Let me start by telling you that they don’t call it “The Emerald Coast” for nothing! Before moving here, Pensacola never really showed up on my radar. I hail from Jacksonville, Florida, and went to school in Tallahassee, only 150 miles away from home. I knew of Pensacola only by way of mandatory history classes growing up. Until my husband received orders to NAS Pensacola, I had no idea how awesome this little town really is.
You see, the survive part has been easy for me. It’s the thriving that is a challenge. Our last two duty stations were learning curves. And they weren’t all fun. I didn’t make friends easily, my expectations were out of this world, and in the beginning, I struggled to find meaningful employment.
So when it came time to pack up and go, I planned to make the best of our time here.
If you are a Navy or Marine Corps family, there’s a good chance you may land in Pensacola at some point in your career. Home to A-Schools, flight schools, training squadrons, and even the world renowned Blue Angels, Pensacola is the perfect mix of everyone…and beautiful beaches to boot.
It’s true—we live where you vacation.
But when it comes to making the best of a PCS move and thriving in your new town, I think Pensacola has been a great place for me to spread my wings, meet new people, and even find a life outside of the military. Here are some tips should you find yourself on the Emerald Coast:
Consider community service.
Weeks after moving here, I knew I wanted to get involved in a community service organization. What better way to get to know a new city, make business connections, and find some great girlfriends who like wine as much as you? I joined the Junior League of Pensacola and haven’t looked back. Aside from giving back to a community that supports the military, I’m setting myself up for success when our next PCS comes. Most cities have community service organizations; the Junior League is no exception. Once I move, I’ll be able to transfer to a new League location and boom! Like-minded, service-oriented, and wine-loving friends await!
Become a self-proclaimed Foodie!
Arriving in Pensacola, I quickly figured out this is a food-loving town. From food festivals to a $100 burger at a local Irish watering hole, Pensacola is the perfect place to make a foodie bucket list. And ALWAYS try the hole in the wall restaurant. Most times, they don’t disappoint! One of my favorite Pensacola-area treats is The Gulf, a beachside restaurant made entirely from old shipping containers and located just 20 minutes away in Orange Beach, Alabama. Al Fresco Airstream trailer ‘food trucks’ in downtown Pensacola are perfect for a quick, fun, and relaxing sunset dinner. And you have to try the East Hill Yard Wine and Taco Hospital. Yes. You read right…built in an old hospital from 1914, The Yard now hosts a relaxed atmosphere with lawn chairs and yard games. Rumor has it: the bathrooms are in the exact spot where the morgue used to be!
Activities on base really aren’t that bad!
You won’t find many crafting parties, or Bunco nights here. But in one day, you can become qualified to drive a boat (then rent one the very same day), run a 5k, and climb 177 steps to the top of the working lighthouse on NAS Pensacola. Surrounding bases like NAS Whiting Field, Correy Station, and Saufley Field also have similar fun events! For me, I decided to get involved with my husband’s command by volunteering to be the new Ombudsman. I knew it would be a great way to meet other families in our command (which is very small), and also be able to find out all of the services our base has to offer. In my free time, I love taking advantage of the open gym nights on base. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for volleyball, which is my stress-reliever!
We hear it every time we PCS, “Submerse yourself in your new community!” I hated hearing that because it always seemed so hard. But not in Pensacola; it’s a relatively small town, and there is so much to do and see! Take advantage of all the opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid to drive 30 minutes for good food…it’s always worth it!
And of course, on days when you don’t want to do anything, the white sand and emerald waters are only minutes away!
Have you ever been stationed in Pensacola, Florida? What were your must-do’s?