Just off the white-sand coastline of northwest Florida, Lanier Sailing Academy teaches students to captain their own aquatic adventures with classes in cruising, chartering, and navigation. Classes include programs for beginners to advanced students, starting with the Practical Sailing for Basic Keelboat Certification course, in which novice navigators learn to steer boats, trim sails, and avoid swashbuckling sea otters. While working toward certification in various programs, students explore the Intracoastal Waterway and its bounty of dolphins, rays, blue pelicans, and myriad fish. Lanier Sailing Academy’s experienced members earn membership into the Buccaneer Sailing Club and are able to rent and sail 22- to 25-foot boats at their leisure.
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.
After enjoying a pint of craft beer at Hopjacks Filling Station, there’s a good chance you’ll find a cold one in their refrigerator, ready to be taken home. This hybrid retail store, beer garden, and café has 33 handpicked taps and hundreds of specialty beers and wines from around the world. Servers fill glasses and growlers with favorites from Pensacola Bay Brewery and limited seasonal and obscure beers alongside plates of casually upscale pub fare. Seated at tall chairs, patrons enjoy bites of charcuterie plates and toasty sandwiches, from genoa salami to roasted duck, at long, glossy tables in the center of the room. Diners can also wander outside to eat, drink, and set off post-meal bottle rockets on the patio.
For Captain Chris Williams and the Fish Happens Charters staff, spending a day at the office means bobbing across Pensacola Bay's emerald-green waters, past the area's sugar-white sand beaches. It's a gig that has its perks, and one that Chris and his crew are passionate about sharing. They do so by specializing in light tackle fishing with artificial bait, leading anglers out in search of everything from king mackerel and red snapper to much larger targets, including sharks. For the less adventurous, Fish Happens also offers family sightseeing tours, which showcase the area's million-dollar private homes which sound like the ocean when you hold your ear to their mailboxes.
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.
Wahoo Watersports sets up its clients with jet skis and pontoons at its perch on the Cotton Bayou, and then waves goodbye as they make hay for the open waters of the Gulf. Jet Skiers can spend the day picking and choosing which waters to shred or follow a predetermined route that will bring them up close with dolphins frolicking in their marine habitat. Customers can also charter a fishing boat and enjoy the private attention of a pro fisherman, who points out the best spots to drop a line and cleans the catch for free at the end of the trip.