Family Vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama

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My family and I took a vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama last summer. It’s a straight, 10 hour drive down I-65 from Louisville. We stayed right near the border between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There were a ton of family friendly things to do, and we loved being on Central Time for the week!

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are nice, white sandy beaches that are raked daily (not all Alabama beaches are raked and the seaweed can pile up). My kids loves collecting shells and building sandcastles. However, during the month of July there is a higher count of jellyfish in the water. (Both of my kids were stung by jellyfish while swimming. Next time we’ll shoot for late May or early June.)

Here is a list of attractions we really enjoyed:
Visit to the Gulf Shores and/or Orange Beach Welcome Center first to get coupons for almost all of the attractions below!

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo: This is a small zoo that may seem inexpensive, but there are many animal encounters which cost an additional fee. The animal encounters are $5 or $10 each person, but it was totally worth it to get up close and personal with sloths, tamanduas (lesser anteaters), kangaroos, lemurs, and various reptiles. Get there early and check the handwritten whiteboard on the corner of the animal show area for times.
Alligator Alley: This gem is a little north of Gulf Shores – if you break up the trip and happen to arrive in the area before night, it’s a great place to stop before continuing on to your hotel or resort.
Gulf State Park: This is an amazing place! It cost a few bucks to enter, but you can do a ton of things once you are inside. They have an amazing nature center with lots to look at and touch, scavenger hunts, and live animals (and great for rainy days)! They host educational seminars that are great for kids and adults. There is also beachfront, camping, a small playground, pool and splashpad, gift shop and the Backcountry Trails. The Backcountry Trails are 25 miles of paved and boardwalk trails with lots of nature and animals to view. It was a hot walk, but we enjoyed it. Wear good footwear!
Sea Sand Sand Nature Center: This is an amazing facility next to an elementary school that opened to the public for the first time this past summer. Admission was $4 each and was great for rainy day. They have fish tanks, a planetarium, and lots to touch. There’s also a public outdoor playground down the road, and Doc’s restaurant nearby which is a local favorite. *Summer 2018 dates of operation had not been announced as of the writing of this article.

Day Trips:
Fort Morgan: This is a great place to get some history and it’s really neat to see. It seemed a little pricey, but includes a tour.
Ferry to Dauphin Island: It’s a little pricey, but the experience was great. It’s a 35 minute ride with or without your car. We saw dolphins, boats, birds, and had a great time.
Fort Gaines: has a great self-guided tour with cannons, blacksmiths, kitchen, tunnels, and gift shop. The kids loved it!
Amusement and Water Parks:
Waterville USA is right in Gulf Shores. It is pricey but is a good location and does have Groupons.
OWA is a large, new waterpark north of Gulf Shore that just opened this past summer.

Restaurants:
LuLu’s Cafe: A Must! – Do the online check in for main restaurant, but check the grill building for low/no wait. There’s an obstacle course, giant balls on water, sand pits, beach volleyball, gift shop, live music, and more!
The Hang-Out: Another Must! Shooting foam area every hour on the hour, a sand hill, foosball, ping pong, and additional cost attractions: bungee jumping, face paint, tattoos, hair wraps, gift shop, contests and more!
Pink Pony Pub: kids’ meals served on a souvenir Frisbee.

By Guest Contributor: Caryn
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