Pensacola has trademarked The Way To Beach™, but could just as easily claim The Way To Do Food Festivals or even just The Way To Eat! Hungry for more? Tuck in here.
A history of food festivals and authentic flavours
Pensacola is one of the world’s classic beach holidays, which is only to be expected considering it’s also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in America. But the real spirit of The Way to Beach™ is much more than just days by the sea.
It’s about the history that began when Don Tristan de Luna spotted this dazzling coast in 1559, established the country’s first European settlement and laid the foundations for today’s multi-cultural, diverse and vibrant city.
It’s also about festivals, of which there are many, year round, especially food festivals. In fact, a big part of the finding your own way to beach here is exploring the fresh, bright taste of Pensacola from one-of-a-kind Gulf Coast cuisine to toes in the sand snacking or a completely original take on Cajun cooking.
Drop into Downtown Pensacola and come hungry
Start your taste test in Downtown Pensacola, for a combination of authentic atmosphere, traditional charm and outstanding food, all ways; as well as cocktails on the waterfront, great coffee shops, snack opportunities a plenty and some of Florida’s chicest chef-run restaurants.
This downtown district is one you’ll never mistake for anything less than the real deal, which is hardly surprising considering over 460 years of history went into its making. Though if that sounds even slightly less than lively, think again. Just about everything in Pensacola comes with a past, which only makes its present even more exciting.
You can’t miss the local passion for Gulf Coast cuisine
However, there are a few things you won’t find here, like chain stores and restaurants. Instead, you get to wander streets lined with specialist shops and independent art galleries. Of course there are lots of places to eat, no question about that, just get ready for passionate people cooking up a storm in home-grown restaurants with a real local vibe, whether they’re serving sensational sushi, real-deal BBQ or fabulous fresh seafood.
You aren’t ready for how good the beach eats are in Pensacola
If you’re thinking northwest Florida family holidays, chances are you’re already a fan of beach eats. But still nothing prepares you for the particular Pensacola beach eats’ experience. It’s not just that the seafood will be the freshest, most abundant and perfectly prepped you’ll ever have tasted; that’s a given. It’s more about the combo of that and the beachy mood that’s served as standard on every menu from Pensacola Beach to Perdido Key. What can we say? Pull up a chair, kick off your shoes, feel the silvery sand between your toes and dig in!
Find sublime seafood and cool cocktails in Perdido Key
It might translate as the ‘lost island’, but Perdido Key is a real find when it comes to authentic seafood, barefoot restaurants and fabulous food with a side-order of Gulf views. If you want to try Pensacola’s signature cocktail, the Bushwacker, this is the place to find the boozy, grown-up milkshake served at its best. It’s also another iconic Gulf to grill spot for ridiculously good BBQ, as well as a food truck legend and where you really taste the local multiculturalism from traditional pizza to Latin street food.
Pensacola food festivals are some of Florida’s finest
Downtown also plays a big part in all those annual festivals we mentioned, from the one-and-only Foo Foo Festival in November to February’s Mardi Gras, and you can’t miss its presence in Pensacola’s line up of food festivals.
These are legends, and not just locally. Visitors come from all over, all walks of life and all ages and stages to find out what’s cooking round these parts, and nobody is shy about serving up everything from sensational eats to fresh tunes, fabulous entertainment and enough kid-size goings-on to entice even the pickiest little eaters to tuck into the fun.
- February is the month for Pensacola Habitat Food Truck Festival. One of the coolest annual events this should warm your heart too, as all proceeds go to Pensacola Habitat for Humanity.
- Sticking with heart warming, try some age old eating traditions at the Pensacola Crawfish Festival in April. It celebrates the start of Crawfish Season, takes over the Historic District for three colourful and delicious days, and if you haven’t tried authentic Cajun cooking yet, start here. We promise you’ll never look back!
- If any food festival deserves the description ‘only in Pensacola’ it has to be the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss. The ‘toss’ is all about who can throw a mullet the furthest across the state line from Florida to Alabama. But the event itself is more like the best beach party you’ve ever been to, that lasts a whole weekend and draws people from all over to participate, spectate and generally have a ball. Another must-do local event in April.
Mixing up food festivals with big beach vibes
- A side order of one of the largest arts and crafts fairs in northwest Florida makes the Annual Pensacola Seafood Festival taste even better in autumn. Another event that showcases the city’s charming Downtown district, the food is fantastic, of course, but the atmosphere beats all.
- Pensacola’s legendary coastal cuisine is cause for celebration at Taste of the Beach in October. The focus is on fresh, local seafood and the stars of this particular festival are always the exceptional local restaurants where the Gulf Coast’s finest is interpreted in uniquely Pensacola style.
Everyone comes to Pensacola to cook, eat and play
- If anyone ever questions Pensacola’s multi-culturalism, point them in the direction of November’s annual Greek Festival. This is definitely one for the whole family: warm, friendly, lots of fun and plenty of great food, of course.
- Don’t miss Smokin’ in the Square, November’s ultimate Pensacola cook-off. If you’ve got keen to grill kids, this is the family festival where they’ll learn the only way to BBQ is the northwest Florida way.
- So wild about food is Pensacola, the city even has an EggFest. If that sounds a bit low-key compared to Gulf Coast cuisine, authentic southern BBQ and seafood for miles, don’t be deceived. When the best backyard cooks in the US bring their competitive spirit to the amazing Blue Wahoos Stadium, there’s nothing even close to low-key about the results.