Things to do on a Pensacola Family Vacation

Fun Things to Do in Pensacola with Kids

Many families are drawn to the beach when warm weather calls. For that matter, the beach can be a great place to visit any time of the year. We have lived in Florida now for almost 2 years, and had yet to take a trip to the beach. Little did I know that the beautiful and scenic beaches of Pensacola with their sugar-white beaches and emerald green water sit just an easy 3 hour drive away from our front door. Now a favorite destination for my family, I know it will become one of yours as well when you learn that Pensacola has so much more to offer than just the beaches.

Explore the Pier and Sugar White Sands of Pensacola Beach

At 1,471 feet, the pier is the perfect place to fish, stroll, or just sightsee. Everywhere you go along Pensacola, you will see groups of people fishing, and the pier is no different. You can catch many gulf species from the pier such as king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, pompano, mahi mahi, flounder, whiting, white and speckle trout.

Cruise the Waterways with Pensacola Bay Cruises

Known as the “easy way across the bay,” Pensacola bay Cruises operates between Pensacola Beach, Downtown Pensacola and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It features a scenic tour by water and offers views you won’t get driving by car.
Explore Fort Pickens and the Gulf Islands National Seashore

On the western tip of Santa Rosa Island, this national park offers overnight camping, beautiful beaches, scenic trails, a massive pre-Civil War fortress and ranger-led programs. Fort Pickens is a massive brick fortress that once housed Union troops and the Apache leader Geronimo. Park rangers offer free tours daily. Pensacola Bay Cruises docks at Fort Pickens and admission is included.

Visit the Historic Pensacola Village

Downtown Pensacola – take a walk along America’s top 10 streets, Palafox St. Here you will find an array of shops including restaurants, bars, boutiques, and galleries.

Visit the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum

Originally built in the early 1900s as City Hall. The Spanish Revival style building now stands as the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum. Named after local historian and collector, T.T.

Wentworth, Jr., the Florida State Museum houses an eclectic collection of artifacts displaying Northwest Florida’s rich heritage and will soon celebrate its 55th anniversary.

The Wentworth Museum offers three floors of exhibit space with permanent exhibits on the first floor and changing exhibits on the second floor. The third floor is now a large exhibit gallery for upcoming traveling exhibits.

Tour of Historic Pensacola Village

Learn about the Pensacola Bay Area’s Spanish and French heritage. Visit furnished homes from the Colonial era to the Victorian age; step inside one of the oldest churches in Florida; and learn about the second oldest shipwreck in the country.

Pensacola Children’s Museum

This hands-on exploration of Pensacola history is geared for children age 10 and younger. The first floor Discovery Gallery recreates colonial life in Pensacola. The second floor explores Pensacola’s military, maritime, industrial, multicultural, Native American and Civil War history.

Bubba’s Sweet Spot

Looking for a place the whole family can agree on? Stop by Bubba’s Sweet Spot and satisfy your sweet tooth. Local professional golfer Bubba Watson owns the store and the décor reigns true to the downtown flavor. This shop is covered from ceiling to floor with candy! The shop allows its guests the unique experience to see how some of their favorite treats are made, from chocolate covered treats to ice cream and even saltwater taffy!

Catch a Blue Wahoos Game

If you’ve been following me long, you know that baseball is one of my family’s favorite pastimes. We were able to enjoy an amazing view overlooking Pensacola Bay while watching the in minor league Blue Wahoos play ball. The stadium features craft restaurants with delicious food, as well as concession stands where you can get your favorite ballpark goodies like hotdogs, popcorn, and more.

Cool Off at the Plaza De Luna Splash Pad

Located on South Palafox Street at the end of Palafox Pier. Visitors to Plaza de Luna are greeted by a life-size statue of Don Tristan de Luna, Pensacola’s founder. Chill out on a blanket or bench while the kids cool off in the splash fountain. Plaza de Luna is a great place to take in the views of the beautiful Pensacola Bay. Opt for a stroll around Palafox Pier, if you’re one to adventure you can arrange a sailing trip right of the dock. If you have fishing gear handy, it’s a great place to fish and enjoy a cool breeze.

Big Lagoon State Park

Big Lagoon State Park sits upland on 655 acres and separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. Natural areas, ranging from saltwater marshes to pine flatwoods, attract a wide variety of birds while the beaches, shallow bays and nature trails offer splendid opportunities for wildlife study. Crabbing in the shallow waters, hiking, canoeing and kayaking have also become popular amongst visitors.

Experience the World’s Largest Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse

The National Naval Aviation Museum, hands-on experience for visitors, is not only one of the world’s largest air and space museums, but it’s extremely kid-friendly. The museum offers visitors the chance to see more than 4,000 artifacts and 150 vintage aircraft, flight simulators, special exhibits and indoor playground which includes a cockpit trainer for kids to climb into.

Climb all the 177 steps of the Pensacola Lighthouse to have a spectacular view of the Pensacola Pass, where the Pensacola Bay opens to the Gulf of Mexico. The 150-year-old lighthouse is one of the country’s tallest brick lighthouses and is said to be haunted.

Stroll Through Palafox Market

Walk under the canopy of crepe myrtle trees that align Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza in Downtown Pensacola on any given Saturday morning and you’ll find dozens of lively farmers and arts and crafts vendors selling organic goods at the weekly Palafox Market.


Choosing the right accommodations for your family means deciding on your budget and what you most want to do while you are in Pensacola. Want to be spend most of your time at the ocean? There are many amazing hotels right on the beach, just a few steps away from the water. More interested in spending your time in Downtown Historic Pensacola? There are hotels inland as well that put you right in the center of town.

My family and I stayed at the Hilton Pensacola Beach, and I can not speak more highly of them. Located directly on Via De Luna Drive, we woke to views of the sand and water and fell asleep to the sound of rolling waves outside our window.

Pack These Essentials for Your Next Family Beach Trip

The beach is the ultimate summer destination for many families. Sand, sunshine and cool waves make for a really relaxing day perfect for everyone. If you are lucky enough to get a day at the beach, you want to be sure you pack everything you need to really enjoy the day with your family and not have to make random trips to go get the basics. If you do not head to the beach on a regular basis, you may be wondering what to pack for your next beach trip. The good news is packing for the beach can be a breeze if you follow this list.

Sun Screen

Sun protection needs to be your first focus when packing for the beach. Whether you are sitting by or playing in the water, you are exposed to more sun than normal so sun protection is vital. A quality sunscreen in the highest SPF you can find is the perfect start. Make sure to check the label, so you know exactly what ingredients you are putting on your skin. Not all sunscreens are great for children or people with sensitive skin. Be sure to pack enough that you can reapply about every two hours, even more often for people sensitive to the sun. Rash guards and swimsuits with built in SPF are great for protecting sensitive shoulders and backs. For on the beach, an umbrella or tent is also a great option to provide shade.

Kid Towels

Everyone knows to bring towels to the beach, but they don’t always remember to bring ones specifically for the kids. When returning from a fun filled day at the beach, the last thing you want is a tired, wet kid tripping over a towel that is too big and falling off of them when they walk.


Grab one of these great coolers and fill it with food and drinks. While most beaches have several places to buy food, it can be a pain to wait in long lines for an overpriced flavorless hot dog because you forgot to pack your own snacks. Even if you choose not to pack food, you still want to bring plenty of drinks to stay hydrated, especially water. We love to freeze reusable water bottles and use them as the ice for our cooler. Then we have plenty of ice cold water to rehydrate from the sun and less mess than dumping a bag of ice into the cooler.


When you go to the beach, take advantage of toys and floats that you aren’t allowed to use at the local pool. Pull out the big floats and let the kids enjoy themselves. When packing toys for the beach, grab some cheap sand toys that will help keep little ones busy playing away from the water during a break. They may even entertain older children for a while. Other great toy options include water squirters, frisbees, and pool noodles. Stop by your local Dollar Tree for these items so that you aren’t out big bucks if the kids lose or break them.


If you’re lucky enough to own a tough camera that is water and sand proof, you have the perfect addition to document your family trip. If you don’t have one, you can get a waterproof case for most higher end cell phones that will allow you to take photos so you never forget the big smile on your child’s face when they came running with a hermit crab or minnow cupped in their little hands. Some of my favorite family photos are the ones with an amazing ocean backdrop.


To transport all of your fun stuff and your basics like towels, flip flops, and spare sunglasses, grab some reusable shopping bags. Sturdy bags are perfect for the pool or the beach. You can even toss them in the wash and store them in the trunk for your next trip to the grocery store.

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