Name: Sarah Lee
City: Pensacola, Florida
A cozy seaport on the westernmost edge of the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola boasts a laid-back beach town vibe coupled with traditional Southern charm.
Pensacola is the cradle of Naval Aviation, where the world’s finest Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers (NFOs for short), and Aircrewmen come for their training— “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” is part of the vernacular here! It’s also the City of Five Flags; at different times in our city’s history, the Spanish, French, British, Confederate, and the United States flags have each flown over our powder-white beaches.
While the city is great for history buffs, filled with monuments and dedications to its history, there is also a budding scene for foodies, brew-hoppers, and coffee connoisseurs alike. Pensacola is brimming with activities for everyone to enjoy!
Where should we stay?
Margaritaville Beach Hotel at Pensacola Beach: You all know the words and what time it is—it’s 5 o’clock somewhere! Let that somewhere be the soft sand beaches of the Gulf Shores as you take in the turquoise water with barefoot elegance, margarita in hand. Take a quick walk down to the Landshark Landing Beach Bar for volleyball, fire pits, and hammocks under the palm trees. Then head back to the Frank and Lola Love Pensacola Café—named after a Jimmy Buffett song celebrating a couple on their second honeymoon in Pensacola!—for an upscale yet casual dining experience right on the water.
The Lee House: Located in the heart of the historic district, the original Lee House, according to the hotel’s website, dated back to 1866. The building was razed after Hurricane Ivan and rebuilt to its current splendor in 2007. The boutique hotel boasts nine unique suites with wide porches that overlook the shimmering Pensacola Bay and the grand oaks of Seville Square and Fountain Park. The Lee House is also less than two blocks from Pensacola Bay Brewery and Olde English Creamery (if tea and scones are more your style).
Where should we eat?
End of the Line Café: a rustic and hip vegan eatery that serves fresh, from-scratch classics, and fabulous (and affordable) three-course dinners on Thursdays and brunch on Sundays.
The Magnolia: Your neighborhood bar, but better. Craft beer and wine abound, and there’s a new mac and cheese every day . . . need I say more?
Taqueria El Asador: Don’t judge this food truck by its location (behind a Shell Gas station). It was rated number four on a list of the 50 best taco spots in America by Business Insider—and for good reason. All of their meats are grilled daily, and all of their sauces are homemade (and sting if they get in your eye—I speak from experience).
Peg Leg Pete’s: Two words: oysters and Bushwackers. The Bushwacker is a Pensacola-staple drink best described as a chocolate milkshake with rum. While you’re there, take a picture with the pirate—you know you want to.
Pensacola has a number of craft breweries nestled in various spots downtown, including Pensacola Bay Brewery, Gulf Coast Brewery, Perfect Plain Brewing, Odd Colony Brewing Company, Gary’s Brewery and Biergarten, and Emerald Republic Brewing. You can’t go wrong with visiting any (or all) of these microbreweries.
Which coffeehouses are the best and why (for coffee, for atmosphere, for both)?
Constant Coffee: this modern and airy local favorite, which recently opened a second location in the heart of downtown Pensacola, offers a variety of baked goods, pour-overs, and other craft drinks (the Rosemary Black Tea Smash is a wonderful choice for warm summer evenings on their porch).
Bodacious Brew: This full-service espresso bar is nestled on the corner of Palafox and Main Street and is the epitome of warmth on a rainy afternoon. They’re the purveyor of the famous honey latte, made with local East Hill Honey Co. honey and sure to warm you to the core. The café is connected to the sister shops Bodacious Olive, where you can buy specialty olive oil, and So Gourmet, where kitchen gadgets line the walls.
Bagelheads: With a vast assortment of fresh-baked bagels and ever-changing locally roasted drip coffee offerings, this local hangout is treasured by all and sure to make you feel right at home. You can even grab a cup to go without hitting the register, just make sure you put money in the Honor Jar! If you’re trying to stay away from gluten or toasted bagels the size of your head, fear not. They offer a selection of breakfast items including oatmeal with fresh fruit and scrambled egg cups which you can customize with various toppings.
What sites should we see?
Naval Air Station Pensacola: NAS Pensacola was the first naval air station established in the United States, and Pensacola is proud to boast that history. It’s also home to the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team, which you might see zoom overhead in daringly close formation. Make sure to check out the Pensacola Lighthouse, which is rumored to be haunted, and the Naval Aviation Museum while on base.
Wahoo’s Baseball Game: Families will love attending games for Pensacola’s minor league baseball team, the Blue Wahoos. Kids can meet the mascot Kazoo and participate in various timed games between innings, like “Chase the Roach” across the baseball field (an activity sponsored by a local pest control company—it’s not a real roach!). During baseball season, Saturday night home-stand games are concluded with a fantastic seven-minute firework show!
Casino Beach: It’s what everyone comes for: the world’s whitest beaches, emerald-green waters, and breathtaking sunsets. Be sure to snap a picture of the iconic Pensacola Beach Ball. With a towel, a good book, plenty of sunscreen, and lots of water, you’re set; just kick back and relax!
Palafox Market: if you want to see what the artsy side of Pensacola has to offer, this is your spot. Talented artists, gardeners, and craftspeople gather on Saturday mornings to showcase their talents and supply the town with the fruits of their labor. Check out the locally made skincare, pottery, and wood- or metalworking. You can fend off any mid-morning munchies with a crepe from Mimi’s Crepes food stall.
Dueling Pianos: for all of your libation needs, a visit to Seville Quarter’s Rosie O’Grady’s is a must. Affectionately referred to as simply the “Dueling Pianos” by locals, the building that houses Rosie’s was built in 1871 as the Pensacola Cigar and Tobacco Co. and is now home to a quartet of piano, drum, and keytar playing singers eagerly performing all of your favorite tunes like Sweet Caroline . . . ba ba ba!