Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach

Pensacola, FL: downtown and the beach

Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach

(A local’s guide for a first time visit to Pensacola, FL)

Paradise can be defined as many things. I like to think of paradise as an escape from the pressures of life, a place of relaxation with an essence of comfort. I find solace in the mountains, the beach, and even traveling abroad. For the sake of this post, my paradise is the beach I happen to call home. Here’s our guide to Pensacola, FL: downtown and the beach.

Pensacola, FL, city of 5 flags and tenant on the Gulf of Mexico. My adopted home of 5 years. The city that has nourished my career growth. The town that continually shapes my young adulthood. Celebrator of pelicans. Trainer of the Navy. Keeper of the Emerald Coast. Calamity and Calm when I need them both. Pensacola, FL-the Northwest haven of the Florida Panhandle.

Pensacola, FL: downtown and the beach

Without further ado, Experience the following things in Pensacola, Florida like a local. I want to dive into this piece three ways: Downtown, the Beach, and Other Faves. The 3 keys that string together to form my day-to-day life. (That is when I’m actually home and not wandering elsewhere)


Take a look at these hotels to situate you on the beach or downtown areas! For a first time visit to Pensacola, FL, market day is a must! On any given Saturday, you can find vendors of art, food, and jewelry at the Palafox farmer’s market. The locally owned and grown scene of the Whole foods movement is skyrocketing down here-awakening the minds of simple Southerners. (myself included)

I created a walking map just for you, to help guide you along on your trip! As you approach the street that is Palafox you will find my treasures of this city. A music hall called Vinyl that is sure to have you dancing a jig any weekend night. Foskos coffee house which is also attached to a Pilates barre studio-the best coffee smoothies are created here. NY Nick’s sports bar, not known for it’s food but rather for the numerous TVs abound. Then there is my favorite spot, Hopjacks. While not a local invention, this is Pensacola’s scene for the craft beer world with 120 beers on tap-always changing! Friday nights are for live music while Sundays are for 1/2 priced beer-who can complain?! The bartenders make this home as they always seem to know what beer “you will just love”.


Next to Hopjacks, smashed between beer and wine bazaars, you will find Play. An adult playground above the streets of downtown-containing gems from our childhood such as life size connect four, skee ball, basketball toss, billiards, and a jukebox-along with another bar. After Play, there is an all brick alley providing a nest for The Wine Bar on Palafoxa trendy date night haven with yummy appetizers and a vintage feel-they play Frank Sinatra often so it’s a win-win for me. Afterwards climb the stairs if you dare to Wild Greg’s Saloon for mechanical bull riding and country line dancing. Don’t worry there is a bar should you need some liquid courage.

I’ll admit I am skipping venues, this list is not exhaustive, however, I am hitting my highlights of my city. I don’t want to overwhelm you on your first time visit to Pensacola, FL.

As you continue down Palafox towards the pier, you will also stumble upon a magic corner. This corner contains the Bodacious Brew and Bodacious Olive-a coffee shop that prepares coffee any way imaginable. From French press and classic espresso, to drip coffee and science experiments-this is the place for coffee connoisseurs. The Bodacious Olive attached, is a tasting room of olive oil and balsamic vinegar both light and dark. I seriously can spend hours here! At the opposite side of this magic corner are our food trucks. While more expensive than the taste permits, it is still an original idea for an ancient city.

Continue towards the pier and find our new brunch spot: Ruby Slipper with it’s New Orleans style cuisine. A few blocks down on your right is O’riley’s Irish pub– a fun place for anyone hoping to have a little Irish in them (luckily I am part Irish). Play a hand of darts, mini jenga, or billiards before moving on. As you arrive at Palafox Pier you will see a gorgeous marina and a restaurant, Jaco’s Bayfront Bar and Grille-eat here and order one of the flat breads + a glass of wine for an uninhibited view of sailboats at sunset.


To the left of Palafox (facing the pier) you will find beloved Seville Square. Home to our very own Pensacola Bay Brewery and the overrated but always fun Seville Quarter. Grab dinner at 5 sister’s jazz cafe then drink a pint of local hops before singing to your heart’s content in the piano lounge of Seville Quarter, head back to the square for some star gazing on the green plaza.

To the right of Palafox (again facing the pier) you head towards Main Street. Venue for our new baseball team, the Blue Wahoos and a trendy up-and-coming restaurant the Union Public House. The stadium is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve been to because it is positioned to capture the sunset overlooking the water. An amphitheater is attached which hosts live jazz every Sunday.The southern style restaurant is a gastronomic heaven with it’s big city collaborations.


You may also enjoy these beachy posts:

Outdoor activities in Destin, Florida: The Heart of the Emerald Coast

Your first time visit to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL

A weekend in Saint Petersburg & Tampa, Florida

Renewing our spirits at the Fresh water Springs

A beginner’s guide to Myrtle Beach, SC in 1 week

Pensacola Beach

WOW! That is what I say every time I drive over the bridge and catch that first glimpse of the Emerald waters below. The mover of my soul! Visitors, look for the Pensacola Beach ball water tower; this lets you know you have arrived. With white sandy beaches, blue/green waters, restrooms, showers, food, and alcohol all within walking distance, how can you beat it? Speaking of walking distance, I also created a beach map for the hot spots you must-see!

Some of my faves are Castaways for their bushwhackers, Flounders for the diesel fuel & live music, Bamboo Willies for their beach bum bar atmosphere, and Red Fish, Blue Fish for it’s Bay view, life size games, and champagne mojitos. I prefer to bring a paddleboard or kayak and spend the cool mornings paddling alongside dolphins. I pack a lunch and dig my toes into the sand for a nap. My sand cloud towels can easily fit in my beach bag. They are Turkish spun and lightweight.

In case you need more water sport inspiration, here are some of my favorite kayaking quotes.


I catch an early dinner at one of the above places and call it a day!  If you are fortunate to be at the beach Tuesday nights during the summer, check out Bands on the Beach where local bands perform from 7pm through the night. Oh and BYOB and dinner! Don’t forget these awesome Pensacola souvenirs before you leave!

dancing on the beach
Other Favorite Activities

Restaurants: My favorite Things, The vineyard on 12th, Katie’s Cuban Cafe, Pot Roast and Pinot (lobster mac n cheese).

Coffee: Constant coffee and teas, The leisure club (my favorite), Maximilian coffee. Here is my complete list of coffee shops in town!

Activities: Pensacola is an active community. There are always Holiday gatherings, Gallery nights, mud runs, color runs, marathons, dragon boat races, pirate ship festivals, seafood festivals, pub crawls, and cross fit competitions to keep you engaged. I get bored easily so I LOVE this!

Graffiti Bridge: My favorite place to gather insight from within. Grab a can of spray paint and leave your mark on this famous railroad bridge. The scene is always changing!

Blue Angels: The iconic Blue Angels fly  with ease but fill the crowd with fear, shock, and wonder as they perform tricks mid-air, practically touching wing-to-wing.



Remember to leave only your footprints behind!

Well there you have it. Home sweet home. The city and the beach with a small town feel. Yep, that is paradise to me!

If you are planning a trip to Pensacola, FL let me know any questions you might have!

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Be well and travel often!


first time visit to Pensacola, FL


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About Author

Maegan and Michael are Adventurous Southerners who share their world journey and approach to living the travel lifestyle. You can expect humor and lighthearted banter blended with REAL travel stories and tips. Maegan is a registered dietitian, while Michael has an excerise science background, but both are outdoor lovers, and revel in the beauty of cultures unlike their own. Now, Maegan and Michael are working towards expat life through remote work. Join the adventure. Do you love to travel? Does your full time job or career prevent you from living the life you dream of? This is the duo to follow. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.


  1. Ann Smith says:

    Good stuff!

    On Sat, Sep 10, 2016 at 5:05 PM, Wanderlust_Dietitian89 wrote:

    > Wanderlust_Dietitian89 posted: “Paradise can be defined as many things > depending upon the person. I like to think of paradise as an escape from > the pressures of life, a place of relaxation with an essence of comfort. > Now, I find solace in the mountains, the beach, and even traveling abr” >

    1. Thank you for the support!

  2. […] realize how small you are, your problems begin to dissolve like that of the powder-white sand of Pensacola Beach.  Be Well and Travel […]

  3. I’ve been to the USA but never to Florida, but it certainly sounds like there are lots of good places to go when you’re hungry.

    1. maegan89 says:

      Yes, really great seafood straight out of the Gulf! The view only helps!

  4. I’ve never considered Florida but this post has definitely given me some pause for thought. Thanks for sharing your home town recommendations 🙂

    1. maegan89 says:

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. Should you find your way here over the next year, let me know! I’d be happy to show you around!

  5. […] this town may be quaint, it offers a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Pensacola, FL. The timeless atmosphere and outdoor beauty, provides plenty of things to do in Milton, FL for a nice […]

  6. […] joined in on the fun by creating our own Taco Crawl: Cinco de Mayo style. We ate our way throughout Pensacola, FL. We found 3 taco havens we hadn’t tried before. Here’s our Tacos of […]

  7. […] we bid ado to Firenze and welcome La Spezia for the night. La Spezia is the Italian version of Pensacola, FL. It has a hometown energy. Our host was so accommodating and advised us on where to rent vespas! […]

  8. […] second, means late nights and sleep deprivation! I couldn’t do it without espresso! Luckily, my home-base keeps me well-caffeinated. Here’s a roundup of coffee shops in Pensacola, […]

  9. […] couldn’t rent a Jeep and explore the great island. Instead, we participated in events we could do at home and paid full price for […]

  10. […] Cloudland Canyon-We drove to Cloudland Canyon state park to hike one last hour before the dreaded drive home. This hike was beautiful! There were two waterfalls which were sparse from the drought but the […]

  11. […] Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach […]

  12. […] Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach-A place where paradise is unveiled […]

  13. […] Parasail                                                           […]

  14. […] Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach […]

  15. […] Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach-A place where paradise is unveiled […]

  16. Allison says:

    I love watching the Blue Angels. My family used to watch them together. Florida is one of my favorite places. I’ve never been to Pensacola, though. I guess now I’ll have to visit. #TravelTuesday
    Allison recently posted…Hiking at Starved Rock State ParkMy Profile

    1. Maegan says:

      You should def come for a visit! I have loved living here the past 6yrs and will miss it dearly when we move!

  17. Melanie says:

    Such a great variety of options! I have lived in Florida my whole life, but have actually never been to Pensacola Beach! Will have to change that soon, because this looks so great. Play sounds like my kind of place! And I love a good beach bum bar, so Bamboo Willies it is!! Thanks for all the great tips!

    1. Maegan says:

      That’s awesome! Where are you from, in Florida? I also rec castaway willies for beach bumming it.

  18. Kelly says:

    Great post!! What a fun place. You guys look like you have so much fun. Makes me want to move down there!! 🙂

    1. Maegan says:

      You should! Not as many tourists, good tacos, the beach, and cheaper living!

  19. Penny says:

    I’ve never been to USA let alone Florida. The country looks really pretty. My husband talks about it all the time. He enjoyed the year he spent there. I couldn’t help but notice that you called Pensacola the city of five flags. Why?
    Penny recently posted…Life Lessons In Lok Kawi Wildlife ParkMy Profile

    1. Maegan says:

      How exciting! I have loved living here and will miss it dearly!

  20. Chirasree says:

    After reading and seeing your vibrant pictures, I am convinced I have to visit Florida. I liked the ever changing graffiti bridge!

    1. Maegan says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I love the graffiti bridge! I’ve decorated it many times!

  21. Michelle says:

    I’m a huge beach lover too so this looks like a place I would absolutely enjoy spending time at! Especially love the restaurant with the sea view – which one is that? Looks like you guys certainly live in a beautiful place – haven’t been there yet but hopefully one day soon!

    1. Maegan says:

      It won’t disappoint! There are many restaurants with views of the sea but my favorite is Red Fish Blue Fish!

  22. How lucky you are to live in such a gorgeous town. It sounds like my kind of place too. I like lots of things happening all the time to keep a place fresh. Plus a barre studio with espresso in hand!? Perfection!

    Is the sea water in Pensacola warm? I have been to beach on the East Coast but the water is always freeeeezing!

    1. Maegan says:

      Oh yes, Foskos is one of my favorite places! The water gets “chilly” in the winter but during the Summer months it’s WARM (like bath water). Very comfy!

  23. I love this guide! I’ve never been to Florida, but it’s on my must-see USA list! Your photos are great, you look so happy! This looks like a very beautiful place to visit 🙂
    Rhiannon @ Rhiannon Travels recently posted…5 Different Types of Cheap Accomodation and What’s Right For YouMy Profile

    1. Maegan says:

      I have so many things to be happy and grateful over! I hope you are able to visit soon!

  24. Stacey says:

    Oh gosh this is such a fantastic guide! I love all the restaurant recommendations as well. When I make it to Pensacola I’m going to have to check them all out!

    1. Maegan says:

      Yes! I know you will have a fantastic time!

  25. Cristina says:

    This is a handy and informative guide! And I like your beach pictures! I wish I could go to the beach now haha.

  26. Erin says:

    I had never been to this part of Florida until I spent the holidays with my boyfriend and his family in Destin a few years ago. I was amazed by how beautiful the beaches were! Such turquoise water and soft, white sand. That’s so awesome you get to live in such a beautiful place. Thanks for the helpful info!
    Erin recently posted…AMNICON FALLS STATE PARKMy Profile

    1. Maegan says:

      That’s awesome! Destin is our next door neighbor!

  27. Elise says:

    How lucky you are that your paradise is the place you call home! I feel the same about my adopted home of Vancouver, Canada! Isn’t it amazing when you see the same site each time and every time it makes you say wow!

    Great guide – I especially love your bar & restaurant recommendations! The walking map is super thoughtful too!
    Elise recently posted…When to visit Southeast Asia: Ultimate Weather GuideMy Profile

    1. Maegan says:

      We are both, truly, lucky!

  28. […] Pensacola, FL: Downtown and the Beach-A place where paradise is unveiled […]

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