The sugar white sandy beaches, the warm breeze coming off the sea and the calming lullaby of the waves make Gulf Shores, Alabama the ideal family vacation destination. We dipped our toes in the silky smooth sand and instantly fell in love with this darling beach town. There are endless adventures and new things to discover around every corner that are bound to leave lasting memories. We are excited to bring you our guide to visiting Gulf Shores with kids to share our experiences and activities.
This post is sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. As always opinions and reviews are my own.
Where to Stay in Gulf Shores
Lodging opportunities are endless. Hotels stretch down the coastline, condos and beach houses are readily available for renters and campsites can be found scattered in between. While each family travels differently we recommend checking out the rentals available through Kaiser Realty by Wyndham Vacation Rentals. We stayed in a stunning villa located directly across the street from the beach.
Pelican Haven was a 2-bedroom villa that was the perfect fit for our little family. Upon entry, we were blown away with how spacious, updated and tastefully decorated the unit was. I need their interior decorator to hop a plane and come to my house immediately! Everything is extremely thought out. The beautiful balcony was the perfect way to spend our evenings after our little gal retired. They have a variety of properties that can meet most budgets and even accommodate large families. We especially loved their keyless entry and their app that allowed us to check in and out with a touch of a button.
What To Do In Gulf Shores With Kids
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Deemed the “Little Zoo That Could” by Animal Planet, this small zoo packs a powerful punch. The zoo made history as the first US zoo to do a full-scale off-site evacuation of all its animals during hurricane Ivan. The hurricane completely destroyed the zoo in 2004, but it fought to rebuild and keep going even in the midst of other hurricanes inflicting damage to the zoo. Exciting times are coming as the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is getting a new home. Construction has already begun and they hope to be all settled in their new, modern and hurricane-safe facility by late 2019.
As you can imagine the staff is phenomenal at this little zoo, but it is the animal encounters are what truly makes this zoo stand out. Guests can get up close and personal with their resident sloths, enjoy the playful lemurs and or hop over to pet a kangaroo. These are a few of many activities offered at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. The entire zoo is wheelchair and stroller accessible with snacks being sold throughout the zoo.
Check Out The local Playgrounds
Playgrounds are a great way for little ones to burn off some extra energy during your travels. Not only are they budget-friendly, but each park also offers unique and fun play areas to discover. We particularly enjoyed The Orange Beach Kids Park which has a huge play structure, an area for toddlers and even a pier for fishing. Families can picnic and swim in Wolf Bay as the waters are more shallow and calm. They are currently undergoing a renovation to bring even more great items to the park.
Meyer Park is a smaller park but has a great play area. Another great park to check out when visiting Gulf Shores with kids is the Kids Park, located next to Johnnie Sims Park Pavillion, for a great picnic and playground area.
The Gulf State Interpretive Center and Gulf State Park
Spend one of your days exploring Gulf State Park by starting at the Gulf State Interpretive Center. Acting as the gateway to the park this educational center is a 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 family stop. The park encompasses over 6,000 acres of trails, wetlands, beaches and more. Rent bikes, go fishing or walk the beautiful trails and lakes that make Gulf Shores such an extraordinary destination.
This should go without saying, but be sure to spend a few hours a day on the beautiful white sandy beaches and in the turquoise waters of Gulf Shores. Catch a sunrise, build a sandcastle or take a leisurely stroll in the evening as the sun dips into the ocean. There are 32 miles of pristine sandy beaches waiting for you to explore along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
One of our favorite activities was to explore the Fort Morgan Historical Site. Built between 1819 and 1833 the fort played a vital role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. The fort was used intermittently until after World War II and then turned over to the State of Alabama.
Guests can now discover the ins and outs of this historic treasure. Admission is affordable and allows visitors access to the grounds as well as the fort. The grounds include beautiful nature areas, picnic spots, a boat launch, and a beach. Plan on spending a few hours here to take in the history and everything that this hidden gem has to offer.
Rainy Day Options
It always dampens spirits when rain hits during a vacation. Make the most of those rainy days by checking out a few of these great indoor options.
- The Tanger Outlet Mall not only offers shopping but has a covered playground for the kids.
- The Wharf in Orange Beach is a great spot to catch a movie, grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping.
- The National Museum of Naval Aviation-located roughly a half hour from Gulf Shores this is great for families.
- Located in Mobile is the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and Imax and the USS Alabama.
- Picnic Indoors at Picnic Beach BBQ. Grab one of their provided blankets and enjoy your meal on the artificial grass.
Where To Eat
The Original Oyster House
Hands down the best oysters I have ever eaten were at the Original Oyster House. The seafood here was superb and the waitstaff was excellent. Besides the oysters, I highly recommend getting the fresh catch of the day, cheesy grits and a big slice of peanut butter pie. Trust me, you will make the room even when you feel there is none. They are family-friendly, offer a great kids menu and even better views of the waterfront.
GT’s On The Bay
There is nothing I love more than when great food meets a great family-friendly environment. GT’s won me over the minute I spied their awesome pirate ship play structure for the kids to explore. As if that wasn’t enough the beautiful views of Wolf Bay from the deck made it difficult not to return every night! The food was top notch, from their seafood to their wood-fired pizzas. I don’t think you can go wrong with anything from this diverse and one-of-kind menu. Be sure to check out their fish “pool” located in the middle of the restaurant, which popular with adults and kids alike.
Located on the Intercoastal waterway, LuLu’s is owned and operated by Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett’s sister. Lulu’s is the perfect place to grab a great bite to eat then hit the arcade or ropes course for hours of family fun. One of the things I admired most was how they handle allergies. If you order off the allergy menu your meal will be prepared in a separate area by a manager from start to finish. I highly recommend the Crab Melt and then capping off your visit to Lulu’s with a slice of the key lime pie.
Be sure to check online to see if there are any special events going on. We happened to be visiting during their Annual Tropical Wedding Vow Renewal. With encouragement from a few locals, we decided to join the hundreds of couples and renew our wedding vows. Lucy puts on a fabulous reception offering all who participate champagne and cake and of course the vow renewals. We met couples who have been married from one year to fifty-five, each with their own stories and advice to share. So many years of love in one place was a spectacular site to witness and be a part of.
With activities happening around the clock the Hangout is the local place that you don’t want to miss out on with the kids in tow. It is easy to see how families can spend hours here. From pirate and princess breakfasts, a DJ booth, competitions and of course their amazing outdoor space. Parents can have a relaxing meal while the kids can explore the sandpit and participate in the courtyard games. Get the fish tacos, order a shark attack, sit back and relax!
The Yard Milkshake Bar
This is every child’s dream come true. I can’t even describe the milkshake glory that is the Yard Milkshake Bar. It is the perfect way to cap off any trip to Gulf Shores.
Start planning your perfect family beach vacation on the beaches and discover why Alabama’s beaches are one of the best-hidden gems around. The Team at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism are happy to assist you in putting together your ideal itinerary for visiting Gulf Shores with kids.
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