Downtown Pensacola: Rated E for Everyone
If Downtown Pensacola was assigned a film rating, the result would be “Rated E for everyone.” If you’re a first timer, you’ll quickly see why it is named one of the best small cities in the U.S. and has Oscar-winning charm. And if you’re a repeat offender, well, you know why.
The city of five flags is suitable for all ages, with unique offerings to attract every individual. The streets and shops are full of rich history but downtown continues to evolve into a more vibrant, must-see destination each year.
Downtown is a welcoming friend who invites you to sit for comfort food and drinks. Take a seat at The Bodacious Brew. Sip their vanilla latte for a burst of energy needed to explore the city on foot. Start by sampling assorted, flavorful olive oils and vinegars next door at The Bodacious Olive. Then step upstairs into So Gourmet for kitchenware that will inspire you to take culinary action.
If a quick lunch is on the mind, stop in at Doghouse Deli for fast, friendly service. Try the chorizo burrito, Garden Street Grinder or a famous hot dog. If you want a slower, divine palate experience, dine at Skopelos at New World to taste fresh Gulf flavors and Spanish-inspired tapas. If you want Asian flavor, there is no need to take the orient express. Go to Nom Sushi Izakaya for a festival of options. Sweet cravings call for a stop into Bubba’s Sweet Spot to select from fudge, candies and ice cream. You can even grab food from the hot and cold salad bars at Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Café and take it for a picnic in Plaza de Luna.
While in Plaza de Luna’s waterfront park, take in sites of boats, fishermen, and birds. Don Tristan de Luna’s statue greets you upon arrival. Find a park bench and get cozy as you people-watch and feel the bay breeze. If the moment feels right, take your shoes off and splash through the fountain courtyard. Take a sailboat cruise or tour the newest attraction docked in the port.
Art lovers can walk, skip or run past the incredible art spread throughout nearly every downtown block like a beautiful tapestry. Look for the pelican statutes and create your own bird-seeking trail, from Palafox and Garden Streets to inside Pensacola Main Library and other hidden places. Take a historical snapshot of the Jefferson Street Parking Garage mural. Glide into Quayside Gallery on Zarragossa Street to witness unique pieces, from acrylic to fiber to glass. Young artists to more eclectic designers will each find something to love.
Don’t just admire art from afar. Consider wearing custom, local pieces found at Susan Campbell Jewelry. You’ll find your muse there. Continue shopping for specialty items or purchase fresh flowers at Fiore Pensacola Boutique. Dash over to the Blue Wahoos stadium gift shop. The Bait & Tackle will delight baseball and other sports fans with their selection of ball caps, bats and jerseys. Plus the award-winning stadium has one of the most beautiful views of Pensacola Bay.
Become lost in Historic Pensacola Village where you will find yourself again among incredible, past artifacts and exhibits. The stories and people vibrantly explain how Downtown Pensacola has been shaped for more than 450 years. Take advantage of the “One Ticket, Seven Days to Explore,” package deal that allows you to map out your first-choice and favorite Downtown museums. Scatter them among your vacation stay as you make your own footprints over Spanish, British and other explorers.
Music in Downtown can be found everywhere. You’ll hear it playing from the streets. If you’re lucky, you can see a show at Vinyl Music Hall or attend a performance at the Saenger Theatre. Let your ears guide you into Seville Quarter where the End o’ the Alley Bar and the Courtyard feature nightly live music and Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium hosts sing-a-longs and a dueling piano show. If you’re brave and thirsty enough, try a Flaming Hurricane drink at Rosie’s too.
After a day filled with shopping, art, dining, music and more, take time to relax with a bubbly drink or a cold brew. Try Perfect Plain Brewing Company for an expansive taproom. Visiting pet lovers will appreciate their dog-friendly patio.
Slide over to Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood. Here the jazz tunes and easy feelings will overcome you. Admire the vividly painted murals on the blocks by local black artist Carter J. Gaston. Absorb that deep community and share the sister’s sampler at Five Sisters Blues Café. You won’t regret it. Then see how the past meets the future by exploring technological advances at the UWF Innovation Institute.
Full of pizzazz and photo opportunities, that’s Downtown. While you’re here, enjoy long, slow glances at the rustic architecture and beautifully decorated streets. Take selfies with pelicans at the pier of Joe Patti’s world-famous seafood market. We don’t mind. Share them with your friends and invite them to visit. We will be waiting to welcome them too.
Downtown is that favorite movie you replay again. Once you view and visit it once, you must repeat.
Mandy Fernandez is a full-time writer, editor a published author living in Pensacola, Florida with her husband and two children. She writes creatively and professionally on health, business, education, creative arts, family life, parenting and natural foods. Mandy loves sharing humorous stories, poetry and essays about womanhood and motherhood. She is the editor of Gulf Coast Healthy Living magazine. Her first children's book, Kazoo Makes The Team, was released in 2016. You can learn more about her at www.writtenbymandy.com.