Pensacola, Florida was my first home in the sunshine state when I joined the Navy many years ago.
Pensacola is not only a historic town, it is a military town as well.
Naval Air Station Pensacola and other military operations in the area are a key component of the town's culture and economy.
The name Pensacola came from the Spanish word for the Indians they found in this area in the 1500's when Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto were stomping around.
Pensacola, Florida celebrated its 450th birthday in 2009.
Tristan de Luna y Arellano came to Pensacola in 1559 with 1400 people on 11 ships to settle the area. A giant hurricane came along shortly after they landed and killed hundreds of people.
The Spanish decided not to settle northwest Florida for a while and abandoned the area for more than 100 years.
Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, but Britain gave it back after the Revolutionary War. Finally Spain sold Florida to the United States and Pensacola was in the United States as of 1821.
Pensacola's strategic location on the northern Gulf Coast has helped make it an important military city. Locals refer to Pensacola as "The Cradle of Naval Aviation", since Naval Air Station Pensacola was the first naval aviation training base set up by the Navy in 1914.
Thousands of naval aviators got their training at NAS Pensacola, and the Navy's aerobatic squadron known as the Blue Angels is based in Pensacola.
The National Museum of Naval Aviation is a great place to visit on the base, and is free to the public. The museum is home to hundreds of historic and modern aircraft.
Other interesting places to visit include Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens where poor old Geronimo was held as a prisoner many years ago.
In addition to the military presence, Pensacola Florida has many annual art and music festivals, historic tours and ancient restored neighborhoods from the earliest days of its settlement.
The Pensacola Seafood Festival and the Pensacola Crawfish Festival are held each year at Seville Square in the heart of downtown.
The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is also held each year in November and attracts more than 200 artists.
Pensacola and St. Augustine continually compete for the title of most ancient city in America. Pensacola is actually a tad older, but St. Augustine touts itself as being the oldest "continuously occupied" city in America.
PENSACOLA HERITAGE SITES
As Florida's oldest city, the State of Florida has designated many heritage sites in the area.
Pensacola Beach is a short hop across the waterway and has some of the finest white sand beaches in Florida.