Preparing to have a fun-filled vacation in Florida? Enhance your itinerary with all the best things to do in Pensacola, FL. Nestled on the coast of the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is one of Florida’s most underrated escapes.
Pensacola is full of postcard-worthy natural attractions, including Big Lagoon State Park and Perdido Key State Park. You’ll follow rich heritage trails through the city, from art galleries to living history at the Historic Pensacola Village. To relax, you can stroll on the beautiful beaches along Pensacola Bay.
Thinking about what to do in Pensacola? Fuel your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Pensacola, FL.
Best places to visit in Pensacola, FL
Big Lagoon State Park
Looking to escape to nature? Big Lagoon State Park is a key attraction for locals and travelers alike. The Florida State Park is full of saltwater marshes and pine flatwoods. It’s one of the most interesting places to see in Pensacola.
Grab your binoculars and head down one of many trails to spot a wide array of bird species. Don’t worry if you don’t have a pair. The local rangers have you covered, and you can borrow some from them. Photographers should have their cameras in hand; both local and migratory birds are certain to delight. That’s not to mention the alligator-packed Long Pond, best viewed from the footbridge.
If you love hands-on activities, some of the best in Florida await here. From bike paths to canoeing spots, there’s something for everyone. For a bird’s-eye view of the natural setting, climb up the observation tower.
Ready to relax? Pensacola Beach is not just a favorite for local Floridians but a world-famous beach vacation destination. When it comes to picturesque beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast, this one tops the list.
Find a spot, relax and watch the blue waters lap calmly against the white sand. Stay among the bustling scenes of its busier spots or escape to one of its more secluded sections.
If you need a bite to eat, slide into one of the delicious restaurants around the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. Also known as the Portofino Boardwalk, the walking path is loaded with shopping and dining options to fit every preference and budget.
From the boardwalk, you can also choose to see the beach from a different angle from the water on a Pensacola Bay cruise. Or, to catch a glimpse of the majestic marine life of the Pensacola Bay area, hop onto a dolphin cruise. The whole family will love it!
To learn more about this slice of paradise, you can also embark on the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail. The diverse ecosystem that runs along the shoreline is full of fragile life. The signs will help you learn more about the natural beauty of the barrier island.
To view beautiful Pensacola Beach from the same angle as the Blue Angels, you should head on one of the Gulf Coast Air Tours. Keen fliers will love seeing this serene area from above.
Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Looking to learn about the rich history of Pensacola Bay? The Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a fun attraction for history lovers.
Set high on the coastline, the lighthouse offers one of the best views in Pensacola. Get some comfortable shoes on and climb the 177 spiral steps to the top for the view. A panoramic surround of white sand beaches and blue waves awaits you.
The museum itself showcases ever-changing exhibits. From learning about the history & evolution of lighthouse illumination to the women who kept lighthouses, there’s a lot to see here. Don’t forget to step into the Reading Room if you want a moment to sit and relax.
The Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is located within the Pensacola Naval Air Station. You’ll be required to show formal identification to visit this attraction.
Perdido Key State Park
Ready to see one of the prettiest areas in Pensacola? Perdido Key State Park is a barrier island a stone’s throw away from the city. The perfect spot for relaxing and looking for wildlife, the park offers a little something for everyone.
Photographers should have their cameras at the ready. Nesting sea turtles are often seen on the beaches here, along with coastal birds. If you’re lucky, you may even see the Perdido Key Beach Mouse. A critically endangered species, this rodent blends in with the white sand.
For recreational activities, head on down to Johnson Beach. Here, you can set out on the water or embark on the Discovery Nature Trail. The latter lets you wander down half a mile of raised boardwalk, passing over dunes and salt marshes. Perdido Key really is a natural wonder.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
A heavily protected area, the Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches from Mississippi to Florida. During your time in Pensacola, we’d recommend adding it to the top of your list. Even if you’re only spending one day in Pensacola, spend some of it here.
White sand beaches and the famous Gulf breeze pave the way for outdoor activities. From bird watching along the wooden boardwalks of Perdido Key to dipping into the water with a snorkel on Johnson Beach, there’s an activity for everyone at this national park.
It’s no surprise that the Gulf Islands National Seashore attracts millions of visitors a year. Get your boots ready and join them on one of many hiking trails showcasing natural beauty and historic forts. You may even choose to embark on a Pensacola Bay cruise from here to get face-to-face with dolphins and other species of marine wildlife.
For a bird’s-eye view of the area, head up to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. After trudging up its 177 steps, you’ll be treated to incredible vistas over the pristine beaches and shoreline.
National Naval Aviation Museum
Looking for one of the top family-friendly activities in Pensacola? The National Naval Aviation Museum off of Radford Blvd is full of aviation history.
Get ready to learn about restored aircraft and memorabilia that takes you through decades of flight. Your children will love the flight simulators. We’re certain that you will too. But, the Blue Angels heighten the experience and act as the cherry on top. For your own Blue Angels experience, Gulf Coast Air Tours can take you into the sky.
Make sure that you check the Blue Angels timetable before visiting. They regularly practice above Pensacola Beach and the surrounding area. Their formations are spectacular and worth the trip. You may even have the opportunity to meet them. Don’t worry, there’s also a 4D experience for anyone looking for a hands-on activity.
At the moment, social distancing is in place at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Make sure to check the rules before visiting.
Historic Pensacola Village
Ready to immerse yourself in history? The Historic Pensacola Village helps you to escape the city and explore the past. For culture and history buffs, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Pensacola.
This unique attraction features tons of historic sites, all waiting for you to visit. Get ready to trace the footsteps of Spanish and British explorers in this Pensacola village. You’ll enjoy the stories of a European settlement and visit different exhibits set in historic homes.
Pensacola Historic District, also known as the Seville Historic District, is home to several museums. You can see the Pensacola Museum of History, also known as the T.T. Wentworth Museum; and the Pensacola Museum of Art, the city’s only art museum. The area is also home to the Pensacola Children’s Museum.
Veterans Memorial Park
When you’re done exploring the Pensacola Historic District, unwind in Veterans Memorial Park. Located along the bayfront in the Seville Historic District, the park honors the lives of the men & women who sacrificed their lives for their country.
Veterans Memorial Park is famed for The Wall South, the U.S.’s only replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Within the somber park, you’ll also be able to pay your respects at its WWI and WWI memorials.
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Interested in military history? The Naval Air Station Pensacola is one of the top points of interest in Pensacola. At the naval station, you’ll learn more about America’s military history and the people keeping the country safe.
In the complex, the National Naval Aviation Museum is a good pitstop. You can see memorabilia and aircraft, not to mention the fun activity that is VR spaceflight. It’s worth timing your trip with a Blue Angels practice too, to see them taking to the skies in formation.
Pensacola Lighthouse is also here, offering a bird’s-eye view over the area and Pensacola Beach. Seeing the white shores from above offers a new perspective.
Those interested in history might find themselves wanting to learn more about Fort Barrancas. This 19th-century garrison offers a wide range of insight into the past.
Part of the Naval Air Station, Fort Barrancas takes visitors back to the past. Military history buffs are certain to enjoy walking around this 18th-century military fort. Settle down for the journey as you soak in the stories it has to offer.
Best reached off of Radford Blvd and part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this prestigious location is quite the sight. Enjoy the scene around you as you walk around this homeland defense. Pay attention to the walls surrounding you, as this marvel of military engineering is a true fortification.
The location of Fort Barrancas is worth paying attention to. You’ll enjoy a spectacular view over Pensacola Bay. This view is also of strategic importance.
Fort Pickens sits by the water nearby. A unique group of fortifications, Fort Pickens offered protection to Pensacola. Don’t forget to seek out the natural beauty of the area, renowned for birdwatching and fishing.
Looking for a remote beach to escape to? Johnson Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a protected and popular area. The recreational zone in Perdido Key, Johnson Beach offers plenty to do. It’s one of the top Pensacola attractions for outdoor enthusiasts.
Grab your swimming snorkel and get ready to dive down into the clean, blue water. Lifeguards are always around. Johnson Beach is full of swimmers, kayakers, and snorkelers, making it the best zone for adventure lovers.
It’s quiet here, too. Much quieter than some of the other top-rated beaches in Pensacola. Pensacola Beach’s crowds and vacation homes are nowhere to be found. It’s a welcome escape when the Floridian sun hits. You can find your own stretch of beach and have fun, watching the world go by at your own pace.
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
A must-visit attraction, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is a charming coastal bayou. Horticulturists, adventurers, and lovers of nature are bound to find bliss here.
Grab your camera and get ready to soak up the beauty of the Gulf Coast. The fragile ecosystem here is home to rare and endangered plants, including the white-topped pitcher plant. This carnivorous plant needs soil that’s always moist to survive. You might even see an alligator or snapping turtle here.
Once you reach the shoreline, you’ll be face-to-face with blue water. You’ll often see pelicans enjoying their dinner and bottlenose dolphins.
If you enjoy Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, you should also think about adding the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail to your itinerary. The trail’s signs all showcase the natural ecosystem surrounding the shoreline.
Joe Patti’s Seafood
Thinking about food? Joe Patti’s Seafood is a Pensacola Bay staple—and has been for almost a century. For foodies, it’s near the top of the list of where to go in Pensacola.
This world-famous seafood market is worth your time, whether you’re looking for food to cook at home or a bite to eat. Some of the best seafood in Pensacola is yours to enjoy. Anna and Joe Patti knew what they were doing when they created Joe Patti’s Seafood, honing in on the needs of their “happy regulars.” Maybe you can be one of them!
Joe Patti’s Fresh Sushi Bar is full of variety, while Anna’s Fine Wines is home to domestic and imported produce. No matter your preferred flavor, you’ll find something you like.
Pensacola Museum of Art
When art is calling your name, let the Pensacola Museum of Art fill some space in your itinerary. Home to a wide array of art, the art museum features pieces by locals and world-class creators. At the moment, the collection includes works by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
Get ready to unleash your inner artist and look around the rotating exhibits. At the moment, Art Nouveau is a highlight in the End of the Century Exhibit. For contemporary ceramics, head on over to the A Dead Reckoning exhibit.
As suitable for adults as it is for children, the Pensacola Museum of Art is a family-friendly space. In the summer, families will find more exhibitions that are suitable for their little ones. You might even want to take a look at their current virtual art classes.
Bay Bluffs Park
Ready to start your day with a calming nature walk? Bay Bluffs Park is best explored from the boardwalk trail that zigzags through the heart of it.
Lovers of scenic nature trails will enjoy taking in their surroundings. Grab your gear and get ready to go: It’s a mile to the beach and a mile back. The beach at the end of the trail is secluded, offering a lovely escape from the busier areas of Pensacola. You’ll find yourself among locals at Bay Bluffs Park.
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You’re guaranteed to see beautiful scenes protected from the Floridian sun by the cover of trees and the Gulf breeze. Lots of steps will take you up and down as you zigzag through nature.
Want to see where the locals hang out? Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola is that little slice of life, bringing out the personality of this fun city.
If you’re visiting over the weekend, head down to Palafox Market. This farmers market is home to fresh produce and local artists. You can even find a wide array of baked goods at Palafox Market, perfect for those early mornings.
Boutiques and restaurants all line the streets, but the Blue Morning Gallery is a must if you’re an art lover. This cooperative features all sorts of cool artwork to admire or purchase.
Take a breather at Plaza de Luna. Perched upon the southern terminus of Palafox, the square features a memorial to Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna. The inner harbor views from Plaza de Luna are spectacular.
Looking for a little nighttime fun? The nightlife along Palafox Street is hard to beat. Whether you’re looking for the theatre, music, or a good drink, you’ll find your nook along Palafox. There are even some amazing vacation rentals in the area you might want to take a look at.
Sam’s Fun City
Looking for a fun day out with children? Head over to Sam’s Fun City. An entrancing amusement park and water park, Sam’s Fun City features dozens of rides and attractions for kids and families.
Get ready to put your foot down racing on the go-karts as you take part in one fun activity after another. Sam’s Fun City is home to Rocky and Bullwinkle and the Crossroads Arcade. Whether you want a ball game or laser tag, it’s here. You can enjoy spending time playing a huge collection of arcade games too.
A huge adventure park, Sam’s Surf City is full of water slides and an endless river. There are even interactive play pools for younger children.
Pensacola Pedal Trolley
Want to get off of your feet and onto something a little different? Hop aboard the Pensacola Pedal Trolley to do some sightseeing while pedaling around the city in style.
This eco-friendly form of touring puts you right in the heart of Downtown Pensacola. You can play your own music, choose your own tour and meet new people. Book a single seat to make new friends, or book a whole Pensacola Pedal Trolley and go with all the family.
Most people choose to go on historical tours or pub crawls. You get to choose what best suits you. Dive headfirst into local bars or learn everything you can about a city that was one of America’s first settlements.
Gulf Breeze Zoo
Visiting Pensacola with kids? Don’t miss out on spending an afternoon at the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Located on Gulf Breeze Parkway, the award-winning zoo is home to over 800 animals from around the globe.
Children will love the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of exotic animals. You can hand-feed giraffes, witness an alligator feeding, or bird-watch in the Australian aviary.
End the perfect trip to the Gulf Breeze Zoo with a Safari Train ride. The train rides through the zoo’s 30-acre African reserve. On the trip, you’ll scoot alongside hippos, rhinos, gorillas, and orangutans.
Blue Wahoos Stadium
Baseball fan visiting Pensacola? Try to catch a minor league baseball game at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Known officially as Admiral Fetterman Field, the 5,000-seat stadium is the home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. It’s been voted as one of Florida’s best minor league stadiums on several occasions.
Although it’s the smallest ballpark in the Double-A South league, Blue Wahoos Stadium puts fans close to the action. Experiencing its intense energy is one of the must-do activities in Pensacola.
Blue Wahoos Stadium is located on the southern edge of downtown on the Inner Harbor Channel. It’s three blocks west of S. Palafox Street, one of the city’s top nightlife hotspots.
After catching a game, head south of the stadium to relax in Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. Located on Pensacola Bay, the hybrid private-public park delivers beautiful waterfront views and is the perfect spot to enjoy an epic bayside sunset.
Pensacola Graffiti Bridge
Located just north of Wayside Park, the Pensacola Graffiti Bridge is one of the city’s most popular landmarks. The railway bridge spans 17th Avenue. For generations, it’s attracted local artists and citizens to paint anything from street art murals to well-wishes.
Even if you’ve checked out the Grafitti Bridge in the past, it’s always in flux. From one day to the next, you’ll never be quite sure of what you’ll see!
Pensacola MESS Hall
Anyone with a passing interest in science should carve out time in their Florida Panhandle itinerary to visit the Pensacola MESS Hall. Unlike most stuffy museums, this science & technology center puts you in the driver’s seat for a day of family fun.
Pensacola MESS Hall teems with hands-on exhibits that’ll let you and the kids tinker with your own experiments. The museum sets aside an ever-rotating collection of “mess kits” to help rouse your curiosity and spark creativity.
Check out the MESS Hall’s official site for a look at its upcoming events and exhibitions.
Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park
If you’re a bird-lover visiting the Emerald Coast, don’t miss out on popping into Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park. Located north of the city center, this non-profit bird sanctuary is home to dozens of exotic birds, spanning a variety of species.
Walking around the aviary, you’ll spot colorful parrots, macaws, emu, and even peacocks struttin’ their stuff. Admission to the park is just $5. All the proceeds go towards taking care of its rescued and injured birds.
One of the oldest parks in Pensacola, Bayview Park is a wonderful place to escape the tourist buzz for a more local feel. The park is located on Bayou Texar, just upstream from Pensacola Bay and tucked away from the city’s busy center.
The calmer waters offer a perfect place to launch a boat or enjoy water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding. If you’re traveling to Pensacola with your pup, Bayview Park is also home to one of the city’s best dog parks. Your dog will love racing along the full-fenced-in shoreline as the waters lap the banks.
Innerarity Point Park
Located east of Big Lagoon State Park, Innerarity Point Park offers a quieter, more local feel than many of the parks closer to the city center. Although 30 minutes from downtown, this Pensacola attraction is the perfect antidote to Florida Panhandle city life.
The 4-acre Innerarity Point Park hugs the Intracoastal Waterway, offering oak-shaded walking paths, playgrounds, and a fishing pier. With its location along a pristine native shoreline, the park is also a fantastic spot to launch a kayak or paddleboard trip to explore the waterways.
Pensacola Children’s Museum
Visiting the Florida Panhandle with kids? Carve out some time for the Pensacola Children’s Museum. Located in the heart of the city, the historical museum walks through 450 years of history with a series of fun, interactive exhibits that the whole family will love.
Spread over two floors, the exhibits dig into the city’s history as a colonial trading port, military stronghold, and naval powerhouse. Be sure to spend time at the museum’s newest addition: Land and Sea: Wonders of the Gulf Coast. Installed in summer 2021, the exhibit explores the wonders of Pensacola’s coast, including the intertwining of marine life, nature, and human settlement.
The Pensacola Children’s Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.
Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve
If getting lost in nature is your jam, venture to Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve. Part of the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore, the nature preserve protects a dense coastal hardwood forest hemmed into a peninsula between Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound.
The best way to experience Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve is to meander through its unspoiled live oak groves along its 7.5 miles of hiking trails. For a great introduction to the park, take to the easily accessible 0.8-mile Breckenridge Nature Trail.
The Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve is open daily from 8 am to sunset, all year-round.
Need a quick break from historical sightseeing? One of the best things to do in Pensacola is to beeline south of the historic district to chill out in Bartram Park. Officially known as William Bartram Memorial Park, the waterfront park is a great spot to relax and recharge in the downtown area.
Although small, Bartram Park is a local favorite for passive pursuits in nature. The public park features open grassy lawns and a walking path peppered with benches and picnic tables, perfect for a lunch on the water.
Visit early in the morning for sunrise or in the evening for sunset to enjoy Bartram Park at its finest.
Best places to stay in Pensacola for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Pensacola are Downtown and Pensacola Beach. The two areas comprise many of the city’s top hotels and are close to many of the top Pensacola points of interest.
Maximize your Florida Gulf Coast itinerary by crashing at this beachfront resort. Cool down from the hot Florida sun in the outdoor pool and lazy river. Relax in the evening on the sun terrace in front of its fire pit or soak in one of the two hot tubs.
Add a dash of chillin’ to your trip with a night or two at this lovely Florida resort. Enjoy luxurious on-site amenities including a zero-entry pool, on-site restaurant, and paddleboarding lessons.
For a self-catering stay downtown, book yourself into one of these elegant suites, fully equipped with kitchens. You’ll also revel in a suite of amenities, including an outdoor pool, sun deck, and sports court.