This past week hubbs, Amy, and I took a trip down to Pensacola visiting Andrew while staying on lovely Pensacola Beach. The thistles bit, the sun burned, and the jelly fish stung, but all in all it was still a great vacation.
I’d like to recommend to anyone heading on vacation to a touristy area with a 3+ sized group to get a condo. They’re cheaper than everyone getting a hotel room and it’s much nicer to have your own space without people fluttering in and out of your room daily to freshen your linens and towels.
Pensacola beach was a typical tourist beach minus the board walk. The water was a bit cold, but we still swam, uh, swimmingly. The general surroundings were decent with a few nice restaurants spread out in the area which we probably wouldn’t have known about without Andrew’s local knowledge. There were also quite a few hole-in-the-wall food places that were rather scrumptious.
Mid-week we decided to take a day trip to New Orleans, as none of us had seen it before. And while I think we all got something out the the day trip, I don’t think I would have put in more effort than we did to see New Orleans. I’ve heard that Mardi Gras is really something to see, and I sure hope so, because what we saw was a city mixed evenly with people making an honest living by operating a shop, playing street music, performing magic; and those who had absolutely nothing to lose, shamelessly pan-handling and drifting aimlessly and uneasily, as if their motions were completely unpredictable. Now we chalked a lot of the pan-handling up to the not too long ago devastation of the city via Katrina, but there was a solid feeling of unease through the city. I do not recommend traveling there alone.
Now that being said, the food was good and there were a few interesting shops with unique fashions and a hot sauce rack in every tourist trap, but the vast majority of activities in the town seemed to be tours, most of which took roughly two to three hours, spaced the same amount apart. All in all, my assessment was not impressed. Perhaps my expectations ran a bit high. . .
Back to Pensacola: two restaurants I recommend.
- McGuire’s Irish Pub.
Excellent food at reasonable prices with spectacular atmosphere. The service was the best I’ve had literally in years. Wide variety of alcohol for those of you who indulge. Huge wine cellar and they brew their own beer. Beware the Irish wake.
- Sake Cafe (a Hibachi Grill).
Unfortunately I can give no further information on this restaurant, but the food and service was unreasonably good for the cheap prices they charge. It appears to be family owned by a few different families. The matrons of the family manage it and visit tables personally recognizing guests that have only attended a few times. They are generous with coupons and the showmanship of the chefs is impressive. Good for all ages. The Sake is hot and smooth.
- I recommend against: Flounder’s Chowder House.
We ordered the seafood nachos and they were all we ate. (We being four of us). There was plenty to serve all of us and we even split a key lime pie that was pretty good. But the service was absolutely atrocious, the menu was sparse, and even the items listed on the menu were not all in stock. Granted living in Maryland makes me a bit of a seafood snob, but dear goodness me how hard is it to find a salmon? Our waiter wasn’t rude; he wasn’t around long enough to be rude. He did not introduce himself, did not ask if we had questions, departed speedily ignoring our inquiries, and seemed to be overworked and exhausted. My soda was flat and tasted funny (as if the water wasn’t filtered correctly) and frankly I didn’t trust the food too much. It was overpriced, not at all worth it, and to put the cherry on top, it also seemed to be douche bag central on the beach. Every tool and juice box seemed to go there to get drunk and obnoxious.
If you enjoy museums and the like there are blue angels practice shows on base every Tuesday and Wednesday for a few hours. They take place next to the aviation museum. There’s a local zoo in gulf breeze that’s small enough for a few hours walk with lions and tigers at close range, tons of monkeys, and chimps that interact with you and imitate you. Also a large petting area to feed the animals.
The beach is lovely and clean. Watch out for crabs at night and be careful of jellies during the day. The further down ft.Pickens road you travel towards the Fort itself, the more sparse beach-g0ers are, giving you the opportunity for your own personal strip of beach. There is brackish water on one side of the peninsula and salt water on the other. Ft. Pickens sits on the point (7+ miles from most condos, don’t be deceived) and is open for tour and exploration. There are many people who come to the beach to fish, so be careful when walking and swimming that you don’t walk into a line or worse, get hooked.
We didn’t explore much area night life other than the few restaurants I’ve already listed. We visited the beach at night and it was absolutely beautiful. I recommend remaining on the various boardwalk entrances to avoid the crabs. We also brought a few board games with us to entertain our evenings in.
I would like to give fair warning that I personally observed at least three counts of reckless and likely drunken driving. All of these incidents ended with a swift traffic stop by area police, but I would like to note that there are drunk drivers in the area so to be cautious while driving at night.
So that’s my travel review of Pensacola Beach and the surrounding area. Many people seemed to enjoy my posts about over seas travel, so maybe some of you will like this review too.