Great Places of Florida 2017 People’s Choice Winner: Downtown Pensacola

We received 20 nominations for this year’s Great Places in Florida People’s Choice Award. With the help of our partners (Florida Bicycle Association, Florida Recreation and Parks Association and other planning experts), the voting was narrowed down to five finalists:

  • Ancient Spanish Monastery – North Miami Beach
  • Beachwalk – Clearwater
  • Downtown Pensacola
  • Downtown Winter Park
  • Mizner Park  & Downtown Boca Raton

Thanks to everyone who voted! The top vote getter is Downtown Pensacola. Congratulations to all the finalists, these wonderful places that make Florida such a great place to live.

Get to Know Downtown Pensacola

Palafox Street

Dating back 450 years as the first European settlement in the United States, Pensacola has a rich and colorful history, and the heart of the city of Pensacola is its downtown. A refreshing blend of historic resolve and cosmopolitan progress defines Downtown Pensacola, a 44-block district encompassing historic and archaeological sites, chic shops, eclectic art galleries and award-winning restaurants.

It’s a walkable district lined with colorful bicycle racks, and bustling with alternative transportation options—from pedicabs to Segways to trolleys to holiday-time horse-drawn carriages. Thousands come to the nationally-recognized Blue Wahoos waterfront stadium, just around the corner, during spring and summer, and thousands more head downtown each Saturday for Palafox Market, a farmers’ market enjoying its 10th anniversary in 2017. During the holidays, downtown Pensacola glows with the lights of half a million white lights and the month-long Winterfest, recognized as one of Florida’s Top Events.

Downtown Pensacola is known for its laid-back, coastal way-of- life, long and storied history and diverse culture. Founded by Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna in 1559, Pensacola was the first European settlement in the New World. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the “City of Five Flags.”

Pensacola’s downtown is full of historic sites—virtually every brick sidewalk and city park is directly connected to America’s earliest colonization. Historic Pensacola, made up of 28 sites, structures, programs and exhibits in downtown Pensacola including the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, the Pensacola Museum of Commerce and the Pensacola Museum of Art—is managed by the University of West Florida to preserve local history for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the public.

Saturday farmer’s market

Contrasting and complementing downtown’s rich history is an eclectic mix of chic shops, modern galleries and trendy restaurants dotting historic Palafox Street, the main downtown thoroughfare. Gourmet food trucks, water views and award-winning fine dining coexist, while relaxed Southern- style sums up the unique shopping atmosphere among crape myrtle-lined streets and shaded city parks. On Saturdays, a fresh farmer’s market, Palafox Market, has served up locally harvested vegetables, fruits, honey and goods for the past 10 years. In 2016, a 3,000-square- foot mural was painted on the side of the Jefferson St. Parking Garage, a public art project designed to encourage other art installments.

PAST WINNERS