All Together Now
Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer a sweet and salty mixture of family fun
By Kimberly Winter Stern
The Alabama Gulf Coast has miles of beaches, plenty of surf and seafood and fun for everyone. Whether you choose to let sugar-white sand on a long ribbon of pristine beach slip through your toes or slice through the Gulf’s blue waters on a Jet Ski or Wave Runner, a Gulf Shores and Orange Beach getaway guarantees a memorable family vacation.
This stretch of paradise provides up-tempo activities for family members who like to get out and go. Hike or bike one of six trails that comprise the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Discover seven distinct ecosystems that meander along 13.5 miles of marshes, sand dunes, swamps and creeks in this Mother Nature-approved excursion. Capture picture-perfect moments as you glimpse shorebirds, experience the magical Butterfly Garden or spy alligators in their natural habitat.
Spend the day at Waterville USA, a 20-acre water and amusement park where Dune Racers and the Flowrider—a simulated surfing and body boarding attraction—provides thrills on an endless wave. Slip and slide on a 20-foot fall to a lagoon in the Gold Rush’s ultimate three-person raft adventure or take the young set to the House of Bounce or the Fun Depot for nonstop amusement.
Get your thrills and chills at Hummingbird Ziplines at Gulf Adventure Center in Gulf State Park where you’ll take flight for spectacular bird’s-eye views over land, sand and sea, including an unforgettable flyover above a gator pond. Rent a single or double kayak to explore beautiful Lake Shelby or try your skills at paddleboarding.
Tucked away just blocks from the beach and residence to more than 500 animals, including lions, bears and macaws, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is home to Animal Planet’s “The Little Zoo That Could” series. Have Wild Encounters with kangaroos and reptiles, visit the petting zoo and aviary and enjoy animal shows during the summer months.
Load the family up for a quick road trip to the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile. Explore more than 150 hands-on adventures in three permanent galleries: Hands On Hall, The Wharf of Wonder and My BodyWorks. In addition, the ChemLab and BioLab offer fascinating demonstrations daily and the J.L. Bedsole IMAX Dome Theater features jaw-dropping film experiences. Also known for its acclaimed traveling exhibits, Exploreum will satisfy the family fun factor.
Take a Break
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have an abundance of family-friendly restaurants serving up world-famous, fresh-from-the-water seafood.
Jimmy Buffet’s sister, Lucy, owns Lulu’s at Homeport Marina, a sprawling Margaritaville complex that effortlessly combines dining, good times and shopping. The beachy-themed restaurant is packed with it’s-five-o’clock-somewhere revelers enjoying margaritas as big as a Gulf Shores setting sun. Don’t miss Lulu’s crazy-good Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, a dessert big enough to share that’s drizzled with vanilla sauce and sprinkled with toasted pecans.
The Hangout—where Hwy. 59 meets the beach in Gulf Shores—defines good food, festivity and family fun. Perennially popular menu items include peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp, delicious bowls of Be Good Gumbo loaded with shrimp and sausage and the incomparable Shaka-Shaka Shrimp Po’boy. There’s a lot for the kids to do, more than 20 big screens showing sports and servers who break out in spontaneous dance.
Choose any of our local eateries for a family meal and be treated to a casual atmosphere and genuine Southern hospitality. If your restaurant choices are ruled by who serves the best sweets, check out what our social media fans have added to the dessert itinerary.
Relax, rejuvenate and create priceless family memories in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, where the Gulf’s blue waters, the white sand beaches and the never-ending possibilities of fun and adventure await.
Request a Vacation Guide to start planning your family fun getaway today!