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.
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 Palafox–a 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:
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!
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!
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**This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own**
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