Children at a birthday party with Nonie's Ark Animal Encounters might get to meet Jimmy, Jack, or Jill—but despite their deceptively human names, these guests are actually exotic animals. A naturalist and wildlife educator with a background in zoo-animal technology, Nonie encourages kids touch and sometimes hold live animals such as snakes, toads, chinchillas, and sugar gliders during hands-on interactive and educational presentations. Nonie has adopted and cared for each of these creatures, many of which were formerly unwanted pets. At some parties, Nonie also leads children in animal role-playing games like eating dirt cake and worms and doles out goodies such as safari helmets and outdoor toys.
Sure as the rise of the twin suns above Tatooine, the Pensacola Para Con brings together fans of science fiction, horror, gaming, and anime for an annual weekend of subcultural panels and events. Celebrity guests from beloved franchises stop by to sign autographs and bask in the adoration of their fans, while industry icons talk shop about their latest invention: the two-sided die. A costume contest and parade put meticulous fan outfits in the spotlight, and replicas of such iconic items as the U.S.S. Enterprise's captain's chair and the TARDIS stand ready for photo opportunities. Throughout the weekend, the event stages host live music performances, panel discussions, and movie screenings.
Pensacola's oldest surviving house located on its original site, the Quina House was built in 1810. The shingled-frame cottage was made of local pine, cypress, and oak with a double-fire chimney, butterfly roof, and a portico with columnettes. Its namesake, Desiderio Quina, bought the house in 1821, had seven children with his wife, Margarita Bauve, and ran an apothecary business. In the same year, the Spanish Floridas were incorporated into the United States of America⎯the official event was presided over by Andrew Jackson just a few blocks from the Quinas’ front porch. Desiderio and Margarita’s presence remains in the house today in their historical furnishings, which include a horse-hair sofa and a sleigh bed from 1830. Today, the Quina House Museum sponsors date-night house tours, monthly luncheons, and walking tours of the Seville Square Historic District so that visitors can experience life before fruit roll-ups.
Head instructor and Rising Star Theatre Arts Award recipient Dan Begin helps dancers of all ages and skill levels learn how to twirl, dip, and spin. Lessons for individuals and couples cover the basics of a variety of dance styles including tango, cha-cha, and salsa. In addition, Dance Unlimited offers wedding programs to help couples create memorable first dances that do not involve doing the worm in a wedding dress.
Play combines the creature comforts of childhood with those of adulthood: arcade games and beer. Taps and cans dispense an ever-rotating reservoir of 20 microbrews—more than enough liquid confidence to attempt high scores on the rows of coin operated games such as Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Galaga. All around, the thumping bumpers of pinball machines mingle with the clack of pool balls and the hiss of air hockey tables. But beneath the flashing surface of Play is a drive to bring people together.
When not wagering the next round of drinks on a game of hoops, or butting heads in a DJ-accompanied skee-ball tournament, guests can team up to test their mental mettle during trivia night. Karaoke evenings arm friends instead with microphones so that they can belt out a duet or practice eulogizing each other in front of a rapt audience. Quieter interaction can be found in an '80s-inspired nook, where an original Nintendo and a VHS-player revive summer afternoons spent playing Super Mario Brothers and writing love letters to John Cusack.
Chef Pri’s gustatory adventures meet at the intersection of Thai specialty dishes, American comfort food, and international influence. Tables play host to artfully wrapped Japanese sushi and curries accented by pineapple and butternut squash. Chicken or shrimp cozy up to stir-fried noodles, and for heartier food, Chef Pri piles pot-roasted duck infused with cinnamon atop a sautéed spinach and garlic chili sauce.
The restaurant’s dining room exemplifies the same modernity found in the menu, with coal-black ceilings and geometric artwork against mustard-hued walls. Burnt yellow lights hang like glowing champagne glasses above Jasmine’s fully stocked bar, where diners can retreat for a cocktail or wine by the glass.