Scarcely more than 20 miles from Alabama with a distinctly Southern air to show for it, the Panhandle city of Pensacola is Florida's northwestern cultural and urban hub. An attractive city with a 400-year history, it is home to the flying dare-devils, the Blue Angels, and it's where every naval, marine and coast guard pilot receives training, earning it the nickname, "Cradle to Naval Aviation". This ought not deter the average visitor, who is more at home at the wheel of a four-wheeled machine - Pensacola has its military side, yes, but there are certainly more facets to this place than the fly-by and Delta formation
Strolling along brick streets in the renovated old downtown, museum hopping in the Historic Pensacola Village and perusing the fine art exhibits on display at the city's former prison (now the Pensacola Museum of Art) visitors will get a better understanding of region's cultural charms - and there's an arts-oriented events calendar that stays reasonably full to provide complimentary evening entertainment.
Outdoors enthusiasts will find that much of the activity in these parts centers around the water, whether diving for lost treasures off the Gulf coast, pier fishing at the beach, or enjoying a day of paddling. Sunbathers and beach combers can head for the 8-mile long Pensacola Beach (on Santa Rosa, a barrier Island) only two bridges away to the southeast, or tackle a stretch of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which runs all the way to West Ship Island in Mississippi via Perdido Key and Fort Pickens.
Biking paths are available throughout the area and serve as a thoroughfare for bikers, hikers, joggers and skaters. In nearby Milton, the Blackwater River State Park offers canoeing, kayaking, tubing, orienteering and camping. A great way to end the day is to take an 11-mile drive along the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway, US-90, a scenic route traveling on the crests of red clay bluffs that protrude from Escambia Bay, creating the highest elevation in Florida.
Pensacola might be often overlooked on the traditional Sunshine State tourist agenda because of its northwestern location, but for those who take the time to enjoy this little detour the reward runs from cultural pursuits to noteworthy national seashore.
Pensacola is 107 miles from Gainesville and 200 miles from Tallahassee.