We really had no expectations of Pensacola before we arrived. We didn’t go there for anything in particular. It was just a convenient stop between where we were and where we were heading. But what we found was a small city that has a lot to offer.
Dubbed by some as ‘the cradle of naval aviation’ Pensacola’s military heritage is evident almost everywhere. The city’s free Museum of Naval Aviation boasts a collection of exhibits that rivals the better known Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Of the two, we actually thought Pensacola’s museum was bigger, and better. Although the Smithsonian claims the largest collection of aviation artifacts in the world, it houses them in two separate facilities; one in D.C. and the other in Virginia, which is kind of cheating. For one stop shopping Pensacola actually puts D.C. to shame, with 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and 150 restored aircraft. But what really vaults the Naval Aviation Museum over the top are the semi-weekly Blue Angels practice demonstrations that take place in an airfield just out back.
The downtown city area is quaint with small pockets of art galleries and wrought-iron work that evokes memories of New Orleans. The neighboring Historic District, also known as Seville, is populated with beautifully restored 17th century buildings, many of which are available to tour. We skipped the tour, preferring to admire the architecture from the outside instead. We did, however, venture inside to discover our favorite local brewer and to grab some kick ass gelato. At night we came back to Seville Square, an interesting complex of interconnected bars and restaurants, which serve up a variety of entertainment in seven distinctly themed rooms. The performances we saw were surprisingly good. All cover tunes, of course, but the musical quality on display was really quite impressive.
After a night on the town, we needed a day to recuperate. Fortunately, Pensacola beach is just a short fifteen minute drive from the city center. With sands nearly as white, and water almost as blue as those of our favorite beach a little further to the East, its sun and surf provided the perfect salve for our ringing ears and hoarse voices, which fixed us up just in time to do it all over again.