Pensacola is America’s First Settlement, established on Santa Rosa Island by Spanish conquistador Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano in 1559. Through a contest and marketing campaign hosted by Visit Pensacola, the hubs and I became tourists in our own city for a few weeks. The Visit Pensacola Passport campaign was designed to give tourists or locals places to visit and they chose some amazing places and views to #ExplorePcola. It took us at few days to really enjoy our adventures around the Pensacola area and also gave us ideas for more places that we want to visit. I believe these Passports are still available at the Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key Visitor Information Centers. I’ve included our adventures below but you can find other adventures with the #ExplorePcola hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. Find my adventures at @SparkplugWhit.
1. Cannon at Fort Pickens
This day was fun because we decided to take go to Fort Pickens by boat. We launched on the west side of town and trotted across Pensacola Bay and anchored out at Fort Pickens. The water by the Pensacola pass and the fort has been this beautiful teal/aqua green lately. The goal was to grab a photo with a cannon at the fort. There are definitely a few to choose from, so we took our time wandered around and grabbed some photos. The hubs is former military, so it was great to hear from him some of the historical facts that he knew. What an awesome little place Pensacola has to have a fort still in the condition that it is today.
2. Pensacola Beach EcoTrail Sign
This might not be new to Pensacola, but it was new to us! Pensacola Beach has an EcoTrail. According to their Footprints in the Sand website, “On the trail, you’ll learn about local plant and animal life including dolphins, turtles, sharks, birds, flowers, and fish. Informative, educational signs have been posted at key locations across the beach, each one exploring a different ecological topic. You’ll learn the secrets of Pensacola Beach’s white sand, discover the dangerous journeys of sea turtles, identify mysterious seashells, and so much more.” There are maps available at the Pensacola Beach Visitor Information Center or online.
3. Iconic Pensacola Beach Ball
I’ve lived here my entire life and I don’t think I’ve ever taken the touristy Pensacola Beach Ball photo before. It’s the best place to tell people where you are located according to the beach ball. “South of the beach ball on the beach, to the right of the beach ball by the pier, etc.” So the hubs and I had a blast taking these photos! I even got to “hold” it!
4. Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
The Pensacola Lighthouse is located on Naval Air Station Pensacola. We see it all of the time while out on the water on the boat and I learned that the hubs even uses it as a guide to bring us into Pensacola Bay. So we stopped by and wanted to go on a tour. I was really excited because I don’t think I’ve ever done the tour before and we walked inside to buy our tickets. Here’s my warning to locals: you must have shoes on. I don’t mean that you’re walking around barefoot, but naturally as a Flordian, natural casual shoes are go-to flip flops. This won’t fly at the Pensacola Lighthouse. In order to walk up the spiral staircase you must have on shoes……the hubs and I both had on flip flops and were turned away. Womp Womp. We will be back with our Sperry’s on next time. We snapped a few photos in front of the light house and around the side but I can’t wait to take this adventure and fulfill it the next time.
5. Favorite Seafood Restaurant in the Pensacola Bay Area
There are plenty of fantastic seafood restaurants in the Pensacola Bay area. There are also restaurants that aren’t specific to seafood that serve some of the most outstanding dishes as well. We kind of chose two separate restaurants for our favorite seafood. We live close to the water and close to downtown Pensacola, so we like to enjoy a view with our meals. One pick was The Oar House for one of our favorite restaurants because of the atmosphere. It’s just a few miles from our house and we can also get there by boat easily. It’s very close to our boat launch and encourages boaters to stop in for a bite to eat. My favorite dish is the Baja Tacos with Mahi Mahi, “two soft tacos served with homemade baja sauce, coleslaw, salsa, and homemade black eyed peas.”
The second place we chose is actually a steakhouse but has a mouth watering menu. There is nothing that you will be disappointed with on the menu at Jackson’s Steakhouse. We went to Jackson’s before the annual Coronation Ball for Fiesta of Five Flags. I ordered the Seared Sea Scallops “BLT Slow-roasted Benton’s bacon (Madisonville, Tenn.) toast points, roasted Florida cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil and parsley sauce and “Ed’s Red” Aioli.”
6. Blue Angel Jet at the National Naval Aviation Museum
Growing up in Pensacola, there are plenty of field trips to the National Naval Aviation Museum. When friends from out of town ask for recommendations, I always suggest the museum, but it’s been a few years since we’ve been with out of town guests. There are always so many things to see that it’s a new experience every time. I love that there is an IMAX theater, currently showing three different shows. The museum showcases the beautiful Blue Angels and you can even watch their practices!
7. Helicopter at Veteran’s Memorial Park
It so happened that we were both off on Memorial Day so the hubs and I did some sightseeing and visiting on the holiday. One of the places we stopped was the Veteran’s Memorial Park where there are many different memorials to see including a smaller replica of the Wall South in Washington, D.C. We took part of our day to visit the memorial, walk around and think about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
8. Tivoli High House Porch
We love living close to downtown and walking the streets of historic Pensacola. The Tivoli High House is in the middle of historic Pensacola and is a replica of the original building built in 1805. Calle de Tivoli is an early name for Zaragoza Street. As part of a complex, the buildings might have been used for billiards and gambling!
9. Andrew Jackson’s bust in Ferdinand Plaza
As a city with history, there is plenty to learn as Pensacola has seen five flags fly over our city. There is a bust of Andrew Jackson in one of our parks, Ferdinand Plaza. Local historian John Appleyard explains in the Pensacola News Journal article Andrew Jackson’s connection to Pensacola, here.
10. Pensacola Blue Wahoo’s sign at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium
We love the Blue Wahoos. They are a Double-A affiliate team of the Cincinnati Reds based in downtown Pensacola. The stadium and team have won many awards including Best Ballpark and Organization. If you’re in town during baseball season, it’s an event not to miss with a ballpark on the water, the friendliest staff and just a great family time!
11. Restaurant in Belmont-Devilliers Neighborhood
Love this place and it’s the best burger I’ve had. I keep going back over the years and even was able to introduce my hubs and friends to Blue Dot in the Belmont-Devilliers in downtown Pensacola. Blue Dot is a unique and somewhat overlooked place. It’s in a painted blue brick building and there is finally a sign out front. Here’s the inside scoop: There is only one person behind the counter, but don’t worry, he goes fast and remembers your order perfectly. The hamburger comes with onions and tomatoes. I ask for no onions sometimes, but even if I don’t they make the burger worth it. Classic old school, it’s delivered in a brown paper bag, just like you want your neighborhood shop to be!
Where else can you get 70 cent sodas? Things to remember: Don’t ask for cheese on that burger or fries. It’s okay, you don’t need them to make this burger fantastic. Don’t get there too late, when they run out, they are out and close up shop. Cash only.
12. Rosamond Johnson Plaque at Johnson Beach
A few weeks ago some friends and I were headed to Pensacola Beach on a Saturday afternoon. Our trip was stalled short because we got stuck in traffic before we made it onto the bridge to get to the beach. After a good 20 minutes of not moving, we decided to turn around a head to Johnson Beach on Perdido Key. It was a fantastic idea because the beach is in a national park. The white sandy beaches are in pristine condition and it’s a great place to relax and get away from the busyness of Pensacola Beach. You’ll need a park pass to get to the beach but you can grab a 3-day or annual pass.
13. Top of Big Lagoon Tower
Visiting the Big Lagoon State Park took my breath away and I LIVE HERE! I remembering visiting Big Lagoon as a kid, a few years back the hubs family rented a pavilion for a family reunion, my friend had a wedding at the park, but I haven’t visited as an adult to just enjoy the view. We went to the top of the Big Lagoon Tower and watched boats go by, enjoyed the natural beauty of the water and wetlands, and even saw a red fish in the water below. How can you not love this view?
While we were leaving the park, the hubs stops the car and starts backing up and mumbling about a turtle. I had no idea what he was doing until we were next to it. This beautiful and massive gopher turtle was on the side of the road headed onto the pavement. I jumped out to take some photos, being extra careful not to touch or interrupt but it started following me! I made sure he made it safely to the other side of the street while another car stopped to show their young son. Nature in its finest.
14. Pirate Ship Fish Tank at Perdido Key Visitor Center
Have you ever watched the show Tanked? Design geniuses and brothers-in-law, Wayde King and Brett Raymer are the hosts of the show and design over the top fish tanks for celebrities and companies. They designed a saltwater pirate ship fish tank located at the Perdido Key Visitors Center.
We completed the challenge and guess what?!?! We WON the Passport Staycation Contest!!
The hubs and I now get to continue to enjoy fun adventures around Pensacola including a stay on the beach, visiting the Pensacola Museum of Art, Historic Pensacola Village, Segway Tours, dinner around town, Fast Eddie’s Fun Center, bowling at DeLuna Lanes and a the M.E.S.S. Hall. Thank you, Visit Pensacola! Go #ExplorePcola!