By Vanessa Infanzon
The lure of white sandy beaches and aqua-colored water brings guests from all over the United States to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. It’s enough to lay in the soft sand, watching the pelicans dive for a meal or the dolphins dance along the waves throughout the day.
But sometimes, in between those lazy moments, adventure calls out to the kid in everyone. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach bring out the whimsical side, seeking to connect visitors to playful excursions. The island becomes a playground for exploring and learning.
Here are 10 ways to bring out the kid in you during an Alabama Gulf Coast vacation:
- Sleep late at a condo with a view. Brett/Robinson Vacation Rentals offer rooms with ocean-view balconies, full-size kitchens and plenty of room to spread out for a family game night. I see charades in your future.
- Sail the seas, or in this case, the Gulf of Mexico. Hop on Sail Wild Hearts’ 53-foot catamaran for a two to three-hour cruise. Plan a half-day trip with Captain Zach when the Blue Angels, U.S. Navy fighter pilots stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, practice. They’ll fly over the boat, giving you a spectacular view of their air demonstration.
- Cruise through the trees on eight ziplines, over 6,000 feet of zipping, with the Hummingbird Zipline Course at The Wharf. Zip over a swamp, see the Intercoastal Waterway and the Wharf’s amphitheater. Turn your head for an epic view of Wolf Bay (easier said than done.) Test your lungs on the longest line: 1,620 feet.
- Eat ice cream at Matt’s Ice Cream. It’s homemade Alabama ice cream with 40 flavors. Splurge on a banana split or share a sundae. And because you were so good today, get yourself a root beer float.
- Dine in a 1950s Ford Sunliner at the Sunliner Really – eat in this classic car, restored to fit a four top. The car is first come, first serve, but there are plenty of turquoise and white vinyl booths for all customers. Head back in time for a true mid-century experience. Look for shakes, burgers and all-day breakfast on the menu.
- Drink on the Safari Club Gulf Shores’ patio, overlooking the new 25-acre home of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. This green-certified restaurant features a full bar, wine list and a menu filled with specialty pizzas, salads, sandwiches, steaks, tacos and more.
- Snuggle up with a lemur. Sign-up for a supervised animal encounter with a tamandua (think: anteater), kangaroo, lemur, sloth or snake. It’s a chance to get close and personal with an animal and also learn about a particular animal from a zookeeper.
- Listen to live music at LuLu’s. Expect music, adventure and an extensive menu every night at this venue owned by Lucy Buffett, sibling to the iconic Jimmy Buffet. The property includes a restaurant, sandbox and a gift shop on the Intracoastal Waterway. Drop by the arcade or swing by the ropes course. The restaurant’s staff takes food allergies seriously and reviews orders carefully before submitting them to a separate kitchen, used to prevent cross contamination.
- Earn your degree with Sand Castle University. Signup for a class led by a sand architect, but don’t worry about a test. It’s all tips and tricks to make a whale of a castle with the grainy stuff.
- Roll through Gulf State Park on a bicycle. There are 28 miles of trails in more than 6,000 square acres of park. Learn about the nine ecosystems through 40 interpretive signs. Watch for alligators, spy an eagle’s nest, and try geocaching for the first time. Dine at Perch, a restaurant overlooking the gulf at The Lodge at Gulf State Park. Grab a seat near the fire pit for the perfect end to an adventurous day.
Contact your local AAA Travel Agent for more assistance in booking your Gulf Shores getaway!
Plan your visit this year around one of these annual events:
- Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party, Apr. 24-26
- Hangout Music Festival, May 15-17
- Brett/Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon, Sept. 12
- 49th Annual National Shrimp Festival, Oct. 8-11
- 13th Annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off, Nov. 6-7
For more travel inspiration…
(Go Magazine March/April 2020)