An excerpt from the book Southern Fried & Sanctified. Postage-free, signed copies available via the author website, click on title of the book to order and view the book’s photo gallery. All text and photographs copyrighted.

After days at the beach and a visit to Pensacola’s downtown historic district, soak in the naval history of the area and head to the Naval Aviation Station (NAS), home to the Pensacola Lighthouse, National Naval Aviation Museum, Fort Barrancas and the Barrancas National Cemetery

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The oldest and tallest light station on the Gulf Coast, the Pensacola Lighthouse was constructed in 1856-58 and today you can visit the keeper cottage museum and climb the 177 cast iron steps for a panoramic view of Pensacola Bay.

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Across the highway, the National Naval Aviation Museum is a mammoth display of one hundred years of naval aviation, with vintage aircraft and exhibits of WWII battles including prominent battle ships. Climb into the cockpit of a Blue Angel fighter jet or board two 3-D flight simulators with air-to-air combat and stunt flying. Stop and talk to one of the many museum volunteers, all veterans eager to share their real-life adventures. For a real treat, catch the Blue Angels practice air shows, and after most Wednesday practices join the pilots in autograph sessions inside the museum.

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Before you leave the NAS, visit Fort Barrancas. The fort was built by the Spanish in 1763 and offers panoramic views atop a bluff overlooking Pensacola Bay. Nearby, pay tribute to veterans of all branches of the military at the Barrancas Cemetery, with rolling hills of white headstones standing at attention under blue skies.

Check out the National Park Service website for more details on the cemetery and its park. The site notes the park traces its history in three 19th century forts that once guarded the entry to Pensacola Bay.  Today, the cemetery is the final resting place for more than 36,000 military veterans, including several Medal of Honor recipients.  While most of the cemetery graves are laid out in uniform rows, a section of burials remains from the early 1800s predates the establishment of the national cemetery by more than 50 years.

The town of Pensacola and the beaches are featured in my book Southern Fried & Sanctified. Postage-free, signed copies available via the author website, click on title of the book to order and view the book’s photo gallery. All text and photographs copyrighted.