Pensacola

Destination Location

  • 30.421309, -87.216915:primary
  • 30.4725, -87.188:secondary

Overview

Florida is a state best known for its exciting amusement parks, lush beaches, stunning Everglades, impressive military establishments and ultra-swanky cities. Pensacola has all of the luxuries of modern convenience, but also has a little more than you would expect. There is nowhere else in Florida where the history of the state is so alive. Pensacola has an air of grandeur that stems from its rich, 450-year past and colourful European background. It is also the site of significant American and Civil War events and is the home of Florida's birthplace as an American State.

Known also as "The City of Five Flags" due to the five governments who have controlled it over the centuries, Pensacola has been ruled by Spain, France, Britain, the Confederacy and finally by the United States. Historical sites and monuments are at every turn and will not disappoint even the most avid history buffs.

A number of old forts from the Spanish period and the Civil War era are open to visitors year round, each with mysterious and fascinating stories, legends and lore that surround them. These include Apache Chief Geronimo being imprisoned at Fort Pickens, to Confederate soldiers who died in battle at Fort Barrancas, culminating with some forts being used as military posts during World War II. Historic Pensacola Village, T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse are just some of the dozens of the historical attractions here that will enthrall guests of all ages.

As part of the state's compelling military presence, Pensacola is home to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. With two high-energy, action-packed and thrilling aerial shows in the Pensacola Bay Area each July and November – where F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets can top out at 700 mph – the Blue Angels are a massive hit with all of their fans. If you aren’t able to attend a show, you can still catch the heart-stopping and jaw-dropping moments by taking in one of the practice sessions held over at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Practices run from March through November on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with an autograph session with the pilots every Wednesday after practice.

Pensacola has loads of great value-packed and family-friendly activities that will keep the whole clan smiling.  Powdered sugar sand and calm, warm gulf waters make the beaches along the Gulf Islands National Seashore a sure bet for kids of all ages. For something a little more adventurous, go snorkeling, pier fishing, crabbing or hiking and biking in one of the many national or state parks.

Canoeing or kayaking along the Blackwater River or Coldwater Creek will provide hours of fun while you admire the unique landscape of wetlands, secluded coves, concealed beaches and the natural habitats of local water birds and some endangered species.

Destination basics

Pensacola's weather makes it a fabulous place to visit no matter what time of year. With average lows of 6 C and average highs of 16C in January, winters are mild – and usually drier than the summer months. The rainfall that does occur in the summer, while plentiful, comes in short bursts and clears up quickly so it rarely disrupts a whole day of outdoor adventure.

Glorious summer temperatures average around 33 C for a high and 24 C for a low. Gentle breezes from the Gulf of Mexico keep the heat from being oppressive and offer balmy nights, perfect for an evening stroll on the beach or late dinners on a patio.

Spring and fall are great times to visit too, because the weather lends itself to sunny, dry days and cool, yet comfortable nights. Outdoor pursuits can still be enjoyed – just be sure to bring a sweater or light jacket to avoid a chill.

Pensacola's dining scene is predominantly of the surf 'n' turf variety, with a touch of Southern-style cooking, borrowed most likely from its neighbor Alabama. Not to mention the waterfront shacks, restaurants, and casual eateries that come by the dozen. Combined together, the two culinary frontiers create a vibrant dining scene across the city. There is, of course, the all-time favorite, beer thrown in, with a host of beer gardens and brew pubs working their way across the city.

Downtown
Centered around the iconic Palafox Street that winds its way down to the pier, Downtown acts as a window to Pensacola's plentiful culinary treats. Although the city hums with a small-town pace, one can see several trendy eateries boldly rising up against the city's humble skyline. However, Pensacola's fine seafood scene stands out the most among this culinary milieu.

Shuck fresh oysters and sushi at the popular Atlas Oyster House as the sun sets over Pensacola Bay. The Fish House is another seafood expert where you can enjoy famed Southern grits with live music for company. An added bonus is the resident Deck Bar that hosts exciting happy hours and ladies nights.

For a winning combination of food and classical tunes, try the Five Sisters' Blues Cafe. Here, swaying to melodic tunes whilst enjoying Creole specials is an art that regulars have mastered. At the edge of the Palafox Pier, Jaco's Bayfront Bar and Grille offers excellent Sunday brunches. Closer to Seville Square, Dharma Blue serves a modern coastal menu in breezy quarters, while the Vinyl Music Hall harbors neighbors such as the contemporary Global Grill and The Tin Cow.

For a break from seafood, head to Jackson's Steakhouse nearby for some of the most succulent steaks in the city. Pensacola's Historic Downtown is also home to some splendid brewpubs and taverns such as World of Beer and the Pensacola Bay Brewery. For more intense libations, head to the Old Hickory Whiskey Bar on Palafox Street. Here, an eventful night surrounded by 500 types of whiskey awaits you.

East Pensacola Heights
Its past association with a thriving fishing scene has worked out well for this little neighborhood that borders the bay. Toward the picturesque end of East Pensacola you will find stellar culinary gems serving fresh seafood. On the brink of the Bayou Texar you will find the non-fussy, family friendly Marina Oyster Barn, a seafood staple since 1969. This is one of the best places in the city to enjoy specialties like Fried Shrimp, Fish Chowder and Gumbo with your entire family. Down the road, head to Jerry's Drive In for some all-American favorites like burgers, mullet, grouper plates and country-fried steak. More refined palates will appreciate the nuanced cuisine at Nancy's Haute Affairs, serving lovely gourmet dishes. Other global picks include the Sake Cafe, Bonelli's and Hummus.

Home to one of the earliest European settlements in the United States, the pages of Pensacola's history are filled with fascinating stories. It is only obvious then that the westernmost city of Florida's panhandle has a strong penchant for culture and the arts. Its waterfront location overlooking Pensacola Bay makes it a fun, sun-soaked destination, inviting tourists all year long. To add to its charm, it is a pivotal naval training base, and houses the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Historic Downtown
Pensacola boasts a history spanning over 450 years that has helped shape the city into the versatile metropolis that it is today. A walk down its historic streets evokes immediate awe, even as heritage buildings and villas blend effortlessly with the city's evolving face. The Historic Pensacola Village at the heart of downtown provides an excellent opportunity to explore the city's past. In the same vein, landmarks such as the Seville Square, the Mary Turner Rule Cottage and a self-guided archaeological trail bring alive the city's history. Meanwhile, Palafox street brims with a dynamism. Find a diverse range of cafes, boutiques, live music venues and dining establishments dotting the streets here.

East Pensacola
The East Pensacola area includes smaller neighborhoods such as East Hill, East Pensacola Heights and Cordova. This sunny neighborhood pays homage to the city's easygoing, coastal lifestyle and is a good place to be if you have a relaxed agenda. Flanked by Bayou Texar and Pensacola Bay, East Pensacola's proximity to the shore and its fishing past translates into a fine hub for seafood dining. It is here that you will find some of the best seafood establishments in the city, from the Marina Oyster Barn, to Jerry's Drive In. The historic Emanuel Point, a mysterious site of shipwreck, is also located here, and is a major attraction for history buffs. Nearby, the picturesque Bayview Park is worth visiting as well.

Outlying Areas
Pensacola is surrounded by smaller communities and islands on the brink of the Gulf of Mexico, and hold significant landmarks that can be accessed from the city. Pensacola's legendary white sand beaches are found here, whether it is Perdido Key's cerulean blue beaches, or Santa Rosa Island's Pensacola Beach. History buffs will appreciate the historic Fort Pickens that is sprawled on the extreme end of the Santa Rosa Island. A drive to the fort is an incredibly beautiful experience, with scenic vistas leading the way. The West Pensacola region captures one more of the city's historic feats. Besides being home to the military Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Lighthouse, it is also the site of the National Naval Aviation Museum, a must-visit attraction.

A host of incredible live venues and clubs bring alive Pensacola's nightlife. It is also a great city for festivals and fairs, hosting events all year round.

Live Music
Audiophiles can plan an eventful schedule of nightly entertainment in Pensacola at its varied live music venues. Each of them cool spots in their own right, Pensacola is no stranger to musical landmarks. The Vinyl Music Hall on Garden Street hosts top-notch concerts that get booked as soon as they're announced, and enjoys a fervent fan-following. The 5 ½ Cocktail Bar at the venue ensures no one is left thirsty, in case you decide to head out for a nightcap after the concert. For large scale concerts, look up the schedule at the Pensacola Bay Area that hosts live music gigs from time to time, besides sporting events. For subtle, soulful tunes, the Five Sisters Blues' Cafe and Rosie O'Grady's retro haunt play live jazz and blues. For a bit of everything, the Seville Quarter is a fun place to be at, seeing as that it hosts seven distinct bars, each with its own theme.

Nightclubs
Pensacola sees a flurry of Spring Break visitors in the months of March and April, making way for several clubbing establishments. Downtown clubs like Bedlam are known for their all-nighters, whereas others such as the Wild Greg's Saloon invite large dance crowds at their friendly honky tonk.

Despite being home to the traditional, Southern-inspired values of Florida, Pensacola is home to a thriving LGBTQ community. Clubs like Cabaret and Roundup provide ample entertainment for its gay citizens, complete with karaoke, live music and happy hours.

Festivals
This sun-drenched city makes it easy to host round-the-year festivities, converting it into one big hub for fun and revelry. Festivals span all kinds of interests and activities, from eclectic food festivals and art fests, to cultural carnivals and music festivals. If you're a foodie, schedule your visit around the Greek Festival, the Seafood Festival or the Emerald Coast Beer Festival. Those inclined toward the arts and music will find the Fall season a more favorable time to visit. This is when the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival and the Foo Foo Fest begin in full swing.

Shopping
Like its other Floridian counterparts, Pensacola also hosts a rich shopping scene. Although mainly concentrated around the celebrated downtown area, other neighborhoods such as East/Central Pensacola and Perdido Key are also home to an active shopping setting. Right off the bat, you will fall in love with Palafox Street's vibrant shopping stretch. Revel in an impressive range that begins at grassroot level local finds, and ends with high street fashion brands. Stop by at Bodacious Olive and SoGourmet for specialty finds, before heading to other quaint shops like Bubba's Sweet Spot and Belle Ame.

If you love markets, then the iconic Palafox Market is just the place for you, with its small-town wares and unique handmade artifacts. Those drawn toward historic objets d'art can scour for antiques at the reliable Rusty Relic and Jackson Hill Antiques. Shop in air-conditioned comfort at the sprawling Cordova Mall in East Pensacola, the city's premier indoor shopping destination with nearly 120 specialty stores to its credit.

Sports
Baseball and hockey matches open to packed bleachers at the Blue Wahoos Stadium, displaying the city's penchant for sports. The more calming sport of sailing also makes its presence felt here, manifesting itself in a number of yacht clubs, sailing programs, and annual regattas. Pensacola with its rich coastal location is also a prime area for angling. Other sports events that occur during the year here include ice flying tournaments, football, and snowball derby tournaments.

Outdoors
Blessed with a thrilling mix of nature reserves on the outskirts and a wonderful proximity to the bay, Pensacola turns into outdoor central for adrenaline junkies. Whether it is hiking, biking or strolling along the city's gorgeous white sand beaches, Pensacola has quite an impressive lineup.
Deep dive into azure waters from near the Pensacola Bay Area and spot large artificial reefs, exotic fishes and shipwreck trails. Pensacola beach has a host of outfitters that offer scuba diving and snorkeling deals. Pensacola beaches are also amazing avenues for paddle-boarding, surfing and parasailing. Across the bay, the stunning seascapes of the Gulf Islands National Seashore not only paint a pretty picture, but also make great points for dolphin and sea turtle spotting.

Pensacola

State: Florida

Country: United States of America

Pensacola by the Numbers
Population: 52,703 (City); 461,227 (Metropolitan)
Elevation: 102 feet / 31 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 64.28 inches / 163.27 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 54°F / 12.2°C
Average July Temperature: 82°F / 27.7°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-6 (GMT-5 Daylight Saving Time); Central Standard Time (CST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 850

Did You Know?

Pensacola's Santa Rosa Island was the site of the first Catholic Mass in the United States.

Orientation

Pensacola is located on the westernmost end of Florida's panhandle. Pensacola is located 173 miles (278.41 kilometers) from New Orleans, LA and 216 miles (347.61 kilometers) from Birmingham, AL.

Long before the Spanish staked its claim over the westernmost city of Florida's panhandle, modern-day Pensacola harbored the Native American tribe of Panzacola. After the strength of the tribe diluted and eventually faded away, the year of 1559 heralded Spanish conquistadors into the area.

Pensacola Bay was the object of much admiration by chief explorer Tristan de Luna, who immediately established a settlement here, only to abandon it within a short time frame. However, the Spanish revisited the settlement in the 17th century, this time defending it ardently from other European rivals. This tug of war for Pensacola played out dramatically between several countries, with power shifting from the Spanish to the French, the British, the United States and also the Confederate States of America. This power play earned the city its nickname ‘The City of Five Flags'.

In 1861, the Civil War caused Florida's withdrawal from the Union, only to be readmitted to the latter in the late nineteenth century. As for its official name, the erstwhile Muskogean tribe name of Panzacola evolved into its modern-day title and eventually stuck.

Points of interest in Pensacola

See all points of interest Pensacola

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

Explore our world.

or find your dream vacation with our Vacation finder