22 Things to Do in Pensacola Florida

Looking forward to visiting the Emerald Coast of Florida? You probably have heard of Pensacola Beach. In this travel guide, I’ll be covering the best things to do in Pensacola Beach Florida along with helpful travel tips to plan your unforgettable escape in Florida.

When we think about Florida, it is always about Disneyworld theme Parks or Party scenes in Miami. But Florida has so much to offer from beautiful River Springs to the emerald blue beaches of Florida 30A. Pensacola is known for its pristine white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, captivating history, and thrilling adventures. It offers a smorgasbord of experiences for every type of traveler.

Pensacola Beah is often known as the Florida Panhandle beach, which effectively includes Destin, Navarre, Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola. Mostly, people know it as Florida 30A. During my trip to Pensacola, I explored Destin and Florida 30A along with Pensacola.

Whether you’re a sun-worshipper seeking pristine beaches, a history buff yearning for tales of the past, or an adrenaline junkie craving adventure, Pensacola will leave you breathless.

But with so much to see and do, where do you start? This comprehensive guide unveils the hidden gems and must-visit attractions that will make your Pensacola trip truly extraordinary. So, read my travel guide for free and fun things to do in Pensacola. We’ll equip you with the insider knowledge to craft your perfect Pensacola itinerary.

So, buckle up, adventure seekers! In this post, you’ll discover:

  • Top things to do in Pensacola: Our curated list ensures you hit the city’s most iconic landmarks and hidden gems.
  • Unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else: From dolphin encounters to ghost tours, discover activities that set Pensacola apart.
  • Insider tips for navigating the city: Get expert advice on transportation, hidden costs, and local secrets.
  • Tailored recommendations for specific interests: Whether you’re a history buff, a beach bum, or a thrill-seeker, we’ve got you covered.

Ready to unlock the magic of Pensacola? Dive into this guide and start planning your unforgettable adventure today!

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22 Best Things to Do in Pensacola Florida

Pensacola is so very interesting town in Florida. From history, culture, emerging culinary scenes, vibrant nightlife, emerald green beaches, and fantastic nature, Pensacola has everything!! Discover the best things to do in Pensacola!

Get Some Sun at Stunning Pensacola Beach

One of the best things to do in Pensacola is bask in 7 miles of sugar-white sand and swim in the emerald-green waters of world world-famous Pensacola Beach. The calm waters of Pensacola Beach are inviting enough to swim the whole day! The Pensacola beach is stunning and incredibly beautiful, it is the perfect coastal getaway for your vacation!

Pensacola Beach

Maybe the beach may get crowded, but you can always find the spot for yourself! You can spend a day basking in the sun, building sandcastles, or taking a refreshing dip in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the best beaches in Florida. It is one of the best places to visit in Florida’s beautiful 30A coastline.

Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

One of the famous attraction in Pensacola is Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a popular among tourists, residents, and locals alike.

It offers great views up and down the beach and across the Gulf of Mexico from the dock. There is a lively atmosphere with shops, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife, making it the perfect place to unwind after a day of sun-soaked adventures.

One of the coolest things to do is to visit The Shell Amphitheater, which is near the entrance to the dock. They have live music and entertainment here throughout the year. If you want to grab a drink at The Boardwalk, Bamboo Willy’s is a popular bar near the amphitheater. 

Go surfing and catch some waves

The warm Gulf waters of Pensacola are the perfect place to learn to surf. The city’s position on the westernmost point of the panhandle gives it some of the best surf in Florida.

Through the summer months, the waves are usually gentle and a good size for beginner surfers to tackle. The water here is incredibly calm!

Join a surf class to learn the basics of this increasingly popular watersport to catch some waves. If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf but didn’t put it off, now is the best time to learn!

Sail the Pensacola Bay on a Dolphin cruise

Looking for fun things to do in Pensacola Beach with kids? Then go for Dolphin Cruise. It is one of the best activities in Pensacola for all age groups! You can hire Cruisin Tiki Boats to relax on the beautiful waters of Pensacola Beach.

Just bring your snacks and drinks to admire the beautiful marine life and see the dolphins from the boat to create memories for a lifetime! You’ll sail towards Gulf Island National Seashore to see the dolphins. The morning cruise is the best time for dolphin watching. This 2-hour Dolphin tour is perfect for cruising in Pensacola Bay.

Watch the Blue Angels Show

One of the most iconic things to do in Pensacola and an opportunity to see the US Navy Blue Angles! No visit to Pensacola would be complete without seeing the Blue Angels. You can usually see them on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from March to November when they practice their thrilling aerial maneuvers. The Practice shows start at 10.30 AM and last for an hour.

best things to do in Pensacola

There are dedicated shows throughout the year and you can check the schedule here. But two annual airshows that are held annually in July and November are famous in Pensacola.

The roar of the engines, the streamers of smoke, every formation in perfect symmetry. It is a site to behold!

While the angels launch from Naval Air Station Pensacola, there are several places to enjoy practices. Viewing opportunities include Rosamond Johnson Beach in Perdido Key (close to Naval Air Base), Fort Pickens at the end of Santa Rosa Island, boat cruises, and Palafox Pier in Pensacola downtown.

There’s something magical about seeing the Blue Angels over the Gulf of Mexico.

Visit Perdido Key State Park

Perdido Key is a neighborhood of Pensacola and it is quite honestly a must-visit! If you want to escape the crowds and discover secluded beaches with pristine natural beauty, visit the Perdido Key from Pensacola.

Perdido Key is a barrier island and another federally protected seashore, located nearly on the Alabama border. It is considered one of the best beaches to visit in Florida.

places to visit in Pensacola
Beautiful Perdido Beach in Pensacola, Florida.

For entertainment at any time of day head to Flora Bama, I heard it is called the ‘Last Great American Roadhouse’! Flora Bama is like an institution; the main hub has 6 to 7 bars with live music throughout the day and into the evening. You can also access the beach here, grab a drink, and watch the acoustic set right there on the beach!

You can also indulge in some water sports activities, like kayaking, Stand-Up paddleboarding, or Jet Ski.

Also Read: Best Beaches to Visit Near Pensacola

Step Back in time at Historic Pensacola Village District

Downtown Pensacola boasts a charming blend of historic architecture, trendy boutiques, and eclectic eateries. Wander through charming streets lined with historic buildings, now home to boutiques, art galleries, and delicious restaurants.

You can’t go far wrong starting a morning, afternoon, or evening at Palafox Street- the heart of Downtown Pensacola. Taking a stroll down Palafox Street- named one of the “10 Great Streets in America,” and Seville Historic District is one of the must things to do in Pensacola downtown.

Pensacola Downtown
Downtown Pensacola, Florida

From art galleries to artisanal cafes, the downtown area is a vibrant hub of activity, especially during the monthly Gallery Night events. It is truly a place to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Don’t forget to visit the Pensacola Museum of History. There are 3 floors of history and exhibitions inside the former City Hall, a beautiful building itself. Pensacola is known as the City of Five Flags because it changed ownership several times. The Spanish, French, British, Confederate, and American flags have all flown over our beautiful city. You can see this Permanent exhibit, to give you an appreciation of the unique nearly 500-year history of Pensacola, and where this nickname comes from!

Behind the museum begins Historic Pensacola. The complex has 28 properties, which are managed by the University of West Florida, and includes several historic homes and museums, each showcasing a unique period in Pensacola’s past- from Mediterranean Revival, French Creole, to Victorian.

11 of these properties are open to the public and you can visit it via guided tours. These residences showcase how life was lived in Pensacola during different periods, from the colonial era through to the Victorian period.

The best way to discover Pensacola’s downtown & historic district is to book a Hop-on Hop-off Tour which covers the most popular spots in town and you’ll get live commentary from a local guide too!

Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum

Visit the world’s largest naval aviation museum with 150 restored aircraft. It not only represents the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The interactive museum houses 4000 artifacts. There are flight simulators and a giant screen theater. Entrance is free with extra charges for the theatres and simulators.

National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola Florida

Climb the Pensacola Lighthouse & Visit Maritime Museum

Located on the grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the lighthouse offers a peek into the maritime history of Pensacola and also provides one of the most stunning views of the Gulf Coast.

Built in 1859, the Pensacola Lighthouse stands 150 feet tall, guiding mariners safely through the Pensacola Pass for over 160 years.

Pensacola Lighthouse
Sunset over the Pensacola Lighthouse

If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Pensacola, climb the 177 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Once at the top, you’re rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Pensacola Bay, the historic naval yard, and the stunning white sand beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

There is a Museum on the grounds of the Lighthouse that focuses on the maritime history of the area and the role of the lighthouse in navigation. It presents exhibits showcasing the local maritime history, the science behind how lighthouses work, shipwrecks, as well as the living conditions of lighthouse keepers through different periods.

It even has exhibits specifically dedicated to the Civil War era, reflecting on the pivotal role Pensacola played during this time.

Explore Fort Barrancas

Located on the Gulf Islands National Seashore within the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fort Barrancas was built atop a historic Spanish Fort from 1839–1844 that is worth visiting.

The fort, which sits on a bluff overlooking Pensacola Bay, offers visitors an opportunity to explore centuries of American military history through its well-preserved structures and informative displays. You can explore the fort’s labyrinth of rooms, and tunnels exploring its fascinating blend of architectural styles and military strategy.

Apart from exploring the fort, you can also hike the nature trail that winds through the surrounding area, offering beautiful views of Pensacola Bay.

Gulf Islands National Seashore & Opal Beach

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a National Park located in parts of Florida and Mississippi.  There are 6 different areas of this national park in Florida. State Highway 399 is filled with beaches and there are several access points from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach. 

There is a beautiful section of Gulf Islands National Seashore beach in between the two cities (Santa Rosa Area). It’s a scenic drive through the middle of the island. You’ll drive along the white, sandy beaches with emerald blue waters.

Most people come here just to relax on untouched beaches, and others will want to explore by bike, kayak, hiking, or snorkeling.

Opal Beach, a popular beach in the area, is part of the National Seashore. This beach has showers, restrooms, a picnic area, and is open 8 am-sunset. There is lots of parking here with several parking lots between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach. Opal Beach is one of my favorite and most beautiful beaches on the Emerald Coast.

Also Read: Crab Island- Sand Bar Paradise of Florida Panhandle

Fort Pickens National Park

The major attraction of Pensacola, located on Pensacola Beach, on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens is the largest, one of four military forts designed to protect Pensacola in the 1800s.

It shows us Pensacola’s importance as a military town stretches back much further than today’s Navy bases! Today, you can walk the ramparts of Fort Pickens, climb to the top of Battery Langdon for an amazing view of the island, or ride your bike down an old railroad bed through marshes busy with birds.

Fort Pickens is accessible by foot and boat and is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Also, Fort Pickens Road is a great spot for beaches on the west end of Pensacola Beach.

Fees: $15 pedestrian/cyclist, $25 vehicle (good for one week). National Park Pass holders get free admission.

Swim at Park West Beach

On the way to Fort Pickens, Park West is a popular beach for families, located on the west side of Pensacola Beach. There is a kids’ playground on the sound side of the beach with shaded picnic areas. Across the street on the Gulf side are pavilions, picnic areas, grills, bathrooms, showers, and of course, more beaches! There are parking lots on both sides.

Address: 1340 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach, 32561. 

Visit the Big Lagoon State Park

Pensacola has a few state parks that are worth visiting including Big Lagoon State Park. If you want to escape the crowds and want to immerse in the beauty of the outdoors, this is the best place to visit in Pensacola. You can hike the trails along coastal habitats, paddle through the tidal marshes, and spot some wildlife.

Hang out at the beach and visit the pier which is right at the main beach. This fishing pier is the longest of its kind in the state at 1,545 feet!  It costs $1 to walk the pier and it’s $7 for fishing.

Big Lagoon State Park features both RV and tent camping sites, the perfect spot for camping in Florida.

Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve- Gulf Breeze

If you’re looking for a quiet place during your beach vacation or just need some time away from the busy life at Pensacola Beach, this nature preserve is for you! This is an ideal place to go for a picnic and they have a pavilion that’s available to the guests. There are restrooms here, too.

There are plenty of things to do here including biking, bird watching, fishing, and almost 8 miles of hiking trails! Be sure to pack your camera because the views are amazing!

Spend a day at Splash City Adventures

If you are looking for things to do in Pensacola Beach with kids, a visit to Splash City Adventures is a fun day out. There are four waterslides and a lazy river. There are also amusement park rides, go-carts, mini golf, and arcade games in this waterpark.

Take Sunset Cruise

To get a different view of the skyline, hop on one of the Pensacola Bay Cruises while you are here! There’s also a free shuttle service in the area that will take you to The Boardwalk. 

This sunset cruise takes you out on the water to see the sunset glow of Little Sabine Bay and Pensacola Beach. It is a great way to end your day along with a relaxing atmosphere while the sun is setting on the horizon.

Shop at the Pensacola Palafox Market

If shopping is your thing or you just get an itch for some retail therapy while in Pensacola, definitely check out the chic stores and boutiques at Palafox Place. Nestled in the heart of downtown Pensacola, Palafox Market shows the city’s thriving community spirit.

Every Saturday morning between 9 AM to 2 PM the myrtle trees of Martin Luther King Jr Plaza on Palafox are transformed into a bustling street market.

You’ll find numerous stalls from local farmers, artisans, craftsmen, and organic food suppliers. All of the vendors are local, as are their produce.

Explore the stalls, sample delectable treats, and take home a culinary masterpiece to savor the flavors of Pensacola. This is a must-visit if you are here on a Saturday.

Palafox Market promises a sensory journey that captures the essence of this vibrant Gulf Coast city.

Embark on a Scenic Journey along the Florida 30A Highway

One of the most popular things to do in Pensacola is embark on a road trip and drive the most scenic 30A highway in Florida. Nestled between the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the charming coastal communities, this 24-mile stretch of highway from Destin to Panama City Beach is very scenic.

This drive will take you through the white-sand beaches, picturesque coastal dunes, and vibrant seaside villages. Explore the seaside, Rosemary Beach, and the beautiful white town of Alys Beach.

You can Take a leisurely bike ride through the tree-lined streets, explore the pristine coastal dune lakes, and enjoy a meal at one of the community’s exquisite restaurants for a change in scenery from crowded beaches! Read More about Florida 30A here.

Visit beautiful Navarre Beach & Pier

About a 15-minute drive from Pensacola Fl. is Navarre Beach. Navarre Beach is known as “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place” and lives up to the name with its laid-back people and beaches! Amenities include restrooms, showers, gear rentals, pavilions, picnic areas, and volleyball nets. This is my favorite beach near Pensacola, visit it once, and you’ll know why!

Go for pub Crawl at Night

Whether you want to end your trip with a night in the town or simply want to check out the town’s best drinking holes, join a pub crawl. It can be a fun way to explore the local bar scene, socialize, and enjoy the nightlife yourself.

Rule the street on the Seville Quarter in historic downtown, which takes you to a selection of the city’s best bars, live music, and a lively atmosphere. It’s a great starting point for a pub crawl.

You can enjoy a bottomless drink on the road and catch live music at the World of Beer, as well as fun-themed trivia events. Old Hickory Whiskey Bar is Known for its extensive whiskey selection, craft cocktails, and cozy atmosphere.

If you are a fan of Irish Pub, you shouldn’t miss O’Riley’s on Palafox Street — the heart of historic downtown Pensacola. It’s the best choice if you fancy playing billiards with a friendly vibe, live music, and a wide selection of beers.

Check out the Pensacola’s Food Scene

If you want a city with fresh seafood, culinary festivals, and farm-to-table restaurants then look no further. After enjoying a day out on the beach, stop by one of the waterfront restaurants in Pensacola Beach and nearby!

Most of these restaurants specialize in seafood and casual fare, but there are also options for pizza, barbecue, and upscale. These are a few top places to eat in Pensacola. Few of them serve good vegetarian food too.

  • Casino Beach Bar & Grill
  • Papa’s Pizza for NYC-style Pizza
  • Flounder’s Chowder House
  • Flora Bama Bar
  • Lucy’s in the square in Downtown
  • Lamonte Gelato (Best Gelato in town)

How to Get to Pensacola, FL?

Getting to Pensacola is relatively easy, with multiple transportation options available. If you prefer driving or road-tripping from a neighboring state, you can reach Pensacola by taking I-10 West and I-110 South, which will lead you directly into the city.

You can also drive scenic Highway 399 or Florida 30A, trust me you’ll love it! This scenic drive is most beautiful and allows you to enjoy the surrounding landscapes.

If you’re arriving by air, Pensacola International Airport(PNS) serves as the primary gateway to the city. Various airlines offer flights to Pensacola, including Frontier, Spirit Airlines, and American Airlines.

And lastly, If you’re staying in or near downtown, many attractions, restaurants, and shops are within walking distance.

How to Get Around Pensacola?

Once you arrive in Pensacola, transportation within the city is easily accessible. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are available at the airport, providing a convenient way to reach your destination quickly.

If you’re planning to visit more than one destination in Florida, renting a car is the best choice. I highly recommend the services of Discover Cars to give you the best options.

If you aren’t planning to rent a car, Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) provides bus services throughout Pensacola and surrounding areas. Check the route maps and schedules. Daily Pass costs 5$ per person.

In the summer months, there are seasonal Free beach trolley services that run along Fort Pickens to Portofino Resort on Santa Rosa Island. It runs daily from 4 PM to Midnight. It is the perfect way to visit many beaches near Pensacola. Check more information and route here.

Where to Stay in Pensacola, Florida?

Here’s a list of great places to stay in Pensacola Florida:

Best Time to Visit Pensacola, FL

Although, you can visit Pensacola during any month, Spring from March to May and fall season from September to November are the best times to visit Pensacola. The beaches are less crowded compared to the peak summer months. During this time, you can enjoy pleasant weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices.

While the summer months of June to August bring the warmest temperatures, it also attracts the largest crowds. Late summer can be a good time to visit if you want to enjoy warm beach weather without the peak crowds. If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and warm temperatures, consider visiting just before or after the peak summer season.

Insider Tips to Visit Pensacola Florida

  • Don’t forget beach essentials — sunscreen, sunglasses, a beach towel, and a hat for sunny days. It gets extremely hot during the day! Consider packing a beach umbrella and cooler for shade and refreshments.
  • Bring appropriate gear and footwear if you plan to explore nature trails or engage in recreational activities.
  • If you’re visiting during hurricane season (June to November), stay updated on rainy weather conditions and have a plan in case of severe weather.
  • Take advantage of Pensacola’s vibrant restaurant scene, offering fresh seafood, local specialties, and diverse cuisines.
  • Florida can be hot, especially during the summer months. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you’re spending time outdoors.
  • Be aware of dolphin-watching guidelines to ensure responsible interactions.

As you can see, there are lots of amazing beaches in the area and great things to do in Pensacola Beach! Hope this post inspires you to pack your bags, embrace the Florida spirit, and discover the endless possibilities that this coastal gem has to offer! So when are you booking your next trip to Florida?

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