Vacation Artfully in Pensacola
Words by Mallory Lehenbauer
Pensacola, Florida is about more than just its white sandy beaches. It is also a coastal city that boasts excellent art, food, culture, music, and more.
“While many visitors immediately think of our sugar-white sands as the key attractor to our sunny destination, it is our mission to show travelers how they can also leave culturally fulfilled following a visit to Pensacola,” Pensacola native, Lindsay Fleege who serves as an Art, Culture, and Entertainment, Inc. (ACE) board member said.
Vacation Artfully in Pensacola hopes to showcase all of the unique and creative ways that Pensacola offers a place for locals and tourists to experience the beauty and bounty that the city has to offer beyond the sandy beaches.
“The desire for arts & culture programming is at the forefront of our community, and through initiatives like Vacation Artfully, we are able to help ensure that the arts remain accessible to visitors and locals alike.” Fleege said.
According to Nicole Stacey, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Visit Pensacola and the current Foo Foo Fest Curator, Pensacola is America's first settlement. She said it was established in 1559 on a Spanish expedition led by Tristán de Luna y Arellano. As the first Settlement, it predates the Spanish settlement in St. Augustine, Fla. by six years and the English settlement in Jamestown, Va. by 48 years. This makes it the first multi-year European colonial settlement ever archaeologically identified in the United States.
This rich history contributes to the sense of community and hometown pride Stacey says. She explains, “When visiting we want our guests to feel at home and we welcome them with open arms. Our city is local and we work hard to preserve our history, our beaches, and bring in new flavors of both in our restaurants and bar scenes. With something always going on there is never a dull moment and we like that—we hope our visitors will too!”
Pensacola is home to what many locals call “The Big Five” which includes the Pensacola Opera, Ballet Pensacola, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, the Pensacola Museum of Art, and the Saenger Theatre, as well as a multitude of other institutions like the Pensacola Little Theatre, Choral Society of Pensacola, First City Arts, locally owned galleries, and more.
The Big Five is a core part of what makes Pensacola special, but Fleege also explains there’s more to it. “Pensacola is also home to a variety of smaller, home grown museums and galleries, artists, theatres, choral societies and more that help to make Pensacola both culturally rich and diverse,” she explains. “We couldn’t be more proud that Pensacola has proven it is the artful way to beach.”
Director of the Pensacola Museum of Art, Nicholas Croghan, is also the Chief Curator and Preparator at the museum and believes that the museum and art scene in Pensacola is a hub for the community and visitors. According to him, the museum, which was converted from the city jail built in 1906, is the perfect place for people from all different ages and backgrounds to spend an afternoon.
“In our region, there is a lot of really amazing traditional fine art institutions,” Croghan explains. “What we excel at is creating a balance between what a contemporary museum is and what a traditional museum strives to be.”
Croghan says that the support from local art lovers like the Bear and Goldberg families has been crucial to helping to grow the museum to what it is today. The Pensacola Museum of Art showcases an interdisciplinary approach to art by including dance, creative writers, opera and symphony orchestras, science collaborations, and an overall community centered approach.
In 2023, the museum will feature many new exhibits like the STEAM2023 Exhibition, The Annual Youth Art Focus, and the 69th Annual PMA Members Show. The STEAM2023 Exhibition is a community-centered, educational experience engaging contemporary art with science and new technologies.
Beyond the vibrant art scene, the food and beverage scene in Pensacola has also recently exploded. “There's quite literally a cuisine for everyone,” Katie Garrett, owner and mixologist of Old Hickory Whiskey Bar and The Kennedy bar explains. “We have top-notch chefs at so many spots, each one creating an experience for locals to enjoy often or a tourist on their first trip to Pensacola.”
The downtown area of Pensacola is known for embracing food, art, music, entertainment, and culture.
“Without art, whether paintings or music, our food and beverage scene would be bland and lacking the personality of Pensacola,” Garrett elaborates. “Thankfully, our creative population loves to collaborate and I only see it growing stronger in the future.”
With so much to offer, Vacation Artfully strives for Pensacola to be a place for locals and visitors to enjoy any day of the year.
“Pensacola is an idyllic destination for getting coastally creative,” Stacey says. “With homegrown events like the Pensacola Foo Foo Festival, visitors have the opportunity to witness both our arts scene and our gorgeous coastline that so many visitors venture to Pensacola each year to enjoy. No matter what time of year, Pensacola is always the artful Way to Beach.”
To learn more about Vacation Artfully and plan your own trip visit vacationartfully.com.