Pros And Cons Of Living In Pensacola, FL
People have always considered Florida as a great place to retire, relax, or take in some rays. Consequently, Pensacola is no exception! According to a US News survey, people voted Pensacola “the 4th most desirable location to live in Florida.”
The pros of living in Pensacola include the retirement benefits, great salaries, beaches, and great weather. Pensacola has several cons, such as the extreme heat in the summer, poor public transit, and risk of hurricanes. The low cost of living in Pensacola makes the pros outweigh the cons.
While Pensacola is a great place to take a vacation, is it also a great place to live? There are many things to consider before making a move to this sunny Florida town.
Living in Pensacola: The Pros
- Gorgeous and plentiful white sand beaches
- Great place to retire
- Plenty of outdoor recreation areas
- Real estate prices are lower than the national average
- Salaries are higher than the national average
- Warm winter weather temperatures
Living in Pensacola: The Cons
- Below average access to public transit
- Low walkability score in the metro area
- Sweltering summers
- Summer hurricanes that can cause damage
Pensacola’s geographic location is responsible for some of the city’s best attributes. It’s located midway across the Florida Panhandle and provides many of the state’s famous beaches, sun, and surf. Ultimately, signature white sand beaches are Pensacola’s biggest draw.
Downtown Pensacola is nestled between Escambia Bay and Pensacola Bay, both of which feed into the Gulf of Mexico. Wilderness areas in the vicinity are plentiful, including Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park. Furthermore, Gulf Islands National Seashore is a hub for ecological restoration.
Accessible from many Southern cities, numerous tourists drive from across the Gulf and beyond to visit Pensacola. It’s only three hours from New Orleans, two-and-a-half hours from Gulfport, Mississippi, and one hour from Mobile, Alabama.
Within Pensacola’s city limits, the population is 52,411 residents. However, when you include the metro area and suburbs, the community jumps to 509,995 residents. Plentiful suburbs with good schools have lured families to this beach haven in recent years.
US News ranked Pensacola as the 33rd best place in the United States to retire. Despite many retirees in Pensacola and throughout the state of Florida, the median age here is 38. Most likely, you can attribute this fact to the large number of military families that call Pensacola home.
Pensacola’s racial demographics mirror much of the American South. 62% of residents are White, and 29% are Black. On the other hand, representation from other racial groups is less common.
As of the 2018 census, 6% of residents identified as multiracial. Less than 2% were of Asian descent, and less than 1% identified as Native Americans.
Climate and Weather
It rains an average of 5-7 days each month in Pensacola. The only exception comes during the summer, where June through August shows 11-12 days of rain per month. This time is also hurricane season: Floridians watch the skies for potentially devastating storms from June to November.
Although it’s unfair to say that Pensacola is at a greater risk for hurricanes than any other city in Florida, it is true that Pensacola is vulnerable to hurricanes and carious other types of inclement weather. Due to its position in northwestern Florida, Pensacola is frequently affected by severe weather systems that develop in the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the area does experience negative effects from these storms regularly.
The lowest average temperatures in Pensacola come in January, where they dip into the high 40s. As a result, snowbirds from up North are grateful that it rarely freezes in this Florida beach town. However, the summer will leave you sweltering, climbing into the upper ‘80s. But, a cool breeze off the Gulf moderates this temperature and keeps humidity at bay.
Cost of Living
Compared with national data, the cost of living in Pensacola is lower than the average. The median home price is $175,875. HOAs (Homeowners Associations) are popular in the area, which can increase safety and comfort. However, these organizations can also sometimes lead to more strict regulations.
The median monthly rent in Pensacola is $952, compared with a national median of $1500. Annual salaries from jobs in the area average $41,200, just above the $40,000 national average. As a bonus, Florida residents do not have to pay income tax.
Like many places in Florida, getting around by car is your best bet. While Central Pensacola’s downtown is walkable, traveling between neighborhoods is not. However, bike lanes in the area are plentiful, making it a safe and easy way to get around without a car.
Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) provides limited public transit. Its bus and trolley service is most concentrated in the city center. In a smaller capacity, public transit reaches much of the greater Pensacola area.
Pensacola International Airport boasts direct flights from hubs like Houston, Washington DC, and Miami. However, for most other destinations, you’ll need to catch a connecting flight.
One of the biggest employers in the Pensacola area is the tourist industry. Hospitality, dining, and entertainment all provide jobs that fuel a visitor’s experience.
The military is another large employer in Pensacola. In fact, the Naval Air Station Pensacola is responsible for bringing many military families to town. Offshore fishermen source grouper and snapper from the Gulf of Mexico both for sport and industry. Also, healthcare and manufacturing in the area provide many jobs.
First and foremost, the beach is Pensacola’s biggest and best attraction. From white sand beaches to glimmering waves, the beach is a natural wonder. Plus, shops and beachfront dining and drinking complete the experience.
Pensacola is also a paradise for fishermen. The bays are great for anglers, and deeper Gulf fishing is also popular. Other outdoor water activities include kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, and surfing.
But, the water is not the only way to enjoy the great outdoors. Public parks and protected wildlife areas are great for hiking and camping. Plus, ecological restoration is a priority, and many coastal areas are home to birds and other intriguing animals.
Culture & Entertainment
One of Pensacola’s greatest exports is the Blue Angels, the Naval flight demonstration team. The Blue Angels entertain and thrill with their formation-based flights of fancy, both locally and nationally.
In addition, Fort Pickens and the Navy Air Museum represent the city’s rich military history. Likewise, the Pensacola Museum of Art and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum offers local history and stunning views.
The historic Saenger Theater showcases mainstage musical acts and small regional groups. Moreover, it also hosts Broadway tours and the Pensacola Symphony.
Minor league baseball is well represented in Pensacola by the Blue Wahoos, a AA affiliate of the MLB’s Minnesota Twins. The Ice Flyers play ice hockey in a regional league at one of the only ice rinks along the Gulf Coast.
Other attractions include the Greyhound Racetrack and Casino, as well as Five Flags Speedway. You can test your luck at races, games, and betting all year round.
The city hosts the ten-day Fiesta Pensacola in early June to celebrate its “melting pot” heritage. It celebrates the founding of Pensacola by a Spanish Conquistador in 1559. The Crawfish Festival and Seafood Festival also celebrate local culture and industry.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Gay Pride takes over Pensacola. This festival is the biggest event of its kind in the Gulf South, dating back to the 1960s.
In December, the Five Flags Speedway holds the Snowball Derby. This 300-lap late-model stock car race is a big hit with locals.
If you have a family and the fact that Pensacola has higher than average crime rates has initially deterred you from this city, the school districts may make you want to reconsider. In fact, Pensacola is home to an excellent public education system that is constantly ranking above average based on numerous metrics. This fact is why many families are choosing Pensacola as their new home in The Sunshine State.
Pensacola elementary schools are considered some of the best in the entire state, ranking similarly to other cities with higher budgets for public education. The average grades are considerably high, class sizes are small, and standardized test scores are remarkable. Although middle and high school performance is slightly less renowned, they’re still impressive.
What Are The Best Neighborhoods In Pensacola?
For a rural feel that offers safety and good schools, Tiger Point is a great choice. It features an eponymous golf course and plenty of sandy beaches.Gulf Breeze is a suburban area that’s great for kids. It features plenty of outdoor space to play, including plentiful nature trails. Belmont-Devilliers is a hotspot for nightlife. By day, it’s abuzz with office buildings and shopping. By night, restaurants serve up southern fare, and live music is around every corner.For those who prefer historic homes, Pensacola’s Historic District and Seville Square are best. This neighborhood boasts architectural gems, a vibrant art scene, and small boutiques.
Is Pensacola Safe?
Statistics on Pensacola’s crime vary greatly depending on your source. The crime rate in Pensacola is higher than both the national and state average. Data deems the city as one of the most dangerous of its size. Based on both violent crime and property crime rates, it’s higher than the national average. However, the suburbs are primarily known to be much safer from all types of crime.As in any city, use your best judgment and follow the guidance of locals.
To The Beach!
Pensacola’s beaches and climate make it a warm and welcoming environment for many types of people. Whether you’re looking to rent, buy, or just visit for a weekend, Pensacola is a great place to getaway!
Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
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