The Gulf Shores beach vacation you have been waiting for all year has finally arrived. Relaxation begins to set in as the light breeze crosses your face in the warm sun. A quick glance to the right leaves you staring into the endless glistening sea while glancing left reveals your precious toddler consuming sand directly from the shovel as if it was a bowl of clam chowder.
Traveling with a toddler is quite different than traveling with older children or adults. It requires more prep than studying for a final exam to make sure a trip to the beach goes off without a hitch.
For those families hitting the sunny shorelines of the Alabama Coast here are a few tips for taking a toddler on a fun beach vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama. This post is in partnership with Visit AL Beaches to encourage you to #KeepOnSummering. All opinions are my own.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Gulf Shores With A Toddler
For those who have yet to experience the family-friendly atmosphere of Gulf Shores, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This is a town custom-built with families in mind which is why many make a yearly pilgrimage. If you are looking to beat the crowds, enjoy the beach and save money we recommend booking a visit to Gulf Shores in the fall.
The temperature is still warm enough for those fun days at the beach, while the tourists have emptied out leaving locals to take back their town. This is ideal with a toddler in tow because wait times at restaurants are low, fewer crowds and more affordable rates for accommodations. We have compiled a great list of Gulf Shores budget-friendly tips to save you money during your trip.
Tips and Hacks For Going To The Beach With A Toddler
If you only do one thing in Gulf Shores it has to be spending time on the white sandy beaches. My two-year-old asks daily when we are going back to the beach.
Don’t get me wrong, I constantly have that same exact thought! Relaxing in a beach chair is not quite how we spend our time at the beach these days. It now involves packing enough bags that onlookers think we are setting up a summer camp on the beach. Throughout our many beach adventures, we did pick up a few tips to help make beach time with a toddler go smoother.
Embrace The Foot Shower
Quite honestly this could be deemed the highlight of our recent beach excursion. The little shower that you use to rinse the sand off your feet is quite the event.
Our daughter spent a good amount of time running in the sand and then running to the foot shower. Nevermind the gorgeous glistening ocean in the background. Use this newfound fascinating shower to your advantage as a way to leave the beach without a meltdown, a distraction or simply to clean sandy feet.
Apply sunscreen before putting their bathing suits on
Not only will this ensure you cover every single inch of their bodies with sunscreen it also gives it time to dry before you get to the beach. Applying sunscreen to a squirmy toddler could result in a missed spot that you know will burn immediately.
The rash guards are another great item to consider when taking littles to the beach. These are the long-sleeved swimsuits. It is just another layer of protection from the sun and will eliminate the need to apply sunscreen frequently.
What To Pack To The Beach With A Toddler
- Plenty of water and snacks. Bring cooler to keep things cold.
- Toddler beach chair. Not only is this super darling but they always want their own chair!
- Shade in some form. Whether it is in a beach tent or an umbrella you will need a spot to retreat from the sun. Especially if you are not staying on or near the beach.
- Beach toys. I would hit up the local dollar store and get a few things for your little one to play with. Chances are you will be spending more time exploring and less time playing in the sand.
Where To Eat In Gulf Shores With A Toddler
The dreaded fear of eating out with a toddler can be overcome by visiting a few of these great restaurants that cater to the younger crowd. Each of the places below has a great outdoor play area, an awesome kids menu and plenty of things to keep little ones entertained.
The Hang Out
One of the ultimate kid-friendly places to eat in Gulf Shores is the Hangout! Don’t miss out on some of the great activities happening around the clock, it is easy to spend an entire afternoon at the Hang Out.
From pirate and princess breakfasts, a DJ booth, competitions and of course their amazing outdoor space it is a kid’s dream come true. Parents can have a relaxing meal while the kids can explore the sandpit and participate in the courtyard games.
GT’s On The Bay
Kids will love the giant pirate ship and sandpit play area that GT’s On The Bay offers. Parents can be spotted enjoying a relaxing meal on the patio while their little buckaroos play. Raining?
GT’s giant fish pond located in the center of the restaurant is bound to fascinate both young and old. We recommend trying one of their brick oven pizzas or a fresh seafood dish. The kiddos can even watch them make the pizza!
Lulu’s is one of the top kid-friendly spots to visit in Gulf Shores. Where else can you hit a ropes course, visit an arcade, play in the sand and grab a bite to eat?!
Those little ones with allergies can rest assured that Lulu’s will take special care to ensure their meal is prepared with special care. Live music starts at five every night which will intice you stay even longer.
There are a few Tacky Jacks located throughout Gulf Shores each one offering the same great food and atmosphere. Visit the Gulf Shores location to find an outdoor play area.
Fair warning, it is by the water so you will have to keep an eye on little ones tempted to go for a quick dip. Tacky Jacks is known to host many kid-friendly programs throughout the year as well.
Here is our list of 10 kid-friendly places to eat in Gulf Shores.
Toddler-Friendly Playgrounds In Gulf Shores
Playgrounds are an ideal way to let your toddler explore, climb and be a kid. We are always on the hunt for a great playground that is also age-appropriate. Parents of toddlers know the struggle of little ones wanting to be bigger than they really are.
Here are a few great parks that are worth adventuring to with a toddler in Gulf Shores.
Orange Beach Kids Park
This was one of our favorite parks, mainly because it had an area dedicated to toddlers. There is a huge play structure, a pier for fishing and plenty of picnic shelters. Families can picnic and swim in Wolf Bay as the waters are more shallow and calm.
The Tanger Outlet Mall
This covered playground is ideal for rainy days or for a much-needed break from shopping. Located right outside the food court this play area is the perfect way to keep little ones entertained during a shopping spree.
Other great parks to check out are Johnnie Sims Park Pavillion, Meyer Park, and Foley Kids Park.
What To Do During Your Gulf Shores Vacation With A Toddler
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
The “Little Zoo That Could” should be at the top of your list during any visit to Gulf Shores. The zoo has transitioned to a new home a little further inland to maximize safety for the animal during hurricanes.
Be sure to follow along on their website to see the progress and what new exhibits are coming. A family favorite is the exciting animal encounters that they offer.
The Gulf State Interpretive Center and Gulf State Park
Acting as the gateway to the park this educational center shows visitors how they are preserving their coastal environment. With interactive displays, intriguing facts and impressive design of the building that utilizes natural elements to reduce energy demands.
The new pedestrian bridge allows visitors easy access to the park and is relatively close to the Nature Center, another great stop with a toddler in tow.
Toddlers may not appreciate the history that happened at this site but they will be intrigued and curious about the many rooms and spaces to explore.
This is a win-win attraction in my book because not only do parents get to take in a spectacular piece of Gulf Shores history, toddlers are entertained. A beach and hiking trails are located on the Fort Morgan Historic Site for even more exploration.
Two words: WaWa World. This is a little toddler waterpark located within Waterville USA. Little ones will enjoy the freedom to splash and cool off in an area just for them. This pirate ship also has slides dedicated to toddlers and little ones under 42″.
There are plenty of other attractions and rides located at Waterville USA. Toddlers will particularly enjoy the train that they can ride.
Looking for more great places to Keep On Summering during your Gulf Shores vacation? Visit AL Beaches to get more ideas!
Gulf Shores Vacation With A Toddler