City Profile: Pensacola

By: VISIT FLORIDA staff

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Beautiful beaches and historic sites give Pensacola big-time vacation appeal.

Known as the "City of Five Flags," Pensacola has been under the rule of the Spanish, the British, the French, the Confederacy and the United States since the first conquistadors landed in America in 1559. The city's rich history lends itself to fascinating historical sites, giving tourists the chance to soak in its varied and colorful past. Within just a few blocks, Historic Pensacola Village offers guided tours of exhibits including furnished period houses, museums, and archaeological sites spanning from the earliest Spanish explorers to the 1920s.

The downtown area burgeons with art galleries, theatrical and symphony performances, big-name musical stars, and delightful restaurants and shops ranging from down-home to exquisite. To the west is the Naval Air Station, which boasts the world-renowned National Museum of Naval Aviation and hosts the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show each November. Also in this area is the 16th-century Spanish Fort San Carlos de Austria, Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens (the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay and its Navy yard) and the Pensacola Lighthouse, which was built in 1824, reconstructed in 1859 and is still in use today.

Boasting some of the most pristine white sands in the state, Pensacola's breathtaking beaches offer the perfect setting for a seaside vacation. Most are protected by federal and state programs that keep them clean and easily accessible to the public. Gulf Islands National Seashore provides a protected environment for more than 300 species of birds, nature lovers will delight in these unspoiled stretches of shoreline.

The more active vacationer will enjoy fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling or scuba diving in the Gulf or Pensacola Bay. Divers can also explore the world’s largest artificial reef, the USS Oriskany. Nearby Milton, dubbed the Canoe Capital of Florida, offers opportunities for camping, canoeing, kayaking and tubing along its crystal-clear spring-fed waters.

Pensacola is a place where Southern hospitality and style are mixed with a beachfront lifestyle. Whether it's the mix of Southern cooking and fresh seafood or historic homes and dazzling nightlife, you'll find yourself enjoying every minute of it. After all, what else would you expect from a city named the seventh most polite city in the nation?

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