Pensacola is a port city of over 52 thousand residents, located on the western end of the Florida Panhandle (the furthest area northwest in the state). There are over 400 thousand Floridians living in the suburbs and unincorporated area around this city, meaning that its metropolitan area is home to about 500 thousand people. Pensacola sits on the shores of Pensacola Bay, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico, and a large Naval Air Station is located to its southwest.
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Pensacola's location on the Florida Panhandle makes it vulnerable to hurricanes, so it's important to keep an eye on the weather reports when traveling here. Eight major hurricanes have come ashore near Pensacola since 1975, including 2004's Hurricane Ivan which devastated most of the area. Ivan destroyed 10 thousand homes and 27 thousand more were heavily damaged. One cool thing you can do in your rental car is to tour areas that were devastated by the storm, and see all the rebuilt and modernized bridges and buildings that have sprung up in the decade since that terrible natural disaster.
Did You Know… the population inside this city's limits has been remarkably steady through the years? Between the 1960 U.S. Census and 2010 Census, the population of Pensacola has always been counted as between 51 thousand and 60 thousand. This is partially because there is a lot of organized opposition to annexation in the suburbs around the city!
Pensacola is also known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation”. Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP) was the 1st of its kind when it was commissioned and is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. The NASP will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2014! Among the many Navy pilots who were trained at NASP were John H. Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon! You can drive over in your rental car to the NASP and visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation – it's free to the public, and features hundreds of vintage Naval Aviation aircraft and even has an IMAX movie theater (sadly, it isn't free)!
Pensacola Beach is a great place, where you can doze off in the sun and enjoy the cool water and the clean sand. It is a very popular spot for family vacations, and it provides activities for young children. There are even restrooms and showers near the beach, as well as a wide array of restaurants where you can enjoy the local delicacies. Pensacola Beach also provides visitors here safe parking lots where they can leave their cars.
Sam's Fun City in Pensacola offers year round fun for everyone. Admission fees for children are free, and adults can benefit from discounts , if they have discounts. The activities here are wonderful for people of all ages, with many rides you can benefit from, such as roller coasters, bumper cars, go-kart, laser tag, paintball and an indoor arcade, where you and your family can play the latest video games. There are also restaurants and snack bars, where you can eat or drink something.
Historic Pensacola Village is a great place, where you will learn more interesting things about the history, culture and civilization of Pensacola and the surrounding areas. There are twenty seven properties in the Pensacola Village, such as the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum, City Hall and the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site.
Pensacola has a long history of naval and aviation development. However, it is rich in cultural history whilst offering plenty of facilities for those with more modern tastes.
1. Visit the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum: The architecture of this building on its own is worth a look. It was built in the early 20th century when its intended use was as a City Hall but it is now a renowned museum with a wide range of artefacts which reflect the rich cultural heritage of Florida.
2. Go Visit a Fort: Four forts actually serve as the defence for Pensacola. Although not in use currently, they have served a vital purpose when America was at war. Now redundant they offer an insight into how America defended herself and how invincible forts like these made her!
3. See the National Museum of Naval Aviation: This museum is housed within the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Offers an almost unique insight into the history of naval aviation. The museum is extremely interactive, with flight simulators and also a movie theatre with IMAX films. A café and shop complete an informative but interesting day out.
4. Visit St. Michael' s Cemetery: Despite its name, this is now a museum which has been the last resting place for all kinds of nationalities who have made the trip to the 'New World'. The different cultural monuments to the dead, reveal fascinating insights into other cultures and as such is well worth a visit.
5. Go fishing: Pensacola offers a wide range of marine based activities such as fishing, or diving as well as dolphin spotting tours and sailing. So if you are a keen sailor or simply like to get in touch with nature, Pensacola is a real treasure trove.