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Pride Journey: Pensacola, Florida

By Joey Amato

Nestled along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola, Florida, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and coastal charm along with a vibrant LGBTQ community. From its lively markets to its delectable dining options and picturesque natural wonders, Pensacola has something to offer every visitor. Let’s take a closer look at some of the must-visit attractions in this captivating city.

I began my journey through Pensacola at the Palafox Market, where the community comes alive every Saturday morning. Located in the heart of downtown Pensacola, this bustling market offers a diverse array of locally grown produce, artisanal crafts, and delicious treats. Stroll through the rows of vendors, chat with local artisans, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this beloved community gathering. If I had brought more than a carry-on, I probably would have purchased a few items to bring home.

After exploring the market, treat yourself to a memorable dining experience at The Kennedy. This quaint but well-appointed establishment is the perfect place to grab a craft cocktail and samples some local fare. I opted for an Old Fashioned, which happened to be a Happy Hour special, as well as an order of the Pork Gyoza and Pork Belly Deviled Eggs. The music-inspired restaurant was right up my alley, and the laid-back atmosphere was the perfect way to start the evening.

Pensacola boasts a thriving LGBTQ nightlife scene, with an array of bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to the community. Check out The Roundup and Cabaret, two bars offering a variety of LGBTQ events and activities throughout the week.

Check in to the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach for your stay. Located right on the beach, this is not your everyday Holiday Inn Express. The rooms are elegantly appointed, and every room comes complete with unobstructed views of the Gulf. Stroll along the beach to witness both the sunrise and sunset. This section of the beach is less crowded with tourists so at moments you’ll feel as if you’re the only one on the sand. I woke up early each day to watch the sunrise and it was magical.

History enthusiasts won’t want to miss a visit to Fort Pickens, a historic military fort located on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island. Built in the early 19th century, Fort Pickens played a crucial role in defending the Gulf Coast during the Civil War and World War II. Today, visitors can explore the well-preserved fortifications, stroll along the scenic nature trails, and learn about the rich history of this fascinating landmark. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture breathtaking views of the Gulf and surrounding coastline.

Conclude your journey with a visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a pristine stretch of coastline renowned for its sugar-white sands and crystal-clear waters. Take a leisurely stroll along the shore, go for a refreshing swim, or simply relax and soak up the sun on one of the many secluded beaches.

Continue your day with a visit to the Pensacola Beach Pier, where you can try your hand at fishing or simply admire the panoramic views of the Gulf and Pensacola Beach. The newly reopened pier is 1471 feet in length and is one of the most popular attractions along the beach. By the time you walk to the end of the pier, you’ll be hovering almost dozens of feet over the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the perfect place to watch the waves or catch the stunning sunset.

Pensacola is a vibrant hub of LGBTQ culture and community along the Florida panhandle. From colorful events and supportive organizations to inclusive spaces and advocacy efforts, Pensacola shines as a beacon of LGBTQ culture. Pensacola’s LGBTQ community is as diverse as the city itself, encompassing people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities. PFLAG operates a chapter in Pensacola and the city is home to numerous events throughout the year including the Pensacola Pride Festival, held annually over Memorial Day weekend and is the perfect kickoff to Pride month. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the festival which will be highlighted with performances by DJ Dan Slater, DJ Abel and Trixie Mattel and is a highlight of the city’s calendar, featuring a colorful parade, live music and drag performances. Pensacola Pride draws tens of thousands of visitors and is one of the largest and most unique pride experiences in the country.

Another not to be missed event in Pensacola is their annual LGBTQ film festival called Stamped. Stamped Film Festival was spearheaded in 2012 by Sara Latshaw to create a more accepting, safe, and educated community. The film festival board and organization has continued to grow over the years with increased attendance at the annual film festival and by hosting other outreach activities. Stamped showcases the artistic contribution of LGBTQ+ film and filmmakers from all over the world. In 2015, the festival re-branded itself from Pensacola LGBTQ+ Film Fest to ‘Stamped Film Festival’, a name paying homage to the days when Memorial Day Weekend LGBTQ tourists stamped their money to demonstrate their significant impact on the local economy.

For cat lovers, I highly recommend a visit to the Coastal Cat Café to play with and/or adopt one of their beautiful feline friends. The café is opened a few months ago, and reservations are recommended to visit. About 20 cats roam freely between two rooms where they interact with visitors who are encouraged to give them some of their favorite treats. Unfortunately, my hotel didn’t allow animals otherwise I may have added a new member to my family. So far almost 50 cats have been adopted by café visitors.

Foodies searching for authentic Gulf Coast flavors, should head to Flounder’s Chowder House, a beloved local institution since 1979. Located on the scenic Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, this laid-back eatery specializes in fresh seafood dishes, including their famous chowder and signature crab cakes. Relax on the outdoor patio, feel the gentle sea breeze, and savor the flavors of the Gulf as you dine overlooking the pristine white sands and emerald waters of Pensacola Beach. I ordered the legendary Bushwacker, a milkshake-style cocktail created in Pensacola, to accompany my entrée which consisted of blackened red snapper with sauteed asparagus. The snapper was cooked to perfection and was accompanied by a delicious sauce.

End your visit to Pensacola with a sunset dolphin cruise with Frisky Mermaid Boat Tours. My particular excursion was led by an all-female crew and was wonderful despite only getting to see a few dorsal fins. The tour lasts for about two hours and the friendly crew try their best to seek out as many beautiful dolphins as possible, although sometimes they can be hard to find. Nature can be unpredictable.

Pensacola offers a wealth of experiences for visitors to discover. From vibrant markets and culinary delights to historic landmarks and natural wonders, this charming city has something for everyone. Whether you’re exploring its rich cultural heritage or simply basking in the beauty of its coastal landscapes, Pensacola is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.

Enjoy the Journey!


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