Located just east of the Alabama border in the Florida panhandle, Pensacola is home to white-sand beaches, the largest artificial reef in the world and a revived historical district that showcases the area’s colorful past.
With 343 days of sun a year, the Pensacola Bay area is perfect for beach lovers. The shore’s famed white sand, composed of quartz from the Appalachian mountains, and warm waters attract nearly 4 million visitors a year. Divers come from all over the world to explore the USS Oriskany, a 911-foot aircraft carrier that was purposefully sunk in 2006 to create the world’s largest artificial reef. The Gulf Islands National Seashore, the longest protected shore in the country, is a quiet retreat with ample opportunities for wildlife viewing. Head to Pensacola Beach and the Portofino Boardwalk, just south of downtown on Santa Rosa Sound, for its buzzy beachside vibe, local watering holes and seafood joints.
Take a break from the water to stroll through downtown Pensacola and you will soon discover why it is the “City of Five Flags.” The city’s multicultural history is portrayed through its architectural makeup, a blend of French colonial and New Orleans-style homes, Victorian mansions and Spanish-Baroque masterpieces, such as the Saenger Theatre. With major efforts to revitalize the city’s historic assets by the Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board, Palafox Street is now studded with popular restaurants, clubs and boutiques. Learn about the city’s storied history with visits to Historic Pensacola Village, St. Michael’s Cemetery, the African-American Heritage Trail or the Pensacola Lighthouse. The National Naval Aviation Museum, southwest of downtown, is a must-stop to learn about the area’s military involvement and catch one of the Blue Angels famed practice shows, where pilots execute precision flying and aerial stunts at speeds of 700 miles per hour.
From dock-to-table, fresh seafood abounds in this coastal city, with choices for all budgets including upscale fine dining and beachside shacks. Overlooking Seville Harbor, The Fish House and Atlas Oyster Bar are great for fish, sushi and an award-winning view. Before an afternoon picnic, stop in Joe Patti’s Seafood Market, a Pensacola landmark since 1931, for the catch of the day.