Soar with the Blue Angels, climb the 177 steps of the Pensacola lighthouse or explore the winding brick tunnels of Fort Barrancas. Centuries of rich military and maritime history are ready to explore on Pensacola Naval Air Station.
First stop - The National Naval Aviation Museum. With more than 150 historic aircraft, hands-on history displays, art galleries and walk-through wartime tableaus, the museum is ranked among the top museums in the country and as one of the top aviation museums in the world. Exhibits tell fascinating stories of combat actions, along with technological advancements through the decades, from hot air balloons to the lunar landing.
Experience life as a Blue Angel pilot in the museum’s motion-based simulator ride simulates horizontal rolls, longitudinal pitches and vertical climbs. In Hangar Bay One, visitors can take the Blue Angel dream even farther, with the X4D® Experience, which uses 3D technologies and interactive seats to make it feel like you are in a Blue Angels show.
Visitors are welcome to watch the Blue Angels team practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the latter of which are usually followed by question-and-answer and autograph sessions at the museum.
Just minutes away, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum is open to visitors who are invited to climb to the top and take in stunning views of Pensacola Pass, three forts, the Pensacola skyline and the historic Navy Yard. The fully restored Keepers’ Quarters, built in 1869, is home to a museum and a gift shop. The fourth tallest brick lighthouse in the country, it stood proudly through Civil War skirmishes and hurricanes. It is still active today, flashing its white beacon up to 27 miles out to sea at 20-second intervals.
The lighthouse is known one of the most-haunted places in America and has appeared on numerous ghost-hunting programs. Light of the Moon Tours include stories of the lighthouse and its ghosts, topped off with a spectacular view of the moonlit Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Bay. On Ghost Tours, visitors may bring their own ghost-hunting equipment or share some of the lighthouse’s (some equipment is sold in the gift shop).
Or, trade the ghost for a toast and reserve a romantic Toast of the Top Sunset Tour, which includes music, sparkling non-alcoholic wine in keepsake champagne flutes and light appetizers.
Fort San Carlos de Barrancas and the Water Battery are perched on a high bluff at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas was built between 1845 and 1870. Built on the site of numerous previous forts dating back to 1698, it endured numerous attacks throughout the 1700s.
During the Civil War, Confederate troops occupying the fort exchanged fire with Union troops occupying Fort Pickens across the bay. The U.S. Army deactivated Fort Barrancas in 1947.
Today, park rangers lead tours that are full of legends and lore, including tales of the spirits of Confederate soldiers who died in battle here.
No matter what your decade of interest, the sites and museums of Pensacola Naval Air Station offer the opportunity to see, learn and stand in the footsteps of some of the biggest events in American history.
With its huge brick battlements jutting up from white sand dunes and its labyrinth of arched tunnels, Fort Pickens is a favorite spot among history buffs, explorers and photographers.
A 16-mile-long barrier island linked to Florida at one end, and Alabama at the other – offers plenty of outdoor fun while maintaining the slow pace and feel of the “old Florida” that has faded from much of the Sunshine State.
Pensacola’s downtown is full of historic sites, but the truth is that with more than 450 years of history behind it, every step you take on its brick sidewalks or city parks is a part of our country’s earliest days and memories.
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