The Florida Panhandle is a region of Florida, in the north west of the state. It has long been popular for its beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. It includes the inland city of Tallahassee – the state capital and home of Florida State and Florida A&M Universities, and Pensacola, a city close to the border with Alabama.
The Florida Panhandle has hung onto its Southern culture better than probably any other region in Florida, so expect traditional Southern hospitality and more conservative values. Exceptions to this trend are Tallahassee and Pensacola; while both retain a great deal of that Southern charm, they also contain pockets of the typical progressive, creative atmosphere of college towns.
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- Pensacola International Airport - located in Pensacola and the gateway to western Florida. Pensacola International has many flights on many carriers to destinations across the United States, and within Florida, as well as occasional charter flights that fly internationally.
- Interstate 10 and its scenic byways slice across the Panhandle parallel to the coast, but several miles inland. I-10 follows the route of the older Highway 90. Closer to the coast, Highway 98 is the most important route. A car is really a requirement to see this area. There is local bus service in most cities, and biking is popular both for getting around town or for longer tours of the coast.
Florida Lighthouses are numerous in the Panhandle; take some time to visit these iconic images of the coast.
- Blackwater Heritage State Trail, 5533 Alabama Street, Milton, ☏ .
- Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, 1358 Old Woodville Road, Crawfordville, ☏ .
- Big Bend Scenic Highway. Driving along US 98 between Mexico Beach and Panacea is like travelling the Pacific Coast Highway, but at sea level. Three of the four historic lighthouses in the area are along this stretch. Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, St. George Island and Carrabelle are a few of the highlights. Speed limit is 45 mph, so relax and enjoy casually driving through forests, interspersed with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Pensacola Scenic Bluffs.
- Scenic Highway 30A.
- Festivals/holidays. Major holidays in Pensacola include Mardi Gras and the Fiesta of Five Flags. Celebrations of note in Pensacola are the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, the Seafood Festival, the Bushwhacker Festival, the Bill Fishing Tournament, and the Gay and Lesbian Memorial Day Festival. Fort Walton Beach is known for the Billy Bowlegs Festival, and Panama City for Spring Break. Niceville is known for its Mullet Festival.
- Spectator sports. Tallahassee is home to the Seminoles of Florida State University, and college football is a religion for many Panhandle residents, with Saturdays in the fall being the holy day. Pensacola is home to the semi-professional ice hockey team, the Pensacola Ice Pilots.
In the Panama City and Panama City Beach area there are many great places for local fare. The most recognized restaurant is Captain Anderson's on Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach. It's located on the lagoon and get there early to see the fishing fleet arrive and unload the day's catch.
Other restaurants of note include Pompano's on Front Beach Road, Saltwater Grill on Middle Beach (Hutchison Road) and Canopies. Canopies is a "fine dining" establishment overlooking St. Andrew's Bay in Panama City.
The Panhandle is home to two of Florida's three dry counties, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited (Washington and Liberty). However, alcohol of any variety can be found in abundance in the college town of Tallahassee and the Spring Break destination of Panama City Beach.