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Monday, December 4, 2023

Pensacola Household Street Journey Plus Day Journeys for Cell, Seaside, DeFuniak Springs, and Extra

I’ve lived in Florida for years and traveled throughout the state, from Miami to Jacksonville and Tampa to Panama Metropolis, however there’s nothing like Pensacola. 

It has the laid-back chill of Key West with the white-sand seashores of Sarasota in addition to the distinctive historical past that comes from residing below 5 flags because it was settled again in 1559. 

And Pensacola is completely positioned for highway journeys. You’ll be able to simply jump over to Destin or Panama Metropolis Seaside and again in a day. You’re solely three hours from New Orleans, proper off I-10 going west. Or you possibly can drive about the identical distance east to hit the state capital of Tallahassee.

However there are various extra sudden day-trip locations near Pensacola. You don’t want simply any seaside city (Pensacola has shoreline in spades) — you need one thing completely different. Listed below are 4 you shouldn’t miss:

  • Seaside, an unbelievably Instagrammable  waterfront deliberate neighborhood that’s lower than a two-hour scenic drive from Pensacola
  • Perdido Key, a barrier island full of pristine nature, solely a half hour from downtown
  • Cell, the large metropolis, jam-packed with museums, about an hour west on I-10
  • DeFuniak Springs, the traditional Florida small city, hiding antiques and downright fabulous meals, simply over an hour away 

Pensacola makes a superb house base for all of those day journeys. You would possibly even need to in a single day in one in every of them as I did in DeFuniak Springs (with ghosts!) to stretch out your journey.

Able to get began in your Gulf Coast household highway journey? Right here’s the place to remain, play, and dine in Pensacola and past.

The place To Keep in Pensacola

To actually get pleasure from a seaside city, it’s best to benefit from it and keep on the seaside. Our keep on the Vacation Inn Resort Pensacola Seaside was one of many highlights of our journey.

They’ve a great deal of household perks, together with KidSuites with PlayStation and one heckuva pool deck. This factor had a lazy river, floaties, waterfalls, a tiki bar, seaside entry, and stay leisure together with pirates and mermaids for the summer season and music and flicks on the weekend.

Pensacola Seaside balcony beachfront room with a gulf view on the Vacation Inn Resort

Begin your day with a scrumptious breakfast and unwind within the cocktail lounge on the finish of the evening. I like to recommend getting a balcony room — we noticed each dawn and sundown since we have been dealing with south — and essentially the most comfy mattress you possibly can think about. Save a day to hang around on the resort and simply loosen up.

Pensacola Seaside pool deck on the Vacation Inn Resort Pensacola Seaside

Plus, the whole lot on Pensacola Seaside is strolling distance, which makes it tremendous handy on the finish of a busy day of sightseeing once you need to head to dinner or if you wish to spend the day on the water fishing, kayaking, or lounging.


Issues for Households To Do in Pensacola

There’s a lot that I can’t checklist the whole lot, however listed here are the highest stuff you shouldn’t miss in Pensacola.

Go to Fort Pickens on the Gulf Islands Nationwide Seashore. If I needed to choose a favourite attraction, Fort Pickens could be it. You’ll be able to climb pre-Civil Struggle fortress partitions, see cannons, try the Discovery Middle, {photograph} panoramic views, take ranger-led excursions, or simply admire the ocean oats waving atop rolling dunes that seem like snow. Even the drive to the tip of Santa Rosa Island is beautiful, and your parking cross is sweet for every week.

Pensacola’s historic Fort Pickens

 Watch the Blue Angels, and tour the aviation museum. Perhaps you’re not tremendous into aviation? Me both. However adults and children alike can have a blast on the Nationwide Naval Aviation Museum. It’s extremely nicely completed with interactive touchscreens and autos you possibly can climb inside. In case you’re on the town when the Blue Angels are performing, don’t miss their present.

Airplanes on the Pensacola Nationwide Naval Aviation Museum

Stroll the Pensacola Boardwalk and the pier. The boardwalk is Pensacola Seaside’s go-to spot for purchasing, swimming, snacks, and simply strolling round. The 1,471-foot pier, the place critical and newbie anglers catch Gulf fish like pompano and mahi-mahi, is true off the boardwalk, making this a superb twofer vacation spot once you need some sand, solar, and possibly ice cream too. 

Discover downtown and the historic village. A part of the attraction of Pensacola is that it has a correct downtown in addition to seashores. I’m speaking breweries and bookshops, a meals corridor and nice eating, and murals galore. Go to the Palafox Pier, historical past museum, and artwork museum. The Historic Pensacola Village, that includes a number of houses and a church from Pensacola’s previous, delivered to life with the assistance of residing historical past interpreters, is a should for households.

Pensacola Florida historical past village demonstration downtown, photograph courtesy of Go to Pensacola

Chill out on the seaside. It bears repeating. Even for those who’re not staying on Pensacola Seaside, it’s essential save a minimum of a half day to go over and see what all of the fuss is about. That is the whitest, softest quartz sand, washed down from the Appalachian Mountains.

There’s additionally a cool youngsters’s museum, a lighthouse, one more historic fort, stay theater, annual occasions like November’s Foo Foo Competition and April’s crawfish competition, and nighttime paddling in LED-lit clear kayaks — all value having fun with in case you have the time. 

I’d plan round every week to see the sights and do just a few day journeys.

The place To Eat in Pensacola

With regards to eating in Pensacola, you’ve bought to strive the contemporary seafood. 

We loved the dreamy shrimp tacos and yum bowl at Pink Fish Blue Fish, proper throughout from our resort on Pensacola Seaside. Did the waterfront views and the chillax environment with garden video games and tremendous pleasant service make the meals style a bit of bit higher? Yeah, in all probability. 

Pensacola Seaside garden video games and taking part in at Pink Fish Blue Fish, photograph courtesy of Go to Pensacola

My choose for eating downtown is The Backyard on Palafox + Important. There are over 10 locations to eat and drink on this open-air but lined meals corridor that stays surprisingly cool even when the solar is blazing. With the whole lot from tacos to fried hen, everybody within the household can get what they need.

Pensacola’s downtown meals corridor The Backyard on Palafox + Important

I attempted some genuine Peruvian meals from Leaping Lomo, together with the lomo saltado, a zesty dish with marinated beef, and a lucuma smoothie, constituted of a South American fruit that nearly tastes like butterscotch — extremely beneficial! I can even vouch for the contemporary and wholesome bowls Bluefin Poké, which has grilled hen, shrimp, and extra for those who’re not into uncooked fish.

Now that you simply’ve sampled a bit of of what Pensacola has to supply, it’s time for extra Gulf Coast highway journey enjoyable.

DeFuniak Springs: Historic Allure, Native Taste 

Take a day away from the waterfront to go to one in every of Florida’s traditional small cities, DeFuniak Springs. Their historic downtown is full of boutiques, eateries, and antiques subsequent to a 260-acre park with a wonderfully spherical lake, one in every of solely two on the planet. They commonly host particular occasions — we occurred to be on the town for a boisterous Oktoberfest — however the Christmas gentle present on the lake is the annual favourite. 

Elsewhere, the historic district flaunts Victorian houses amid moss-draped oaks, the oldest repeatedly operated library within the state, a depot transformed right into a free historical past museum, and the majestic Resort Defuniak.

The resort has been fantastically restored with mosaic flooring and a gleaming brass ceiling within the foyer. Outdated-timey touches abound, like the important thing rack behind the entrance desk and classic furnishings, however these aren’t the one throwbacks — just a few ghosts who’ve lived and died on this century-old constructing are hanging round too. Paranormal investigators commonly report preternatural exercise, and a number of other unusual sounds and sightings have been witnessed by resort guests.

Historic Resort Defuniak parlor is simply off the foyer

In case you’re curious, prolong your day journey to an in a single day and see what it’s all about. Nothing spooky occurred throughout our keep, however the reminiscence of these moist, candy better-than-New-Orleans beignets, provided within the morning to resort friends, nonetheless haunts my desires, so there’s that.

In truth, Café Nola was the spotlight of our keep. This Creole restaurant serving up Nawlins classics like shrimp and grits, po-boys, and jambalaya ranks amongst 10 greatest locations I’ve ever had dinner — and that’s after 15 years {of professional} meals and journey writing, thoughts you. 

It wasn’t simply that it was good Creole delicacies. It was the distinctive spin Chef Ernie placed on the whole lot. There was a particular “rougarou” pasta that evening (named for the legendary bayou creature) made with contemporary gnocchi that was so silky, so delicately decadent that it’s exhausting to explain it as something in addition to excellent. We additionally tried the crawfish étouffée and gumbo with contemporary bakery bread on the facet. However the star of the meal was on the backside of the menu, a dish known as Redfish NOLA, full of crabmeat and topped with creamy shrimp and lobster sauce. Greatest fish I’ve ever eaten, arms down.

A redfish platter and Cajun delicacies at Cafe Nola

The parts have been beneficiant — we had leftovers — and the ambiance is upscale however nonetheless welcoming to households.

In case you do keep in DeFuniak Springs a bit of longer, close by Morrison Springs, fashionable with divers, is an efficient cease for doable manatee and sea turtle sightings. And wine aficionados ought to cease by Chautauqua Vineyard for candy muscadine wines with tropical and floral notes reflecting their environment.

Seaside: Florida’s Image-Good Seaside City

There are two methods to get to the oh-so-charming city of Seaside from Pensacola. Take the interstate to get there quick and keep away from stoplights or go for Freeway 98 alongside the gulf. Relying on site visitors, they’ll take nearly the identical period of time — just below two hours — however the waterfront route is fewer miles and extra enjoyable for those who’re not in a rush.

Nonetheless you get there, it’s essential go to Seaside.

A shaded path in Seaside, Florida, photograph courtesy of Walton County Tourism

It’s exhausting to explain the magic of this deliberate neighborhood, however possibly the intentional design explains a few of it. Roads finish in beachfront pavilions, the city heart is true on the water, and there’s a small city America vibe that blends “Norman Rockwell” with “island seaside paradise.”

Seaside isn’t an island, but it surely has that world unto itself form of really feel. The city is walkable and bikeable, persons are pleasant, and the photograph ops are practically infinite. Snap an image of the large, purple-hued Vincent Scully mural, the not-too-crowded seaside, the seasonally embellished and adorably petite put up workplace, or the quiet park at Ruskin Place the place the youngsters can hunt for the hidden fairy forest on the north facet of the plaza. 

View of Coleman Pavilion and the seaside in Seaside, photograph courtesy of Walton County Tourism

You’ll be able to simply whereas away just a few hours simply exploring, hopping into artwork galleries or visiting boutiques to search out native souvenirs like jewellery, decor, and summery garments. Children will particularly just like the whimsical toys at Duckies.

If you’re hungry, head to the Nice Southern Café for fabulous Southern delicacies infused with international flavors. They do a number of contemporary seafood from the gulf — you possibly can’t go fallacious with the catch of the day — in addition to burgers, uncooked oysters, and one thing fantastic known as “Grits a Ya Ya.” That is their tackle shrimp and grits: blackened shrimp, smoked bacon, portobello mushrooms, and smoked Gouda grits. I’m used to shrimp and grits which might be a bit oily, however as you possibly can see from the pic, that’s not the case right here.

Grits a Ya Ya at The Nice Southern Café? in Seaside

Get pleasure from lunch on the porch in paradise as you sip one thing refreshing (they do mocktails too!) and simply absorb the scene.

Perdido Key: Pristine Pure Magnificence 

Solely half-hour from downtown Pensacola, Perdido Key isn’t a high-commitment day journey for those who solely have a day to spare, however you possibly can undoubtedly make a day of it.

It’s quieter than its sister metropolis to the east, however nature lovers will get pleasure from exploring the various parks, together with:

  • Huge Lagoon State Park, greatest for water-based enjoyable like boating, paddling, and fishing in addition to the three-story remark tower for unparalleled views and birdwatching
  • Tarkiln Bayou State Park, 4,000 acres of nature trails and a boardwalk for climbing by way of uncommon and endangered crops
  • Perdido Key State Park, proper throughout from the guests heart and boasting flawless, crowd-free seashores made for sandcastles, swimming, and sundown images

We truly visited Perdido Key earlier than Pensacola, and it was a good way to slip into our trip. Perdido Secret is laid-back and scenic, a totally nice place to unwind as you kick off your Gulf Coast household highway journey.

Perdido Key State Park seaside at sundown

Whilst you’re on Perdido Key, seize dinner on the fashionable Flora-Bama Yacht Membership, which, opposite to the identify, isn’t all polo shirts and who’s-who fanciness. They’re extra good meals, good drinks, no fuss. There are TVs taking part in sports activities, greenback payments papered to the picket posts, and locals in flip-flops who come right here as a result of they know the meals is sweet. I appreciated that that they had wholesome choices, like my seared tuna on a raspberry pecan salad that had simply the proper steadiness of candy, salty, and umami.

Flora-Bama Yacht Membership options shrimp nachos and ahi tuna salad

We took an opportunity on the Greek shrimp nachos, a flavorful mound of wonton chips large enough to share, strewn with Gulf shrimp, feta, onions, peppadews, olives, and extra. However they’ve so many nice choices: a number of NOLA delicacies, crab muffins, uncooked oysters, pasta, sandwiches, seafood platters, and, for those who actually need to splurge, their signature dessert, beignet fries served with white chocolate ganache. It’s the right ending to an lively day spent climbing and swimming.

Professional tip: Afterward, you possibly can stroll throughout the road to croon alongside to stay music on the world-famous Flora-Bama Lounge crossing the Florida and Alabama state line.

Cell: Celebration Vibes and Museums Galore

Pensacola is lower than an hour from Cell, well-known because the birthplace of Mardi Gras. The port metropolis is full of sights. Whilst you can’t truly match all of it into in the future, you possibly can actually strive. We did!

I like to recommend beginning on the parks on the western finish of town within the morning when the climate’s cool and the close by Cell Museum of Artwork, which has the best youngsters’s exhibit (big interactive Lite-Brite, anybody?). 

Strolling the galleries, botanical backyard, and free Japanese backyard will assist work up your urge for food for an early lunch. We ate at Carpe Diem Espresso & Tea Co., an excellent spot for households. Their meals menu is kid-friendly, with all-day breakfast and sandwiches like hen salad — scrumptious! — and PB&J.

Get pleasure from lunch at Carpe Diem Espresso & Tea Co.

However the drinks are what they’re well-known for. You will get a tea, smoothie, pour over, espresso, or one in every of their frappés. I liked their velvety cappuccino and the blended frozen drinks, wealthy with Ghirardelli chocolate. They’ve artistic flavors similar to peanut butter, banana, and dreamsicle and might even do customized flavors. Pair it with dessert, like their contemporary crimson velvet cake, tiramisu, or pecan pie, and also you’ll have sufficient power for the remainder of the afternoon.

Cell Carnival Museum show of Mardi Gras costumes

After lunch, head to the historic metropolis heart. Listed below are just a few sights to examine off your bucket checklist. You’ll be able to’t do all of them, so select your personal journey.

    • Cell Carnival Museum: OK, this one isn’t actually non-compulsory. We questioned what the fuss was about, but it surely’s totally fascinating. Go and also you’ll perceive.
  • GulfQuest: This maritime museum was beneficial to us whereas we have been on the carnival museum, so we stopped in. It’s interactive and nice for teenagers.
    • Condé-Charlotte Museum: One of many first jails in Alabama, this two-story house has interval rooms, a walled backyard, and docents who’re Cell historical past specialists.
    • Historical past Museum of Cell: That is proper subsequent to the guests heart, making it an excellent first cease in your itinerary.
  • Mardi Gras Park: Throughout from the historical past museum, this greenspace is full of colourful statues with plaques explaining who they’re and their carnival connection.
  • USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park: Climb aboard and discover a World Struggle II battleship and a submarine. There are tanks and airplanes too!
  • Exploreum Science Middle: This museum has over 150 interactive displays plus short-term exhibitions. Once we have been there, that they had one all in regards to the science, legends, and psychology referring to concern.

There are a lot extra family-friendly sights round Cell. In case you’re driving east, hit up Alligator Alley to see gators galore.

However there’s another place each household ought to go to.

Bonus: Bellingrath Gardens & Residence

Bellingrath is a Cell space attraction, but it surely actually may very well be a day journey of its personal. 

This beautiful 65-acre backyard blooms year-round — daffodils, camellias, tulips, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and, most spectacularly, azaleas within the spring. I fell in love with the romantic rose backyard, and there’s additionally an Asian-themed backyard and a conservatory. 

A Bellingrath Gardens historic house with classic furnishings

The ten,500-square-foot house is value touring, so get the combo ticket. With out a guided go to inside, you gained’t be taught the fascinating historical past of this riverside property. Walter and Bessie Bellingrath constructed the 15-room villa in 1935, designing it to mix gracefully with its environment. The handmade brick, ironwork, and flagstone terraces add an old-world aesthetic whereas the central courtyard and plenty of home windows let within the Gulf Coast surroundings. Close by, fountains, statuary, and even a grotto really feel nearly like an extension of the constructing.

A rich Coca-Cola franchisee, Walter purchased the property on the recommendation of his physician (as I discovered on a tour by that very physician’s grandson), and the Bellingraths generously opened their backyard to the general public to get pleasure from. 

Bellingrath Gardens rose gardens

And we will get pleasure from it nonetheless at present, whether or not it’s an off-the-cuff stroll by way of the grounds or one of many many particular occasions just like the Easter egg hunt, Children Gulf Discovery Day, and spectacular Magic Christmas in Lights.

There’s a lot to see and discover in your Gulf Coast highway journey. Consider it or not, I solely skimmed the floor right here! These wide-open seashores and culture-rich cities have heaps to supply households searching for journey combined with a wholesome dose of rest. Take a Pensacola highway journey up by way of the Florida Panhandle a while, and also you’ll perceive what makes this place so particular.


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