Off the Beaten Path in Pensacola

It’s the first day of March — which means, around here, it’s the onset of Spring Break, which is kind of an unofficial fifth season in our area. People looking to escape the cold, snowy northern climate head south. Something about the healing appeal of stretching out in the warm spring sunshine on sugar-white sand beaches listening to the gentle rhythm of the waves while gulls and pelicans wheel and cry overhead…it’s just a nice respite from all that interminable snow, wind, ice, and greyness.

But what is there to do around here beyond the beaches and the world-class National Naval Aviation Museum? Lots of things, if you’re inclined to explore a little. If you’re looking to fit your memories of Florida in a shrink-wrapped, highly scheduled, big box, prepackaged “This is Florida” retail experience, you might want to head further south. But if you’re open to experiencing something quirky and unexpected, something that’s a little different and yet somewhat familiar every time you encounter it, those memories-in-the-making are all around you, waiting to be found, wanting to make sure that not only do you discover the real Pensacola, but along the way, you also discover the real you.

bikes in a row emily a clark
Beaches and bicycles belong together. Photo courtesy Emily A. Clark

And it’s the first day of March, so off we go, courtesy of Emerald Coast Tours, and no, they aren’t paying me a dime. In fact, they don’t know I’m mentioning them here at all. You see, it’s one thing to visit a city while speeding through on the main roads looking for turns and exits, and quite another to explore it at a more leisurely pace. Emerald Coast Tours offers bicycle, Segway, and walking tours, and their seasoned local guides really know their way around downtown historical sites, landmarks, and monuments you might otherwise miss. (Pocket parks, anyone?) One of their bicycle tours even includes a stop for lunch at a favorite downtown eatery. It’s a wonderful interactive way to learn about Pensacola’s colorful past as well as celebrity chefs and off-the-beaten-path shops and restaurants. Prices range from $40 – $60 per person, tours last anywhere from 1 – 3 hours, and group sizes are limited to 5 per Segway tour and 10 per bicycle tour. Bonus: there’s a FREE walking tour offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. It lasts about an hour. Want more info? http://www.emeraldcoasttours.net.

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