I first moved to Pensacola for college and have since fallen in love with this town. The best way I can describe Pensacola is up-and-coming. With an amazing downtown, various local businesses, and a rich history, Pensacola is becoming a must-see for tourists interested in all things Florida.
Below is a list of 10 essential experiences all tourists must have while in Pensacola. Some will be specific while others are just general things every tourist should do.
Here are 10 essential things every Pensacola tourist must do!
Okay, I’ll admit this suggestion may be obvious. You’re in Florida and near the coast, so, of course, you’re going to the beach. As a Floridian, I often forget how cool the beach can be for people who have never seen it.
So if you have never been to the beach before or you have and just love it, spend a day or few hours at Pensacola Beach. Soak up some sun, play in the water, people watch. A visit to Florida is not complete without the beach!
A more specific recommendation is Palafox Market. This farmer’s market has it all. Art, food, music, antiques. If you want to support local businesses, then a farmer’s market is always the perfect experience for you.
Palafox Market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm on N Palafox St. in Martin Luthor King Jr. Plaza. Once you finish at the market and if you somehow still have money burning a hole in your pocket, check out the local shops and restaurants along Palafox St. Everything about this downtown area is tourist-friendly and will give an insight into the people that make Pensacola so great!
Another must for any tourist is a ghost or other type of paranormal tour. If you enjoy true crime, history, or just a little weirdness, ghost tours are perfect for you. Pensacola has a whole variety of paranormal tours you can take including cemetery/graveyard tours, ghost tours, and haunted house tours. Check out Go Retro and Pensacola Ghost Tours to book one of these tours.
If you are feeling adventurous and want a more hands-on experience, you can participate in a ghost hunt of the Pensacola Lighthouse. But if you go on this tour, be warned. The Pensacola Lighthouse is incredibly haunted and you never know what you’ll find. Or what will find you…
Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
I know, I know. These tours are very cheesy and the first thing every hotel concierge recommends, but that is for a good reason. A hop-on hop-off tour is most likely not going to give an in-depth, “real” look into Pensacola, but these tours are a great way to get an overview of Pensacola. (Plus, they are a great way to get around a city and rest your feet!).
I believe that a hop-on hop-off tour is the perfect first thing to do for every tourist. Check out Go Retro for more information on this type of tour.
National Naval Aviation Museum
Every tourist attraction list probably has at least a couple of museums on the list. Museums give information that is important to the area that you visiting and often have unique exhibits and attractions.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is no different. This museum offers flight simulators, an Apollo 11 VR, and a Virtual Flight Deck. Not only will you be learning all about the history of aviation but also have a hands-on experience that is educational, fun, and family-friendly.
If you a history nerd like myself, then I highly suggest checking out the various museums and tours in Historic Pensacola. This 8 ½ acre area transports you back to various time periods with the architecture and history interpreters. I will admit that I am cheating a little bit by putting all of Historic Pensacola as one item because so much is included in this one location, such as the Pensacola Museum of History and Arcadia Mill.
You could honestly spend a few days exploring all that Historic Pensacola has to offer, but for more information and to figure out which museums and exhibits interest you, check out the Historic Pensacola website at https://www.historicpensacola.org/.
A used or indie bookstore is a must on any list for first-time tourists. Not only can you support a local business (and used/indie bookstores need all the support they can get) but you can also often find books by local authors or about local history.
One independent bookstore I recommend is Open Books. Open Books is a nonprofit bookstore that donates books to prisoners through their Prison Book Project. Shopping at this store will allow you to get some books, support a local business, and do some good. What else could you want?
Local Coffee Shops
Similar to item number 7, this recommendation is a broad one (and maybe a personal one). Coffee shops offer air conditioning, coffee, and often sweet treats. If you have had a long day of exploring and need a pick-me-up or you’re tired of free hotel breakfast, a local coffee shop is a perfect item for your itinerary.
One recommendation is The Drowsy Poet, which has two locations in Pensacola and has a fun aesthetic filled with natural wood, concrete, and books. If you want to visit a coffee shop with great ambiance and live out your dark academia dream, try out The Drowsy Poet.
Pensacola Museum of Art
When putting together a list of essentials for every tourist, you have to keep in mind what makes a city unique but also what shows off the distinct voice or vibe of a city. So far, I have recommended some essentials that can be applied to every city, and an art museum is one of those.
One thing that makes the Pensacola Museum of Art a must-see is that you will get to experience the art of local artists and enjoy the unique voice of Pensacola. With changing exhibits and events, your experience will be completely your own.
If you are looking for live music, check out Seville Quarter. Seville Quarter is made up of seven rooms that each have its own theme and events. Do you want karaoke, a dance club, or smooth jazz? This unique destination has everything you could possibly need for a fun nightlife experience.
But if a bar or live music is not quite your speed, check out the Palace Cafe, which is a New Orleans-inspired restaurant that is also a part of Seville Quarter.
Pensacola is a culturally diverse city with lots of local art, local shops, and rich history. This is not a definitive list of the tourist attractions or experiences that Pensacola has to offer, but this list is full of essentials and a great starting point for anyone looking to visit Pensacola.