Blue AngelsWhen we visited family living in Navarre, FL, recently, we expected a restful reunion. After all, Navarre has fabulous beaches, but isn’t known for its must see attractions or whirlwind travel itineraries. Little did we know…

“How early do you guys get up?” my brother Tim asked soon after our arrival. “We have some awesome plans for Tuesday morning. But we’ll have to be on the road by 6:30 at the latest.”

Wait a minute – did we have to make a rope drop somewhere? We thought we only had to keep those hours at the other side of Florida.
But, as my brother explained, we weren’t headed to a theme park to line up for some must-do attraction. Instead, we were heading to Pensacola for an exclusive peak at the Blue Angels flying squadron practicing for their closing show that season.

CSC 0633And one more surprise – we’d be climbing a lighthouse to get an up-close and personal view of the Navy’s elite flying team. Okay, we were sold – and willing to get up a bit earlier than planned for this special event.

First stop – the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, which is on the grounds at the Pensacola Naval Base. The working lighthouse was built in 1859. The Richard C. Callaway Museum is housed in the attached keeper’s quarters, which were originally built in 1869 and newly restored. A great assortment of gifts and souvenirs are available right at the lighthouse entrance. Our favorite find? A commemorative certificate, declaring “I climb all 177 steps” and signed by the shopkeep, a cheap but meaningful take-home for our kids.

I didn’t get a certificate, but if I did it would have to read, “I SURVIVED all 177 steps.” Seriously, climbing that spiral staircase on an empty stomach was not the best idea. There were points when I didn’t think I’d make it.

But I did reach the top, and it was certainly worth the climb. It was surreal to watch the Blue Angels buzz around the lighthouse. I’d seen the Blue Angels perform before in New Jersey, but I never had the awesome “front row” experience I did there on their home turf. A big plus – this was one of those experiences that truly impresses all ages. My teenagers were as impressed as my 8 year old at the Angels’ maneuvers.

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN SEEING A BLUE ANGELS’ PRACTICE, YOU HAVE TO PLAN AHEAD. TICKETS, WHICH COST $15 A PERSON, ARE AVAILABLE ON THE LIGHTHOUSE SITE, BUT THEY ARE EXTREMELY LIMITED. Also be sure to wear comfortable shoes – no heels or flip flops allowed – and to have your camera ready!