Gulf Shores is the pride and joy of coastal Alabama, and with good reason. Hugging up against the Gulf of Mexico with its gorgeous aqua-tinted waters and sugar-white sandy beaches, you just can’t beat the views, culinary treasures and recreation. It would be easy to relax on the beach or at the pool for days on end, but sometimes you need a break from the normal. Here are some spectacular things to do in Gulf Shores to ensure ultimate fun for you and your family.
Things to do in Gulf Shores with Kids
Depending on the ages of your children, parasailing may or may not be a good idea. Definitely the teenage crowd will LOVE it and it’s likely that mom and dad will, too! There’s no better thrill than getting up high in the air for an impressive view of the beach. Check out Ike’s Beach Service (with locations at Alabama Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion, Island Winds Condos and Oceania Condos). Rides last 8-10 minutes and don’t worry, they’ll get photos for you! (Note: Ike’s additionally offers Segway rentals.) Also, Pleasure Island Parasail (with locations at The Pink Pony Pub or behind Bahama Bob’s) offers a fun time in the air. Buddy up or go solo…Paradise Island Parasail always puts safety first.
Sailing and dolphin cruises are top of mind when it comes to family fun and things to do in Gulf Shores and neighboring Orange Beach. Cetacean Cruises (set TAY shun) offers a family-friendly atmosphere searching for dolphins with Captain Bill and his crew. I love how they have named the dolphins by their markings. Sail Wild Hearts is another terrific opportunity for sailing with numerous options (all outlined on their web site). The 53-foot catamaran is perfect for sunset cruises and they serve snacks on board to guests. Reservations are best. And, Orange Beach Sailing Charters specializes in several types of excursions: family day trips, dolphin cruises and sunset sails…choose what works best for your group.
Kayaking and standup paddle boarding are always popular in Gulf Shores and it’s a marvelous way to connect with nature and enjoy some time on the water as well. Places like Go Go Kayak Rentals can help if you need to rent a kayak or paddle board. They also offer services like delivery of your rentals and tour guides. Wild Native Tours is awesome for kayaking tours at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. They work well with families and groups, so definitely check them out. Don’t forget your life jackets!
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores is often overlooked unless you’re camping there. The truth is there is plenty to do whether staying there or not. There is a golf course, tennis courts, pool, the longest pier in the area, beautiful beaches, hiking, biking and fishing! Have a look around the web site to see what all is available that your family might enjoy.
Families love the thrill and adventure at Alligator Alley! In close by Summerdale, take a tour to see 450 gators from hatchlings to mature adults. Also see ospreys, owls, turtles, bull frogs and more. Mark off bucket list items like holding a baby alligator on this outing.
It’s pretty much a given for my family to visit The Track anytime we are in Gulf Shores. They love go-karts and mini golf. And, while the older kids are busy with bungee jumping and bumper cars, the littles can be entertained with rides just their size. Tickets are available online as well as in person.
Waterville USA is a seasonal 20-acre water and amusement park with a huge collection of rides and attractions. If you need a break from the beach, this is a great place for kids to burn energy.
Things to do in Gulf Shores at Night
Night time is the right time for visiting LuLu’s Gulf Shores for family, group or couples dining with LIVE entertainment. There’s never a dull moment at LuLu’s, owned by Lucy Buffett, where food is fresh and plentiful, and you’ll never be bored waiting for a table. There are SO many exciting things to do at LuLu’s like an arcade, a three-story ropes course, The Fountain of Youth and a beach for the kids. Mom and dad will like the outdoor bars, the spacious gift shop and the laid-back atmosphere. Favorite foods here range from fresh catches to a Cheeseburger in Paradise. What could be better than this dining mecca on the water? (Note: LuLu’s offers an allergy-free menu for your dining needs.)
Flora-Bama is the perfect place to sneak off to for sunset drinks on the water. The lounge is right on the state line of Florida/Alabama and very popular with locals and tourists. Grab your favorite drink, a basket of coconut shrimp and settle in for music and the most beautiful sunset ever.
Things to do in Gulf Shores on a Rainy Day
Sometimes rain is good thing. It offers a respite from the heat and allows time for new adventures. My family likes that rain usually means a trip to The Wharf in Orange Beach (just minutes away).
The Wharf is a little community of its own with a marina, accommodations, upscale and unique shopping, stellar eateries, a Ferris Wheel, an amphitheater, mini golf, a movie theater, zip lining, spa and more! There really is something for everyone. Enjoy your morning coffee at the eclectic Southern Grind Coffee House where the brunch menu is so lovely (think strawberry Belgian waffle) or pick up a nice lunchtime sandwich. Shop til you drop and remember rainy days are simply the best for taking in a movie. End your day at The Wharf at one of the splendid restaurants like Ginny Lane Bar and Grill or Villaggio Grille.
Rainy days are spa days in my book! I’m sure you’ll agree when you see my two favorites! Fusion Spa and Salon by Aveda is located at The Wharf and offers a full-service menu with a pampering staff attentive to your every need. You can get a feel for services and pricing on the web site, and they serve wedding parties. Check the SPECIALS button to see if you can find some savings. The Beach Club Spa has been my go-to for years as we have stayed at that resort many times allowing me to walk over to the spa. Men and women alike partake in a full menu of services at this spa located on the Fort Morgan peninsula. Luxurious spa treatments are their specialties as are premier salon services. Enjoy some of my favorites like the Island Breeze facial or a hot stone massage. Also, enjoy a complimentary mimosa while hanging out in the relaxation room.
Where to Stay in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Off-the-beaten-path, Spectrum Resorts also manages The Beach Club in Gulf Shores on the Fort Morgan peninsula. A quiet community on 86 acres, the Beach Club is loaded with amenities and accommodation options. There are four gulf front condo towers as well as roomy lakeside cottages. All are modern offering state-of-the-art appliances and products in each gorgeous unit. Enjoy pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, the private beach, onsite restaurants, a lovely spa and so much more.
Caribe Resort is across from the beach, but is an Orange Beach treasure sitting on a 30-acre peninsula. Units are spacious and fully-equipped with all you can possibly need on a beach vacation. Resort amenities include: pools (lots of pool space), lazy river, tennis courts, sauna, steam room and game room. The restaurant associated with the resort, Cobalt, is fabulous with both indoor and outdoor eating areas. There is a trail to walk over to the beach as well, so don’t let their “across the beach” location keep up from enjoying this fun lodging option. It is especially catering to families with plenty of recreation.
For the best in luxury hotels, check out Perdido Beach Resort located directly on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach. I love so many things about this resort starting with the freebies: parking, fitness center and WiFi. They have onsite dining from casual to fancy as well as a popular pizzeria and a poolside snack bar. The pool is always clean and they provide LIVE music poolside. Much of the staff has been there for years, attesting to folks that love their jobs and treat guests with pride and hospitality.
San Carlos Resort is another Gulf Shores property that I love. Located on the beach with gulf front balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, San Carlos is perfect for families or couples. Guests here enjoy a large beachside pool, sauna and fitness center. The resort is close to restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
Turquoise Place is a Spectrum Resorts property and is truly the best of the best in Orange Beach condominium lodging. Turquoise Place has two high-rises (24 and 30 stories respectively) and every three- to five-bedroom unit has a gulf front balcony with a gourmet grilling station and Jacuzzi. High-end appliances, furnishings and other amenities are in place throughout the property. Here are a few highlights of this world-class property: lazy river, premium Nautilus-equipped fitness center, two indoor pools and three outdoor, play yard, tennis courts, sauna and steam room.
Looking for more things to do in Gulf Shores including more on where to stay and eat? Check out Gulf Shores: Your Complete Guide To The Best Beach Vacation for awesome ideas! And, see why Nostalgia Brings Alabamians To Gulf Shores Year After Year!
Video by the amazingly talented Phillip Pritchard of Video Visions.