We just got home from the best vacation week! We spent the week of Spring Break in Pensacola Beach, FL. While we were there, I received a few messages about where we were, what we did, and was it kid friendly! So I am putting together a travel guide, because I cannot recommend a week in Pensacola Beach with your kids enough!
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Hilton Pensacola Beach. We 100% booked at this hotel based on the kid-friendly pool with zero-entry. It had a small sprayer section, too, that the girls loved. The second pool was much bigger, but we spent all of our pool time in the kiddie pool. It didn’t get deeper than 1 foot, so the girls could play without having to worry about a deep end. I will say, the towel situation was annoying, it might have just been because it was a busy week, but we would request 5 towels, and only 3 would be clean, etc.
Our room was in tower 2. It was pretty clear this was an addition. The other rooms had very small balconies that over-looked the pool. Our balcony was VERY spacious, with a 4-top table, and room for the girls to sit and color/play on the ground, and to have our wet beach/pool clothes hanging to dry. We were in a 2 bedrooms suite. It was a lot more like a condo than a hotel room! We were VERY impressed. We didn’t know we would have a second bathroom, a pull-out couch, and a full kitchen! The full-size fridge and dishwasher were such blessings! Our room also came with the continental breakfast each day, and it was really good. Lots of options from fresh fruit, to made-to-order eggs, and biscuits with gravy! Dave didn’t love that the “hallway” to our room was also a very narrow balcony – on the 15th floor. The girls and I didn’t mind it, but if you have a fear of heights, it might not be for you!
Where we ate
H2O – The first night, we got in fairly late, so we ate at the restaurant in the hotel. They had an amazing champagne mojito on special. It called itself a Cajun Asian Grill, and while I wouldn’t agree that it hit the Cajun portion very well, it was still good! I had the fish tacos the first night, and we ordered room service for lunch one day during the week. I had the ahi tuna salad, and it was very good. Dave and the girls really liked the cheese pizza – but you have to order that off of the “secret” kids menu (it’s not on the room service menu), the only pizza on the menu was a pesto pizza, and we are people of simple tastes 😉
Red Fish Blue Fish – Such a fun atmosphere! We got to the beach early, and were ready to go in by 2, and hungry by 4, so we headed to eat. So thankful that we did – by the time we left, the dinner rush had really hit! They had AMAZING fish tacos (my favorite while we were there) David’s sister, Jen, ordered the steak tacos and agreed they were amazing! There were swings in the bar, where we sat while we had a very small wait for our table. They had yard games (not entirely kid-friendly, but they did have giant connect 4!). I will say the tables were VERY close together, and the chairs were very heavy – it was hard to push the girls in. The covered deck where we ate had pretty bay views. They had a cute little tourist-trap shop with taffy, and cool souvenir cups that David just had to have 😉 This was just across the street from our hotel.
Flounder’s Chowder House – This place was PACKED. Thankfully, I had the No Wait App, and we were able to cruise right through the line. Again, I ordered the fish tacos. Jen had the fish po’ boy sandwich and said it was the best she had, and David really liked his coconut shrimp! The best part was the massive, three-layer key lime pie! It was SO good. There was also a decently-sized playset for the kids. It was also packed, but a good way for the girls to burn off some steam. They had some questionable “entertainment”… two guys on stage talking about fishing. We kept thinking it was going to turn into a comedy show, but it didn’t. It was loud enough to not have to pay attention to them, though! Again, this was in walking distance.
Crabs, We Got ‘Em – Owned by the same people as Flounders, but we liked it a lot more. They had an amazing honey buns appetizer, that was basically cinnamon donuts with warmed honey to dip them in. We had a reservation, and went early, when we left, there was a line around the entrance. If you have kids, definitely go earlier. They had amazing drinks in festive cups you got to take home. It was on the Gulf side, and the atmosphere was fun, with a fish tank that the girls loved. The food was great. I had a mixed shrimp/fish basket. One drawback would be all the stairs if you’re inside. They had outdoor seating, next to a big kids playset with cute bistro lights. We walked here, and after dinner the girls played on the playset, and then we walked down the beach further to listen to Bands on the Beach. The girls really enjoyed dancing in the sand. I had the bright idea to just walk to the hotel on the beach, and it was quite a haul to walk back and it was getting dark by the time we got back.
Hemmingway’s – Hands down, my favorite place we ate at. It was a but further away, so we took a golf cart ride. People hand cards out with their numbers to call, and the hotel can hook you up! They drive for tips. Anyway, the menu was very tropically-inspired and was 100% why I picked it. I had a blacked salmon with a spicy, tropical salsa. It was amazing. I also had one of their house special margaritas – ok, I had two. It was amazing. Dave had the Filet and said it was amazing. We ordered the key lime pie for dessert, and the only negative was we wished there was more! On our way out, a band was playing cover songs (think 311, Darius Rucker, and Everclear), we loved the vibe, and the girls had fun dancing. This place was pretty busy, but the layout didn’t make it feel packed. We walked back to the hotel, and stopped on a cute little boardwalk which had bay views. I would have gone back and eaten here again!
Peg Leg Pete’s – this was recommended to us by a few of you on Instagram, the hotel, and some friends/family that live down there. It did NOT disappoint. It was a close second to Hemmingway’s. This was a bit further away from our hotel, so we had to drive. The parking lot was small, so keep that in mind. We did the No Wait App again, and were able to walk right up to our table. It was very small, dimly-light, and crowded inside, but it worked. It looked less like a tourist place, and more like a place for locals…that had been slightly overrun with tourists. If that made sense? The menu had all the Cajun food that H2O was missing. We had the cajun shrimp appetizer, and it was delicious. The girls liked this kids menu the most, too. I ordered the cajun fried catfish and David had the stuffed shrimp. I highly recommend adding the crawfish julie to your entree; I did because YOLO, and was so happy I did. The staff was super friendly, and the girls loved the pirate theme and lobster tank – even after we explained why it was there!! Peyton asked me to order “just a little lobster” so she could pick which one we could have!
Casino Beach Bar & Grill – We had lunch here, and I wish we had more time to go have dinner there, but it seemed like the atmosphere wasn’t very kid-friendly in the evening. It was located on the beach, right by the pier. They had high top tables, low tables, and their own beach loungers right on the sand. They had huge umbrellas and bistro lights. Dave and I really liked the atmosphere! We were pleasantly surprised that they had special high-top high chairs for the table we sat at! The food here was amazing. I had the ceviche, Dave had the massive platter of chips and salsa. The girls shared some corn dogs and the rice and beans.
What we did
We had two solid beach days. The first day, we got to the beach very early, and rented the chairs and umbrellas. You could do reservations, if you had a big group, but we didn’t have an issue finding available ones. David could not stop talking about the sand. It was gorgeous and white, Pensacola Beach has some of the pretties sand I’ve seen! The first day, it had stormed the day before, and there were a TON of shells. I enjoyed looking for pretty ones, but there were so many that when the waves crashed, I was getting cut by the shells! The next days when we walked on the beach, or played, the shells were gone, and it was sand all the way! Our last beach day, I noticed a jellyfish, and told Peyton to step out of the water, a fisherman not to far from us warned us a whole school was coming – and it was! Cool to watch, but not so fun with a bunch of kids. Jen watched the girls, so David and I could take a walk on the beach that night, and there were SO many jelly fish washed up on the beach, it was like walking through land mines! We also saw a small group of stingrays, that swam back and forth. Very cool! While I had hopes of finding a full sand dollar, all we found were halves and hunks! Maybe next time!!
Side note: we were gifted the MyBeachMate system before we left. David was in love. It was one organizational system, that had a cooler, towels, and shovels/buckets! You can save 20% off with code BMJENNA. The towels repel water, instead of absorbing it, and you can personalize the outside!
I mentioned above that we booked the hotel for the pool. London and Addy had more fun in the pool, so we did spend more time there. They had a bar & grill outside, and the menu was pretty good. Chicken fingers, salads, and sandwiches. They also served up 4 specialty drinks in buckets – solid win for Jen and I!
We took a walk down to the pier one of the cooler mornings. We had to pay for a single walk pass, and we hoped that meant it would be in nicer shape – it was not. The wood was old and had lots of cracks and places for kids to trip. We didn’t make it to the end because of all the fishermen, who didn’t really look before they casted, and didn’t seem impressed with the girls’ running around… despite all the “this is a family pier” signs they had up. If we went back to Pensacola Beach, we would not do the pier again.
We played mini golf at Tiki Island. This was just across a parking lot from our hotel. It was pricey and very crowded, but moved pretty well. I had my best mini golf score ever, which says to me that the course was easy. The girls had a lot of fun. Inside, there was a cute little ice cream shop.
We had one rainy morning, and spent it at the National Naval Aviation Museum. It was a bit of a drive, and fair warning: your GPS will take you to the base entrance. Not the museum. We were in a pack of cars that all followed the GPS, and were directed around the base (about a 20 minute add-on to the ride). The museum was in two buildings. The first was a massive hangar, with planes, helicopters, and bombers. There were some POW displays and views into what rooms on the subs would have looked like. The girls loved the displays they could climb into. We walked to the second building, just in time for a Blue Angels flyover! The second building was what I would call “the main building”. It had a second floor, some movies, a play area for the kids, a small food court, and a gift shop. London and Addy were a little too young, but Peyton really enjoyed herself there! Parking was free and there was no admission!
Overall, we fell in love with Pensacola Beach, and we may be making it a repeat family vacation destination for us!
Keep an eye out for a few more Pensacola Beach blog posts coming your way!!