Pensacola Beach, Florida is home to a paradisiacal stretch of white sand beaches and teal blue sea. This is also a rich historical corner of the country with wonderful towns, military relics, ancient civilizations, and a phenomenal variety of wildlife. You might be coming for the surf and relaxation, but there are so many other wonderful things to do in Pensacola this Weekend.
The following are what we think would be the ten best things to do in Pensacola this weekend. We hope you enjoy!
The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. The museum houses over 150 restored aircrafts representing the Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard. The museum is over 350,000 sq. ft.
If you pick only one thing to do in Pensacola this weekend — other than the beach — this is our recommendation.
BE SURE TO: Bring a passport or passport-enhanced driver’s license if you do not have a military ID. The Naval Aviation Museum, Fort Barrancas, and Pensacola Lighthouse are on a Military Base.
The beach at Pensacola Beach is a tourist-heavy stretch of shore that we don’t necessarily love. However, we do enjoy the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which runs west of Pensacola Beach to Fort Pickens and east of Pensacola Beach to the town of Navarre Beach.
The farther you remove yourself from the tourist hell of Pensacola Beach the better the Gulf Islands Nat. Seashore becomes. Parking becomes increasingly difficult as you move toward Navarre Beach.
BE SURE TO: Not park in the sand on the sides of the road. Folks get stuck all the time.
Pensacola Beach is a beautiful place to relax and get yourself wet. While easily the most popular of all the things to do in Pensacola this weekend, as we said above, it is a crowded tourist beach with a pier and lots of young people. If that’s your kinda bag, enjoy to your heart’s contentment.
There is plenty of parking by the “beach ball water tower”. You’ll know it when you see it. Across the street is the popular Beach Boardwalk, full of stores and restaurants.
If you drive a few minutes West on Fort Pickens Road, you’ll be in the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the crowd will thin out. There are a couple of designated parking lots, one of which is very large. At the end of this road is Fort Pickens (mentioned below).
The Seville Historic District began in the mid-1700’s when the British took West Florida and laid out the street system and town square. The Spanish conquered the area a few decades later. They kept the layout but changed the names from British to Spanish. The British street map and Spanish names remain in use today.
This is a gorgeous little community with charming architecture — a perfect place for an afternoon walkabout and lunch in a neighborhood restaurant, like Hub Stacey’s. If you like beautiful neighborhoods, the Seville Historic District is one of the best things to do in Pensacola this weekend.
This little park was the biggest little surprise thing we did in Pensacola. Also known as Admiral Mason Park (map), the Veteran’s Memorial Park is an intimate and memorial garden beside a man-made lake. All major US Wars are represented with ornate statues, placards, flags, and decor.
We spent about 1.5 hours inspecting and reading all the plaques and signage. We love the feeling of appreciation that comes from military memorials and museums.
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It would be a shame to come to Pensacola Beach and not indulge the historic downtown strip known as Palafox Street. The five blocks between Garden Street and Main were the best part. The covered walkways and hanging floral baskets create a southern elegance that smacks of New Orleans.
The above photo was taken at Plaza Ferdinand XII, a perfectly placed park on the corner of Government and Palafox. The Garden @ Palafox and Main is a covered food truck courtyard.
Fort Pickens is one of four military forts designed to protect Pensacola in the 1800s. Located on on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens is accessible by foot and boat and is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. If you like military relics this would absolutely be one of the best things to do in Pensacola this weekend.
The Historic Pensacola Lighthouse commands an incredible view of the coast from the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. It was built in 1859 and has 177 steps to the top. An impressive museum sits on the property. If you love lighthouses, this is one of the best things to do in Pensacola this weekend.
Remember to bring your passport or passport-enhanced driver’s license.
High on a bluff overlooking the entrance to Pensacola Bay, Fort Barrancas stands as a monument to the legacy of America’s early homeland defense. Built with 6 million bricks, walls 4 feet thick and 20 feet high, Fort Barrancas was completed in 1844 and remains an example of military engineering. If you like military relics, Fort Barrancas is one of the best things to do in Pensacola this weekend.
Cool History: On this exact site, Fort San Carlos de Austria was constructed by the Spanish in 1698. The French destroyed the fort completely in 1719.
After the Revolutionary War, the Spanish retook control of West Florida and completed the fort San Carlos de Barrancas in 1797. In 1818 the US took the fort from the Spanish during the War of 1812. In 1821 the US purchased Florida from the Spanish. Fort Barrancas was used again during the Civil War.
If you want to stay near Pensacola Beach but not necessarily in the town of Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach is the next town over (17 miles east). The drive between the two towns runs along a quiet stretch of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
There isn’t much in Navarre Beach, and we wouldn’t stay here simply because there are better places on the Emerald Coast to anchor the vacation. That said, a day trip to Navarre to mix it up, sniff new shops, and walk along a different pier is always a good idea.
We’ve encountered an assortment of beach town “boardwalks” over the past few years, and to be perfectly honest we’re pretty bored with the mediocre restaurants, overpriced clothing stores, junk-filled souvenir shops, and elevated obstacle courses.
There’s a universal template for these places, every town uses it, and its tired. In addition to this depression notion, the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk is below average by comparison.
The Pensacola Boardwalk might be one of the most popular things to do in Pensacola this weekend, but we found it to be thoroughly uninspired.
At the far north end of the boardwalk beach parking strip (next to the obstacle park) is a small wooded bird reserve called the James P. Morgan Memorial Park. It’s nice, but there isn’t much here. Look up into the trees and you’ll see the nesting birds.
There are a handful fun and interesting things to do in Pensacola this weekend. The National Naval Aviation Museum is a must-do, especially when the Blue Angels are flying (Wednesday mornings in late-Spring and Summer). While on the military base it’s worthwhile to see the Lighthouse and Fort Barrancas (map), as they are close by.
It would be time well spent to stroll the Seville District, Veterans Memorial Park, and Palafox Street for a half-day or longer. All are inside the same square mile (map). We did this and found it pleasing.
The beaches of Pensacola are nice, better than most around the United States of America. However… if you drive an hour east to the Destin/Miramar area the beaches are of the mind-blowing variety. We’ve become so accustomed to Miramar Beach that we stopped bothering to spend time at the beach in Pensacola. When you’ve had the best it’s hard to settle.
Orange Beach in Alabama (link) has fantastic beaches and attractions as well. Be sure to take a look at 13 Things to Do in Orange Beach. It might just become your next beach getaway.
If you’d like to read a contrast/compare between the Alabama Coast and the Florida Panhandle, check out our supreme effort, The Redneck Riviera: Florida vs Alabama.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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