More and more travelers are planning their vacations around food, and with destinations like Pensacola offering beautiful white-sand beaches along with local cuisine such as Grits A Ya Ya, oysters on the half shell, fried mullet and sautéed grouper topped with blue crab, who could blame them?
New service from Southwest Airlines makes traveling to the Pensacola Bay Area this spring even more convenient from Middle Tennessee, with direct flights offered both in the morning and the afternoon.
“To celebrate our first spring with Southwest Airlines, we’re giving away a vacation for four,” said Visit Pensacola President Steve Hayes. “We want to invite all of Nashville to come visit us this year for a taste of what our area has to offer.”
The vacation package includes four round-trip tickets, beach accommodations, and vouchers for some of Pensacola’s most popular restaurants and attractions.
A recent article in Travel Weekly indicates the trend of culinary tourism is as strong as ever, with consumers spending $150 billion annually. The Pensacola Bay Area, which includes historic Pensacola, Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach, has been delighting travelers’ taste buds with new offerings such as the lively Red Fish Blue Fish on Pensacola Beach, a flurry of food trucks at Al Fresco and at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, where Pensacola Blue Wahoos fans bypass the hotdog stand for the oyster bar.
“Besides trying the new restaurants, many of our repeat travelers can’t wait to get back to their waterfront favorites like The Fish House, Jaco’s, Flounder’s and Sunset Grille,” said Hayes. “We are also home to Joe Patti’s, one of the largest seafood markets in the Southeast, and Perdido Seafood, where you can see the fishermen unloading their catch straight from the docks.”
Other than fresh seafood, the area is known for its fresh fruits, produce and herbs, and each Saturday the local farmers open their tailgates in downtown Pensacola to share the fruits of their labor at the Palafox Farmers Market. Nearby at the Bodacious Olive, foodies can sample the finest olive oils and other specialty items.
Just down the road from New Orleans, Pensacola has a healthy appetite for Cajun cuisine. Visitors can savor some of the Gulf Coast’s best seafood gumbo while listening to jazz at Five Sisters Blues Café, nosh on beignet fries at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club, enjoy BBQ Shrimp at The Grand Marlin or indulge with Crawfish Cheesecake at The Global Grill. The 30th annual Crawfish Festival is May 2-4 along the waterfront in downtown Pensacola, where thousands gather under the oaks for mudbug racing, live Cajun music and literally tons of crawfish.
To wash it all down, there is the Bushwacker, a drink invented on Pensacola Beach. While the beachfront bars Sandshaker and Capt’n Fun have a longtime dispute over who served the first one, the frozen chocolaty rum drink can be found on menus around the area.
“We might not have invented it, but we perfected it,” said Pat McClellan, owner of the Flora-Bama Lounge. Dubbed America’s Favorite Roadhouse, the bar literally straddles the state line. Each April, the Flora-Bama hosts the annual Mullet Toss, where tens of thousands flock to the Gulf front bar to watch competitors try to fling a mullet the farthest across the state line before heading inside for a tasty plate of the fried fish.
To enter to win the vacation package or to request a free Visitor Guide, book a stay or sign up for e-deals, go to http://www.visitpensacola.com/nashville. Contest registration ends March 30. If you can’t wait, you can always grab a quick lunch for the road and be on the beaches by dinner.