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Family-Friendly Travel In Coastal Alabama - Part 1

Updated: Jul 1


A gorgeous alabama sunset over the water at Perdito Bay in Lillian AL
Perdito Bay

A Local's list of Family-Friendly Travel In Coastal Alabama


Every guide to Alabama’s coast will tell you to go to the Hangout, the Florabama lounge and Lambert’s. If you’re into touristy stuff then those are places for you. But this guide will go deeper and help you find things to do beyond the tourist traps.


If you are visiting the Alabama coast for vacation, and are looking for fun things to do with your kids & family, here’s a list I’ve compiled for you. I've done all of them with my own family so I know they're good. Many of them are off the beaten path and are things you might not hear of elsewhere.


I am not getting any kind of kickback for this list either. I just hope maybe you'll check out the rest of my website while you're here. FYI My name is Kathy Buskett and I'm a local caricturist and I travel to you to make fun, tangible memories of you & your family.


So please, Enjoy!


holding a baby alligator at alligator alley in Foley, AL
what big teeth you have



Let’s start with everyone's favorite - the beaches.


Yes, the beaches can be tourist traps. But there's a few tips and tircks I can tell you about to make your stay more enjoyable.


Gulf Shores



a boy has fun at the beach leaping in the water at gulf shores, AL
The beach! Hooray!


Gulf state park is a beautiful, large area that has a nature center, camping, activities, and also includes the pier which is my favorite place to go to sit at the beach. However ,

the gulf shores pier, has been closed for renovations - but is supposed to reopen this summer. (2024) There is a $10 parking fee now but the beach itself is free.



under the pier at gulf shores, AL
Pier at Gulf Shores

If you go once the pier reopens, try sitting in the shade under the pier - you won’t get burned!

You still need to apply sunblock however. Always use the lotion kind, not the spray kind - at least spf 50. And reapply it hourly! Please DONT go in the water near the pier. The last thing you want on vacay is a trip to the ER.


Speaking of the ER, PLEASE pay attention to the posted flags on the beaches! They have a code and each color means something. Not to be a killjoy but Ignoring them is how people wind up dead.




beach flags warning system for coastal Alabama
How to Read Beach Flags

ANYWAY...

The nice thing about sitting near the pier is you can go up and get a snack or use the bathroom if you need to, there’s showers outside, and fishing off the pier for a fee. You can even get tackle or a license right in the shop on the pier. Kids under age 16 are usually FREE to go fishing in Alabama but not at the pier. So if you want to save some money go elsewhere to fish. Sorry but I am NOT going to tell you my secret fishing spot!


Sometimes they have interesting programs at the pier, like for shark week they had all kinds of interesting shark information.



a boy and his grandma on a dolphin cruise in Orange Beach, AL
Can't wait to see some dolphins!

My family taking a dolphin cruise



Water sports are cheaper in Alabama than most other destinations so if you have always wanted to rent a jet ski, go parasailing, or take a dolphin cruise, this is the place to do it. You can find pretty cheap dolphin cruises here. For good discounts try Groupon. Just make sure you read u p on the company first on a place such as Yelp!


Here’s one dolphin cruise I personally used and was happy with The Fun Boats Dolphin cruises Once we even saw a mommy dolphin and her baby!



Kids feeding a giraffe at gulf coast zoo in Gulf Shores, AL
Gulf Coast Zoo


The gulf coast zoo is in Gulf shores and that’s a fun day trip. Make sure you look into their animal encounters. You can pay to play with certain animals! We got to play with kangaroos, Ring-Tailed Lemurs, and even got to pet some baby Cervals! ( a type of big cat)


I personally come from a place with a large zoo, so i find this rather small. It's still fun. but I've




Glow in the dark dinosaurs at jurassic golf in gulf shores alabama
Jurassic Golf

Jurassic golf is a fun indoor activity, especially good in case it rains. It’s a glow in the dark, dinosaur themed indoor mini golf! That one’s in gulf shores.

There’s another pirate themed indoor mini golf which is owned by the same company in Spanish fort at the eastern shore center. (see part 2 of this blog)


    


Hibachi plate of fried rice and shrimp at restaurant Mikato in Gulf Shores
Hibachi at Mikato

There's an awesome Hibachi place called Mikato in the same shopping center as the Jurassic golf and there’s a BAM books and a movie theater right there so you might want to make an afternoon of it. If you’re not into hibachi there’s kittys kafe which is a nice little lunch spot. The flying pig decor is fun to check out. They close at 2.




kids playing basketball at indoor trampoline park, "the Factory" in Gulf Shores, AL
The Factory

Another rainy day activity would be The Factory which is an indoor trampoline park. They also boast an arcade, batting cages and rock climbing wall. All indoors. they have a small area just for littles too! Wednesdays are half price!




a boy surfs at waterville in gulf shores, AL
My son "surfing" at Waterville

I personally recommend Waterville for a fun water park experience. Not the other place. It’s cheaper by half, cleaner, and SAFER. If you want to read my experience at the other place you can read it here. I'm not even going to mention their name. Just go to Yelp and look at all the one-star reviews. You can thank me later.



ORANGE BEACH


The Causeway by Cobolts at sunset in orange beach, AL
The Causeway By Cobolt's


Beaches are always first on everyone’s list. Personally, I hate crowded beaches and prefer to have them somewhat to myself. There are a few places like that at OB and one of them is just off the causeway before you go over the bridge by Cobalt's restaurant which I review HERE. There’s a long boardwalk near the restaurant that leads to the beach and you can usually find an area that’s less crowded here. Parking is still free here too. Another good mostly empty beach is in Fairhope. More on that in a minute.



The Wharf ferris wheel in orange beach, AL
The Wharf

The wharf is a destination spot with unique shopping, and there’s an arcade, cinema, Ferris wheel and zip line right there. If you don’t stay there at least visit. If you stay there there’s a free lazy river for guests! In the winter they have an ice skating rink in the parking lot.


Villagio Grill is at the Wharf and is one of my favorite restaurants in all of gulf shores. They have world-class food, and this is coming from someone who lived in Vegas for a decade. If you stick around at night there’s even a free light show.




gorgeous Alabama coast sunset at dusk taken at fairhope AL
Alabama Sunset

Another place I recommend to eat is GT’s on the Bay, which not only has live music on weekends, it also has a huge non-traditional aquarium right in the dining room AND a pirate themed playground for the kids outside. There's also a dock to walk on for a romantic walk to see the canal. It's much more family friendly and quieter than some of the more touristy spots, AND the food is A-MAZ-ING.


Don’t miss fisherman’s corner restaurant which is a favorite of my family in orange beach, off the beaten path. They have fabulous seafood. It doesn't have a big show or anything like that. Just good food.


Beautiful Alabama beaches
Beautiful beaches in Alabama

Cobolt the restaurant an also has great seafood and the beach nearby is less crowded than many of the others in OB, which I already mentioned. They have a boardwalk to get you out to the actual dunes which makes it an easier walk. and Parking is still FREE here as far as I know. If it isn't please let me know!


Do not miss the local favorite meal shrimp and grits. Many places have their own way of serving it. I’ve never not liked it.




two kids have fun with VR at Adventure Island in Gulf Shores AL
VR fun

Another worthwhile thing to visit would be Adventure Island arcade in orange beach.

My kids say this is the best arcade for prizes and winning more tickets.

They also have a volcano themed mini golf, go karts, some small rides and laser tag. You could spend a few hours indoors at the arcade and snack bar so this might be a good rainy day activity.



FORT MORGAN /Dauphin Island

If you like history there are many civil war forts in the area. There's Fort Morgan in … you guessed it, Fort Morgan. Any one of the local forts are fun to visit, but this one has ocean views which makes me give it the highest rating. Bring your camera. Some of the areas are spooky and make for great pictures. ( I took the one below!)


spooky Fort Morgan black and white photo
Fort Morgan in alabama. photo by Kathy Buskett


And across the bay there's Fort Gaines on dauphin island.

There's even a ferry that will take Morgan across mobile bay to fort Gaines on dauphin island. That’s a fun trip and you might even see dolphins! That would be the cheapest way to see them IF you do get a glimpse of them.



a day at the gulfarium: petting a stingray
My husband petting a Skate


Dauphin island also has a small aquarium and a quieter beach, if, like me, you like that sort of thing. Bring some vinegar in case of jellyfish stings. Takes the sting right out. Best when sprayed on. (Speaking of stings the best remedy for fire ants is regular toothpaste! make sure you have a small tube with you at all times!)



kayaking near gulf shores, AL
my son matty kayaking


If you come back to Fort Morgan on the ferry, you can go golfing at one of the many golf courses or rent a couple of kayaks nearby and go exploring. Also not that expensive here.



Make sure to stop at the beach club resort for dinner and some fun activities in the summertime. Some of them are free, some cost money but all of them are fun and open to the public. I will be drawing caricatures this summer (2024) again on Monday and Thursday nights here from 6-9 pm. (late may-early august)


caricatures near me
Caricatures by Kathy At the Beach Club Resort

I'm going to create another post for other area things to do because this list turned so long!

Check it out HERE


Please feel free to comment


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Kathy Buskett is a professional caricaturist with 25 years of experience. She travels the

Gulf Coast and Beyond to bring her fun caricatures to vacationers, private parties, weddings, trade shows and more.



Caricaturist kathy buskett is located in Fairhope Alabama and will travel anywhere.
Caricaturist Kathy Buskett


Check out the rest of her site here at www.caricaturesbykathy











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