A Question for our Gulf Shores clan...

mickeyfan0805

DIS Veteran
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Our school has recently gone through a calendar revision which means we are no longer fully tied to Easter for our Spring Break. As a clergyman with kids in school, all I can say is, HOORAY!!! Anyway, it looks like we can finally look at some Spring Break travels starting in 2020. Given how much you all talk about GSA, I thought I'd ask for a little more...

It looks like the temps are generally mild at the end of March. Not necessarily swimsuit on the beach weather (Ed has met me - so you are welcome for that image!), but pleasant camping weather. Is that true?

Does it get overrun with college kids on break, or is it a bit more tame?

And, most importantly, would it be a decent family destination at that time of year (kids would be 15, almost 14, and 11 at the time)? I could see our kids playing on the beach for a while, but we aren't going to spend all day there at that time of year. Are there other things to do? Ways to spend our time? Or is it really more of a relaxing place for couples but not necessarily exciting for kids?

I welcome your experience and insights.

Thanks!
 

bama_ed

It's kind of fun to do the impossible-Walt Disney
Joined
Sep 23, 2004
(Ed has met me - so you are welcome for that image!)
My ears were tingling....

Oh Marty, Gulf Shores (and its neighbor on the coast, Orange Beach) pride themselves on being family friendly. Our little corner of the Redneck Riviera was made for family fun.

First, there is plenty to do to occupy a family with teenagers. The locals have lots of talent in separating pale Yankees from their hard earned dollars during a trip to the beach. You can always hit the local tourism website www.gulfshores.com.

Here are my thoughts in the order they come to me in:

- GS/OB are family friendly to the point they take extra measures during spring break time. A couple years ago, the college crowd over in Panama City got a little rough with some ladies in daylight on the beach and booze was a factor. PC cracked down with restrictions and laws over the winter and the crowd looked for someplace else to go like GS/OB. Our locals were caught unprepared but passed a no-alcohol-on-the-beach law and other policies to discourage the college crowd and for the recent years the college crowd has been going elsewhere. It is strictly enforced. Here is a recent story for GS/OB.

http://gulfcoastnewstoday.com/stories/gulf-shores-approves-spring-break-alcohol-ban,55627

- what would a family vacation be without going to the outlet mall to shop? The town just north of GS, Foley, has the Tanger Outlet Stores. You could easily spend a day (and some coin) wandering around there saying, "ooh, I need one of those" or "hey, I don't have that yet". Just mention tiggerdad's name and you'll get the Valet/Club Level treatment if you spend over $300 there (tiggerdad's statue is reportedly being planned for center court by the bench next to the merry go round).

https://www.tangeroutlet.com/foley

- a small amusement park has been built to be a fun destination for kids and families in Foley. It's only been open a year or two and with older kids, I have no direct knowledge of it. But it's right next to the mega complex of soccer fields and indoor building that attract sports kids tournaments (and families). It's called The Park at OWA.

https://visitowa.com/

- in Gulf Shores down by the beach is a small water park and some amusement type rides. It's been around for over 40 years. Waterville. Near it is a small zoo.

https://watervilleusa.com/ . https://www.alabamagulfcoastzoo.com/

- If you're a history buff, you might enjoy a visit out to Fort Morgan (about 20 miles west of GS), an old Civil War fort across the mouth of Mobile Bay from Fort Gaines over on Dauphin Island. It's pretty deserted out there but interesting and because it's more removed, I have found that the beach at Fort Morgan is excellent for finding shells (some big ones). It was here that Admiral Farragut uttered the phrase, "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead".

http://fort-morgan.org/

Next to Fort Morgan is the Mobile Bay Ferry dock which will take walk-on and drive-on passengers over to Dauphin Island, a small barrier island/town on the western shore of Mobile Bay. About the only tourist thing is the Estuarium (an estuary is a body of water [Mobile Bay] where the salt water ocean meets the fresh water river. It has some touch tanks and is interesting if you are into what lives in the local waters. It's small but interesting.

http://www.disl.org/Estuarium . http://mobilebayferry.com/

- Not far away from Gulf SP is Pensacola Naval Air Station (Pensacola NAS) which is home to the Naval Aviation Museum (P-NAS is the home of the precision Navy flying team, the Blue Angels). It's a nice museum and best thing is it's free (your tax dollars at work) to visit with only an up-charge for the 3-d movie, etc. Check the schedule at the museum website to see if you can catch the Angels on one of their practice days there at NAS.

https://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/

- We have our share of go-cart tracks, putt putt courses, ice cream shops, and seafood restaurants. We got tacky t-shirt stores and silly souvenir stores. Movie theaters, sports bars, even a ferris wheel over at The Wharf in OB. It's shop-dine-entertainment (mostly shop but they have an amphitheater that brings concerts acts in).

https://alwharf.com/

- Of course I love my Gulf State Park especially now with its pool and walking/bike trails. It looks like now they limit to booking one year in advance. We have our DISMeet in the front part where Bobcat/Sumac/Live Oak roads are (sites 1-103 basically). I like the sites on Live Oak Rd, either the lake front sites (14-21) which are full sun no shade but have an unobstructed view of the lake, the Beach Pavilion beyond, and a beautiful sunrise. In March those sites are great. Or across the road from the lake on Live Oak (where I like to camp) under the big old oak trees (sites 8-30). Book as early as when you know your dates. Gulf has a fishing pier (free access for campers) and it's fun to walk out there and watch the professionals catch fish.

https://www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park

https://www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park-campground-maps-site-specific

- There is a network of publicly accessible bike/walk trails that are attached to the campground that make for a great place to bike in the cool weather. It's referred to as the Backcountry Trail.

http://backcountrytrail.com/

- There are some marinas over in OB that access the Gulf and me/DW want to try a dolphin cruise from there.

- There is a small but active seafood/fishing community in Mobile Bay based around Dauphin Island (on the western shore far from GS) and also in Bon Secour (on the eastern shore near GS). As in, the boat ties up to the dock and they sell their catch right there in a little store (plus supply the local seafood stores and restaurants). Think Forest Gump catching shrimp on the Jenny and selling it off the dock. I'll drive out to Bon Secour to Billy's Seafood (there are a couple out there) and pick out something fresh to cook on the grill. It's a little cheaper than the shops around GS/OB and, of course, fresher. Bring a cooler and they'll throw in the ice. Or take a cooler full home with you.

http://www.billys-seafood.com/

Other than that, I got nothin' to tell ya. :rotfl2:

Bama Ed

PS - okay DISMeet buds and bud-ettes, what did I forget? :scratchin
 
Last edited:

mickeyfan0805

DIS Veteran
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
@bama_ed, as always, a wealth of information! Thank you for taking the time.

I look forward to hearing from a few others. It looks like a promising possibility for 2020. Now I just have to convince my wife to consider driving 1,000 miles to go visit a place she's never heard of! (Gulf Shores was a completely foreign notion to me until I started chatting with those of you on here).
 
  • Teamubr

    Formerly racing around the country.
    Joined
    Nov 7, 2010
    I've been down a half dozen times or so. Once over Spring break and this year after Labor Day, so I have some experience outside the Memorial to Labor Day busy time. I fell in love with the area and I'm looking for a place to buy so I can retire in the area in a decade or so.

    I find the non-Summer periods great. Far less crowds, but unlike some tourist areas, there is still quite a bit to do. Ed covered a lot of the basics and things we do. The water will be too cold to go ocean swimming. Air temps can vary quite a bit. When we went for Spring Break in 2007 (first week of April), The first half of the week was great. 70-80- Sunny. A front went through at the end of the week and it was 40s in the morning with a high of 60, cloudy and windy. I haven't been down in the Winter, but I don't think the cold lasts long when it does blow through.

    In addition to Ed's list, I'll add...

    Shopping- There is a good size Tanger Outlet mall in Foley, 15 minutes up 59 from GS. There are also all the regular places (Target, Academy, etc.) in the same general area.
    Boat trips- We love going out sailing. There are many options in Orange Beach and Perdido Key to go sailing, sport fishing, parasailing and back water "eco" tours. Some on jet skis and some in kayaks, for the more adventurous. This September, we took a catamaran cruise over to Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels practice.
    The Hangout- Think of it as a teen club. Your kids are the right age. Music, Food and Fun is how their web site describes it. As a parent, you'll feel old, but they have some decent live bands in the evenings. The Hangout is right where 59 (main N/S road) runs into the beach. Right in the heart of GS.
    The Wharf is a shopping/entertainment area behind GSP on the intercostal. There is a Ferris Wheel, mini golf, a zip line, movie theater and outdoor amphitheater where national touring acts perform. There is a higher end marina that is nice to walk through checking out the boats I'll never afford.

    Blue Angels practice from the boat.

    20180912_120551.jpg 20180912_120807.jpg 20180912_121843.jpg

    j
     

    PaHunter

    Photographer in need of training...
    Joined
    Oct 15, 2014
    I've been down a half dozen times or so. Once over Spring break and this year after Labor Day, so I have some experience outside the Memorial to Labor Day busy time. I fell in love with the area and I'm looking for a place to buy so I can retire in the area in a decade or so.

    I find the non-Summer periods great. Far less crowds, but unlike some tourist areas, there is still quite a bit to do. Ed covered a lot of the basics and things we do. The water will be too cold to go ocean swimming. Air temps can vary quite a bit. When we went for Spring Break in 2007 (first week of April), The first half of the week was great. 70-80- Sunny. A front went through at the end of the week and it was 40s in the morning with a high of 60, cloudy and windy. I haven't been down in the Winter, but I don't think the cold lasts long when it does blow through.

    In addition to Ed's list, I'll add...

    Shopping- There is a good size Tanger Outlet mall in Foley, 15 minutes up 59 from GS. There are also all the regular places (Target, Academy, etc.) in the same general area.
    Boat trips- We love going out sailing. There are many options in Orange Beach and Perdido Key to go sailing, sport fishing, parasailing and back water "eco" tours. Some on jet skis and some in kayaks, for the more adventurous. This September, we took a catamaran cruise over to Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels practice.
    The Hangout- Think of it as a teen club. Your kids are the right age. Music, Food and Fun is how their web site describes it. As a parent, you'll feel old, but they have some decent live bands in the evenings. The Hangout is right where 59 (main N/S road) runs into the beach. Right in the heart of GS.
    The Wharf is a shopping/entertainment area behind GSP on the intercostal. There is a Ferris Wheel, mini golf, a zip line, movie theater and outdoor amphitheater where national touring acts perform. There is a higher end marina that is nice to walk through checking out the boats I'll never afford.

    Blue Angels practice from the boat.

    View attachment 370922 View attachment 370923 View attachment 370924

    j
    Would love to see the Blue Angels practice and get the chance to photograph.
     

    friendofeeyore

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 20, 2014
    We had our 1st experience last May & really did enjoy GS. I am not a beach, sand person, but enjoyed walking the pier & love love the sea food. Can’t wait to meet you & your family, come on down water is great.

    PS We made it home today around 3:00 Texas time. Left Orlando Monday morn. Since the doctor said no more than 4 to 5 hrs.riding time & do some rehab, I did fine. Arnold is worn out! Taking care of me, dog & cat.
    Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!!
     
  • SouthAlabama5er

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 9, 2014
    Just mention tiggerdad's name and you'll get the Valet/Club Level treatment if you spend over $300 there (tiggerdad's statue is reportedly being planned for center court by the bench next to the merry go round).
    :lmao:Ed you nailed this! :thumbsup2

    We live across Mobile Bay from GS. And Ed and Jim have pretty as summed it way better than I can of course.

    The only thing I will add would be the dining, from Lamberts Cafe, (Home of the throwed rolls) to LuLu's (Jimmy Buffet's little sisters restaurant) to tiggerdads favorite place, Gulf Island Grill, there are a bunch of local restaurants who pride their self on dishes made with Gulf Wild Caught seafood.

    Also if your willing to do a little driving, about a hour from GS in Mobile they have the USS Alabama Museum right off of I10. You can tour the Battleship and WW2 sub and about 25 retired military aircraft including my favorite the SR71 Blackbird. Just dont invite me or tiggerdad unless you really wanna spend all day there.

    About 3 years ago Mobile open a Maritime Museum right in downtown, I've visited it and it's pretty neat. The Museum covers from the beginning of trade by sea with sailing ships to modern day sea trading, seamanship and navigation.
     

    Teamubr

    Formerly racing around the country.
    Joined
    Nov 7, 2010
    Thanks Randy,

    I may have to hit the downtown Mobile attractions in May. I have been on the Alabama and Drum, but it has been years.

    @bama_ed

    Is it time for the 2019 GSP thread? I'll let you do the honors again this year.

    j
     

    bama_ed

    It's kind of fun to do the impossible-Walt Disney
    Joined
    Sep 23, 2004
    @bama_ed

    Is it time for the 2019 GSP thread? I'll let you do the honors again this year.

    j
    Jim, I'll kick it off this weekend.

    I just finished the laundry last night from our "Camping with the Manatees" trip to Florida (washing the sheets from the camper). Let me get those folded and put away :laundy: and then I'll create the Gulf DIS Meet #4 thread.

    Bama Ed
     
  • PaHunter

    Photographer in need of training...
    Joined
    Oct 15, 2014
    :lmao:Ed you nailed this! :thumbsup2

    We live across Mobile Bay from GS. And Ed and Jim have pretty as summed it way better than I can of course.

    The only thing I will add would be the dining, from Lamberts Cafe, (Home of the throwed rolls) to LuLu's (Jimmy Buffet's little sisters restaurant) to tiggerdads favorite place, Gulf Island Grill, there are a bunch of local restaurants who pride their self on dishes made with Gulf Wild Caught seafood.

    Also if your willing to do a little driving, about a hour from GS in Mobile they have the USS Alabama Museum right off of I10. You can tour the Battleship and WW2 sub and about 25 retired military aircraft including my favorite the SR71 Blackbird. Just dont invite me or tiggerdad unless you really wanna spend all day there.

    About 3 years ago Mobile open a Maritime Museum right in downtown, I've visited it and it's pretty neat. The Museum covers from the beginning of trade by sea with sailing ships to modern day sea trading, seamanship and navigation.
    Hmm, may have to go see the battleship, and well who doesn't love the BlackBird. They have one on the Intrepid in NY, and a Y12 in Dayton I believe it was. The Y12 being the test version of the SR71.
     

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