Last year we spent the winter months exploring the gulf coast of Florida. We are from South Florida but there are parts of the state that we had never experienced – especially the Panhandle. We decided to check out the Emerald Coast because there are so many things to do in Pensacola with kids. We just love it there and were so glad to spend 4 months at the beautiful Pensacola Beach RV Resort!
We have heard that the summers in Pensacola Beach, Florida here can be pretty crowded so we won’t be spending any hot months here, but the winter is really nice. Even though the weather has not cooperated as far as spending very much time on the beach, there are so many other things to do in Pensacola to keep us busy.
Pensacola Beach is one of our favorite spots and if we ever decide to slow down, it is on our list of places to live in Florida. There are so many things to do in Pensacola, Florida and so many family friendly events in Pensacola with kids!
We love to find places that offer good family activities which are also educational to some extent and Pensacola Beach has an abundance of these. When you can go somewhere that is fun, counts as school time, and the kids are loving it- BONUS!
So as you can see we absolutely love Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, it’s super kid-friendly and with all the various attractions, we never ever found ourselves bored, which is what you want when you have kids!
Our Favorite Things To Do In Pensacola, Florida
We stayed at Pensacola Beach RV Park and loved every second of it. The campground is across the street from the beach, I mean literally steps from the Gulf of Mexico beach. We enjoyed our daily walks along the white sandy beach, picking up shells and just enjoying the wonderful views.
At the campground, we had a small beach also, and because we were there at a quiet time of the year we had an unobstructed sound view for the most part.
It’s something else when you can wake up and enjoy your tea looking out over the water.
Does life get any better than that?
Overall the beach weather was a little colder than we expected for that time of the year. Having lived in Florida before we started RV living, our kids are beach kids. They love the water and would spend all day at the beach if we let them, I can’t say I blame them. Any chance we could, we enjoyed hanging out at the beach with the kids. The winter gulf water was a little too cold for us, but not for them.
We also came at a nice time of the year because it’s not too crowded yet, so it’s been fun. There were a couple of days where we could see bunches of Manta Rays jumping out of the ocean. It was an incredible sight to see. The winter storms also provide good opportunities to collect shells. Great for crafts and discussing the animals that live in them.
Pensacola Beach Fishing
One of the main things to do in Pensacola is go fishing! Frank and the kids love to fish, so we were lucky enough to have a fishing pier on the island. Conor gets bored after a while but Áine really loves to fish with her dad. It never gets too busy and everyone is super nice. The local fishermen are always happy to talk about all of the local fish that can be caught, which bait to use, and what fish are “good eatin’!”
There was one day in particular, where one of the guys caught a Black Drum. It was huge – maybe 100 pounds, so he needed help getting it out of the water. That was one ugly fish. The kids had a blast watching all of this, Conor and Áine even got to pet him before he headed home to be ‘fed’ to the 6 cats!!!!
Gulf Breeze Zoo
We were here for 4 months, so we bought the annual admission to the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Gulf Breeze, fl The zoo is 20 minutes from the campground and a great day out for the kids. With the annual pass, we could come or go as we pleased so that gave us a lot of flexibility. The most we spent additionally was $3.50 for food to feed the animals.
It’s a surprisingly nice size zoo for Gulf Breeze, FL. There are quite a few interactive exhibits where the kiddos can get up close with the animals. They have a budgies enclosure where the birds will swarm you for food. Áine didn’t care for that and I don’t blame her, it was a little overwhelming at times!
Feeding the goats, giraffes, and llamas is a blast, so we did that every time. They also have a train ride that you can do (this is extra.) It takes you outside of the fence to where you can see certain animals that you don’t have access to otherwise. There are several “Keeper Talks” each day so the kids can talk to the zookeepers and learn about their favorite animals.
Pensacola has a minor league hockey team, the Ice Flyers. This was the first time we took the kids to a hockey game. We weren’t sure how they were going to feel about it, as they tend to get bored easily. Thankfully they loved it as much as us. The seats were awesome and well priced and parking was super easy to get in and out. We went on a Saturday night, and we all had a blast.
It was Mardi Gras night so there were even parades on the ice between periods and we all got a bunch of beads. I can’t say much about educational opportunities on this one, except to teach the kids how AWESOME hockey is! If you’re a hockey fan or just looking for a fun family night out, I highly recommend it. Great team, great crowd!
Downtown Pensacola Historic Village
This is one of our favorite things to do in Pensacola, Florida. Many people do not know that Pensacola was actually the one of the very first European settlement in the new world. It was settled 6 years before St. Augustine and almost 50 years before Jamestown. The settlement was unfortunately abandoned after 2 years due to some very bad luck and that is why the history books largely ignore it.
However, the area is rich in history and much of that can be seen in Historic Pensacola Village. There are several blocks of buildings and exhibits from throughout the area’s history and even live period attractions and costumed “residents.” We loved looking at all the historic homes in the area, they are stunning. We even got to see inside some on the tour.
We purchased a 7-day pass which gives you access to the historic village and several of their museums, including the children’s museum. Along with self-guided tours, they do two live tours per day and it was fascinating to learn the history of this beautiful place.
Our kids learned so much from following them they were completely enthralled and asking lots of questions. It was such a great experience for everyone involved. At the children’s museum, they were able to play dress up, while they learned some more about colonial life in Pensacola. I highly recommend this as a day out with the kids, we loved it.
While not exclusive to Pensacola, this city does has a rich Geocaching program. There are the usual scads of locally placed caches as well as some more “official” caches that lead you through many of the city’s historical sites. You can even get prizes by logging all of them. Great way to spend some quality time and the kiddo’s love it.
National Naval Aviation Museum
The US Naval Aviation Museum sits on the Pensacola Naval Air Base. We highly recommend that you spend at least a day if you are in the area. This is such a fun place for adults and kids. I love that they have so many planes that the kids can get in and try out.
There are 2 buildings chock full of planes as well as an outdoor “tarmac” museum. Who doesn’t want to be a Blue Angels pilot?
They have a great Imax theater, two kinds of simulators and a café when you get hungry. We usually take our own lunch and park off the tarmac where we can spot some Blue Angels if we’re lucky.
They have two guided tours of the museum per day – always retired naval/ marine pilots. We actually took one with the kids and again I didn’t think we would last too long. However the guide was very entertaining, the kids loved to listen to the stories he told, it was really good. We ended up learning a lot.
There really is so much to do and see on 2 floors, upstairs is my favorite. They have an aircraft carrier simulation where you can imagine what it is like to be on the flight deck– very cool. There are also exhibits showing what life was like during WWII – even a replica of Downtown Pensacola during that time!
If you are there March-November you can also watch the Blue Angels practice and get autographs from the team! This is a place where you can easily spend the day wandering about, and we have done that……..several times!
On the way to visit the Naval Air Museum, you should stop by the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum to check it out, it’s pretty awesome.
The entrance to Pensacola Bay is surrounded by barrier islands. As a very important port during the earlier days of our country, this bay was protected by several forts, the largest of which is Ft. Pickens.
While the original brick fort was built just after the War of 1812, there have been multiple newer upgrades and gun emplacements added to the area dating right up to WWII- including a second concrete fort built right in the middle of the old fort. Some of the outlying gun batteries still have the guns in them so the history lesson is amazing. This fort was even the home of Geronimo after he was captured.
The area around it is all beautiful sandy beaches complete with a fishing pier, so a day at the fort will have something for everyone. If you have a boy who loves playing soldier as mine does, you need to visit this place!
We LOVE to eat! What I love about this campground is that we are steps away from some incredible restaurants. Our favorite by far was Flounders. The food is simply amazing, we highly recommend the firecracker shrimp and the stuffed flounder is to die for. The sushi is also really good, and we are sushi snobs.
Actually, I’m pretty sure that everything is delicious, we ate there several times and never had a bad meal! The restaurant sits on the sound side of the island and has a white sand beach complete with a huge playground for the kiddos, volleyball court, and boat dock.
The restaurant itself is a treasure trove of local historic relics including a massive 980 lb blue marlin and the original M/V Flounder fishing boat.
The service is great and the ambiance is extremely welcoming! If you get a chance, go, you won’t regret it!
Gulf Islands National Sea Shore
Most of Santa Rosa Island and a good chunk of the adjacent peninsula that holds Gulf Breeze are protected land – The Gulf Islands National Sea Shore. Miles of pristine beaches and natural sand dunes line the gulf and sound sides of the highway and the endless beach vistas are nothing short of spectacular.
The visitors center near Gulf Breeze has a very nice (if not quaint) museum that documents the area’s history. The park also protects the native Live Oaks which once forested the area and were highly sought after as possibly the best shipbuilding material on earth in the later days of wooden ships. The Naval Live Oaks area has many miles of trails leading from Pensacola Bay to Santa Rosa Sound.
So there you have our own personal favorite things to do in Pensacola, Florida.
Have you visited Pensacola, what are your some of your favorite things to do?