If you're looking for great Florida beaches but aren't necessarily interested in a mega-resort or theme park atmosphere, Pensacola might just be the place.
As you expand your search outside the Villages of Citrus Hills, more options open up for interesting places to explore.
One of those is to make the trip up to Pensacola for a weekend of gorgeous white sand beaches and military history.
Even if you don’t have a military background, it’s hard not to appreciate the rich history of the Naval aviation training that happens in Pensacola, and everyone can enjoy a glimpse of the famous Blue Angels.
On top of that, the beaches in Pensacola are second to none. There are also plenty of exciting cultural attractions and fabulous restaurants to explore throughout this great town located just six hours up the gulf coast.
Here is a quick guide to help you through an enjoyable weekend in Pensacola:
Places to Stay in Pensacola
Pensacola is known as the anti-resort destination town along the Florida Panhandle, so you aren’t going to find any over-the-top elaborate resort hotels here. But there are still lots of options for places to lay your head.
Two of the most popular hotels for value and comfort are the Hampton Inn Pensacola Airport and the Hyatt Place Pensacola Airport. Each of these hotels receive exceptional marks for cleanliness and service, and just about everything you will want to see and do will be within a short drive.
If you really want to get the full Pensacola experience, renting a cottage or condo near the beach is the way to go. There are many different options to pick from, and some are priced as low as $100-150 per night. Take your time and look through a few different vacation rental sites and you’ll be sure to find what you are looking for.
What to See in Pensacola
The most popular attraction in Pensacola is the National Naval Aviation Museum. This museum contains a comprehensive history of military flight as it pertains to the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It contains 150 historic aircraft and over 4,000 different artifacts. Even if you are pressed for time, it is worth stopping just for a picture in front of the fighter plane outside the museum!
Located right next to the National Naval Aviation Museum is the Pensacola Naval Air Station. This is where Navy pilots receive their training and it is also home to the famous Blue Angels. You’ve probably heard of the Blue Angels, and you might have seen them on TV or flying over a stadium before, but to see these iconic planes in person is an experience.
Also located right in the same area is the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. This structure that was built in 1859 has a rich history of protecting ships as they navigate in and out of Pensacola. It is also an excellent spot to watch the Blue Angels practice, and there are some interesting ghost stories about the lighthouse that you will want to hear if you happen to visit in the evening.
Where to Eat in Pensacola
Since a trip to Pensacola will be bringing you nearer to New Orleans, it is only natural that you should dabble in some Cajun or Creole food during your visit. The best place to do that is Cub’s Crawfish. Their specialty is boiled crawfish that is seasoned to perfection and actually priced very reasonably. You’ll also want to try their jambalaya!
If you are the type of person who likes to cook fresh seafood at the cottage or condo you rented for the weekend, then Joe Patti’s Seafood Company is the place to shop. They have a massive selection of fresh seafood where you can get just about anything you might want to cook. And if you don’t feel like cooking, the sushi bar in the back is outstanding.
Try the inspired southern style at Red Fish Blue Fish restaurant on Pensacola Beach. They serve simple good food using many local ingredients. There is a ‘backyard’ on the beach with two white sand beaches, indoor and outdoor dining areas, lots for the kids to do, and a stylish cocktail bar and patio. It’s without a doubt it’s one of the best places to watch a sunset.
Of course, even the biggest seafood lovers are open to trying a few non-seafood focused options over the course of an entire weekend. You will definitely want to try a sandwich from The Hip Pocket Deli, a casual dinner at The Magnolia, and an upscale meal from Restaurant IRON.
While Pensacola is a very popular destination for many tourists, a big part of its appeal is that it doesn’t feel like a tourist destination. It feels like just another great little town along the Gulf Coast…which is exactly why a visit to Pensacola makes such a great weekend trip for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills.