The soft white sand feels like sugar under your feet. Waves crash on the beach and the water is an amazing emerald shade. The air smells salty and a pelican makes a quick dive into the water for fish. Pensacola, Florida isn’t just a place; it’s a state of mind.
The gulf coast of Florida is well known for world class beaches, but there’s something special about spending time in the Gulf National Seashore. The first thing is the lack of wall to wall people. There’s an entrance fee to the park and that seems keep the tourists at the nearby public Casino Beach. The park is a natural setting with sand dunes and sea oats. It’s an ideal place to sit and watch the sun set with a beverage of your choice.
The food is pretty magical as well. A Pensacola Beach landmark is Peg Leg Pete’s. The wooden building has weathered any number of hurricanes and has the best boiled shrimp on the beach. The shrimp is so fresh it pops when you take a bite. Wash it down with a cold Red Stripe, listen to the band and watch customers play beach volley ball.
Cross Pensacola Bay and feel the rhythmic beat as your car crosses the long (check your gas!) bridge. Roll down your windows and smell the air and check out the fishing bridge as you go by. Fishing is great way to spend an afternoon and the sunset watching is first class.
Once in town, there’s Sam’s Seafood, a restaurant mostly populated by locals. The owner goes out and catches the fish himself and when soft shell crab and red snapper are in season, there’s nothing better to put on your plate. Get the cheese grits as a side dish; they are gooey goodness in a bowl. After dinner or maybe right before you head home, go across the street to Joe Patty’s Seafood for some fresh caught shrimp. Joe Patty is a wholesaler to many restaurants in town and operates a retail store as well. Joe Patty also hosts a grommet grocery store where you can buy treats for a beach picnic.
Downtown Pensacola is loaded with galleries and cafes. Wandering Palafox Street is a happy way to spend an afternoon or an evening if you happen to luck out and be in town on a Gallery Night. On Gallery Night, all the stores stay open late and busloads of people arrive to check out art and sip wine. Take the time to look around and soak in the feeling of all the creativity leaking out onto the street. People often sell art work, musical instruments and homemade jelly at booths on the streets as well. There are several large artist co-ops including Blue Morning Gallery and Quayside Art Gallery.
Don’t miss taking a trip to the Naval Air Station in the west part of town. The Naval Air Museum is housed there and there are so many planes on display you can literally smell rubber and jet fuel. Admission is free to the museum and there are two IMAX theatres if it happens to be a rainy day. Tuesday mornings are worth an early rising to see the Blue Angels do a practice show right behind the museum. For a small fee, you can climb to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse and watch the Blues. It’s an amazing experience to watch the jets zoom by, smell the salty air and maybe try and find the lighthouse ghost as you make your way back down the very steep lighthouse stairway.
Does Pensacola have it all? Visit and find out.
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Kevin Caldwell wrote this article on behalf of www.CanalStreetHotels.com who specializes in helping people find hotels near Canal Street.