When the summer season comes to an end on Pensacola Beach, the activities, adventures and excitement keep going. Pensacola Beach is home to award-winning sugar-white beaches, delectable coastal cuisine and an event calendar brimming with festivals, the arts and seasonal celebrations in the fall. It’s the best time of year to visit Pensacola Beach, when the weather is gorgeous, the beach water is still warm and you can experience the activities and beachfront accommodations without the crowds or summer price tags.
1. Foodie Paradise
September is the start of Pensacola Beach’s busy fall festival season, and things kick off with a culinary explosion that showcases everything from innovative, gourmet coastal cuisine to the fried favorites. Taste of the Beach, Sept. 23-24, is a two-day event that takes place directly on the white sands of Pensacola Beach. This year, Pensacola’s own Celebrity Chefs are the featured guests and will butter up the crowds, taking the Gulfside Pavilion stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, to present a simultaneous live cooking demonstration and Q&A session. Dan Dunn of H2O at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front will be preparing Oyster Stew; Irv Miller of Jackson’s Steakhouse will present Smoked Mullet Dip; Jim Shirley of The Fish House will make Seafood Thai Molee; Gus Silivos of Skopelos at New World will present Grilled Octopus with Sun-Roasted Tomatoes and Hummus; and Frank Taylor of Global Grill will whip up a Seafood Ceviche.
The following month, the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk will transform into an artist and wine lover’s paradise on Sunday, Oct. 23, for the 2016 Pensacola Beach Art & Wine Festival. Spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon strolling the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, enjoying the fall air while sampling wines and perusing the works of some of the Gulf Coast’s most talented artists. Starting at 11 a.m. and lasting until 4 p.m., the festival brings together 25 local artists and more than 50 wine selections, all in one place.
2. Spectacular fall fishing
Forget the sweating and the potential sunburns you might get during the summer fishing season. Instead, the fall brings more comfortable fishing conditions with the chance to catch some of the same summer species as well as fall favorites. Leading into October, visitors can still catch some of the best grouper, amberjack, triggerfish, wahoo, marlin, and tuna, as well as red snapper when the season reopens for a short period. King mackerel is a good catch in the early fall, and the big redfish appear in November when the water cools down. Charter captains and boats in Pensacola and Perdido Key are abundant, passionate and knowledgeable on the hottest fall fishing holes.
3. Music under the moonlight
Cooler nights invite you to take advantage of the free outdoor entertainment on Pensacola Beach and downtown. Pensacola Beach’s outdoor concert series, Bands on the Beach, continues weekly until the end of October and attracts hundreds who want to sip and sway under the starry beach skies. A well-diversified line up of local and regional artists take the stage at the beautiful Gulfside Pavilion on Pensacola Beach each week at 7 p.m. The event attracts thousands of fans throughout the season.
Folks of all ages set up their lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets. Heck, some folks go all out with tables, candles and fully prepped meals while enjoying the music. For those less prepared, concessions and cocktails are available nearby. Whatever your style, the venue’s beach backdrop, accompanied by a subtle island breeze, is hands down unparalleled.
4. The great outdoors – star gazing, kayaking and birding
Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico when space is ample. Explore the award-winning, pristine sands, watch for migrating birds, and learn about the flora and fauna while traveling along the hiking trails within the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Or discover the seashore by kayak while paralleling the island on the Santa Rosa Sound, a paddlers’ paradise where kayakers and canoeists enjoy the gorgeous views when it’s not so warm. Free, public stargazing sessions on Pensacola Beach continue in September and October and offer the chance to see the stars, planets and even galaxies through a dozen of powerful telescopes set up by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers’ Association.
5. We’ve got the Blues
Pensacola may be known as the “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” and lucky to be home to the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron — but the last weekend of September brings a different kind of Blues to Pensacola Beach, one that music lovers won’t want to miss. The Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival runs September 29 through October 2 when many of the restaurants and bars on Pensacola Beach play host to more than 75 award-winning and up-and-coming musicians and songwriters who come to the beach for the weekend to perform their original songs and talk about the stories behind the music.