Introduction to Pensacola, Florida
The city of Pensacola, county seat of Escambia County, is located on the westernmost part of the Florida panhandle, about 10 miles from the Alabama border and 60 miles east of the city of Mobile. The city is a seaport on the Pensacola Bay, which outlets to the Gulf of Mexico. Major highways servicing the city include Interstates I-110 and I-10, U.S. Routes 90 and 98, and Florida State Highway 297. Incorporated in 1822, Pensacola shares the distinction (along with St. Augustine) of being Florida's two oldest chartered cities.
As the very first European settlement in America, Pensacola was colonized by Spanish explorer Don Tristan de Luna in 1559. Its name was derived from the Panzacola Indians who were there when the Spanish explorers landed. Nicknamed "The City of Five Flags", Pensacola has a diverse history, having flown at various times under the flags of Spain, France, England, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. Located southwest of the city is a large U.S. Navy air base, the first in the country, which evolved from what was formerly a Navy shipyard first established in 1825. The air base is now home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Museum of Naval Aviation, a fact which earned Pensacola its alternate nickname: the "Cradle of Naval Aviation".
Two nicknames are not enough for Pensacola, which also proclaims itself as home to the "World's Whitest Beaches". Fifty-two miles of Gulf waters and their associated pristine shores make it easy to see why. Swimming, fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, and jet skiing await not only beach lovers but also those who take advantage of the various rivers, bayous, and sounds the area has to offer. The city is also home to a multitude of historical and cultural sites. Historic Pensacola Village is a collection of over 20 historical buildings and museums in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. The Pensacola Historical Museum offers overviews of the nations whose flags flew over Pensacola and three changing exhibits a year, including a special seasonal exhibit during December and two exhibits showcasing various aspects of Pensacola's diverse history. The world-class National Museum of Naval Aviation, one of the largest and most beautiful air and space museums in the world, houses over 140 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. The Museum also features memorabilia including personal mementos from historic battles, flight logs, vintage equipment, and flight clothing.
Festivals and special events color the city year-round. The Fiesta of Five Flags, held in June, celebrates the city's Spanish heritage. May's Crawfish Creole Festival commemorates the area's Cajun influence with a large crawfish boil in addition to other traditional Cajun and Creole fare. The Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival is a three-day juried art show which draws more than 200 of the nation’s best artists of all types. The Pensacola King Mackerel and Cobia Tournament, held in June, is one of the Gulf Coast's largest fishing tournaments. Every September, the city hosts the Pensacola Seafood Festival, where delicious fruits of the sea and a variety of continuous local entertainment can be enjoyed over a three-day period.
Sports fans have a variety of choices in Pensacola. Racing excitement abounds at Pensacola Greyhound Track and racing of a different type takes place at Five Flags Speedway. Pensacola is also home to two minor league professional sports teams. The Pensacola Ice Pilots are a hockey team playing in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The Pensacola Pelicans are an independent minor league baseball team which belongs to the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball (AA). Dedicated baseball fans can also take the one-hour drive to Mobile, Alabama, home of the Mobile BayBears, a Class Double-A minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres.