Summer Bucket List: Things to Do in Pensacola

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At the beginning of the summer, I always think I have endless days ahead of me filled with waking up late, enjoying my coffee in peace, and finally taking that time to spend with my children doing all the things we never have time to do during a busy school year.

Last summer, my sons and I created a Summer Bucket List. Perched on top of the kitchen counter, poster board and mark in hand, we laid out all the things we wanted to do throughout our summer. 

Again I thought we had endless days to do all these things. But, in retrospect, I think I overbooked myself.

While we didn’t finish our overzealous summer bucket list, I wanted to share what we did get to and share some pro tips, along with things I plan to add!

Indoor Activities in the Pensacola Area:

Bowling

Hands down my son’s “most favorite” thing this summer. We fell in love with Cordova Lanes because it’s convenient, the staff is welcoming and easy to work with, plus the food, according to my sons, is the “best food ever!” We used KidsBowlFree.com which allowed the kids two free games, only having to pay $5 for shoes

Pro tip: Go early, stay for lunch, and then leave before camp field trips show up.

The MESS Hall

The Pensacola MESS Hall is open daily for exploration in the summer 10 am-5 pm, offers “Curiosity Days” which explore specific things like Fossils, Plants, or Water Works. Just check out their website for dates and times.

Pro Tip: They offer a 6-Month Flex pass so if your child is really into it on the first trip you might want to get one to save on money.

Sky Zone

Get that energy out! With different sections, Sky Zone is good for all ages. 

Pro Tip: Go Early and especially if you have younger children look up the pre hours for the littles. They also offer memberships to save on money.

National Naval Aviation Museum 

The Naval Aviation Museum is great for younger kids on hot days. There is an indoor playground for young kids, model jets to pretend to fly, and the IMAX Theater. Please note that access to NAS Pensacola is limited to current Department of Defense (DoD) ID card holders.

Pro Tip: Bring water and snacks. There is also a restaurant on site.

Joint Indoor/Outdoor Activities

Fast Eddies

Fast Eddies has it all! Arcade games, mini-golf, batting cage, and go-carts. While my son (8yoa) rode solo and found it overwhelming, my younger rode with his dad yielding a more relaxed ride on the go-cart track. They do have smaller tracks for younger kids as well. The arcade was the real winner here. Closely followed by the mini-golf, which was simple and short. Needed because it’s outside, meaning it’s hot.

Pro tip: Get there at opening time, go straight to the back to buy all your tickets, and do the go-carts first because those get busy.

UFOs Pensacola Beach

This mini-golf course is attached to the indoor ice cream shop and arcade. The course is new and has some cool features like a cave.

Pro tip: Go early to beat traffic, park in the main parking lot for the beach, and plan to stay for lunch at one of the many kid-friendly outdoor restaurants, such as Crabs and Flounders (both have playgrounds) or Whiskey Joe Bar and Grill which sits right on the sound side. Don’t forget that extra pair of clothes, towels, and sunscreen. (Really anytime in the summer you go out to the beach take that beach bag because if you don’t think you will – you will!)

Outdoor Activities in the Pensacola Area

Laguna Park

Hands down, you are going to have fun no matter the age! Laguna Park has rentals for various water sports including parasailing, jet-skiing, kayaks and paddleboards, and even two pontoon boats if you want to take the whole family out! The real adventure is in the park though. Go-Karts, Ropes Course (for older and younger kids), Mini Golf, Splash Pad, and the new Zip Rail.

Pro Tip: Go early (as always) during the week or go late (after 5 pm they offer a Dine and Play option). Food is available at the onsite restaurant as well, which is a great place to sit and watch the kids play.

Blue Wahoos Game!

If you go on Wednesday and your kids can stay up late, the fireworks after the Wahoos games are a July 4th level show! While the Sunday games are earlier (4pm) it is hot! So if you go early, bring water, hats, and sunscreen. For the later games, at 6:30 pm, the sun has dropped enough to where most seats (except for those by the party deck) are shaded.

Pro Tip: For younger kids that will want to play around, get general admission to picnic in the grassy area. They also have a bounce house and games located behind section 107. This is also the side that has the more kid-friendly dinner options. Make sure to bring a hat and raincoat (summer storms come out of nowhere!). If you think your kids might get bored, something to occupy their time such as color books or small travel games.

Gulf Breeze Zoo

Our local zoo plays host to a number of animals, an observation deck, and train rides. They offer daily passes and annual passes for those animal enthusiasts. There is also a small playground by the train station.

Pro Tip: Go early because it gets hot! Pre-buy your train tickets if you want to go and get giraffe food (trust me it’s so fun to feed them and the goats!). Younger kids bring your stroller; they also have rentals there as well. Pack water, snacks, sunscreen, hats, and wear good walking shoes.

Rent a Boat!

Fun in the Sun Boat Rides will pick you up at Shaggy’s on the Beach, Portofino, or Shoreline Park in Gulf Breeze (side note: if you book a private tour they can pick you up at a private dock) for a scenic cruise, dolphin cruise, or even some fishing. You can customize your boat ride! Check out their website for more information.

Pro Tip: You can bring all your own food and drinks, so pack that cooler!

Dolphin Cruises

There are a few different companies, including Jolly Sailing and Dolphin Cruises, Dolphin Express, and Premiere Dolphin Cruise, all of which can be boarded at the base of the Pensacola Beach Bridge.

Pro Tip: Check the websites, some offer drinks and others tell you to bring your own. All these boats have covers but you can still get wet! Think of your board time and beach traffic, late evening sunset cruises or early morning is best.

Park Playdate with a Splash Pad

The Sunset Kids Park and Splash Pad in Gulf Breeze have a nice splash pad to keep the kiddos cool and a fun park to burn off that energy. If you are on the other side of town, check out Carpenter’s Park in Milton which also has a large playground and splash pad.

Kayaking

Kayaking is a fun family activity. We were able to take our Kayaks throughout the summer to explore the Bayou. Walmart and Dicks Sporting Goods have small Kayaks that are perfect for kids if they are wanting to kayak solo.

Don’t have a kayak or paddleboard? Then head out to the beach and grab a rental. If you really want an unforgettable experience, go Glow Kayaking on the beach at Laguna Park.

Pro Tip: get some water shoes, a “dry bag”, and a waterproof case for your phone so you can carry it to take pictures.

Creating this summer bucket list pushed us all to spend more time together, and we didn’t even do something every day. That was the key! I also built in things we could do at the house and things we wanted to accomplish (those house projects!).

And we didn’t label it “Summer Bucket List”, but instead my personal favorite quote from my children, “What Can I Do?”

Create your own using this PMC Summer Bucket List to fill in with your plans and ideas. Not sure what to do? Use the PMC Bingo Card for inspiration!

Next Up: Summer Bucket List – What Can I Do at Home?

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Anne Frances MacDonald is a Special Education Teacher for the Escambia County School District. Prior to becoming a teacher ten years ago, she worked in the mental health field and foster care system. Working with kids is her passion that has allowed her to support the community through education, social work, and coaching her son’s soccer team. She has been married for twelve years and has two boys, ages seven and six, both of who keep her busy. As a working mother, she has many roles. In the last year, she has added writer to her list, completing her first novel, A Lost Woman. Throughout her career, she has always been dedicated to supporting others and her community.

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