Top Ten Reasons You’ll Fall In Love With Pensacola, Fla., During September, October And Early November
When the summer season comes to an end in the Pensacola Bay Area, the activities, adventures and excitement keep going. Coastal cuisine, fall fishing, stargazing, farm tours and famous festivals are some of the reasons you’ll fall in love with Pensacola during the months of September, October and early November. And you can experience the activities and beachfront accommodations without the crowds or summer price tags.
Here’s a sneak peek at what’s hot in the Pensacola Bay Area when the weather starts cooling down: ideas for family-friendly fall travel that will take you to Pensacola’s white sand beaches, national parks, historic buildings and countryside.
Musicians performing at the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival
1. Fun on the farm
An iconic fall experience usually involves a hayride, pumpkin patch and an old-fashioned corn maze. You can find all of the above and more at Sweet Seasons Farm in Milton, Fla. Spend an hour to a half-day at the home of the largest corn maze in the Panhandle. Work your way through eight acres of corn mazes, shoot corn cannons, play in the silo, take a hayride, pick out a pumpkin, play redneck golf and sample the sweet and salty treats found on the farm: kettle corn, roasted corn, cotton candy and snow cones. Sweet Seasons Farm opens Sept. 26 and runs its fall program until Nov. 1. Holland Farms in Hollandtown, Fla., “the nuttiest place around,” also provides hours of farm fun with its high corn maze and famous boiled and roasted peanuts.
2. The Foo Foo and other famous fall festivals
Many asked last year, “What’s a foo foo and what’s the Foo Foo Fest?” They learned pretty quickly that it’s an amazing art, music and culinary experience throughout Downtown Pensacola in the fall, when the weather is nice and strolling through the historic downtown streets is a must. The events that make up Foo Foo Fest are plentiful: block parties, gallery exhibits, ballet and music. Choose what excites you, and plan your 2015 Foo Foo Fest experience for Nov. 5-16.
September is the start of Pensacola’s busy fall festival season, packed with several food fests that showcase everything from innovative, gourmet coastal cuisine to the fried favorites. Taste of the Beach, Sept. 18-19, is a two-day event that takes place directly on the white sands of Pensacola Beach. This year’s celebrity guest chef is Louisiana native John Besh. He’ll provide a cooking demonstration and sign autographs for guests who come to sip, savor, and yes, surf. Pensacola Beach chefs will also be creating their best seafood dishes for guests to enjoy. Plus, there are free surfing lessons for kids. The Pensacola Seafood Festival, Sept. 25-27, is a three-day festival in Downtown Pensacola with nightly live entertainment and tons of fried, boiled or grilled seafood with gourmet sauces. It’s also one of the largest arts and crafts fairs in Northwest Florida with more than 150 vendors.
Festivals that offer adventure include the annual family-friendly Bulls on the Beach rodeo, Sept. 12, at the world famous Flora-Bama in Perdido Key. Trade in your flip-flops for your cowboy boots and watch bulls and famous riders rumble. The Perdido Key Pirate Festival lands on Sept. 19 this year, which just happens to be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! This family-friendly event at Big Lagoon State Park includes treasure hunting, food, music and pirate games. And, no fall season is complete without a fair. The Pensacola Interstate Fair, Oct 22-Nov. 1, is one of the largest in the country and offers more than 60 rides, top-name entertainers, agricultural and entertainment exhibits and did we mention fair food?
If you’re in the market for international and national art, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival Nov. 6, 7 and 8 is a must-attend event. Named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast, this juried art show brings more than 200 nationally-known artists to Downtown Pensacola to sell original art to the masses. Thousands of visitors return year after year to shop for incredible paintings, drawings, pottery, sculptures and jewelry.
3. A Haunting Halloween
A city more than 450 years old has a long history of haunts. Those who visit Pensacola will find ghosts of infamous pirates and sea captains, along with other paranormal activity, alive and active during the month of October. Pensacola is home to what is thought to be one of the most haunted lighthouses in America: the historic Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. Go on your own ghost hunt there, if you dare, or take a haunted trolley, walking or Segway tour through historic Downtown Pensacola for a frightfully fun Halloween time.
4. Fall coastal cuisine and cooking classes
Pensacola is home to some of the best restaurants in Florida and boasts the most Golden Spoon restaurants in the Panhandle. Competitive chefs like to turn up the heat and experiment with menus, using local sources that bring fresh vegetables, fruits, and cheeses from the farms to your table. Fall menus come in season in October at local favorites like Global Grill, Jackson’s and The Grand Marlin. The variety is as vast as some of the ingredients including southern pecans, preserves, grits and artisanal cheeses. And, you can’t beat the atmospheres: historic brick buildings, busy sidewalk cafes and cozy booths that overlook the Gulf of Mexico or Pensacola Bay. Gourmet cooking classes at Jackson’s Steakhouse put more fun into your food and feature fall eats from local and exotic places like maque choux in September and Mayan dishes in October. So Gourmet offers cooking classes for both lunch and dinner. Past classes have included everything from sampling the Paleo diet to making chocolate.
5. Craft beer, cocktails and whiskey
The start of fall usually means the switch to a darker drink. Seasonal tasty beverages are celebrated and sampled throughout Pensacola whether it’s through an organized event like Oktoberfest or your own craft beer and cocktail tour. The world famous Flora-Bama hosts an Oktoberfest celebration Oct. 3. Seville Quarter entertainment complex in Downtown Pensacola hosts an Oktoberfest as well Oct. 16 and 17. You can always take a self-guided tour of the quaint, quirky and cosmopolitan bars and breweries. Try the latest craft beer at Hopjacks or Wisteria Tavern. Take part in the World of Beer Sunday afternoon street parties once a month in September and October. Tour and sample the homemade craft beer from the Pensacola Bay Brewery. Tour the McGuire’s Irish Pub brewery, or just talk to the brew master on staff. And don’t forget about the whiskey. Old Hickory Whiskey Bar in Downtown Pensacola will be offering up fall tastings and classes.
6. 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, you 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.
7. 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. While some of it takes place in outdoor venues and some inside, music lovers won’t want to miss the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival Oct. 1-4, featuring concerts and workshops or the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festivalin Perdido Key, which runs Nov. 5-15. It features Grammy Award-winning songwriters performing original songs in a variety of venues.
8. Golfing like the champions
Awarded for their championship designs and scenic water views, the Pensacola Bay Area is home to public courses, designed and played by the professionals. Play the same holes champion pro golfers Bubba Watson and Boo Weekly practiced on for years at Stonebrook Golf Club in Pace. Lost Key Golf Club in Perdido Key is a beautiful 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Design Course. A.C. Read Golf Course aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola was renovated by pro golfer and U.S. Open Champion Jerry Pate. It offers 27 championship holes and an additional 18-hole executive course. Pate also designed the course at Tiger Point Golf Club in Gulf Breeze, once home to the PGA Tour’s Pensacola Open.
9. The great outdoors – star gazing, kayaking and birding
Fall is the perfect time to camp next to the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico when space is ample. Explore the award-winning, pristine sands and hiking trails within the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Or, go inland and visit Big Lagoon State Park, a hot spot for watching birds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico. The serene Blackwater River State Park is known as a paddlers’ paradise where kayakers and canoeists enjoy the gorgeous views when it’s not so warm. It’s also home to Adventures Unlimited, an outdoor wilderness resort offering zip line adventures, tubing, kayaking and paddle boarding along the Blackwater. 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 powerful telescopes set up by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers’ Association.
10. We’ve got the Blues
Pensacola is 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. The Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show takes place Nov. 6 and 7 aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola and includes spectacular day and nighttime aerobatic performances, featuring the world-famous Blues. What makes this air show unique is that spectators can get up close and personal with the airplanes and the pilots. They can see, touch and climb into the planes on static display, talk to the air show pilots before and after performances and meet the Blue Angels who visit the flight line.