If you're looking for some great Florida beaches but aren't necessarily interested in a mega-resort or theme park atmosphere, Pensacola might just be the place for your perfect weekend. Home to Gulf Islands National Seashore, the city offers some of the best fishing and boating in the area. Inland, canoeing enthusiasts won't want to miss the beauty of the Blackwater River. Closer to town, the city has a proud military heritage, which can be seen at attractions like the National Museum of Naval Aviation and the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
If you haven’t gotten enough of Pensacola’s sunshine, you’ll find a perfect copy of its blue sky painted on the ceiling of the Spanish Baroque 2Saenger Theatre 2Saenger Theatre Google Map: 118 S. Palafox St. Website: https://www.pensacolasaenger.com/ 850-595-3880 downtown. This jewel of a building, with its soaring white facade and rococo architectural details, opened in 1925 as a vaudeville house and movie theater. The Saenger gradually fell into disrepair and disrepute, known for adult films. “Yes, those kinds of movies,” says Kathy Summerlin, the theater’s director of booking and marketing. After surviving attempts to turn it into a parking garage, it was renovated and is now home to Broadway touring shows; the local symphony, opera and children’s chorus; Ballet Pensacola and a summer movie series. The Saenger’s original pipe organ, with thousands of pipes hidden in the walls, is still played on occasion. Architect Emile Weil possessed a particularly Pensacolan whimsy: Summerlin points out the two plaster soldiers affixed on the walls near the stage, one with a plume on his head, the other with an iguana. One of the plaster ladies is bearded.
“Protect our coast” proclaim the bumper stickers on the cars in the parking lot of 11Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Cafe 11Ever'man Cooperative Grocery and Cafe Google Map: 315 W. Garden St. Website: https://www.everman.org/ 850-438-0402 , which has carried environmentally sound products and catered to healthy lifestyles since 1973. All of its items adhere to a strict green policy: no MSG, hormones, GMO ingredients, etc. You can grab local organic produce, sandwiches and other fixings for a picnic on the beach, and if you’ve stayed there too long, come back for a chickweed or comfrey salve from Coyote Moon Herb Company to soothe your sunburn. Year-round flowers make honey a popular local product; tupelo flowers grow wild in the Florida Panhandle, and they contribute to a delicate honey that never crystallizes. The coop moved into its current expansive location on West Garden Street in 2014; next door is its education center that offers drop-in classes in cooking and meditation, as well as many tailored to the military community, such as yoga for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the midst of downtown’s busy Palafox Street is the 9Blue Morning Gallery 9Blue Morning Gallery Google Map: 21 S. Palafox St. Website: http://bluemorninggallery.com/ 850-429-9100 artist’s cooperative, begun in 1997. It’s so full of artwork that when I first stepped in all I saw was a blur of colors; gradually my eyes adjusted to the large array of jewelry, paintings, blown glass, photography and ceramics on display, created by its more than 60 members. Pensacola offers endless inspiration, jeweler Diane Rennie tells me. “We are this little area of art,” she says. She’s a former president of the cooperative and a longtime member. “It’s such an inspiring environment to be in, and there’s a large retirement community here. People find fun things to do, and one of those things is making art.” David Williams is one of them. A jeweler who specializes in opals, he moved to Pensacola in 2010 after living in Georgia and western North Carolina, and says he’s found his forever home. He lives in a 1920s house near Bayou Texar and kayaks in the bay: “I see dolphins every morning.”
Time to break out the picnic basket, as we head on over to the next top pick: Bayview Park. Here you will be able to stretch out on the expansive lawn and enjoy a great time in the sunshine. When you feel the urge to stretch your legs, there are walking trails to get the blood flowing. This is a great place for dog owners, as there is an impressive dog park here, too. Spend some time letting your furry friend run around the park - while you get to barbecuing on the grills provided.
Pensacola (/ˌpɛnsəˈkoʊlə/) is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, approximately 13 miles (21 km) from the border with Alabama, and the county seat of Escambia County, in the U.S. state of Florida. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 51,923, down from 56,255 at the 2000 census. Pensacola is the principal city of the Pensacola metropolitan area, which had an estimated 461,227 residents in 2012.