Do you want to experience all the beauty that the Emerald Coast has to offer? Visit Pensacola and relax on the amazing beaches, try awesome food, observe wildlife, visit historical forts, take a tour, and enjoy water sports while staying in a comfy rental!
Whether your trip includes kids or just the two of you — and whether you want to relax or show your adventurous side — there is something fun for everyone in this list of 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.
Ready for your very own 3-hour tour? I promise, you won’t get stranded on an island with Gilligan. Coastal Life Charters and Adventures offers a family-friendly dolphin and fishing combo tour. With their experienced staff, you’ll take a fishing boat out to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Emerald Coast, while spotting dolphins, and trying your hand at catching your very own dinner. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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!
The beautiful emerald waters around Pensacola is the perfect place to go paddleboarding.
Learn why everyone is loving paddleboarding by renting one from Pensacola Beach Paddleboard Rental. This family-friendly activity is pretty easy to pick up, which is why it’s become so popular! You’ll be given basic instruction before you’ll head out to explore the waters around Pensacola. It’s a truly unique way to explore the area, and to have an adventure while you’re at it. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Outdoor adventurers know that kayaking is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful waters surrounding Pensacola!
Pensacola Beach Kayak Rental offers 1- and 2-seat kayak rentals for those who want chart their own course! Renting a kayak in Pensacola is perfect, because the calm waters make it easy to navigate. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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! DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Courtesy of Gulf Breeze Zoo
Pensacola With Kids
The tiniest members of your group are always up for a good time!
After you’ve spent time at the beach, it’s time to show them all the many other things this awesome area has to offer. And if it rains, we’ve got you covered!
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? Look no further than 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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.
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! DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- Dolphin Splash Encounter – Befriend a bottlenose dolphin alongside a Gulfarium Trainer as you learn all about this playful and sleek species. While in shallow water, participants will be able to play, touch, feed, and give behavior signals to one of the resident dolphins alongside a trainer. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
- 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! DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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
Let’s be honest – vacations are expensive! That’s why free or inexpensive experiences are important.
Lucky for you, Pensacola has many amazing activities to choose from that won’t break the bank!
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 $40. Or you can purchase one of their weekly pass choices: $10 for pedestrians and bicyclists, $15 for motorcyclists, or $20 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.
- 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.
Rent a Beach Scoot Coupe
Oh my gosh, these things are so cute! Cute Scoot Coupes!
Rent a 2-seater scoot coupe from Pensacola Beach Scoot Coupe Rentals and cruise the beach roads along the Gulf of Mexico in style. These things are street legal, and don’t require any special license requirements.
They’re fun and eco-friendly, and renting one starts at $55. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Must-Do Guided Tours
One way to really explore and get to know an area is by taking a guided tour! Pensacola offers so many different tours, so no matter your interest, there’s guaranteed to be something to interest you.
The 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 $20, 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Private Pensacola Architecture Tour
Led by a local architect, the Private 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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. DISCOUNT TICKETS
Pensacola Civil 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! DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Ghosts and Graveyards Tour
Don’t bring your kids on this one! The Ghosts and Graveyards 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Naval Heritage Tour
The private 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. DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Where To Stay
We LOVED staying in an RV while in Pensacola. We rented one from Outdoorsy (see Atlanta rental options here) and stayed at Big Lagoon State Park.
If that’s not your thing, no worries. There are so many places to stay when visiting Pensacola, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly place or a romantic couples retreat. Here are a few vacation rentals that stand out!
- The Rancho Deluxe. This unit is charming, kid-friendly, centrally located, quiet, and sleeps 4.
- The East Hill Bungalow. Enjoy your own private room in a remodeled Arts and Crafts style bungalow that sleeps 4.
- The Sand Dollar Cottage. Perfect for couples, this 1 bedroom cottage villa sleeps 2 and is part of a large resort that offers a tropical atmosphere in Perdido Key.
- The Crabshack. For families with older children, the Crabshack is an awesome choice. This 2 bedroom, 1 bath home is located in a quiet neighborhood and sleeps 6. Sometimes you can see the Blue Angels practice from the backyard!
- Bayou Grand Home. Located right across from the Bayou Grand, this 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home comes with beach access and a fantastic covered porch.
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