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Welcome to the most fun event of the year! Views, Blues, & Booze!
What used to be Pensacola’s crazy little gem is becoming seemingly way more popular over the last few years.
I went to college in Pensacola, Florida, and stumbled upon the Blue Angels Show back in 2015.
Needless to say, this event reminded me of why I went to college at the beach in the first place!
What is The Blue Angels Airshow?
First, let me take a second to appreciate all our men and women out there! God Bless America!! #MERICA
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels is a flight expedition team established in 1946. This aerobatic team flies all over the United States throughout the year and performs one of the largest events known in Pensacola, Florida – The Blue Angels Airshow!
You can read more about the history of the Blue Angels here!
This July 2021 was The Blue Angels Airshow’s 75th Anniversary.
It was by far the most insane show that I’ve ever been to in the past seven years!
Every summer, people line up along the beach and bay to watch the Blue Angels perform a spectacular airshow.
When I say people, I mean the entire island brings in thousands of visitors throughout the weekend, especially the night leading up to the main event.
It’s definitely a sight to see; people even begin to set up tents and cabanas along the beach at all hours of the morning, or should I say night?
This year I arrived around 5:30 am, and the entire main parking lot under Pensacola’s famous beach ball was almost full.
It seems like every year, more and more people migrate out onto the beach earlier than the year before.
I guess it’s necessary in this case that the early bird gets the worm to get a good spot and find parking on show day.
Back in college, my friends and I would be the ones coming out to the beach around 2 or 3 am to set up for the airshow and start pregaming for the day ahead of us.
This year there was a large group of people with an entire kitchen out on the beach cooking pancakes, bacon, and eggs.
I’m telling you, this weekend is no joke – plan ahead and come prepared.
If you’re one of the many early comers, it’s safe to say you’ll be hammered by the time the Blue Angels fly (which was around two in the afternoon this year).
Don’t get it confused, though; this is not only a day event; it’s an entire weekend.
The Blue Angels fly along the beach throughout the week, starting on Thursday, and perform a practice show Friday, the day before the main airshow!
I mean, you can only attend the main airshow on Saturday (as many do), but why miss the Blue Angels practice show?
Go big or go home, am I right?!
Either way, the entire week/weekend is packed; as I said, this is a massive event on Pensacola Beach.
You can usually catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels flying along the beach the week before and after the actual airshow, but it doesn’t compare to the actual show itself; however, this may be a better option for you if you’re not into crowds.
If crowds aren’t your thing, I would still suggest getting a room with a view of the bay/ocean to hang out at during the show; I don’t think you’re going to want to miss the action (who knows, I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t want to miss it).
I also want to clarify that even if you don’t drink (I rarely do anymore), this is still a dope event to attend; it’s easy to have a good time without alcohol.
Either way, you’ll be entertained by the many people drinking around you.
The exact dates of the airshow vary from year to year, as well as the times, so to stay up to date and be sure to check out the Blue Angels schedule here!
Where To Set Up
Okay, so you have two options of watching the Blue Angels Airshow Pensacola: on land or an on a boat. Whichever you decide, you’re going to want to make sure you take everything you need with you for the day, and then some.
- On land.
You can choose to hang out and set up on the oceanside or bayside – both are great!
- Oceanside vs. Bayside:
- If you choose to set up on the ocean side, you’re going to want to BYOB, food, snacks, etc.; although you can still grab food and drinks at Crabs or the pier, it’s going to be packed so expect to wait.
- This year I decided to set up on the ocean side. I arrived early enough to squeeze into a spot in the second row away from the ocean.
- I was also lucky that I was surrounded by an awesome group of people this year and we hung out the entire day.
- Also, consider that while the Blue Angels are performing, you cannot be in the ocean. Sometimes this is a downside considering how hot it is in July.
- There are people everywhere, but if I had to categorize it, I would say oceanside has various mixed-age groups (families, kids, couples, large groups, people of all ages).
- If you choose to set up on the bayside, I would still recommend BYOB, but there are many options that are more accessible for food and drinks.
- The water is much calmer, there’s tons of music, and it’s easy to mingle with the hundreds of boats anchored to each other.
- An upside of the bay is that you can swim and be in the water throughout the entire airshow, which is extremely refreshing since it’s always so hot.
- There are mixed-aged groups on the bayside, but this is party central, full of adults and college kids.
- On a boat.
You can anchor on either the oceanside or bayside; however, here are some things to consider:
- Oceanside vs. Bayside:
- If you choose to anchor in the ocean, the water is much rougher, and you will not be able to access land as you have to be anchored past the pier (I have never chosen this option, but that may be your thing, and I wanted to give you a choice to decide for yourself!)
- Bayside is your best bet if you have a boat, plan on bringing it, and are comfortable and confident maneuvering it through other boats.
- You can join the hundreds, even thousands of boats that anchor on the bay tied up and surrounded by each other.
- A great way to meet people and ensure you’re going to have one hell of a time.
- Easily access all of the bars on the bay, as most of them, you can walk up and grab a drink or order food to go to bring back to your boat.
Although the Blue Angels fly across most of Pensacola’s Beach, you’ll get the best experience and view of the show by setting up in the middle of all the action.
A few land markers to look for and set up near are:
- The Pier/Casino Beach Bar
- Crabs On The Beach
- Flounder’s Chowder House
- Sneaky Tiki Bar
- Quietwater Beach
- The Boardwalk
- Bamboo Willies
Getting Around + Parking/Traffic
From my experience over the years, you will probably not want to be driving a majority of the weekend as the traffic getting onto the island is insane.
There are many cops on the roads, and it’s not worth a DUI (assuming you’ll be drinking as a majority are, and if not, the traffic is a valid reason not to want to be driving).
I feel like there are many attempts to contain the parking situation, but I’ll be honest, no one gives a damn; people park wherever they want.
Once you see how many people there are, it’s almost impossible to avoid cars parked alongside the road and in “no parking” areas; however, I still try to refrain from parking in unmarked areas.
I’d rather be safe than sorry and not waste money on a parking ticket or get towed; thats one hell of a way to end the trip, lol.
If you get there early enough (usually no later than 6 am), you will be lucky to find parking at Crabs or across the street at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, near Quietwater Beach. These areas have the two largest (free) parking lots.
If not, plan B is to find parking within walking distance, but you’re probably going to pay (unless there are still some free spots available).
Some lots cost $40 – $50 for the day; although this year, I found a place to pay by the hour, which ended up costing me about $25 for 8 hours (this was on the Blue Angels Practice Show day, so to be safe I would still recommend getting onto the island as early as possible)!
Your best bet is to find a place to stay on Pensacola Beach and take the free trolley.
You can check out the trolley schedule here (it varies during the Blues, so again, stay up to date with everything and double-check the website).
Another option is to find a place to stay within walking/biking distance from the main part of the strip.
You can also rent golf carts, bikes, or scooters on Pensacola Beach that are easier to maneuver around the island; however, be prepared to pay as much for a golf cart as you would a rental car.
Where To Stay For The Blue Angels Airshow Pensacola
During Blue Angels weekend, I would 10/10 recommend staying on Pensacola Beach.
However, you will need to book in advance as this weekend always gets completely booked out, and if you wait until the last minute, you will find yourself in a few different scenarios: 1. You will spend a fortune per night for a place on the island, 2. There will be no places available on the beach to stay, 3. You will have to find a place in Gulf Breeze or Pensacola and wait in hours of traffic to get over the bridge, or 4. You will have to fight or pay a fortune for parking.
I used to live on Pensacola Beach, so finding a place to stay was easy and convenient (I didn’t even have to leave my condo, I could watch the Blue Angels from my balcony), but ever since I graduated college, I’ve been on the hunt to find different places to check out and stay at whenever I visit!
Choosing a hotel on the bayside or the oceanside depends on your preference.
The bayside is much calmer and more peaceful. However, most of the bars and restaurants on this side are in the middle of the action, and you’ll have to choose a place within walking, biking, or driving distance.
There are many more oceanfront options close to the action if you prefer to walk rather than drive or take the trolley.
One of my favorite places to stay on Pensacola Beach is Portofino Island Resort; it is gorgeous at the far end of the strip. If you can spare some change, this is one of the most luxurious resorts on the island that offers a ton of amenities. Portifino is on the bayside of the island, but you can have spectacular views of both the sound and ocean, depending on your room.
- Portifino Island Resort
- Luxury resort.
- Privately owned rentals; pricey but beautiful.
- Large condos; the 5th floor has huge, extended balconies if you have a larger group or want more room.
- Onsite restaurants, pools and hot tubs, rentals, a fitness center, tennis courts, parking garage, and even a water obstacle course (assuming it’s for kids, but it’s one of my favorite things about this place – I always play on it), + a ton more!
- You will need a vehicle or golf cart to get around; check out the trolley schedule as that’s also an option.
- Approximately 4 miles from all of the action.
- Regency Towers
- This is where I used to live, and they offer vacation rentals.
- Beachfront condos.
- A little closer to all the action than Portifino and is on the oceanside.
- It has an onsite fitness center, tennis court, and pool.
- You will need a vehicle or golf cart to get around; check out the trolley schedule as that’s also an option.
- Approximately 3 miles from all of the action.
- Bay Watch
- Bayside condos.
- Located in between Fort Pickens and all of the action.
- Onsite pool and firepit/grill common area.
- You will need a vehicle or golf cart to get around; check out the trolley schedule as that’s also an option, or you could also bike.
- Approximately 2 miles from all of the action.
- San DeLuna
- Close to Fort Pickens at the opposite end of the strip from Portofino.
- Bayside townhomes, so there’s more room.
- Onsite pool, grilling area, and tennis court.
- You will need a vehicle or golf cart to get around; check out the trolley schedule as that’s also an option, or you could bike.
- Approximately 2.5 miles from all of the action.
- An excellent beachfront option.
- Way closer to all the action, aka the restaurants, bars, shops, and the pier!
- Walk or bike.
- Approximately half a mile from all of the action.
- There’s also a Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Hilton, etc.
Where To Go
Before I dive in on all my favorite restaurants and bars, there’s this cool event held every Tuesday at 7 pm (April-October) on Pensacola Beach called Bands on the Beach.
Grab your blanket, lawn chairs, drinks, and your favorite people for live music right on the beach while the sun sets.
It’s a local hangout spot that my family and I enjoy going to on the stage right in front of the beachball!
I would check it out; it’s a great time!
Otherwise, here are a few of my favorite restaurants and bars in the area; however, it’s not limited to the many others around that you may enjoy!
- Casino Beach Bar (On Pensacola Beach) – This place is a bit pricier, next to the pier on the beach.
- Flounder’s Chowder House (On Pensacola Beach) – Has sand volleyball, live music and is a hot spot on the bay.
- Crabs On The Beach (On Pensacola Beach) – Popular oceanfront restaurant.
- The Grand Marlin (On Pensacola Beach) – Pricey & on the fancier side; I would recommend making a reservation.
- Peg Leg Pete’s (On Pensacola Beach) – Famous restaurant known for its oysters!
- Water Pig BBQ (On Pensacola Beach) – BBQ on the bay, a cute outdoor restaurant.
- Laguna’s Beach Bar + Grill (On Pensacola Beach) – A new little spot with outdoor obstacles for kids (or me, lol) with a giant screen TV, pizza, and spiked slushies!
If you feel like venturing off the island:
- McGuire’s (15m drive) – It is such a unique place with over a million dollars (I believe it’s close to two million now) hanging on the walls. Irish Pub with fantastic food, they also make their root beer in-house.
- Sushi Masa (25m drive) – All-you-can-eat sushi + apps, I’m talking GOOD sushi (there’s also hibachi). I go here every time I go to Pensacola, and it’s my favorite place.
- Ruby Slipper Cafe (16m drive) – Brunch + a nice spot downtown with various foods + huge portions.
- Another Broken Egg Cafe (15m drive) is an excellent place for brunch and one of my favorite spots for various breakfast foods.
- Tin Cow (15m drive) – Has HUGE build your burgers.
- The Garden (15m drive) – Food truck central. 4 airstreams, 1 bar, one restaurant, five kiosks under a covered patio!
- Graffiti Pizza (15m drive) – Fire pizza made from scratch!
- Flounder’s Chowder House (On Pensacola Beach) – Diesel fuels, bushwhackers, mimosas, etc.; this place has my favorite drinks on the bay—All-day vibe.
- Bamboo Willies (On Pensacola Beach) – A variety of spiked slushies on the bay—Daytime vibe.
- Sneaky Tiki Bar (On Pensacola Beach) – Hot spot for drinks located right behind the campground on the bay—Daytime vibe.
- The Dock (On Pensacola Beach) – Wednesday night drink specials in the sand, oceanfront—Nighttime vibe.
- Crabs On The Beach (On Pensacola Beach) – Crab traps + buckets, you can also get a drink in a HUGE leg, kind of a must—Day vibe.
- Casino Beach Bar (On Pensacola Beach) – Pricier, but a good atmosphere with spectacular views—Day vibe.
- Laguna’s Beach Bar + Grill (On Pensacola Beach) – They have a variety of spikey slushies similar to Bamboo Willies—All-day vibe.
If you feel like venturing off the island:
- Wild Greg’s Saloon (15m drive) – This bar has a bull and dance floor; this was the spot back in the day in college—Nighttime vibe.
- Seville Quarter (15m drive) – This bar has a blues, game, club, karaoke, and piano room, etc. It’s enormous and has a little bit of everything for everyone—A nighttime vibe.
- World of Beer (WOB) (15m drive) – Self-explanatory. It is connected to Blend Lounge – packed at night.
- Tin Cow (15m drive) – They have spiked milkshakes; that’s all you need to know.
- Play (15m drive) – Arcade + bar = playland for adults—Nighttime vibe.
- Cactus Cantina (15m drive) – Mexican, drinks, + a mini arcade!
- O’Riley’s Irish Pub (15m drive) – Chill bar, upstairs has pool tables—Nightime vibe.
- The six bars above are in Downtown Pensacola where there are many bars in the area that you can hop around and explore.
- Flora-Bama (47m drive) – It’s right on the border of Florida and Alabama; hence the name Flora-Bama! I used to work here in college, and it was one of the most fun jobs I’ve had. I would recommend this as an all-day thing; it’s right on the beach, and it’s a good time; they also have food, but I would go here mainly for the environment during the day/nightlife. Don’t worry, beach attire or casual clothes are sufficient—An all-day vibe.
What To Bring
There is no grocery store on the island, so you’re going to want to grab your groceries right over the bridge in Gulf Breeze; there’s a Publix right with a liquor store as well.
Although there are a couple of liquor stores on Pensacola Beach, you can imagine how pricey they are; I would also recommend getting your alcohol before heading over the bridge.
Every time you go onto Pensacola Beach, there is a toll you will be required to pay (It’s only a dollar, but if you’re coming and going over the bridge, it’ll add up; plus, you’re going to want to avoid the traffic as much as you can, trust me). If you live in Florida and have a SunPass, definitely utilize it here!
The only exception to paying a toll is coming to Pensacola Beach from the far side of the island connected to Destin or Navarre, Florida. It’s about an hour away, and I wouldn’t suggest this option unless you’re coming from that direction already or just want to enjoy a scenic ride along the water.
Here are some things, in addition, you might want to bring along for your trip:
- Cooler (preferably on wheels)
- Floats, tubes, rafts
- Kong is also a great item to bring along – it’s a koozie + beer bong all-in-one! There are two versions: One for regular-sized cans, like beers, and a tall-sized one for all the basic b*tches with white claws.
- BulziBucket – I bring this game everywhere; it’s the equivalent of cornhole and beer pong. I met two groups of people that ordered it after playing with me during the Blue Angels show. It comes with a convenient carrying case/backpack, making it easy to pack up, store, or get it around.
I hope this blog helps you plan your trip accordingly and prepares you for what to expect leading up to the Blue Angels Show! You’re going to have one hell of a time! Be safe & I hope to see you there!
If you have any questions at all, feel free to drop me a comment below!