Do you want to experience all the beauty of the Emerald Coast? Visit Pensacola and relax on the amazing beaches, try awesome food trucks and restaurants, observe wildlife, visit historical forts, take a tour, and enjoy water sports while staying in a comfy rental!
This Florida jewel will not disappoint.
Whether your trip includes kids or just the two of you — and whether you want to relax or show your adventurous side — there are plenty of amazing things to do in Pensacola!
WATER SPORTS AND ADVENTURES
You’ve relaxed on the beach, and now it’s time for some adventure! Pensacola has so many choices, you’re sure to find one right for you.
True story: You cannot look at a dolphin and not smile and feel happy about this world. It’s a proven fact! Lucky for you, there are a few different tours and ways you can see these adorable animals while in Pensacola.
Take a 2-hour Pensacola Beach Dolphin Cruise with Wave Cutter Charters and see these happy animals in their natural setting. You may also see stingrays, sea turtles, and sharks along the way. In addition to marine life, you’ll also get the chance to see the Pensacola Lighthouse, Fort Pickens, and the Pensacola Navy Base.
This is a great adventure for the whole family!
Book It: 2 Hour Pensacola Beach Dolphin Cruise
Parasailing is one of the best water adventures out there if you ask me! It’s fun and exciting, but also completely relaxing!
Radical Rides offers parasailing above the white sandy beaches of Pensacola. Strap in and get ready to be amazed by the beauty that’s all around you!
Outdoor adventurers know that kayaking is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful waters surrounding Pensacola!
Outdoor Gulf Coast offers kayak rentals and delivery to a kayaking spot of your choice. And if you don’t know exactly where you want to kayak — no worries! They can help you out and offer suggestions on the best places to go.
You already know Pensacola has beautiful beaches and emerald water – but what about the beauty underneath the water? Time to check it out with a scuba adventure!
Shark Quest Dive Shop offers dive charters to the best dive spots around. They’ll take you out on their island hopper, and then once you’re in, you’ll be able to see the amazing sea life, spear fish, and maybe even see a shark!
Read More: First Timer’s Guide to Florida Panhandle Beaches: Destin, 30A, Panama City & Beyond
PENSACOLA WITH KIDS
THE PENSACOLA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The Pensacola Children’s Museum is the perfect place for your kids to explore! Located in downtown Pensacola, the children’s museum offers hands-on activities.
The Discovery Gallery offers a glimpse into years past, as kids 10 and under can see what life was like in colonial Pensacola. The second floor takes a deeper look into Pensacola’s history, featuring exhibits on Native Americans and the Civil War, among others. There’s also a play gallery for all ages.
PENSACOLA MESS HALL
Looking for something to do on a rainy day with the kids? Head to Pensacola MESS Hall!
MESS Hall (which stands for Math, Engineering, Science & Stuff!) is a totally unique science museum for kids. This museum allows kids to become real scientists by asking questions and creating experiments. It’s hands-on science for kids, and they will love learning through play!
PENSACOLA’S HISTORIC VILLAGE
For the older kids in your group, how about spending an afternoon exploring Pensacola’s Historic Village?
The historic village consists of 28 properties, including museums and an archaeological trail. Included is the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, which is filled with historical artifacts. You’ll also find the Museum of Commerce, the Children’s Museum, and the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Museum.
Guided tours are offered Tuesday-Saturday at 11am and 1pm.
Tubing is the perfect water activity for people of all ages in your group! And taking a Blackwater River Tubing Trip is the way to go.
The Blackwater River is a spring-fed river with a slow current, so you can enjoy a relaxing tubing trip with the whole family. Rent a tube cooler and bring along snacks and drinks, then stop at one of 30 beaches along the way. And for an extra fee, even your pup can join in on this fun trip, which ends at the historic Deaton Bridge.
Book It: Blackwater River Tubing Trip
GULF BREEZE ZOO
With kids, you can never go wrong with a trip to the zoo!
With over 800 animals on 50 acres, the Gulf Breeze Zoo has a lot to explore. Feed a giraffe or an alligator, take a Safari Train Ride through the African preserve, visit the petting area, or watch birds take flight in the Australian aviary!
With so much to do, this is the perfect place to spend the day.
SAM’S FUN CITY
Ready to get wet and wild? Then it’s time to take your kids to Sam’s Fun City, one of Pensacola’s most amazing amusement parks.
Sam’s Fun City is half water park, half theme park, and a whole lot of fun. With arcade games, and indoor inflatables too, spending a day here guarantees your kids will sleep in tomorrow.
PERDIDO KIDS PARK
The Perdido Kids Park is a picture-perfect park where kids of all ages can have a blast!
This beautiful park features a gated toddler area in addition to the larger play area for older kids. There are rock walls, wooden replica Blue Angels airplanes and race cars, slides, swings, and a drumming area too!
For parents there are larger bench swings, picnic tables, water fountains, and bathrooms on site.
The best part is that it’s located near the Naval Base, so it’s a great place to stop after spending time there. Make a day of it!
GULFARIUM MARINE ADVENTURE PARK
Located an hour away from Pensacola in Fort Walton Beach, you’ll find the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park!
Home to marine animals — including dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, turtles, alligators and snakes — the animal lovers in your group will love a visit here. They’ve got shows, exhibits, training demonstrations, and more.
Book It: General Admission Ticket to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
If you want to get up close and personal with the animals here, they offer many different amazing animal encounters, such as…
- Discover Dolphins Encounter. Sit dockside and touch and feel a dolphin!
- Discover Turtles Encounter – This turtle-filled encounter for ages 5 and up will teach you that and more while introducing you to our seafaring Loggerheads, a variety of freshwater turtles, and even our land-loving African spurred tortoises. Go behind the scenes to learn about their long-running sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation program.
- Discover Penguins Encounter – Feed, touch, and play with an adorable and lively African penguin. This experience, for ages 9 and up, is trainer led and offers unique details about the species.
- Discover Sea Lions Encounter – Get up-close and personal as you touch and feed California sea lions! Ages 9 and up are invited to join in on the fun with the trainers, and interact with these lively and clever mammals.
- VIP Trainer for the Day – For ages 13 and up, this fully-immersive training day teaches people what it takes to be a marine mammal trainer. Work side-by-side resident experts to learn all about the park’s marine mammals, their behavior, biology, their interactions with humans and more.
- Kids Reptile Safari – Calling all kids ages 3 and up! Come and meet the cold-blooded residents of the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park on a Kids Reptile Safari. Get up close and even touch lizards, turtles, and more!
EXPLORE PENSACOLA NAVAL BASE
There is so much to learn and explore at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, that you can spend an entire day there! Almost 60,000 students start their flight training here, but for you – there’s a lot of fun to be had.
PENSACOLA LIGHTHOUSE AND MUSEUM
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 160-year-old lighthouse has a whole lot of history (and maybe some ghosts)!
You (and your closed-toe shoes) can climb the 177 steps to the top, and enjoy beautiful views of downtown Pensacola, the Navy yard, and Pensacola Pass – where the Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico.
On the ground floor, the museum features information on local history and the Civil War.
And since many people believe the lighthouse is haunted, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for anything…out of the ordinary. Open at 10am daily.
NATIONAL NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM
One of the most popular vacation destinations in the Pensacola Bay area, the National Naval Aviation Museum is a must-do activity.
In this museum you’ll find a replica aircraft carrier to explore, more than 150 aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, a 3-D flight simulator, artifacts, and a film in their theater. General admission is free, and it’s open daily.
If you want to see the world famous Blue Angels in person, a visit to the Naval Base is the way to do it!
The Blue Angels perform in the annual Homecoming Air Show every November, but they start practicing in March.
The flight demonstration squadron practices over the museum most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings beginning at 11:30 and lasting about an hour. Arrive early, because the parking lot fills up fast! Admission is free.
Take a walk through Fort Barrancas and experience military history first-hand.
Built in 1844, Fort Barrancas was used during the Civil War by Confederate soldiers who were fighting against Union forces camped at Fort Pickens.
A self-guided tour map is available to download, and you can explore the fort and stand where cannons were once fired so long ago. The fort is open 9am Thursday-Monday.
FREE OR CHEAP IN PENSACOLA
Big Lagoon is the body of water that connects the mainland to Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico – and Big Lagoon State Park sits directly on the shores of its namesake!
This beautiful state park is known for its swimming, boating, fishing, paddling, hiking, and camping. Don’t forget to climb the 3-story observation tower and take in the beautiful views!
A visit here will only cost you $6 for parking.
Visit the beaches at Perdido Key State Park and spend the day swimming, fishing, or soaking up the sun. Boardwalks take you over the fragile sand dunes and straight to the amazing beaches. Parking is only $3.
Enjoy the nature trails at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park. You can take in the views of the bayou via the boardwalk, or hike across the entire park to Perdido Bay. Parking is $3.
GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE
Stretching for 160 miles along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mississippi, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a major part of Pensacola.
Fort Pickens, Johnson Beach, and Naval Live Oaks in Pensacola are all a part of the national seashore.
An annual pass to Gulf Islands National Seashore stops is $45. Or you can purchase one of their weekly pass choices: $15 for pedestrians and bicyclists, $20 for motorcyclists, or $25 per vehicle.
Entrance fee areas include both Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens, where you can tour the historical buildings and observe wildlife.
Known for their beautiful white sand beaches, the Okaloosa Area, Perdido Key Area, and the Santa Rosa Area also require the entrance fee, but are more than worth it!
Enjoy a morning farmer’s market trip to Palafox Market, located in downtown Pensacola on Saturdays from 9am to 2 pm.
Open rain or shine, vendors here offer fresh produce, baked goods, plants, art, and antiques. Palafox Market brings anywhere from 1,500 to 4,500 visitors every Saturday! Parking is free.
SIGNATURE EVENTS IN PENSACOLA
- Taste of the Beach is a festival held in October that shows off wonderful Pensacola cuisine. On Saturday, admission is free to the all-day event that features live music, a kid’s area, chef tastings, a cook-off, and local restaurants offering their signature dishes for $5.
- One Friday evening every month, you can enjoy Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola. This is one night where art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants open their doors for a night filled with art, music, and food. Admission is free.
- Every November, Pensacola is home to Foo Foo Fest – an eclectic mix of events that has something for everyone! Dance, art, food, the Blue Angels, and music are all featured during the weeks-long festival. Most events are free, with only a few that require a ticket.
Pensacola Beach was voted Florida’s best beach in USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards for 2018, and it’s easy to see why! Emerald waters and white sandy beaches make this one beautiful adventure. PS. Fido is welcome.
With fun restaurants and shops lining the Pensacola Boardwalk, and a pier that leads you out into the Gulf of Mexico, you will have so much to do and explore while at this amazing beach.
Read More: 17 BEST FLORIDA BEACHES FOR FAMILIES TO RELAX AND UNWIND
MUST-DO GUIDED TOURS
HOP ON HOP OFF PENSACOLA BUS TOUR
The Hop on Hop off Pensacola Bus Tour is a pretty self-descriptive title of what this tour represents! For $30, you get a 50-minute guided tour, and all day to hop on and off an air-conditioned, 1930’s bus at 14 stops around Pensacola.
Stops at museums, restaurants, Pensacola Village, and forts are included.
PENSACOLA ARCHITECTURE TOUR
Led by a local architect, the Pensacola Architecture Tour takes you around town to learn about the different factors that influence the architecture seen here.
This 1.5-hour tour is taken in an air-conditioned bus, and will take you through downtown Pensacola.
PENSACOLA LANDMARK CITY TOUR
Learn about Pensacola’s popular landmarks on the Pensacola Landmark City Tour. This 2-hour tour includes stories about the city’s businesses, buildings, and monuments. Once aboard the air-conditioned bus, you’ll hear all sorts of stories – from the bizarre to the humorous.
THE LONGEST SIEGE
Calling all history buffs! Hear all about colonial Pensacola with the 2-hour private tour called The Longest Siege. You’ll learn why the American Rebels and Spain wanted the British out of Florida, and why it was the longest siege of the American Revolution.
PENSACOLA CIVILE WAR HISTORY TOUR
If you want to learn more about how the Civil War affected this area, the Pensacola Civil War History Tour is for you. This tour includes a walk through Fort Barrancas, as you learn about how Pensacola was largely destroyed during the war. You’ll have an experienced tour guide, and will explore downtown Pensacola too!
OTHER PENSACOLA TOURS
- Ghost and Graveyards Tour – Don’t bring your kids on this one! This tour is meant for a mature audience and will leave you chilled to the bone. A cemetery tour, and stories about ghosts and hauntings will keep you spellbound on this 2-hour tour through some of Pensacola’s hot spots.
- The Andrew Jackson Tour – Want to learn about all the general who captured Pensacola…twice?! The Andrew Jackson Tour is for you! You’ll explore one of the forts he conquered, see some of the former battle sites, and learn more about his tactics.
- Naval Heritage Tour – The Naval Heritage Tour by Go Retro Tours is a short tour that will give you lots of information about Pensacola’s military history. You’ll tour the air base, before ending at the Naval Aviation Museum. It’s a great intro before exploring more of the area.
What is Pensacola best known for?
Pensacola is best known for its military pride and being the home of the Naval Air Station. This seaside town is also home to the renowned Blue Angels!
Is Pensacola worth visiting?
Pensacola is absolutely worth visiting. You’ll find plenty of things to do from outdoor activities, to family friendly adventures, along with history, tours, and so much more.
When is the best time to visit Pensacola?
Anytime is truly a good time to visit Pensacola! If you’re looking to avoid the most popular times though, then fall is the best time to visit. The temps are still amazing, but the Spring Breakers and Summer Vacationers have left.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- YOUR FLORIDA VACATION
- CAPE SAN BLAS FLORIDA: A Vacation Guide To The Forgotten Coast
- DESTIN: 29+ Best Things To Do In Destin FL For Beachy Family Fun
- PCB: 37+ Best Things To Do In Panama City Beach On Your Next Vacation
- FWB: 17 Phenomenal Things To Do In Fort Walton Beach
VACATION RENTALS IN PENSACOLA
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