandwich. edit
The Coffee Cup, 520 E Cervantes St, ☎ +1 850 432-7060. "No Grits, No Glory" is the motto of this Southern diner, and it's a good slogan for how to eat here; if you aren't going to order the grits, don't bother. First opened in 1945, this greasy-spoon diner hasn't changed anything other than its prices ever since. The Nassau grits, served with ham, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, were mentioned in Saveur magazine, and are worth an order. The regulars, who love the cheap food here, tend to stick with eggs, biscuits, and bacon or a smoked pork chop, with a bottomless cup of thin coffee. A "road food" lovers treat. $4-8.edit
Dairy Queen, 7600 Scenic Hwy, ☎ +1 850 473-1111. Enjoy a cheap soft-serve ice cream cone while standing on the bluffs overlooking Escambia Bay. Come by in the morning, when the sun sparkles on the water and the freight trains thunder on the beach beneath you.edit
Dog House Deli, 30 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 432-3104, . M-F 7AM-3PM, Closed Sa-Su. You can get almost any topping you want on your hot dog for no extra cost here, but their best is the Cole Slaw Hound, with chili, cheese, and cole slaw. Order a cup of their spicy, sausage-studded, from-scratch red beans and rice, no matter what hot dog you choose. Breakfast offered before 10:30AM. $3-8.edit
J's Pastry Shop. In the trendy East Hill district of Pensacola, there's only one place to go for a hungry traveler on a budget, and that's J's Bakery. A little run down, and hard to find in its small brick building, it nevertheless has a faithful following among pastry lovers in the area. They speak in awed, hushed tones about cheese danishes the size of your head. You will too, once you try one. $1-3.edit
Jerry's Drive-In, 2815 E Cervantes St, ☎ +1 850 433-9910. While not actually a drive-in, this is a great place to sit and enjoy a cheap beer while watching the regulars eat delicious hamburgers, fried chicken livers and onion rings. Famous in the city for their double-bacon cheeseburgers and from-scratch milkshakes, there is usually a line to get a table. Bring cash, since credit cards aren't accepted at this mom and pop place. $2-7.edit
Krispy Kreme Donuts, E Cervantes St, . Eating a fresh, hot Krispy Kreme donut proves that you're a Pensacola tourist 'in the know.' Although the donuts from this factory are no different than any other in the South, Pensacolians harbor a strange attachment to the sticky sweet pastry. When the building reopened after a three month renovation, it made front page news in the city newspaper; truly, a bastion of Southern culture. $0.50-$1.50 per donut. $2-4 for specialty coffee.edit
O'Zone Pizza Pub, 1010 N 12th Ave, ☎ +1 850 433-7336. Su-M 11AM-9PM. Built in the basement of the old Sacred Heart Hospital, inside the morgue, O'Zone Pizza offers more than just fresh pizza and beer; it offers an experience that borders on terrifying. Expect it to be crowded, loud, fun, and to have an, ah, interesting crowd. $10-20 per pizza.edit
Whataburger, Multiple locations, mostly in north part of city, . Open 24-hours. A chain popular across the south, Whataburger has endeared itself to the student population with good prices, good burgers, heart-clogging portions, free Wi-fi, and 2-for-1 hamburger deals on Wednesdays. Bacon, jalapeño, and cheddar are popular additions to their burgers. Don't order the 'large size' unless you know what you're getting yourself into. $5-8.edit
Several local restaurants are around Seville Square
You can find chain restaurants, like Applebee's and Olive Garden in the Cordova Mall area, near the intersection of Bayou Blvd and 9th Ave. Local restaurants are more scattered, but you can find a few hotspots downtown, and along Scenic Hwy.
Chet's Seafood, 3708 Navy Blvd, ☎ +1 850 456-0165. Th-Sa. Chet’s specializes in simple Southern seafood, and most of their food is served fried or broiled, with coleslaw, french fries and iced sweet tea. The house specialty is fried mullet, and indeed, it's almost a waste to order anything else here! $10-15.edit
Hopjacks, 10 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 497-6073 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Daily 11AM-2AM. Serves American-style pizza with gourmet toppings, in a hip, rowdy atmosphere with 36 beers on tap and over 150 more bottled. $14-26 per pizza.edit
Italy's Finest Pizzeria, 5555 N Davis Hwy, ☎ +1 850 607-8575 (email@example.com), . Mo-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Su 11AM-12AM. Family-run restaurant uses traditional recipes developed over years of experience in the pizza business. Also serves a variety of courses, including Stromboli, calzones, sandwiches, breads, salads and pastas. You can also watch the games on tv at the full-service bar$7-25. edit
Jaco's Bayfront Bar & Grille, 997 South Palafox, ☎ +1 850 432 5226. Mon-Tue 11am-9pm, Wed-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. Most waterfront restaurants emphasize atmosphere and view rather than the quality of the food. This is an exception - the location and the cuisine are both superb. Jaco's is at the foot of Palafox Street overlooking the yacht harbor and the bay, next to Plaza de Luna. They keep a good list of flatbread pizzas, and a seasonal specialty menu. Expect around $8-$24 a plate.edit
Jerry's Cajun Cafe & Market, 6205 N 9th Ave, ☎ +1 850 484-6836, . M-Th 11AM-8:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-9:30PM, Closed Su. A favorite among lovers of spicy food, Jerry's is the only authentic Cajun restaurant in Pensacola! Its relaxed dining environment serves up Louisiana favorites like gumbo, crawfish tails, boudin (a specialty sausage), etouffee, and jambalaya. It also has a small market that sells hot sauce, cajun mixes, cajun seasonings and coffee. Damaged by a kitchen fire in February 2007, the restaurant reopened in late October the same year. $10-20.edit
The Oar House, 1901 Cypress St, ☎ +1 850 549-4444. Daily 11AM-10PM. Serves grouper sandwiches and fried green beans from a trailer at the marina; all tables are outdoors overlooking the water, and they keep a full bar. $12-25, $9 for a grouper sandwich.edit
Tre Fratelli, 304 S Alcaniz St, ☎ +1 850 438-3663. M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Closed Su. Named for the three Italian brothers who run this restaurant, Tre Fratelli is an authentically Italian restaurant, not American. Taking advantage of fresh Gulf seafood, the chefs here serve mostly Sicilian dishes, which are based off of Mediterranean seafood. The restaurant has outdoor dining available, overlooking Seville Park. $15-25edit
The Tuscan Oven, 4801 N 9th Ave, ☎ +1 850 484-6836, . Tu-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Closed Su-M. Their Italian-built, imported, wood-fired oven is the draw at this elegant mom-and-pop pizzeria. Try their Pizza Margherita for the best pizza you'll find in Pensacola, or try their house special, the Danato, topped with chicken, rosemary, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. $13-18 per pizza.edit
What seems expensive to the average Pensacola eater may seem pretty cheap to out of towners. Even the best meals in town rarely top $30 a person, and seafood in Pensacola is dirt cheap compared with some parts of the country. Take advantage of this; there is incredible seafood to be found at the finer establishments in town.
Angus Seafood, Meats and Spirits, 1101 Scenic Hwy, ☎ +1 850 432-0539, . An American Steakhouse, with a full bar and lounge, 'the Angus' has an upscale atmosphere. Although it used to be dark, and a bit stuffy, it's been given a modern facelift to bring it into the 21st century. They take their service very seriously, and feature juicy steaks and fresh-caught Gulf seafood. $15-40.edit
Dharma Blue, 300 S Alcaniz St (at Seville Square), ☎ +1 850 433-1275, . M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 5PM-10PM, lunch M-Sa 11AM-4PM. Originally started as an upscale American food restaurant, Dharma Blue has truly found its niche serving the best, freshest sushi in Pensacola. Bring your non fish-loving friends here so they can enjoy the blackberry sauced duck breast or filet mignon while you dine on grouper, meaty dauphin, or an expert-made rainbow roll. Lunch $8-15, dinner $10-30, sushi $6-13 per roll.edit
The Fish House, 600 S Barracks St, ☎ +1 850 470-0003, . Su-M 11AM-until, brunch Su 11AM-2PM. This is the height of 'fancy eats' in Escambia county, with its unique take on southern seafood, beautiful views of Pensacola Bay, and high (for Pensacola) prices. The restaurant's signature dish, the 'Grits a Ya Ya,' features grits with smoked gouda cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and Gulf shrimp, but it can't top the chef's excellent key lime pie. $15-30.edit
The Global Grill, 27 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 469-9966, . Tu-Sa 5PM-until, Su-M closed. The Global Grill is an eclectic restaurant, serving cuisines from around the world, located in the heart of downtown Pensacola. The upscale restaurant features tapas, which are small appetizers ranging from $4-20, and diners are encouraged to order multiple tapas and share with their companions; ordering an entree isn't required. The decor is its most memorable feature; both elegant and eclectic, the Global Grill has a modern, chic feel, with eye-catching hometown art on the walls and unique table settings for each table. The globally-inspired food, the communal aspect of sharing tapas, and the modern atmosphere have made the restaurant popular for couples and elegant group get-togethers. Make sure to place a reservation. $10-30.edit
Jackson's Steakhouse, 400 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 469-9898, . Lunch M-F 11AM-2PM, dinner M-Sa 5PM-until. One of the best restaurants in Florida, and that isn't an empty boast; they have the Golden Spoon award from Florida Trend Magazine to prove it. Chef Irv Miller is proud of his restaurant, and only serves grain-fed, Midwestern, wet-aged beef and Pensacola-caught fresh seafood. $30-50.edit
McGuire's Irish Pub and Restaurant, 600 East Gregory Street, ☎ +1 850 433 6789. While McGuires is one of the best Irish pubs in the country (see pub information below), the restaurant serves some of the best steaks in the region. The restaurant was named Steak House of the Year by the National Beef Council in 1998. McGuire's advertises its steaks as "Certified Angus corn-fed beef, never frozen and hand cut daily." The restaurant has won numerous Florida Trend Magazine's Golden Spoon Awards and Wine Spectator Magazine Awards of Excellence. $20-$50.edit
Joe Patti's Seafood, 524 S B St (intersection of Main St and B St), ☎ +1 850 432-3315, . S-Th 7AM-6:30PM, F-Sa 7AM-7PM. This seafood market is so popular, customers are expected to take a number, and the wait can be up to a half hour! It's easy to see why; they offer fresh local seafood brought in straight from the docks, along with high-quality imported seafood, at startlingly low prices. While waiting, try an order of sushi from their sushi bar, visit Anna's Wine Shop in the back, or browse the imported foods and knick-knacks at Amangiari's Shop.edit
Maria's Fresh Seafood, 621 E Cervantes St, ☎ +1 850 432-4999, . Unlike Joe Patti's, Maria's is a quiet seafood market, without all the bells and whistles. It's a well-kept secret to Pensacola seafood restaurants; most of them buy their seafood through here.edit
One drink that's a Pensacola favorite is the Bushwacker. This frozen drink, made from Kahlua, rum, coconut, and ice cream, is more associated with Pensacola Beach, but every bar in town knows how to make it, and many have their own special versions.
International travelers, when going out to drink, bring your passport. Doormen at some bars, Seville Quarter in particular, may not recognize an international driver's license, and will call the police after confiscating it as a fake ID!
600 South Martini and Wine Bar, 600 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 434-7736. With modern furniture, a chandelier lit room, and European sofas to relax on with your drink, 600 South is a classy place to enjoy a bottle of wine, or an expertly made martini. They have some cocktail food for noshing while you drink, nuts and olives and the like.$6-10 per drink. edit
Brews Brothers, 830 N Navy Blvd, ☎ +1 850 456-2537. It used to be a great place with over 100 beers and 40 on tap, but after a recent move and change in management, you can expect a lot of their beers to be unavailable. They do have pretty good burgers though.Dinner $6-10, draft $2-5. edit
The Cabaret, Jefferson Street. GLBT-friendly, with live entertainment, a piano bar, and Karaoke two nights a week.edit
McGuire's Pub and Restaurant, 600 E Gregory St, ☎ +1 800 22-IRISH, . 11AM-2AM. A popular Irish pub, McGuire's is the most well-known restaurant in Pensacola, loved for its quirky sense of humor, community involvement, Irish food in addition to bar food, and their award-winning in-house beer brewery. During evenings, live entertainment and music can get rowdy. They serve handmade draft beers brewed on site, in addition to a full bar, and a few oddball house specialties. By the time you've finished their infamous Irish Wake, you'll be drunk enough to kiss the stuffed moose, and possibly even enjoy the bagpipers! You also get to keep the souvenir mason jar the drink is served in. First-time visitors are expected to pin a dollar bill to the wall with their name on it, a tradition that has resulted in over a half-million dollars papering the walls and ceiling. Sunday brunch is amazing, with giant six egg omelets, bottomless Mimosa's, and good prices. See "Events" for information on McGuire's Running Club on Tuesday nights. Dinner $12-25. $5 draft.edit
Seville Quarter, 130 E Government St, ☎ +1 850 434-6211, . A collection of entertainment and dining venues located in downtown Pensacola. First opened in 1967, beginning with Rosie O'Grady's bar, it has since been expanded to include two more pubs, banquet halls, a fine-dining restaurant (Lili Marlene's,) billiards hall (Fast Eddie's,) and dance club (Phineas Phogg's.) During the evenings, Seville Quarter is a popular party spot for college students and military men and women.edit
Emerald City, 406 E Wright St, ☎ +1 850 433-9491, . Nightclub open W-M 9PM-3AM, bar open daily, 3PM-3AM. Pensacola's main LGBT bar, with a high-energy dance club, and themed events each day of the week. Their drink and drown, with free well drinks, is popular on Wednesday and Sunday.edit
Flora-Bama Lounge, 17401 Perdido Key Dr, ☎ +1 850 492-0611 or +1 251 980-5118, . 11AM-until. Located on the Florida-Alabama State Line, this institution is famous for the Annual Mullet Toss, where participants attempt to throw a local fish, the mullet, across the state line. After a few disastrous hurricanes and the growing number of high-rise condos surrounding it, the Flora-Bama, despite rumors, is still going strong and has a great schedule of events. From chili cook-offs to musical entertainment and an annual polar bear dip, this place is in a league of its own! edit
Sluggo's, 101 S Jefferson St, . Th-Sa 5PM-1AM, Su 6PM-1AM, M-Tu 5PM-1AM. Sluggo's is the center of Pensacola's indie music scene, and bands are usually playing on Fridays and Saturdays. Although it's most-well known as a music venue, Sluggo's does have a small bar and is also a popular vegetarian restaurant.$3-6 cover charge.. edit
Hopjacks, 10 S Palafox, downtown, ☎ +1 850 497-6073 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 11AM-2:30AM 7 days a week. A local bar known for their surprisingly gourmet bar menu, to include fantastic pizzas and Belgian fries (fried in duck fat), Hopjacks has over 150 beers with 36 taps. It is popular with the 20-something crowd, often largely comprised of local military pilots in training. Events include live music and an extremely popular trivia night on Wed nights (see "Events" for more detail). edit
Will Call Sports Grille, 22 Palafox, downtown, ☎ +1 850 912-8644 (email@example.com), . Su-W 11AM-midnight, Th-Sa 11AM-2AM. Will Call is a popular destination to watch major sports games, on no less than 44 large-screen TVs. Check the website for ongoing drink specials and happy hour. Also a Sunday brunch with "bottomless champagne." Military discounts available on some items. ===Coffee=== * Bad Ass Coffee Company, 1014 Underwood Ave, ☎ +1 850 478-0634 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-2PM, Su closed. A bit overpriced, charging as high as five dollars for a latte, Bad Ass nevertheless does decent business serving students from Pensacola Junior College. Try their smoky Kona drip coffee, made from 100% Hawaiian Kona coffee beans; no blends. Wi-Fi available.editedit
Breaktime Cafe, 34 Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 438-7788. Serving the workers of downtown Pensacola, Breaktime Cafe has a quirky staff and a constantly changing list of seasonal specials. Great place to people watch.edit
The Drowsy Poet, 86 Brent Ln (west end of overpass), ☎ +1 850 434-7638. M-F 5AM-10PM, Sa 8AM-10PM, Su closed. Everything about this poetry-themed independent cafe screams Starbucks, from the green-circle logo to the drive-thru to the frappuccino-like drinks. Unlike Starbucks though, all their beans are roasted in store, they know how to use their espresso machine, and they take pride in every drink they make.edit
The End of the Line Cafe, 610 Wright St, ☎ +1 850 429-0336 (email@example.com). Tu-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 11AM-5PM, M closed. A bohemian, vegan cafe staffed entirely by volunteers, where you can expect poetry readings up front and Tolstoy books in the back. Their coffee here is good, and made with soy by default; they offer a wide selection of vegan food, and their Sunday brunch, at $7.50, is a great deal. Make sure to tip the workers, since otherwise, they don't get paid for this! Wi-Fi available, and a small internet cafe in the corner.edit
Starbucks, . Starbucks came to Pensacola in 1997 with the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, and Pensacolians took a liking to it; there are multiple locations in the north part of the city, as well as are two serving NAS Pensacola. The store at 5040 Bayou Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32503, near Cordova Mall has Live Music on Saturday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30PM. edit
Pensacola offers dozens of hotels, from small weathered motels to full service resorts. Vacation rentals are also a popular option for large groups or extended stays. Since Pensacola often has a large influx of evacuees from other cities during the hurricane season, there are a large number of extended-stay hotels and suites available in the city. Outside of hurricane season, you can often find a great deal on these rooms.
If you're looking to spend a lot of time on the beach, you may want to look at hotels in Pensacola Beach or Perdido Key, which will save you a lot of driving. Also, if you are military, or have a military ID, you can stay at the Navy Lodge at NAS Pensacola. Rooms are spartan, but cheap, and the location is on a bluff overlooking the beach.
Many major hotel chains have a presence in Pensacola, including all the usual budget suspects. Most of these budget hotels are located along I-10 on Plantation Rd at the Davis Hwy exit, and at the Pensacola Blvd exit. The attractions of Pensacola are about a twenty minute drive from here. Unless you're on an extreme budget, avoid the cheap motels along the portion of Hwy 90 known as Mobile Hwy; this is a high crime area, and the motels here are rundown and unsavory.
America's Best Value Inn, 7194 Pensacola Blvd, ☎ +1 850 479-8600 (fax: +1 850 479-8488), . This no-frills motel comes at a great price, is clean, new, and has all the basics. $70.edit
Comfort Inn, 8080 North Davis Hwy (I-10 E, take exit 13, turn right onto Davis Hwy. (Hwy. 291) go north approximately 1/4 mile. Hotel is on the right side behind Beach Community Bank.), ☎ +1 850 484-8070 (fax: +1 850 484-3853), . checkout: 11AM. $99-119. edit
Comfort Inn, 8690 Pine Forest Rd. (I-10W Exit 7, (old exit 2) Hotel on Right. I-10E Exit 7B (old exit 2B) Hotel on Right.), ☎ +1 850 476-8989 (fax: +1 850 478-2305), . checkout: 11AM. $99-119. edit
Days Inn, 710 N Palafox St, ☎ +1 850 438-4922, . Located rather oddly on the side of a hill, this location is known more for its restaurant, the Cavern, than the hotel underneath it. Still, it has good rooms in a good location, at a great price. $80.edit
East #1105, 7226 Plantation Rd, ☎ +1 850 474-1060 (fax: +1 850 476-5104). One pet allowed. Wi-Fi available, for $3 fee. $45.edit
Extended Stay America, 809 Bloodworth Ln (behind Fazoli's restaurant), ☎ +1 850 473-9323 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 850 473-9324), . A hotel room with a kitchen, and on-site laundry, Extended Stay America caters largely to hurricane victims, so expect prices here to rise in the event of a storm. At other times of the year, their room rates are pretty low. Wi-Fi available, for a $5 fee. $75.edit
Motel 6, . They offer few of the standard amenities, but the rates are the cheapest you'll find in town.edit
North #1183, 7827 N Davis Highway, ☎ +1 850 476-5386 (fax: +1 850 476-7458). One pet allowed. Wi-Fi available, for $3 fee. $50.edit
Quality Inn & Suites, 7601 Scenic Hwy (I-10, Take Exit 17-Scenic Hwy), ☎ +1 850 477-7155 (fax: +1 850 478-2479), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Located on Scenic Hwy with a view overlooking Pensacola Bay, the Quality Inn & Suites offers decent amenities (including a pool), and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. Check out the Dairy Queen across the street to get an even better view of the bay. $59-$99.edit
Quality Inn N.A.S.-Corry, 3 New Warrington Rd. (Traveling east: Take I-10 west, take exit 12 onto Interstate 110 southbound to Exit 4 (Fairfield Drive), turn right at the traffic light onto Fairfield. After the 7th traffic light the road divides. Veer left (State Rd 295/NAS) travel approx 3 miles. Quality Inn will be on your right just past Troy University. Hotel is located just before corner of Chief's Way and 3 N. New Warrington Rd.), ☎ +1 850 455-3233 (fax: +1 850 453-3445), . checkout: 11AM. $50-70. edit
Quality Inn North, 6550 Pensacola Blvd (near Ruby Tuesdays, Rave Theatre, and Sam's Fun City), ☎ +1 850 477-0711, . checkout: noon. Offers standard smoking/non-smoking/pet-friendly rooms with a free continental breakfast. Friendly and clean hotel.$69. edit
Quality Inn West, 8060 Lavelle Way (Traveling west on I-10 take exit 7/Pine Forest Rd. turn left. Traveling east on I-10 take exit 7A/Pine Forest Rd. Traveling south on Pine Forest turn right on Wilde Lake, turn right onto Lavelle Way, follow Lavelle Way to end.), ☎ +1 850 944-0333 (fax: +1 850 941-1961), . checkout: 11AM. $59-79. edit
Ramada, . Cheap and comfortable, a Ramada Inn certainly isn't a destination hotel, but it will keep you rested in between forays to the beach.edit
Ramada Pensacola, 7051 Pensacola Blvd (I-10, exit 10-A), ☎ +1 850 476-9091 (fax: +1 850 479-6292). Recently renovated, this Ramada has been modernized with better looking, more comfortable rooms. It's still an awful long drive from downtown Pensacola, but it's convenient to I-10. $70.edit
Baymont Inn & Suites, 7330 Plantation Rd, ☎ +1 850 477-3333 (fax: +1 850 477-8163), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Near I-10 and Davis Hwy intersection, offers complimentary continental breakfast. Old, but clean. $90.edit
Holiday Inn, 7813 N Davis Hwy, ☎ +1 850 472-1400 (fax: +1 850 472-1410), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Caters to businessmen arriving from Pensacola Regional Airport, and weary travellers from I-10. Newly rebuilt from the ground up with luxurious rooms and all the amenities. Wi-Fi available. $110.edit
Noble Manor Bed and Breakfast, 110 W Strong St, ☎ +1 877 598-4634 (email@example.com), . checkin: 3-6PM; checkout: 11AM. Built in 1905 and located in downtown Pensacola, the Noble Manor is a Tudor Revival inn, beautifully modernized. $95-125.edit
Pensacola Victorian Bed and Breakfast, 203 W Gregory St, ☎ +1 800 370-8354 or +1 850 434-2818 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 850 429-0675), . This Victorian home, built by ship captain William Northup, has been lovingly restored by innkeepers Chuck and Barbee Major. At a price cheaper than many hotels in town, you can spend the night here in elegant, turn-of-the-century style rooms. Breakfast and treats are complimentary. $85-125.edit
Springhill Guesthouse, 903 N Spring St, ☎ +1 850 438-6887, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. A quaintly decorated bed and breakfast that makes you feel like you're back in the 1950s. With high-speed Internet. $115.edit
TownePlace Suites Pensacola, 481 Creighton Rd, ☎ +1 850 484-7022, . checkin: 4PM; checkout: noon. Situated off I-10 and Davis Hwy, TownePlace is another suite-style hotel, popular with evacuees and business travellers. It's near the under-renovation University Mall. It offers large guest suites, outdoor pool and business center. $110. edit
Pensacola's nicest sleeping options are almost all located downtown.
Courtyard, by Marriott, 700 E Chase St, ☎ +1 800 321-2211 or +1 850 439-3330 (fax: +1 850 439-3338), . Primarily a hotel for businessmen, this hotel offers Wi-fi, conference rooms, and elegant amenities in downtown Pensacola. Worth it, if your company is paying the tab. Skip the continental breakfast though, and hit Bagelheads just down the street; it's worth the short walk. $160-200.edit
Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel, 200 E Gregory St, ☎ +1 850 433-3336 (email@example.com, fax: +1 850 469-1417), . Are you a big spender? Do you want the best view of Pensacola in the entire city? Then this may be the hotel for you. At fifteen stories, this is the tallest building in town, and offers luxurious amenities. Built on the remains of the historic L&N train depot, the hotel owners took careful care to preserve as much of the original building as possible. You can see the original French clay tile roof, carefully cleaned and restored, and numerous antiques decorate the building's lobby and meeting rooms. $140-$190.edit
Hampton Inn, . With clean, modern rooms, and the Hilton brand name behind it, Hampton Inns are usually a good bet when staying in Pensacola.edit
Hampton Inn and Suites Pensacola-University, 7050 Plantation Rd, ☎ +1 850 505-7500 (fax: +1 850 505-7502). Near the soon-to-be-renovated University Mall, this hotel is just a short distance from I-10. This location also offers suites for rent. $125.edit
Hampton Inn Pensacola-Airport, 2187 Airport Blvd, ☎ +1 850 478-1123 (fax: +1 850 478-8519). Located just outside Pensacola Regional Airport, this hotel is clean and comfortable, and convenient to the Cordova shopping center. $135.edit
Lee House Bed and Breakfast Inn, 400 Bayfront Pkwy, ☎ +1 850 525-3765, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Built from the ashes of the historic Lee House and reopened in 2008, this new bed and breakfast overlooks Pensacola Bay, in the heart of the historic district. The rooms are thoroughly modernized, elegantly appointed, and starting in 2009, gourmet meals will be added to their services. $175.edit
New World Inn, 600 S Palafox Pl, ☎ +1 850 432-4111 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Located in historic downtown Pensacola, this brand new inn just off the water is small, well-hidden, and worth every penny of its nightly rate. Small enough to provide excellent service to every guest, and each room is unique, and comfortable. $130.edit
Pensacola Downtown, 601 E Chase St, ☎ +1 850 432-0202 (fax: +1 850 438-7965). Their suites offer a home-away-from-home experience with surprisingly comfortable living rooms, and surprisingly uncomfortable beds. They offer complimentary grocery delivery service and room service from the steakhouse next door. Currently under renovation until November 30, 2008. Wi-Fi available. $130.edit
Pensacola University Mall, 7230 Plantation Rd, ☎ +1 850 479-1000 (fax: +1 850 477-3399). Pets are allowed at this location, and the beds are more comfortable than their downtown location. Wi-Fi available. $130.edit
Residence Inn, by Marriott, . With comfortable suites, complete with dens and kitchenettes, Residence Inns are intended for travellers who will be staying put for a while.edit
Tropical weather can be a hazard, especially during the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to November 30. In the event of an approaching hurricane or tropical storm, pay attention to television and radio news alerts, who will tell you what to do and what to expect. Typically when a hurricane is imminent, people staying at beaches, low-lying areas, and trailer homes will be asked to evacuate further inland. If your area is asked to evacuate, do so immediately, before traffic slows to a crawl; the most dangerous place to be in a hurricane is stuck in traffic. Hurricane-safe shelters, built inside public schools, will be opened to anyone who needs them.
Theft and crime are minor problems in Pensacola, and you'll be safe if you stick to the main tourist areas. Avoid the area of Pensacola known as Brownsville, on Highway 90 from D Street to Mobile Highway; although the sheriff's office has tried to curb crime in this area, drugs and prostitution still make it a dangerous area to linger in.
Traffic in Pensacola is tame compared to large cities, but some roads have a reputation for being especially dangerous. Be careful when driving along Gulf Beach Highway; the narrow road, with chronic speeders and blind corners claims a half-dozen lives a year. I-110 is under heavy construction, and speeding here is not only dangerous, it's very likely to earn you a traffic ticket. I-10 through Pensacola is notorious for being a speed trap; remember that the speed limit drops to 60 MPH while in the Pensacola area, not 70 MPH like it is in neighboring counties.
Pensacola Beach is just south of Pensacola, on Santa Rosa Island, and offers boardwalk shopping, hotels, white-sandy beaches, and Fort Pickens. Take the Pensacola Bay Bridge to Gulf Breeze, and turn right at the giant Pensacola Beach swordfish sign. There's a small toll of $1 to enter the community. While driving through Gulf Breeze, beware the speed limit; the police here are notorious for targeting tourists, and will ticket you for driving even a single mile per hour over the speed limit.
Perdido Key is about 15 miles west of downtown Pensacola, and is a great beach spot that is less busy than Pensacola Beach. Home to Big Lagoon State Recreation Area, Gulf Island National Seashore, the ruins of Fort Mcree, and the Flora-Bama lounge.
Mobile is about 50 miles west of Pensacola, and is a large city with French influences; their downtown usually has a festival of some sort every weekend. I-10 is the quickest route, if you don't mind speeding traffic, but if you don't mind the scenic route, try taking Highway 90.
Gulf Shores is a touristy Alabama beach town about 40 minutes from Pensacola with more great beaches, restaurants and tourist traps.
Foley is a rural town in Alabama, notable only for its large outlet mall and famous Lambert's southern restaurant. Head west on Hwy 98, across Perdido Bay until you reach Foley.
Milton is a small town about 10 miles east of Pensacola that annually hosts the Scratch Ankle Festival, which highlights musical talent, arts & crafts and children's festivities.
Adventures Unlimited is about 12 miles north of Milton and offers canoeing, kayaking and tubing through the Blackwater River State Forest.
Fort Walton Beach is an hour's drive east of Pensacola, and has sandy blue water, a vibrant boating community, and annually hosts the Billy Bowlegs Festival, celebrating pirates.