22 Amazing Things to Do in Pensacola

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Aerial of Pensacola, Florida
Aerial of Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock - Bown Media
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Boasting some of Florida’s most spectacular white-sand beaches, rich military history, and buzzing entertainment district, Pensacola offers visitors no shortage of amazing things to experience. From exploring 19th-century forts to diving stunning reefs to cheering the hometown minor league Blue Wahoos, this vibrant port city on Florida’s Panhandle captivates. The top-ranked attractions spanning nature, culture, dining, and adventure make planning a trip exciting. To help uncover Pensacola’s many sights, here are 22 can’t miss activities sure to create an unforgettable getaway in the The City of Five Flags.

Table of Contents

Museums

1. National Naval Aviation Museum

National Naval Aviation Museum
National Naval Aviation Museum | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508

The National Naval Aviation Museum is devoted to preserving and displaying over 150 historic aircraft and spacecraft representing the rich history of United States naval aviation across the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. With extensive exhibits housed in 300,000 square feet of space along with 37 acres of grounds, the museum showcases pioneering early aircraft like the Curtiss NC-4, which first crossed the Atlantic, warbirds from WWII through today like the Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawks and Marine One helicopters used by modern presidents. As the Navy’s program manager for retired military aircraft on display across the country, the museum exhibits its collection and coordinates additional historical naval planes on loan in museums and installations worldwide. Along with its expansive historical exhibitions and displays, the museum engages visitors with flight simulators, an IMAX theater, a cafe, and educational programs.

2. Historic Pensacola Village

Lear-Rocheblave House, Historic Pensacola Village, Pensacola, Florida
Lear-Rocheblave House, Historic Pensacola Village, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 205 E Zaragoza St, Pensacola, FL 32502

Encompassing 8.5 acres in downtown Pensacola, Historic Pensacola Village is an architectural preservation site comprised of 30 properties representing various historical eras and designs, with 12 open to the public. Both the exteriors and fully-furnished interiors of these buildings display an array of styles, including Mediterranean Revival, Greek Revival, French Creole, and Folk Victorian across periods from Colonial to the 1920s, interpreted through a collection of over 150,000 historical artifacts. Costumed living history interpreters enrich the experience, providing an immersive glimpse into Pensacola’s storied past. From intricate period architecture to intricate period details and inhabitants, Historic Pensacola allows visitors to step back in time and glimpse the evolution of this unique Florida city.

See a complete map of Historic Pensacola Village provided by the University of West Florida here.

3. Ella L Jordan African American History Museum

Address: 423 N C St, Pensacola, FL 32501

The Ella L. Jordan Home is a one-story Queen Anne-style cottage built circa 1890 by Raymond Waters. Initially owned by various working-class residents, including Thomas McMillan, Nancy Martin, and Willie Kyles, the home was purchased in 1951 by the Pensacola Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, an umbrella organization for numerous African American women’s social clubs and community groups. For decades, it hosted wedding receptions, teas, Mardi Gras parties, and meetings as a social hub for Pensacola’s Black community. The Ella L. Jordan House represents late 19th-century coastal architectural history and 20th-century African-American social history in Pensacola.

4. Chappie James Museum of Pensacola

Address: 1606 Doctor M.L.K. Jr Dr, Pensacola, FL 32503

A museum now commemorates the childhood home of General Daniel “Chappie” James. Initially serving as a tutoring center for African-American children when operated by James’ mother, Lillie, as a small school, the two adjacent homes were the launching point for Chappie James’ education and legendary career as one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. As an inspirational focal point promoting academic achievement, leadership skills, self-confidence, and STEM disciplines critical to James’ path to becoming the first African American four-star general, the property now operates as a museum honoring his barriers-breaking life and showcasing interactive exhibits to engage and empower students to emulate his success.

5. Building 89 Archaeology Museum

Address: 11000 University Pkwy, Pensacola, FL 32514

The Building 89 Archaeology Museum at the University of West Florida (UWF) is an 8,000 square foot facility housing rotating exhibits of fascinating local artifacts unearthed by university archaeologists for public viewing. With free exhibit hall access Monday-Friday plus extensive research spaces like laboratories, curation facilities, a forensics lab, and special equipment for marine remote sensing and terrestrial surveying, the Institute serves as the headquarters for over twenty years of UWF archaeology initiatives.

6. Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures
Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 2081 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508

The Pensacola Lighthouse marks the entrance to Pensacola Bay, with the first beacon being the lightship Aurora Borealis moved there in 1823. After being replaced by an ineffective 40-foot tower, the current striking 150-foot tower was built in 1858, automated in 1965, and still actively guides ships today. Through Union and Confederate control during the Civil War, a damaging artillery attack, and continuing improvements like the 1869 first-order Fresnel lens, the still-operational lighthouse and associated buildings have stood the test of time. The lighthouse is also reportedly very haunted.

Historic Forts

7. Fort Barrancas

Fort Barrancas, Pensacola, Florida
Fort Barrancas, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Teemu008

Address: 3182 Taylor Rd, Pensacola, FL 32508

Fort Barrancas is located on Pensacola Bay and was initially built by the Spanish in 1787 as Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, with the current American fort dating back to an 1839 reconstruction and expansion. Perched atop a hill overlooking the bay with an adjoining water battery fortification near sea level, it has defended Pensacola for centuries, including during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. After closing in 1947, Fort Barrancas was restored and opened to the public under the National Park Service in 1971. Visitors can explore nearly 250 years of evolving military architecture and witness the display of artillery used through various wars.

8. Fort Pickens

Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida
Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

Fort Pickens was completed in 1834 and is famous for remaining in Union control during the Civil War despite Florida joining the Confederacy. Utilizing over 20 million bricks, the fort was part of an extensive defense system for Pensacola Harbor alongside Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee, and the Navy Yard. It has stood guard against threats from the Indian Wars through World War II, playing critical roles from imprisoning Apache chief Geronimo to turning back initial Confederate demands to surrender in 1861 to standing ready against German U-boats offshore during 1942-1945. Today, Fort Pickens is preserved as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore under the administration of the National Park Service, which maintains this well-preserved 19th-century bastion as a reminder of centuries of American coastal defense and its numerous brushes with history.

9. Fort McRee

Location: Accessible by boat only, near Sand Island across the Bay Inlet from Fort Pickens

Fort McRee was one of three forts erected to defend Pensacola Bay, constructed between 1834-1839 on the eastern tip of Perdido Key with an unusual boomerang layout fitting the narrow island. Though it initially mounted over 100 guns, the fort quickly fell into disuse and decay between wars. Occupied by Confederate forces at the start of the Civil War in 1861, it was heavily bombarded by Union ships and artillery in November 1861 and then burned by retreating Southern troops in 1862. Declining into ruins over the next decades with minimal upkeep, the old fort briefly saw new batteries installed in 1898-1899 that were subsequently destroyed by a 1906 hurricane. After the land transferred to the Navy then National Park Service in 1971, decades of storms and erosion have reduced Fort McRee to little more than scattered foundations, a forgotten sentinel whose old walls vigilantly watched over Pensacola Bay for over a century.

State & Local Parks

10. Perdido Key State Park

Perdido Key State Park, Pensacola, Florida
Perdido Key State Park, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Florida Fish and Wildlife

Address: 15301 Perdido Key Dr, Pensacola, FL 32507

Perdido Key State Park offers 247 acres of coastal wilderness sanctuary. Walking through pine and palm hammocks out to dazzling white sand, visitors find over a mile of peaceful beachfront along the Gulf, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or fishing. Boardwalks lead from parking areas to this pristine shoreline to preserve the rolling dunes dotted with sea oats and fragile habitats. Covered picnic shelters provide shade for families amid the scenic vistas. While the beach is the crown jewel, wildlife abounds, from loggerhead sea turtles nesting yearly to the Perdido Key beach mouse, one of North America’s rarest mammals that exists only here and at nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore.

11. Big Lagoon State Park

Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, Florida
Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Florida Fish and Wildlife

Address: 12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507

Encompassing over 700 acres of Florida’s northwestern coast, Big Lagoon State Park protects rich coastal habitats perfect for outdoor recreation. Visitors can enjoy beaches and boating along the park’s namesake Big Lagoon, bicycling scenic drives, fishing tranquil waters, kayaking through lush wetlands, hiking wooded trails, and observing abundant wildlife from overlook towers and footbridges. Evidence of native use dots the landscape across eras. With opportunities to swim along sandy shorelines, picnic at shelters, camp waterside, and explore ecosystems hosting threatened species like migratory snowy plovers, Big Lagoon State Park opens a gateway to experiencing the region’s precious natural heritage. Its proximity to neighboring preserves like Perdido Key and Tarkiln Bayou State Parks also allows nature lovers to fully immerse in the diverse beauty of Florida’s northwestern coast.

12. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

Tarkiln Bayou State Park, Pensacola, Florida
Tarkiln Bayou State Park, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 2401 Bauer Rd, Pensacola, FL 32506

Home to four endangered pitcher plant species and many other rare flora and fauna, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park encompasses over 4,000 acres of priceless Gulf Coast wetlands habitat. One of the area’s most remote, secluded parks, visitors immerse themselves in the wild beauty of scenic hiking paths, tranquil prairie vistas, and wonders of evolution along its accessible boardwalk and a day-hiking route to the Perdido River forming the state border. Here, the white-top pitcher plant, the rare carnivorous plant unique to the region, snaps its exotic pitchers as species from alligator snapping turtles to butterworts thrive in fragile ecosystems.

Beaches

13. Gulf Island National Seashore

Address: 2541 J Earle Bowden Way, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561

Encompassing over 23,000 acres of Northwest Florida coastline, Gulf Islands National Seashore offers a pristine paradise of sugar-white beaches, rolling dunes, scenic trails through pine forests and live oak groves, endangered wildlife, preserved relics of military history from centuries-old forts, and turquoise waters teeming with life – all easily accessible yet immersed in nature’s timeless realm along the Pensacola region’s treasured islands and shores.

Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola Beach, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Tim Parkinson

14. Pensacola Beach

Address: 41 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

With its sugar-sand shores, calm emerald waters, and balmy climate, Pensacola Beach lures sunkissed relaxation-seekers, fishing enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike. Travelers will delight in lazy days stretched out along the Gulf Coast’s most pristine beaches, casting lines for legendary sport fishing and experiencing the best coastal Florida habitats where land meets sea. This barrier island paradise packs big natural rewards into a compact, easily accessible retreat perfect for sampling Northwest Florida’s treasured coastline, from adventures offshore to serene relaxation beachside. With such accessible postcard-worthy scenery, Pensacola Beach brings vibrant vacation memories within reach.

Sports

15. Catch a Ball Game at Blue Wahoos Stadium

Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola, Florida
Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Rusty Ray

Address: 351 W Cedar St, Pensacola, FL 32502

Along Pensacola’s vibrant downtown waterfront, the Community Maritime Park offers visitors scenic recreational spaces paired with minor league baseball thrills at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Overlooking glorious Pensacola Bay, the $54 million park complex hosts concerts in its palm-fron amphitheater, relaxing by landscaped lagoons, wandering maritime history exhibits, and taking in balmy bay breezes. But its crown jewel centerpiece for travelers is the state-of-the-art 5,038-seat Blue Wahoos Stadium, the home field of the Double-A Miami Marlins affiliate Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball team. Opened in 2012 after extensive reinforced foundation construction to withstand storms, the ballpark puts guests atop the action with sweeping views. Between the park’s perfect mix of attractions and the adrenaline rush of Blue Wahoos minor league play, Pensacola’s vibrant community spirit and rich heritage find their perfect center field.

16. Watch the Pensacola Ice Flyers at a Hockey Game

Address: 201 E Gregory St, Pensacola, FL 32502

For visitors eager to catch fast-paced sporting action, the minor league Pensacola Ice Flyers bring hard-hitting professional hockey to the iconic Pensacola Bay Center. Tapping into the city’s naval aviation legacy with the name Ice Flyers, the Southern Professional Hockey League squad first took the ice in 2009. Beyond exciting play from rising talent and veterans alike, the Ice Flyers have brought Pensacola four championship wins (2013, 2014, 2016, 2021).

Other Attractions

17. Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park

Address: 9513 N Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32534

Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park is a must-visit for bird enthusiasts. When Uncle Sandy retired, he built a sprawling open aviary so the macaws he’d raised could fly freely as he’d known in his Caribbean upbringing. Neighbors flocked to see these dazzling birds as macaw calls echoed over the area. Delighted to share his feathered friends, Sandy created a sanctuary for species preservation and human education. Since his passing, volunteers transformed his legacy into a non-profit refuge, rescuing imperiled birds and offering guests immersive encounters with macaws streaking past and alighting close by. Wandering the trails and meeting each resident, their backstories underscore the threats these captivating creatures face in the wild. While supporting conservation initiatives, visitors connect more profoundly with nature’s vivid wonders – exactly as Uncle Sandy hoped. By getting to know his beloved macaws up close, travelers help ensure countless more can one day again fly freely under broad Florida skies.

18. Graffiti Bridge

Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, Florida
Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: N 17th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32502

Since 1935, this active railroad overpass off 17th Avenue has hosted generations of artists and taggers professing love, celebrating events, and pushing creative boundaries. While technically illegal and controversial locally, the ever-changing spray paint masterpiece has become a fluid, living emblem of creative expression. Photographers document its daily metamorphosis while visitors pause to take in layers of images, poems, and cultural touchstones. Unlike “vandalism,” the Graffiti Bridge represents how art builds connections, heals communities, and transforms spaces. From memorials to current issues to simply artistic play, people from all walks of life bookmark engagements, graduations, and life’s milestones with their mark here. While occasionally repainted with one color, the blank canvas inevitably fills again with heartfelt visions. For an only-in-Pensacola experience centered on freedom of expression, the Graffiti Bridge offers limitless imagination.

19. Watch a Blue Angels Flyover

Blue Angels, Pensacola, Florida
Blue Angels, Pensacola, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Official U.S. Navy Page

How to Watch: Check the U.S. Navy’s Official Page for Upcoming Shows

With Naval Air Station Pensacola known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” and home base of the world-famous Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, Pensacola offers a front-row seat to aviation action with two can’t-miss airshows each year. The skies come alive the week after July 4th for the Pensacola Beach Airshow, where visitors can experience heart-pounding formations and colorful contrails against sugar-white sand and emerald waters. Then Veterans Day weekend brings the epic Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow, bidding farewell as the team’s jets roar and climb on their home turf.

20. Explore Downtown Pensacola & Palafox Street

Location: S Palafox Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

With revitalized streets filled with museums, eateries, and boutiques alongside historic architecture, downtown Pensacola rewards exploration by foot. The central Palafox Street offers the classic starting point, where visitors can admire views of Pensacola Bay before strolling beneath moss-draped oaks past stylish Spanish-influenced buildings. Highlights appear everywhere, from the lively Palafox Market on Saturday mornings to the monthly downtown Gallery Night art celebrations. The walkable layout allows dropping into unique local shops, stopping into cultural attractions, grabbing an al fresco bite, or simply soaking up the atmosphere along pleasant sidewalks and hidden corners. With vibrant performing arts and continual events bringing fresh energy, Pensacola’s revitalized downtown entices visitors to park their cars and let their feet guide them into the classic southern coastal city.

21. Pensacola Beach Boardwalk and Pier

Address: 400 Quietwater Beach Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

Pensacola Beach Boardwalk sums up the best of island life with shops, cuisine, live music, and Gulf views steps from the sand. Centered around its iconic Shell Amphitheater against the sunset-hued sound, visitors can pose for photos, grab drinks and snacks for a concert, or wander boutiques selling beach fashions and gifts. Family-friendly dining abounds, from casual cafes to waterfront fine dining. With its relaxed yet lively ambiance amid vacation amenities galore, Pensacola Beach Boardwalk and Pier lets visitors dive into the core attractions that define panhandle culture.

22. Gulf Breeze Zoo

Address: 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Outside Pensacola near Navarre and Gulf Breeze, Florida, the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo invites families to safari through exotic animal encounters and hands-on activities. Visitors can feed giraffes, pet wallabies in an open lawn, watch trained bird-free flights, and stroll through lemur and gibbon islands before boarding a train ride exploring the wild Africa preserve. Rhinos, hippos, gazelles, and more roam across 30 acres, seen close-up from open-air cars. Specialty exhibits highlight alligators, warthogs, monkeys, and other species, while raised boardwalks reveal orangutans and pygmy hippos. Along with its 900 diverse animals and habitats supporting conservation initiatives, the zoo offers the perfect Northwest Florida escape where travelers connect profoundly with nature’s majesty.

Conclusion

From sun-soaked days of beach bliss to insight into Pensacola’s naval aviation impacts to the joys of catching a game under the bright lights, the range of memorable adventures truly captures the spirit of this unique Florida destination. Whether traveling as a couple, family, or solo to ignite new passions, Pensacola delivers sensation and culture in one breezy, beautiful coastal package. Let the area’s rich heritage, natural wonders, and best-kept secrets surprise and inspire new horizons as you explore one of Florida’s favorite coastal cities.

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