A Fun Spring Break Vacation in Gulf Shores
"Dad, spring break is coming up, where would be a fun place for the family to go!" It took a nano second for me to respond with "Gulf Shores and Orange Beach!" The wife and I have been to Gulf Shores three other times and loved it and each time we were there we said, "We've got to get the family back here". Some of the reasons we love Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama include:
- the beaches are unbelievable - soft, fine, sugar white, squeaky sand and clear blue water
- the weather is usually very pleasant - not too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter
- the locals are great - happy to host you, friendly, and outgoing
- there is lots to see and do for all ages
- lodging options are plentiful and fairly reasonably priced
- the restaurants, beach bars, and golf courses are outstanding
- it doesn't attract the crowds like Destin or Panama Beach do
We just got back and I'm missing it already! If you're thinking about going to Gulf Shores here are some links to articles we wrote about our trips - Golfing in Gulf Shores, Playing in Orange Beach/Golf Shores, and a Short Vacation To Gulf Shores. If you're a golfer, Gulf Shores is home to several excellent golf courses - here is our link to our reviews of 14 different Gulf Shores Golf Courses. When I mention Gulf Shores I'm also including it's adjoining beach town of Orange Beach. Read on to learn more about our Spring Break Vacation To Gulf Shores.
Gulf Shores Beachfront Rental - the Blue Parrot
We (my wife and I, our Austin daughter and her three kids and husband, and our Dallas daughter and her two kids) rented a 5 bedroom house right on the beach from Harris Property Management and it was perfect. Clean, comfortable, spacious, and well equipped plus a swimming pool and just 150 yards to the warm and clear water of the Gulf of Mexico.
We all had a blast and the 5 grandkids (5 to 11) loved it - baseball and frisbee and lacrosse on the beach; sandcastles, shell collecting, and burying each other in the sand; crab hunting at night by flashlight; jumping the waves; skim boarding; and lots more. By 10 they were all pooped and didn't mind going to bed in their "cool" room with two wooden post bunk beds and their own TV. Here is some more information on our beachfront rental in Gulf Shores.
Adventures & Attractions in Gulf Shores
It would have been easy for us to spend all week at the house and it's beautiful beach but before we headed to Gulf Shores I had developed a grid full of activities and things to do which means most days we were out of the house by 10 and off to a new adventure, a beach bar for lunch or happy hour, or a day exploring followed by a good dinner. We found it impossible to get bored on a vacation in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach because there is so much to see and do and it's got something for everyone from 4 to 84. Here's some of the adventures and attractions that we enjoyed during this trip:
A Great Time at Pensacola National Naval Air Museum - I was a little nervous taking the grandkids (and my wife) here because museums can be a tad boring for some, but that's not the case with the National Naval Air Museum - everyone loved it and it may have been one of the highlights. 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and 37 acres with over 150 beautifully restored aircraft, videos, a 4D movie on the Blue Angels, cockpits you could sit in, lots of pictures and history, and much more - all very well done.
Go Kart Races at The Track - I've raced a lot of go karts and was sure that I could beat my family on The Track's Wild Woody which is a three–tiered spiraling go kart and roller coaster hybrid with fast single and double carts. But the only way you're going to find out if I won or lost is to click on our Go Kart Racing at The Track Article.
Mastering the Ropes Course - Lucy Buffet (sister of Jimmy Buffet) owns LuLu's which is one of the best restaurants and fun places to hang out in Gulf Shores. The adults love LuLus because of the drinks, live music, apps, and food and kids love it because of the large sandy play area, arcade, and ropes course. As hard as the grandkids tried to shame me in to competing with them on the ropes course, I pleasantly declined and ordered a margarita that I could sip as I watched the three biggest kids master each of the 20 or more obstacles on the three story Mountain of Youth ropes course!. No fear as they walked across skinny beams, scooted across a rope ladder, walked out on a narrow plank three stories high, swung from rope to rope, scurried across a wooden swinging bridge, and more. The two smallest kids really enjoyed the smaller version of the Mountain of Youth. While we sipped margaritas and listened to some live music the kids also enjoyed the large sandy playground, bean bag game, and hula hoops.
Kayak Races - surely with years of experience kayaking I can out paddle this group of misfits, so we rented kayaks from We lined up side by side and on the count of three took off paddling like crazy with kayaks bumping into each other and paddles splashing water and banging paddles and kayaks against each other, and yelling backing and forth we set off for the small sandy Gilchrist Island. To learn who won, who was humiliated, and who had to buy the margaritas and take out the trash, you'll need to read the Kayaking in Gulf Shores Article.
In Search of Gators - after a good lunch at Blue Gill Restaurant in Spanish Fort (about 30 minutes north of Gulf Shores) we walked outside, greeted our skipper, boarded Airboat Adventures airboat, put on our headphones, and set off in search of some gators. Here is a link to the rest of the article.
A Great Round of Golf - being avid golfers and in what I consider to be "golfer's heaven" the wife and I had to sneak out for a round of golf while the kids enjoyed the beach. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are home to some spectacular golf courses designed by some of the best architects like Arnold Palmer and Jerry Pate. All of the courses that we've played during our visits to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were in near perfect condition, challenging and fun, and the rates are very reasonable for such quality courses. To learn more check out our reviews and ratings of 14 different Gulf Shores Golf Courses. After losing at miniature golf, go kart racing, and a kayak race it felt good to finally win and have my wife buy me a margarita - but I think she let me win because I was so down from previous loses!
The Beach, Beach Bars, and Restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
One of the reasons we love Gulf Shores is because it's loaded with some excellent restaurants, several fun beach bars, and miles of white silky sand and warm clear Gulf of Mexico water rolling onto the shoreline.
The 5 grandkids had an absolute blast on the beach - playing ball or football, frisbee, or lacrosse; skim boarding on the waves; burying each other in the soft sand or building sand castles; trying to catch sand crabs with a net and flashlight; bocce ball and bean bag toss; and more. Within minutes after getting up they were on the beach and crab hunting didn't start until after 9 PM - we had to bribe them with candy, ice cream, another beach, or some fun attraction to get them off the beach at our rental.
Most of our promises to get them in the car included soft drinks and a great beach at one of the many beach bars we frequented! Each day we set a goal to check out another beach bar - all for the kids benefit! - and Gulf Shores is loaded with them. Most of them sit right on the beach, some have live music, and all have cold drinks and appetizers. Our favorites included:
- The Gulf with very cool setting and good munchies
Flora-Bama which is huge with over 20 bar stations, 4 different simultaneous live music venues, bras and bands, and always a fun and lively crowd - it's consistently named the #1 Beach Bar in the U.S. or the World or listed as one of the top by Playboy Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Men's Journal, USA Today, CNN, and more - needless to say we spent a few hours here listening to the live music, playing on the beach or people watching
Pink Pony Pub - right on the beach you can't miss the Pink Pony Pub (it's hot pink like a Pepto bottle, or bubble gum, or 90% of Barbie's wardrobe) that has survived Hurricanes, the rise of condo mania, and the shifting sands of spring breakers for years - small, friendly service, great deck on the beach, and good burgers
The Hangout - almost as big as Flora-Bama and overshadowing it's neighbor the Pink Pony Pub, the Hangout is in the center of Gulf Shores, always has live music and good food, and it's out door area is fun for all with live music, bars, games, sandy beach, and foam parties
Great restaurants are everywhere and our favorites on the beach or bay include: Ole River Bar and Flora-Bama Yacht Club (the Yacht Club has a great outdoor patio, sandy beach, and music stage on the bay); the small Bahama Bobs restaurant is right on the beach and has a reputation as one of the best; LuLu's always has live music, good food, lots for the kids to do, and a view of the inland waterway; Tacky Jacks has two locations, one on the inland waterway and one facing the bay, and we love the setting and the food is good; Sunset Grill is right on the bay with a good lunch, a beautiful sunset, and a great view of a sandy island in the bay; and all of the above beach bars have some tasty food.
What a fun spring break - and we all agreed we'll be back next spring break. If you're heading to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, make sure you check out the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Visitors Bureau website to find lots of fun things to see and do. Have fun.