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Pensacola for Families

by Eugenia Lazaris

Nov 11, 2017

© Cheryl Casey | Dreamstime

Destinations / North America

Pensacola, Fla., is the perfect destination for multigenerational families looking to have fun and make memories in the Sunshine State. Located in the panhandle, Pensacola tends to be overshadowed by popular Florida destinations like Orlando and Miami, but this quiet, military town is rich in history and has tons of fun to offer families looking for a way to satisfy the whole crew. I grew up visiting family in this friendly Gulf Coast town every year and the memories created during those trips keep me going back for more.

 

Kids love visiting Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park, a sanctuary for exotic birds. The compassionate staff rescues birds in need and gives them a safe home where they can be loved by all. Open year-round (but check the website for hours and closures), admission is affordable for the whole family and kids under six get in for free. All active and retired military, as well as their family members, are eligible for a discount and all admissions include a bag of peanuts for feeding the hungry birds. Visitors can feed and interact with numerous rescued bird species including parrots, peacocks, turkeys and more.

Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Beach ferris wheel in Pensacola Beach, Florida

Photo: Colin Young | Dreamstime

Sam’s Fun City is another way to keep the kiddos thanking you for their Florida vacation. Open every summer, it has been helping families make memories for almost 20 years. There are more than 20 amusement and water park rides to choose from like bumper boats, mini golf, a Ferris wheel and a good-old-fashioned tilt-a-whirl, not to mention the arcade and the water slides. Bullwinkle’s Family Food ‘n Fun, the park’s eatery, offers plenty of amusement park favorites like hot dogs and pizza to round-out your amusement park experience. Just be sure to ride the tilt-a-whirl before you eat, otherwise you might be doing extra laundry instead of enjoying Florida!

 

Adults will find plenty of grown-up fun in Seville Square in downtown Pensacola. This historic Spanish plaza dating back to the 1700s is a Pensacola institution with live music and festivals held throughout the year. Seville Quarter is host to seven rooms of bars and restaurants that keep the entertainment going seven nights a week, such as Rosie O’Grady’s Goodtime Emporium with its dueling piano show.

Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, Florida

Photo: Calvin Leake | Dreamstime

The history buffs in the family will love exploring Pensacola’s many museums and forts, such as the National Naval Aviation Museum where visitors can fly with the Blue Angels in a flight simulator or by watching the Blue Angels 4D Experience. The real Blue Angels can be seen practicing flight maneuvers on certain days between March and November. The museum is home to more than 150 aircrafts from bi-planes to jet fighters and everything in between, including the Que Sera Sera, the first aircraft to land successfully at the South Pole.

 

After your museum visit head over to Fort Barrancas, a pristinely preserved Civil War-era fort more than 200 years old, to explore some of Pensacola’s history first-hand. Located on the Naval Air Station Pensacola base, this piece of living history overlooks the beautiful Pensacola Bay and is part of the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore. A great way to visit the fort is by taking the Civil War Tour of Pensacola, which also includes a visit to the Pensacola Lighthouse and a comprehensive lesson on the civil war history of Pensacola.

 

Across the bay from Fort Barrancas on Santa Rosa Island is Fort Pickens, another well-preserved, Civil War-era fort. The famous Apache chief Geronimo was imprisoned on this site for 10 years in the 1800s. This site not only offers an amazing glimpse into the country’s past but is on a pristine stretch of the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore with some of the best camping Florida has to offer.

Pensacola Florida beach sunset

Photo: Benschaefer2003 | Dreamstime

 

Every visitor to Pensacola can enjoy a trip to the beach to enjoy some Florida sunshine. You can take a refreshing dip in the clear blue water or sunbathe in the soft sand, and if you are lucky you might even find some sea shell treasures washed ashore. Spotting dolphins swimming off the shore is always a treat. Head over to Johnson Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in town, for a relaxing beach picnic with the family.

 

While in Pensacola, make sure you try a seafood po’boy or three. This traditional southern sandwich is a sure-fire way to make sure everyone at the table finishes their food and no one who visits Florida’s Gulf Coast should leave without trying one — those with seafood allergies are excused, of course! Made with fried shrimp, oysters or crawfish on top of a bed of lettuce and nestled in French bread, they fill you up and leave you anticipating your next meal of more po’boys. One of the best places to try a po’boy is at The Dock, where families can enjoy some Florida beach time before they eat.

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