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The Florida Gulf Coast’s clear waters and white sand beaches attract many visitors each year. In fact, the entire area is a coveted vacation destination. It’s even surprisingly affordable to visit. One of these vacation hot spots is the city of Pensacola.
21 Cheap and Fun Things to Do in Pensacola
Pensacola has a rich heritage. Over time, it has been claimed by the Spanish, French, British, and Confederates before finally becoming an American city. You might see it referred to as “The City of Five Flags” on your visit for this reason.
Your trip to Pensacola doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are more than 20 cheap and fun things you can do in Pensacola on your visit. You can easily fill up a vacation itinerary without breaking the bank.
1. Spend a Day at Pensacola Beach
Pensacola has two major beaches — Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. USA Today named Pensacola Beach the Best Florida Beach in 2018 in its Reader’s Choice Awards. On your visit to Pensacola, you’ll want to make plenty of time to lounge around the beach. Just remember to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sun protective clothing, and umbrellas.
While the beaches are beautiful, the sun is scorching during the summer months, and you’ll want to take precautions on your visit to protect your skin. You’ll also want to check the local caution signs for weather and tidal conditions.
Lastly, if you’re traveling with your dog(s), you’ll want to remember to locate the dog-friendly sections of Pensacola Beach. You can even pack your own lunches to save money or visit one of the many area restaurants.
2. Visit the Naval Aviation Museum
Did you know Pensacola has the world’s largest naval aviation museum? Even better — it’s free to visit! You’ll find Flight Simulators, a Giant Digital Screen Theater, and many galleries to occupy your time at this impressive museum.
You’ll learn all about the history of naval aviation and see the beautifully restored aircraft of the Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviation units.
3. Hike the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail
The Footprints in the Sand Eco Trail is another free and fun activity to make your stay in Penscaola even more affordable! This 8.5-mile trail can be viewed on foot, by car, or on your bicycle. There are 29 stops along the trail with markers educating visitors on the rich ecosystem.
You can learn about area wildlife including dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and blue herons in addition to discovering the native flora and fauna of the area. This can be a wonderful way to learn about the environment while exploring the beautiful beaches in Pensacola.
4. Explore the Florida Great Birding and Wildlife Trail
Pensacola is just one stop along the Florida Great Birding and Wildlife Trail, which consists of 510 wildlife viewing locations. This stretch of protected shoreline offers views of many migratory birds. You won’t just find herons and gulls here.
You might also spy bald eagles, pelicans, osprey, falcons, and even more common birds like cardinals. Although the full trail stretches some 3,000 miles, there are 10 stops in Pensacola alone.
- Big Lagoon State Park
- Ecua Bayou Marcus Wetlands
- Gulf Island National Seashore: Fort Pickens
- Gulf Island National Seashore: Perdido Key
- Trout Point Nature Trail at Naval Air Station Pensacola
- Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier
- Project Greenshores
- Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
- Edward Ball Nature Trail at the University of West Florida
- Wayside Park and Pensacola Visitor Information Center
5. Dig Up History at the Pensacola Colonial Archaeological Trail
Because Pensacola was occupied by the British, Spanish, and Americans — not to mention the indigenous tribes that predated them all and were called the Pensacola—there’s a rich archaeological history in the area today.
One admission ticket will get you entry into the Pensacola Museum of History, the Pensacola Children’s Museum, the Pensacola Museum of Art, Museum of Commerce, Voices of Pensacola, Museum of Industry, and Christ Church. The ticket is good for a week, allowing visitors time to leisurely explore the rich archaeological history of the area.
Adult admission is $12, and there’s a $1 discount for AAA members, seniors, military and their families, and University of Western Florida (UWF) Alumni. Children ages 3–14 are admitted for $7, and free entry is offered to EBT/SNAP cardholders, children under 3, member and UWF students.
6. Cycle the Fort Pickens Bike Route
The Fort Pickens bike route encompasses four miles. It begins at the entrance to the fort and continues to Battery Langdon at the Ranger Station.
More adventurous cyclists may choose to continue onto the Florida National Scenic Trail from there and follow it to the historic district. Cycling is a wonderful way to explore Pensacola and Gulf Islands National Seashore.
7. Take a Self-Guided Tour
There’s an app for everything these days — including a self-guided walking tour of Pensacola. There are 12 stops along the way, and you’ll begin at the Pensacola Museum of History.
Allow at least 45 minutes to see each stop along the route, and you’ll learn about Pensacola’s complicated history while taking in the sites of the city today.
8. Watch the Impressive Feats of the Blue Angels
You don’t want to miss the Blue Angels if you’re visiting Pensacola. This famous naval flight squadron will give you strong Top Gun vibes with its impressive aerial feats. You can check the Blue Angels Show and Practice Schedules for performance dates and times when planning your visit.
9. Take Selfies on the Pensacola Photo Trail
You won’t need to search to find the perfect selfie location in Pensacola. The Pensacola Photo Trail provides 15 iconic destinations, perfect for your next TikTok video or Instagram post. Hashtag #ExperiencePcola for a chance to have your photo featured. The following destinations are included on the trail:
- Pensacola Postcard
- Graffiti Bridge
- Pelican at the Pensacola Museum of History
- Cubed Gulf Coast at Museum Plaza
- Palafox Pier Pelican
- Mississippi Blues Trail Marker
- Pensacola Beach Ball Tower
- Futuro Spaceship House
- Big Lagoon State Park Observation Tower
- Jeremiah Pelican at Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum
- Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar
- Edward Ball Nature Trail
- Alger-Sullivan Historic District
- Joe Patti’s Seafood
- Pensacola Beach Pier
10. See Dolphins with Jolly Sailing & Dolphin Cruise
While you’re looking for cheap and fun things to do in Pensacola, don’t overlook a dolphin tour with Jolly Sailing and Dolphin Cruises. Tickets start at $35 for a dolphin cruise and scenic bay tour. For $55, you can combine your dolphin tour with a view of the Blue Angels. This is a great way to see the area wildlife and experience a tour from a knowledgeable guide.
11. Take in the View at the Pensacola Lighthouse
You can absolutely visit Pensacola and not go see the Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, but you just might miss out on a spectacular view. There are 177 steps leading to the top of this historic lighthouse. Children must be at least 7 years old or 44″ tall to enter.
Adult admission is $9.50, and children, seniors, and military members can enter for $6.50. Your ticket also includes admission to the lighthouse museum where you’ll find the following exhibits:
- Coast Guard
- History of Illumination
- Living History
- Women Who Lit the Way
- Industries of Pensacola
- Oil Shed
- Reading Room
12. Have a Picnic at Pensacola Scenic Bay Bluffs Preserve
While this particular destination is temporarily closed, it deserves a mention here. This 42-acre nature preserve is the perfect place to bring a picnic or go for a hike — once it reopens, of course. Renovations to the extensive boardwalk are ongoing, but area residents and visitors are hopeful that they’ll be able to visit this scenic park and preserve in the future.
13. Visit SupDogs Paddle Board Rentals and Explore the Gulf Coast Waters
SupDogs Paddle Board Rentals offers equipment rentals, life jackets, maps of local waterways, and even delivery of your board or kayak. Paddle board rental prices start at $55 for an entire day with options to rent multiple boards or to rent for multiple days.
This is easily one of the most fun ways to see the area, and the rental rate for a board is reasonable — especially considering delivery is free. If you’ve never tried stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), this could be a great way to experience it.
14. Explore the City from a Segway with Emerald Coast Tours
I’ll never be able to think about segway tours without Weird Al singing Riding Nerdy in my head. That’s just the way it is. That doesn’t mean that a segway tour can’t be a cheap and fun way to spend time in Pensacola.
Emerald Coast Tours offers two segway tour options: Historic Pensacola Segway Tour starting at $65 and lasting two hours or the It Feels Good to Ride a Segway Tour! for $45 and lasting an hour. Riders must be at least 14 years old. Taking a segway tour can be a great way to familiarize yourself with the area on your visit.
15. Cool Off at Splash City Adventures
If you’re looking for cheap fun, look no further than Splash City Adventures! You can buy a season pass for as low as $49.99 to enjoy this amusement and water park with over 20 amazing attractions. Daily tickets start at $13.99.
If you’re traveling with kids, this can be a particularly fun stop on your itinerary. And if you’re not traveling with kids, you can still enjoy being a kid at heart at Splash City.
16. Take Yourself Out to a Ballgame at Blue Wahoos Ballpark
The Blue Wahoos are Pensacola’s Minor League Baseball team. Single game tickets are available starting March 1st, and with 69 home games a year, locals may want to consider the benefits of a season membership.
Seeing the Blue Wahoos during their season can be a highlight of your trip to Pensacola, and it checks both boxes for being cheap and fun. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a ballgame with your friends or family.
17. Test Your Skills at Grizzly Axes
Let out your competitive side at Grizzly Axes, an axe-throwing gym with a rage room, messy murals, and games. Axe throwing starts at $22 for walk-ins for an hour session. Rage room packages start at $30. Messy murals start at $30 per person. The game area includes Giant Jenga, darts, corn hole, shuffleboard, skeeball, air hockey, pool table, and more. This is a great place to blow off steam and make some fun (and affordable) vacation memories.
18. Enjoy Arcade Games at Play
Take your favorite neighborhood bar and add in some vintage arcade culture, and you’ve got Play, Pensacola’s fun and cheap neighborhood bar.
Play arcade games, shoot some pool, or even participate in karaoke night or drag queen bingo on your visit. This is a novel way to enjoy Pensacola’s night life in a way you might not have seen B4. That’s a bingo pun, by the way.
19. Shop Palafox Market
You’ll find Palafox Market every Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm on Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola. You can explore seasonal produce, local art, baked goods, crafts, and antiques at this weekly market. If you find yourself spending time in Pensacola on a weekend, don’t forget to stroll through the market to shop local and support the local economy.
20. Explore and Play at Perdido Kids Park
Perdido Kids Park is a great Pensacola destination if you’re traveling with children. This park and community center offers a playground, picnic tables, and a pavillion. The playground is extensive, and parents will be happy to know that the park offers accessible restrooms, too. There are even misters available to cool off your kids on hot days.
21. Enjoy Gallery Night in Downtown Pensacola
Last but certainly not least is Gallery Night where Pensacola takes art to the streets. On the third Friday of every month, the city hosts a Gallery Night from 5 to 10 pm. You’ll find food trucks, performers, art vendors, non-profits, and live shows in the downtown area. Parking is cheap or free, and this special event is a great way to see the local art and culture.
Your Visit to Pensacola
Pensacola has beautiful beaches, a rich heritage, and plenty of cheap and fun things to see and do. While you’ll want to pack reef-safe sunscreen and check the weather, your visit is sure to be filled with fun. Whether you plan to spend all your time as a beach bum or are interested in taking in as much of the local history and culture as you can on your visit, you’re sure to have a great time in Pensacola.
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