After much controversy (much like most anything new around here), the 360 Pensacola Beach Wheel opened to the public. I asked on Facebook whether or not our readers were going to check it out and you all shared some great thoughts.
I was thrilled when Crystal mentioned she was going to visit opening week and would write a review for PWK! Please help me welcome Crystal to the website! She runs a beautiful photography business and is sharing some great pictures from her visit.
My family and I had the chance to experience the 360 Observation Wheel on Pensacola Beach. I was very excited about this addition to Pensacola Beach. We were watching it “grow” for some time on their facebook fan page and when the opening day arrived we hit the floor running! I had many questions about the wheel that were not answered on the fan page or website, so I am happy to answer a few in my review.
The price for our family is very reasonable. Adults (anyone over 48 inches tall) are $15 and children (under 48 inches) are $5. Babies under 2 are free. For two adults and two children over two, but under 48 inches, it was $40. I feel this was a fair price for the experience. This is not something to do every weekend; this is a special event for our family, a chance to spend a few hours together at the beach enjoying the evening.
Is there a discount for locals or military? So far, I am not seeing a discount for locals or military. We did not receive a military discount when we rode the wheel. All in all, I have no doubt they will offer a local coupon in the coming months, but for now, while the tourist season is upon us, the price point keeps the lines down and the speed up!
Opening night, the lines were quick moving. The staff was well trained and from the purchase of the tickets, which occurs at a faux gondola, to the managing of the loading/unloading everything was smooth. We waited approximately 15-20 minutes for our turn to load. The wait in line starts with a photo opportunity in front of a green screen. In line there are fans to keep you cool as well as lights to repel the bugs of summer. It was nice to be able to watch the movement of the wheel from below before our chance to board.
We rode the common Gondolas and I can only comment on that experience. The seats are regular stadium type benches, think soccer or football bleachers. They were not the most comfortable seating, but well designed. We have to assume people will be sandy and some will be from the beach and to keep the chairs dry and clean, they chose the perfect material. I believe the VIP Gondola seating is geared for a more comfortable experience. Each unit has separate controls for comfort. There are several AC vents, which can be opened or closed, as well as music inside the cabin. The glass is easily viewed from every angle, there are no “bad seats” each view is unobstructed at some point on the wheel.
This was the main issue, as always in the mid summer at Pensacola Beach. I also went during the 4th of July week. I had no problem finding parking in the main parking lot under the ball. A short walk across the street and we were there. However, for those with strollers I do recall having to walk on the grassy areas of the median with no sidewalk. That could be an issue, however minor. We also went at night and on our return to our car, the hotel had their sprinkler system on, making the walkway unusable unless you wanted to get a little wet. I think this issue needs to be addressed and maybe the hotel can wait a few hours and turn on their system a bit later after the Wheel has closed for the evening.
LENGTH OF FLIGHT
Their website states the length of flight is 10-12 minutes with 4 Revolutions. We were pleased to get 5 or 6 revolutions and the flight lasted approximately 15 minutes. Boarding and Unloading time not included. My favorite part was during the boarding process where we sat on top of the wheel and were able to overlook the entire beach.
I went at night. I would love to go back during daylight/sunset hours to experience the full view the wheel has to offer. I was picturing the nighttime view a bit differently in my head, but the evening view was not as I expected. It was still gorgeous and I enjoyed every minute, I would recommend going when the view has more to offer. I choose a night flight to escape of the heat during the day, but now that I have experience the Gondolas first hand, I believe the heat would not be an issue for a daytime flight.
I felt very safe in the Gondolas. I was worried my younger child would be scared of the height from the wheel, but since the feeling of the car surrounding you, it was very comforting. My daughter is extremely timid and not once did she express any hint of being scared. Again, the staff gives the impression they are very well trained.
*All photographs are property of CrystalBelle Photography.
Crystal is a military spouse and mom of 3. She is from Hampton Roads, Va and has lived in the Pensacola area for 4 years. Connect with CrystalBelle Photography on Facebook.