Seeing the Blue Angels in action has to be on every aviation enthusiast bucket list. And the Blue Angels practices are the path to transform this dream into a reality. Their maneuveres can be observed from the flight line at the Museum, or at other areas around Pensacola (sitting on a deck chair on the sands of the gulf beaches feeling the breeze off the ocean being an ideal location!).
Practices are generally on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning, and their practice schedule is listed on the museum website (being aware that this wont be set in stone, as bad weather and other issues can get in the way).
For us in Australia, logistics to this end were a challenge. At the time of year we were able to get annual leave, overlap Melbourne school holidays, and meet a scheduled practice, there was only one practice date. So we just took a giant punt, making the massive flight Melb to DFW, and then driving 1000kms (10 hrs). That was a bit of commitment. But you only live once and it was totally worth it. Husband reported that he saw more here to excite in this practice flight, than in many air shows he had attended, and has now probably achieved legend status amongst fellow aviation enthusiasts just by being there.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is on the Naval Base, and there is the appropriate security, so to gain access, we joined the queue with passports for id and bag checks. Just driving on to the base is in itself an experience, to be able to view the buildings etc.
Admission to this massive Museum is free and together with interactive displays, movies in their giant screen theatre (which I cant believe we didnt do, big mistake!!), tours by veterans, and a flight simulator, if you get through viewing the (well over) 100 plus restored aircraft, you will have done well. Surprisingly, because of how well it is set up, the Museum is highly enjoyable and informative for all ages (so yes, bring the reluctant partner/child!!). We chose to come back a second day, and could have come a third.
There are informative and entertaining free trolley tours that take you on the flight line behind the restoration hangar. For us still getting used to the heat, bundling aboard a bus and getting to see so much was most welcome.
All that aviation history will build up an appetite. The Cubi Bar Cafe!!, disassembled from its original location in the Phillipines, where it had served as the Officers Club Bar. Memorabilia and atmosphere, reasonably priced food and good servings. A dining highlight for us. I would totally come all the way back from Melbourne, Australia, to eat here again.
With the repeat visits we made here, we ran short on time to explore the rest of Pensacola, so looking forward to making a return.
Our 4 nights in Pensacola were spent staying at Quality Inn and Suites Pensacola Bayview, Scenic Hwy Pensacola, the main reason being a 2 bedroom option with 3 queens, and the buffet breakfast which made for convenience. The position was great, and front desk so helpful in finding out information re the Blue Angels, the museum, and local dining options.
The hotel allowed smoking in some areas, so unfortunately some of the corridors held the smell of cigarettes, as did areas around the pool. But we did have a non smoking room, and that was fine. Breakfasts were available with a nice breakfast room setting and a backdrop of morning tv, they may have included the odd egg shell in the scrambled egg, but no complaints. We did choose to stay here again on the return leg of our trip for the night, and would recommend, as a cost effective option.
Ideally though, if you are spending a few nights here, there are amazing houses to rent on Perdido Key, and being on the Gulf Coast with all those white sands and blue waters, I cant imagine a more perfect awakening every morning than to look out on to the waters and the sands. Probably a good thing we didnt stay here, or we would never have left the beach.
Pensacola is rich in local dining options, so if we get to return, it will be at least for a week so we can do the local region justice. We did try out Boneheads one night, enjoying Crispy Calamari, Fried Chicken Tenders with Fries, and Chicken and Steak Skewers. We made the most of the wait for the meal, talking at length with the staff who again made us feel a bit like rock stars (it seems not many Australians get to Pensacola.).