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Pensacola lands on Travel + Leisure’s Best Destinations

Photo: Visit Pensacola

It’s no secret that Pensacola is making more and more headlines each year for our beautiful beaches and charming downtown. It looks like 2024 is no different! On February 5, Travel + Leisure Magazine shared the most recent Pensacola love story…


“On the western edge of Florida’s panhandle, one underrated city offers an oasis of surprising history, a bucolic beachfront — among the best in the nation — and a culture-rich downtown. Welcome to Pensacola, a Florida city like no other, where the sugary-white beach shares turf with roaring Blue Angels aircraft, the oldest settlement in America, and a veritable gumbo of Southern flavors.

“We have exactly what you need in terms of sand and sun, and you get the best of both worlds from a sun and sand perspective here, but also a rich cultural experience,” said Sid Williams-Heath, executive director of the Pensacola Little Theatre. “I don’t think a lot of beach towns have both.”

Williams-Heath cited the city’s thriving food and arts scene, and a community that’s welcoming, progressive, and unpretentious. “There’s a sustainable nostalgia here,” he added. “You can have a very high-quality experience, but you can also put your hair down and your flip-flops on and have a very unpretentious trip as well.”

For Nicole Stacey, one of Pensacola’s 100,000 residents who serves as the curator for the city’s annual Foo Foo Festival, the locals make it special. “People know the Gulf Coast and they think they know the panhandle, but they come here and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” she explained. “It’s a beautiful beach city with a great downtown. The rest of the panhandle doesn’t really have that, and the people take so much pride from being here.”’

Top 5 not to miss:

Hotel: In 2023, an abandoned church was converted into Lily Hall, a game-changing boutique with artful decor, an excellent restaurant, and Pensacola’s first speakeasy bar.

Restaurant: It’s contemporary American cuisine with a rigorously local and seasonal through line at George Bistro + Bar, an elegant dining staple — and date night requisite — famed for an ever-changing menu with dishes like Gulf grouper with brown butter–roasted spaghetti squash.

Thing to Do: Spanning miles of Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola Beach offers the kind of sugar-white sand that people imagine when they fantasize about Florida beaches.

Nightlife: Since 1967, Seville Quarter has been a downtown cornerstone for live music, dancing, and dueling pianos, in a sprawling, multiroom space reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Shopping: Open every Saturday year-round, Palafox Market is the foremost farmers’ market in the region, comprising myriad farmers and purveyors selling everything from local meat and cheese, to arts, crafts, antiques, and soaps.

Don’t miss the full article complete with photos and best of Pensacola list here.