A Sunny Winter Getaway in Pensacola, FL
It’s a stereotype that snowbirds from colder climates flock to Florida in the winter, but it does happen to be true and for good reason. Florida with it’s white, sandy beaches, warmer temperatures and beautiful turquoise water, has plenty of outdoor activities to offer year round. This is certainly true in the town of Pensacola. Located in the panhandle, Pensacola is the westernmost town in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. This waterfront city is protected by the Santa Rosa barrier island which forms Gulf Islands National Seashore, the nation’s longest stretch of protected seashore. Wandering the 52-mile-long shoreline of Pensacola Beach, particularly in the winter is a wonderful way to decompress. No crowds vying for a place to lay your beach towel or for a parking spot and you can literally walk for miles uninterrupted with amazing views of turquoise waters and white sand.
The retro sign of Pensacola Beach greets you as you cross to the barrier island and leads the way to the Fishing Pier and Observation Post. At 1471 feet long, it is the longest pier on the Gulf Coast and a great place to catch fish or stroll and watch the sunset. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to enjoy along the boardwalk. In the summer months, the free beach trolley will take you from the east end of the barrier reef to the west end at Fort Pickens, but in the winter months you’ll have to drive. Touring this early 1800s structure is worth it though for its intricate tunnels and historic cannons.
More history awaits you at the historic Pensacola Village which is a complex of original 19th-century buildings and homes that allow you to step back in time and experience the area’s history. The living museums with live interpreters and the children’s museum are perfect for families and T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum located in the beautiful former City Hall, has an impressive collection of artifacts from Florida’s history.
Just a few blocks to the west is Palafox Street, a wonderful avenue to stroll for a day of shopping, galleries, cafes and restuarants. Palafox Market, boasts a year-round farmers’ market with art and antiques each weekend which makes for a great Saturday morning outing.
Another museum that is not to be missed is the National Naval Aviation Museum. It is an impressive collection of 150 restored aircraft representing the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. You can also see up close the renowned Blue Angels aircraft and you can try to pilot a F/A-18 in a motion-based flight simulator. While here, you can’t miss seeing a free Blue Angels Squadron air show and even though it is a practice session for them and weather dependent, it was a show we wouldn’t soon forget.
From relaxing beaches and historical sites, to cute boutiques and great places to eat, Pensacola is a terrific place to plan a winter getaway!