“THE BEST GIFTS IN THE WORLD ARE NOT IN THE MATERIAL OBJECTS ONE CAN BUY FROM THE STORE, BUT IN THE MEMORIES WE MAKE WITH THE PEOPLE WE LOVE”
– Amanda Boyarshinov
Planning a family vacation can be a headache and time consuming. But, planning a Gulf Coast family vacation doesn’t have to be. The Alabama-Florida Gulf Coast is known for its beautiful powdered-sugar white sandy beaches and emerald green waters. It is a great vacation spot to catch some vitamin ‘SEA’ and a little relaxation. But, what do you do if you’re bringing the whole family down and the kids don’t have relaxing on their minds? Don’t worry mamas’; I’ve got you covered. There’re so many options for you to do with kids and many are….FREE!! The Gulf Coast not only offers a wide range of outdoor activities but it also has many indoor activities, which are great for those unexpected rain delays.
GULF COAST FAMILY VACATION IDEAS: HISTORY FANATICS
If your kids love history, then you are not going to want them to miss out on some of the fantastic museums the Gulf Coast offers. This is list of a few top picks that not only will be a hit but also easy on the wallet.
The National Museum of Naval Aviation
This museum will not disappoint. It is home to over 150 restored air crafts representing the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and is the home of the famous Blue Angels. You just might be able to catch a practice or even one of their big shows. With approximately 350,000 sq ft of indoor air conditioned exhibit space, you are sure to spend a couple hours exploring all the amazing exhibits. The best part is the admission is FREE!! If you have time, visit the Pensacola Lighthouse before you leave.
USS Alabama Battleship in Mobile, AL
This WWII- era battleship docked at Battleship Memorial Park will surely delight those interested in WWII history. This unique military park is a popular attraction with over 15 million visitors. Take a tour of the “The Mighty A” and make sure you tour the USS Drum -the oldest WWII American Submarine on public display.
Fort Morgan, built between 1819 and 1833, stands guard where the bay meets the Gulf of Mexico and is located at the end of scenic Fort Morgan Peninsula. This historical site offers more than just history. Take a tour of the fort and enjoy the wonderful view of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. From here, you can even take the Mobile Ferry for a trip to Dauphin Island where a new adventure awaits. Additionally, the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab will be a great educational experience as well!
GULF COAST FAMILY VACATION IDEAS: OUTDOOR & NATURE ENTHUSIAST
The Alabama- Florida Gulf Coast has plenty of nature-viewing opportunities and attractions from nature trails and parks to research centers and zoos. Here is a list of top favorites for those who love to be outdoors and up close and personal with nature.
Fishing is an excellent way to bond with your family. Whether you decide to fish from the shore or book an inshore or offshore fishing trip, you are going to create memories that your family will never forget. Fishing teaches; patience, creativity, and perseverance. The Gulf Coast is known for some pretty awesome fish such as red snapper, amberjack, redfish, triggerfish, and many more. There’s nothing better than watching your kids hook their first fish. You don’t want to plan a trip to the coast without planning a fishing trip. With this in mind, I suggest fishing with a guide. This takes all the ‘work’ out of fishing and allows for a more enjoyable trip for the family.
Alligator Alley in Summerdale, AL
This rescue farm opened in 2004, and is home to over 450 alligators. Alligator Alley provides recused alligators a natural environment. Many of the alligators were rescued from places that weren’t safe for them because they lost their fear of humans.During your visit, walk the elevated boardwalks where you have exceptional views of alligators from hatchlings to adults. Stick around and catch an exciting yet educational show. Your family will not forget this exciting adventure.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
This zoo was featured on the Animal Planet in a 14 part documentary series. The zoo was given the name “The Little Zoo That Could”, because it was the first U.S. zoo to evacuate their animals during a natural disaster.This park is home to over 500 animals. It is open year round and equipped with shaded picnic areas and wide walking paths. Catch one or more of their educational shows while you are visiting. The zoo also offers encounters where you can hold a sloth or play with a Lemur.
Gulf State Park
This park is a nature lovers must when visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Like camping? Bring your camper/RV and stay at the campground or pitch your tent and try your hand at primitive camping. The Gulf State Park Campground has air conditioned bathhouses, a pristine pool with splash pad, nature center, and tennis courts. That’s not all the Gulf State Park offers. The Fishing and Educational Pier is a must whether you are fishing or just sightseeing. If you like walking or riding bikes, then try the Backcountry Trails which offer 28 miles of scenic views and passes through 9 ecosystems. Make sure you pack your camera, you never know what sights you will be able to capture.
Other places you might want to check into are the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, FL and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores, AL.
GULF COAST FAMILY VACATION IDEAS: THRILL SEEKERS
If you have some adrenaline junkies on your hand or just want to add a little bit more excitement to your plans, then don’t miss out on some of these great places.
OWA is the newest attraction to the Alabama Gulf Coast. The park has over 20 rides. From the thrilling Rolling Thunder to the mild tea cups; this park offers something for everyone. Be sure to visit downtown OWA even if you decide thrill rides aren’t for you. Here you will find some amazing places to eat and shop. Don’t leave without stopping in the Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor. It’s like taking a step back in time where everything’s a little sweeter.
This waterpark is a must on a hot summer day. Bring your kids and relax while they splish and splash. Even better, let your inner child come out and race your kids down the Dune Racers, take on the Scream’n Demon, or float in the lazy river. Waterville also has a fun amusement park with go-karts, arcade, mini-golf, and an Escape Room.
Don’t really want to spend a whole lot of money but still want to get in some thrill? Adventure Island in Orange Beach, AL is the place to go. Here you can count on a one stop fun spot to provide hours of fun with go-karts, bumper boats, mini-golf, laser tag, arcade, and more.
GULF COAST FAMILY VACATION IDEAS: SLOW DOWN
You don’t have to do all big things on vacation. It’s nice to slow down a little and let yourself soak it all in. Plan to just hang out together as a family. You can take a Ferris Wheel ride at the Wharf or watch an amazing sunset. Slowing down is one of the most overlooked things when planning a vacation. Being on the go the entire vacation stresses everyone out. Make sure you allow time to laugh about the funny things that happened or talk to each other about favorite parts of the day. It’s these little moments that leave imprints in your hearts. Don’t get to caught up mamas on planning the “Best” Vacation. Pick one or two big things and then allow the wind to blow you on your other journeys. I promise you won’t regret it.
Written by: Ashley Conway