Between Pensacola and Milton, there are enough museums to keep you busy each Saturday from now through Labor Day. The upside of museum hopping—in addition to getting your learn on—is that many of the museums are free or have a low admission cost, so they make a great destination if you’re trying not to break the bank.
Aside from being good for entertaining out-of-town guests, it’s also not a bad idea to pop into the museums occasionally, as most have rotating exhibits and try to keep the permanent exhibits fresh for locals who’ve visited in the past.
Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach
Naval Live Oaks
Once the site from which the U.S. military harvested oak for building warships, the trees of Naval Live Oaks are now preserved for the public. Over 7.5 miles of trails allow visitors to explore the preserve. The Visitor Center is open Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you have time to make it during the week, short films and interactive exhibits explain the plants, wildlife and history of the site, with a view of the Santa Rosa Sound. The site and trails are open daily, 8 p.m. to sunset.
Naval Live Oaks Area and Visitor Center
U.S. 98, immediately east of Gulf Breeze
The park, part of Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS), is open 7 a.m. through sunset, while the Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Guided tours of the fort, which was completed in 1834, take place daily at 2 p.m. The fort’s museum reopened last summer for the first time since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and interactive exhibits and HD audiovisual features are part of the new-and-improved museum space. Entrance fee per vehicle is $8 and $3 per person on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. Passes are valid for seven days and will get you into other GINS parks, including Perdido Key/Johnson Beach and Opal Beach.
Fort Pickens Historic Site and Visitor Center
1400 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach
Historic Pensacola Village
The T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum will be closed for a portion of the summer for renovations (starting July 27), but the adjacent Historic Pensacola Village and the Museum of Commerce (the one with the streetcar inside), and Museum of Industry (the one with the locomotive outside) will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day but Sundays. See how Pensacolians once lived and worked through various time periods represented. Admission for adults is $6, $3 for kids, and $5 for senior citizens and active duty military. Tickets can be purchased at the Tivoli High House Shop. Admission also includes guided tours of each of the historic buildings in the Village. Until it closes in July, admission to the Wentworth is free.
Historic Pensacola Village – Tivoli High House Shop
208 E. Zaragoza St.
Destination Archaeology Resource Center
Also free is admission to the Destination Archaeology Resource Center at the Florida Public Archaeology Network Coordinating Center, which is across Main Street from the Historic Pensacola Village. Located in the former Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad Terminal, the building itself is a piece of history, having been relocated from the demolished Commendencia Street Wharf. The center has a large exhibit on Florida archaeology, including photographs and artifacts, and is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) Coordinating Center
207 E. Main St.
Pensacola Children’s Museum
For the little ones in your life, take a visit to the Children’s Museum. Admission is $3 per person over 12 months of age and includes access to both floors of the museum, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Opened in 2012, most exhibits are hands-on and help kids—and their adults—learn about various aspects of Pensacola’s past.
The Pensacola Children’s Museum
115 E. Zaragoza St.
Pensacola Museum of Art
The Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA) resides in what was once the City Jail. Permanent and temporary exhibits are now on display within the museum’s two floors of galleries. This summer, the Members Juried Art Show shows off the talent of museum members with a variety of mediums represented. Admission is $5 for adults, free for kids under 5, and $3 for seniors, students with ID and active duty military. Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Pensacola Museum of Art
407 S. Jefferson St.
Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS)
National Naval Aviation Museum
It’s big, it’s free, and it’s pretty amazing if you like looking at airplanes. Even if you don’t think it’s your thing, the Naval Aviation Museum is one of those places you should try at least once—you may be surprised how intriguing some of the gear and different vignettes about life at home and abroad for the military during various wars are. Also, it’s a good place to check out a film on an IMAX Giant Screen Theatre. Open Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
National Naval Aviation Museum and IMAX Theater
1750 Radford Blvd.
While out on the base, why not stop by the lighthouse? First lit in 1859, visitors can climb the stairs for a view of the Pensacola Pass and surrounding area from 160 feet. The Keepers’ Quarters now serve as the gift shop and museum. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under, seniors, and active duty military. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon-5:30 p.m.
Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
2081 Radford Blvd.
Not far from the lighthouse is Fort Barrancas, the counterpart to Fort Pickens as far as defending the pass into Pensacola Bay went. The Spanish, British and American militaries constructed fortifications at the site, and the current American-built structure was completed in 1844. Tours of the fort take place at 2 p.m. daily. Those who’d like to tour the Advanced Redoubt, constructed in 1845, can do so on Saturdays at 11 a.m. The fort and visitors center are open daily throughout the summer from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Admission is free.
Fort Barrancas Historic Site and Visitor Center
3182 Taylor Road
Milton and Bagdad
Lumber, textiles, buckets, and food products were only a few of the products made by utilizing the power of Mill Pond Creek. Formerly the site of the largest water-powered industrial complex in the region, the Arcadia Mill site now has a visitor center, trails and boardwalks complete with signage explaining the numerous operations that once went on there. Admission is free and the site is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site and Visitor Center
5709 Mill Pond Lane
West Florida Railroad Museum
Those who’ve visited or taken note of the FPAN Center/L&N Railroad Terminal Building in Pensacola will recognize the architecture of the West Florida Railroad Museum, which is housed in the Milton L&N Depot. In addition to the museum itself there are several train cars to explore on the property. Admission is free, but donations—the primary source of funding for the museum—are accepted. Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Friday and Saturday.
West Florida Railroad Museum
5003 Henry St.