Nine things to do in Pensacola…
no matter how long you’re stationed there!
My time in Pensacola was short, and we knew that from the beginning, so we set off our very first weekend in town to make the most of it. We left the navy lodge on the beach and headed downtown to start exploring. It was so much fun exploring Pensacola that we were actually sad to leave. We wanted more time to explore.
#1 Pensacola Beach
The beaches in Pensacola are absolutely gorgeous. While Pensacola Beach holds the namesake of the city, it is also one of the more popular ones. For those who live on the installation or further west, it can be a bit of a drive and is often overcrowded, but it plays host to some great events. From CrossFit competitions to concerts, there is always something going on. Just be careful, parking is strictly enforced!
#2 The Blue Angels
You won’t be in Pensacola long before you learn just how important the Blues are. You’ll see them at local parades and events and you’ll also see thousands of people show up for their two big air shows of the year. But as a local, you have some added benefits! For example, I got to see them fly over my house almost weekly. You can also see them practice most Tuesdays from the National Aviation Museum. Sometimes, they even stay after and sign autographs.
#3 National Aviation Museum
Sometimes a museum is on the boring side, and sometimes they blow you away. The National Aviation Museum is conveniently located on the “open” side of the installation where only a valid driver’s license is required to enter. They have some amazing, full-size planes from across history, a café, and even an indoor play area for the kids. You could easily visit this museum weekly and discover something new.
#4 Palafox Market
This was our first adventure as a family, and quickly became our favorite. Each Saturday, the grassy area between the two sides of Palafox Street fills up with artists, local vendors, farmers, and food stalls. It’s fun to walk from one end to the other just looking at each place. The String Farm plays in one open area, encouraging little kids to play with them. There are many coffee stands, home-baked goods, and fresh produce.
#5 Johnson Beach
While Pensacola Beach is the most popular, Johnson Beach is a favorite among military families. Because it is a national park, there is an entrance fee, but that is waived for military families. The facilities are nice, it is usually less crowded, and it has some great facilities for families. It certainly makes the beach trip work it, even if it only lasts an hour because kids fade fast.
#6 Perdido Kids Park
There are some playgrounds that just rise above the rest, and this one, the Perdido Kids Park does just that. It has bathrooms, picnic tables, and a covered area for parties and barbeques. Kids of all ages will enjoy this playground, especially the misting station located in the toddler area. Swings, towers, and even replica Blue Angel planes are great for wearing all of the kids out.
#7 Pensacola M.E.S.S. Hall
If you happen to get a rainy day (it does happen even in Florida) check out the Pensacola M.E.S.S. Hall. You’ll find a whole bunch of cool STEM things there, for bigs, littles, and those in between. It’s the best hands-on, non-museum science museum there is. The kids will beg to return, which is great because they offer day camps when school is on break.
#8 Downtown Pensacola
Downtown Pensacola hosts almost every event you could think of. Any idea for a festival is embraced here, from the Christmas holiday activities to 4th of July. Even better is the monthly Gallery night, held on the third Friday night of each month. The restaurants and stores stay open late, food trucks and vendors take a place in the street, and local musicians play on the corners. There are activities for kids and also for adults, and even some where you can leave the kids to play while you grab a quick date night dinner.
#9 Blue Wahoos Stadium
Baseball is one of those things that even smaller towns embrace, and Pensacola is no different. The Blue Wahoos have a beautiful stadium located right on the water and they also have great baseball games there. There is also a grassy hill, perfect for family seating, and frequently there are inflatables for the kids to play with during the game. Summer games end in fireworks and everyone has a wonderful time. It’s quite possibly the best place to be on a summer evening.
There are times I wish we had longer to explore Pensacola, so that we could have seen more of what it has to offer. What did I miss on our Pensacola Bucket List? What should we do on our next trip there?
If you’ve been stationed near Pensacola, please pay it forward and leave a base housing, neighborhood, or REALTOR® review for your fellow military and veteran families at PCSgrades.com.
PCSgrades Author: Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s also a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.