A Weekend in Pensacola
Words by Rachel Ishee
Photos provided by Visit Pensacola
Since I grew up about an hour from the coastal town, I’ve visited Pensacola with my family on several occasions. The time that we spent there was short–mostly day trips with the occasional one night stay at a nearby hotel. What I remembered about Pensacola was the beautiful beaches and the famous Irish pub, McGuire's–but there is so much more to it than that.
As the first European settlement in North America, people have been flocking to its sandy shores for over four centuries. Because the city is so old, there is so much rich history here that can be seen and felt with just a walk through downtown.
I was lucky enough to get to visit Pensacola during its Foo Foo Fest weekend, a 12 day long celebration that highlights the culture of the southern town. Here are a list of the places that I hit up during one of the best times of the year to visit the sunshine state.
Hilton Pensacola Beach
As soon as I stepped into the lobby of the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel I knew that the fun was about to begin. I was greeted by a warm welcome from the people at the front desk and then directed to my gorgeous hotel suite. Words cannot describe how beautiful the view was from my seventh floor balcony. Every room at the Hilton offers eye-catching views, because the Gulf of Mexico and the Santa Rosa Sound surrounds the the area. Because the beach was just steps away from my hotel, I had to wake up early for a morning stroll along the white sandy beaches and emerald green water as the sun rose high above the horizon.
The Happy Art Tour
My first stop of the trip was at the The Happy Art Tour, an interactive exhibit where visitors get the chance to see, touch, taste, smell and hear the art around them. With five multi-sensory rooms, these exhibits are designed to both engage and inspire young and old. Not only will you walk out with a new outlook on life, but The Happy Art Tour also offers endless backdrops to capture the perfect Instagrammable moments.
Big Top Brewing Company
After working up an appetite at The Happy Art Tour, I strolled over a couple block to Big Top Brewing Company. This fun and casual dining space offers Gulf coast favorites as well as American classics with a circus twist. With menu items such as The Smoking Canon Cuban and the Daredevil Totchos, Chef “Dano” Dunn will take you on a wild, delicious journey.
There are few things that I enjoy more than a Saturday brunch, and if you’re in Pensacola, you have to visit this revitalized 1860s-era building. Named after Andrew Jackson, the restaurant overlooks the historic Plaza Ferdinand where Generald Jackson accepted the transfer of Florida from the Spanish to the United States in 1821. Considered one of Florida’s top 25 restaurants, Jackson’s Steakhouse menu is what brunch fantasies are made out of. If you are in the mood for some coastal seafood, I would recommend the Florida shrimp and grits. For those who are craving something a little meatier, try the prime rib eggs benedict or Jackson’s steak and eggs.
Condor Sailing Adventures and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels
Air shows are always a spectacle to see. There is something magical about watching planes that cost more than some homes flying inches apart from each other at speeds that are unfathomable. What makes this nail biting show even more memorable is watching it in the middle of open water on a world-class racing trimaran. Captain Kirk is an absolute treat and goes above and beyond to ensure that all of his passengers are happy throughout the voyage. For those of you who are prone to seasickness, no worries. Because the Condor was built as a racing vessel, there is very little leaning and rocking.
Women of Fire
For thousands of years, fire has been a huge part of people’s culture and communities. Associated with power and vitality, women artists have faced gender bias throughout history. At Women of Fire, a diverse group of female artists gathered together to show off their art in a multi-day event. During my time there, I was exposed to female blacksmiths, glassblowers, potters and so much more. It was extremely empowering to watch women make beautiful pieces of art out of nothing in a craft that they have worked at for years.
Restaurant Iron combines southern favorites with a contemporary twist to make a dining experience that is like no other. A quick scan around the restaurant and you will see numerous culinary awards won by Executive Chef Alex McPhail and his team. Some of the mouth-watering menu options include black garlic butter escargot and gnocchi, Skuna Bay wild caught salmon and a cast iron seared 24 oz. prime ribeye. If you’ve managed to save room for dessert after a meal of a lifetime, I recommend indulging in the icebox Nutella pie. You won’t regret it.
For more information on these places and many more, visit the Visit Pensacola website.