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The Best Things To See In Pensacola, Florida

No matter what time of year you’re traveling, a beach vacation is an excellent choice. It’s especially great if that destination offers more than surf and sand. Located in the Florida panhandle, Pensacola is a haven for families that like to be active on their vacations. History, art, boat tours, baseball, and more await families looking for things to see in Pensacola, Florida.

Catch Sight of the Famous Blue Angels

Blue Angels Airplanes in the Naval Aviation Museum
Things to see in Pensacola Florida
Image Credit: Amy Albers

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are a sight to behold. This flight exhibition team comprises active-duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel. They put on shows of aviation grace and power nationwide and from their base in Pensacola.
Catch their weekly practice from March to November or plan to attend one of their two airshows in Pensacola, held the week of Independence Day and Veterans Day weekend.

Tour the National Naval Aviation Museum

Airplanes in the Naval Aviation Museum 
Pensacola, FL
Image Credit: Amy Albers

If you think the Blue Angels are fantastic, head to the National Naval Aviation Museum for a close-up look at some unique planes. Bringing the family is fine because this museum is free! You’ll see over 4,000 artifacts and over aircraft from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
I was awed by the size of the facility. There are exhibits on all the major military conflicts involving aircraft and aircraft carriers. Space flight is included as well. Allow plenty of time here, as I think it’s one of the best things to see in Pensacola, Florida. Pro tip: There is a restaurant on-site if your family needs a food break.

Visit Historic Pensacola Village

Old Christ Church, Pensacola
Image Credit: Amy Albers

Pensacola has 450 years of history to encounter. Fortunately, you get seven days to tour the nine acres of Historic Pensacola Village with one ticket purchase. Visit multiple museums and historic houses, including the Pensacola Museum of History, the Pensacola Children’s Museum, and the Pensacola Museum of Art.
Several historic buildings are available for tours; some are self-guided, and others give guided tours on a schedule. I love that you get seven days to access all included facilities. I tried to do as many as I could in one day, and that was tiring.

Take in the View From the Pensacola, Florida Lighthouse

Woman standing at the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse. Things to see in Pensacola Florida
Image Credit: Amy Albers

If you plan on visiting the National Aviation Museum, add in a climb to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse beforehand! Built in 1859, the lighthouse remains active and hosts a museum in the restored keeper’s cottage. I managed the 177 steps with regular breaks to catch my breath, and the view was worth the climb! The lighthouse is part of the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida

A visit to a National Park site is always a good idea. The Gulf Islands National Seashore combines military history with outdoor activity along 160 miles of the Gulf of Mexico’s Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi coasts. Use a self-guided or ranger-led tour to hear about the Civil War activity of Forts Barrancas and Pickens. In addition, Fort Pickens has a Discovery Center for interactive learning and a public beach with a shaded pavilion.

Of course, outdoor enthusiasts can find many things to do at Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are swimming, birding, watersports, hiking, and more. A campground is on-site, or if you are a backcountry type, you can camp on the beach!

Tour a Civil War Fort

Archways of Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore. 
Things to see in Pensacola Florida
Image Credit: Amy Albers

As previously mentioned, Gulf Islands Seashore is home to Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens, both of which were used during the Civil War. My kids will tell you that I haven’t met a fort I didn’t like. Fort Barrancas was closed during my visit, so I enjoyed strolling through the rooms and arches of Fort Pickens. Don’t forget the Junior Ranger program! Kids can complete activities in a free booklet to receive their Junior Ranger badge.

Dolphin Tours With Frisky Mermaid

Pelican on a picnic table in front of a boat.
Frisky Mermaid Boat Tours Pensacola
Image Credit: Amy Albers

In all my coastal travels, I have never been on a dolphin tour. I remedied that with Frisky Mermaid Boat Tours. During my two-hour boat ride, I had multiple dolphin sightings, including nursery pods with baby dolphins! On the boat, there are snacks available for purchase, a bathroom, and shade if needed.
I also enjoyed the tour around Pensacola Bay, where the crew mentioned points of interest and fun facts about the area. To wit, did you know that one of the mechanical sharks used in the movie Jaws sank somewhere in Pensacola Bay? I can’t wait to do this again with my family.

Pensacola, Florida Blue Wahoos Baseball

Pensacola Wahoos Baseball Field.
Things to see in Pensacola Florida
Image Credit: Amy Albers

There are alternatives if you love baseball but are absolutely over the prices of Major League stadiums. Minor League Baseball teams like the Pensacola Blue Wahoos put on a great game at a fraction of the price. At Blue Wahoos Stadium, there is even a grassy area where families can picnic while watching the game. Root for the home team without breaking your budget. If you’re visiting during baseball season, a Blue Wahoos game is one of my favorite things to see in Pensacola, Florida.

Perdido Key State Park

Rated one of the prettiest state parks around, Perdido Key State Park is the perfect spot to hit the beach. Located on the barrier island of Perdido Key, visitors will enjoy the 2 miles of white sand beaches. If you need some shade, the park has covered picnic pavilions.
The park is an excellent place for birding year-round and for seeing nesting sea turtles from late March into August. Beach wheelchairs are available for free—be sure to call and reserve one.

Palafox Market

Outdoor Market along a tree-lined path
Palafox Market Pensacola
Image Credit: Amy Albers

If the weather is nice and you’re not in a hurry, make the Palafox Market in downtown Pensacola part of your Saturday morning plans. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m., you have your pick of handcrafted items. Vendors sell food, jewelry, plants, decorative items, and more. I loaded up on the delicious baked goods on offer.
The market has gotten so large that it is now in two locations. Palafox Market North is at Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza, and Palafox Market South is at Plaza Ferdinand. Put on your walking shoes and enjoy the best that Pensacola artisans have to offer.

Enjoy Pensacola Beach!

Pensacola Beach
Image Credit: Amy Albers

With fine sand beaches and crystal clear water, find contentment soaking up the sun at Pensacola Beach. There are a lot of options for accessing the beach. Stay at a beachfront hotel or drive to one of the public access spots. You can also find quality beach time along miles of pristine beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Stay at Lily Hall, Pensacola, Florida

Lily Hall lounge area 
Pensacola Florida
Image Credit: Amy Albers

I usually like to stay beachfront, but with so many things to do in downtown Pensacola, I needed lodging in town. I was hosted at Lily Hall in the historic East Hill neighborhood. Lily Hall is billed as a lodging house. Staff is not on site 24/7 but is accessible by phone for emergencies and questions.

The rooms are lovely and a little bit funky, with a record player and a selection of albums included. My favorite part of Lily Hall was the lounge on the ground floor. It has chic family living room vibes and is a great place for guests to socialize or read quietly. Also on site is the restaurant Brother Fox. Shhh… the Sister Hen Speakeasy is there, too, if you know where to look.

Explore The Best Things to See in Pensacola, Florida

The gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Mexico make for a picture-perfect vacation. The sun and sand offer a lot of fun, but visitors who want more won’t be lacking choices. This city is a year-round destination that just happens to have a beach. Its walkability, diverse attractions, and deep history offer plenty of things to see in Pensacola, Florida.

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