Life is Beautiful, in Pensacola
Pensacola, Florida is a rare gem – its unparalleled beauty is probably what enticed the Spanish, in 1559, to build the first European settlement in the New World. They were likely in awe of the beautiful white beaches, emerald-blue Gulf waters, and colorful sunsets. This charming beach community, which welcomes millions of visitors yearly, is likely to captivate you as well.
Here are a few treasures worth seeking out on your visit to the beautiful Emerald Coast.
The Island of Pensacola Beach
A spot for both locals and tourists – visit the heart of the island, Casino Beach, home to the iconic Beach Ball Water Tower and the miles-long Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier. Plan your beach day around fishing, lounging, surfing, or exploring. Next to the pier sits Casino Beach Bar & Grille, a perfect lunch spot, surrounded by lush greenery, string lights, and an impressive view of the beach. Lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cocktail service are mere steps from the surf and it’s an ideal spot to spend a lazy afternoon. Try their Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl or Fish Tacos for some of that fresh beach taste.
For a more adventurous experience, explore the bay side of the island by renting a paddleboard or a jet ski, from Key Sailing. They also offer parasailing excursions, for that exhilarating feeling of flying. Don’t forget your waterproof camera. Dolphin sights are common, magical, and definitely snap-worthy.
Watch the Sunset
The sunset on the island is one of the most vibrant and beautiful sights you’ll ever see. Take some time and enjoy the view from Hemingway’s Island Grill. Bearing the name of the famous American novelist who had a thirst for adventure, the decor includes old typewriters and serves dishes inspired by Key West and the Islands. I highly recommend Jack’s Hurricane Shrimp, the fresh mango margaritas, and of course, the delicious key lime pie.
As you finish your day, take a stroll on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, a small collection of quaint shops, restaurants, and bars overlooking the water. Bamboo Willie’s provides live reggae music during most weekends and has a great variety of frozen adult concoctions. Make sure to try the Bushwacker, a drink native to Pensacola Beach that tastes like a chocolate milkshake. Another gem, Papa’s Pizza serves delicious, authentic New York style pizza with names like, “The Frank Sinatra” and “The Al Pacino”. Papa’s stays open late and serves pizza by the slice or pie.
A 15- minute drive, from the Island of Pensacola Beach, sits the alluring jewel of downtown Pensacola. Palafox Street, considered the hub of Pensacola, has numerous galleries, bars, restaurants, and shops. On the third Friday of every month, the street closes to traffic for Gallery Night, a night devoted to art, live music, live performances and street art.
On Saturday mornings, local farmers and artists set up booths along the tree-lined promenade at Palafox Market. Try some cold-brewed coffee from De Luna Coffee while shopping for a one-of-a-kind artisan souvenir, such as a hand-crafted piece of jewelry, woven handbag, or a kaleidoscope glass centerpiece filled with white beach sand and sand dollars.
Before you leave, make sure to catch a Minor League Baseball game at the world-class, picturesque, Blue Wahoos Stadium. Dine at Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille for killer views overlooking the Palafox Pier Marina. Create some legal street art that even your mom would approve of, at the Graffiti Bridge. Visit Joe Patti’s Seafood Market, for Instagram-worthy photos and fresher than fresh sushi. Sign a dollar and pin it to the wall or ceiling, adding to McGuire’s Irish Pub collection of millions. Make sure to try their house-brewed root beer and 18-cent Senate Bean Soup.
Walk off all of the delicious food by climbing the 177 steps to the top of the historic Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. The panoramic views are definitely worth every step! For the history buff in your group, stop by the Naval Air Museum, to see over 150 beautifully restored aircraft, dating back to World War I.
While visiting, be sure to stay at the full- service, beachfront resort, Hilton Pensacola Beach. The panoramic view of the Gulf from the suites is so mesmerizing; you’ll never want to leave the Emerald Coast. The hotel is also home to the Luna Fine Art Gallery, which exhibits local and regional artists.
Whether you choose to spend your time relaxing on the white sandy beaches, exploring downtown, or seeking out local treasures, there is no wrong way to discover Pensacola. Savor the moments. Life is beautiful, in Pensacola.