Alabama's Gulf Coast is a welcoming destination with pristine beaches, dolphin viewing, amusement parks, kid-friendly restaurants, and more.
With 32 miles of sugar sand beaches and gentle blue ocean, Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a popular family vacation zone. Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and other charming towns along what is known as the “Alabama Riviera” cater to families with plenty of hotel options and family-friendly restaurants. Your family will be equally happy with the plethora of daytime activities that appeal to both parents and kids. Take a look at six of the top family-friendly activities in the area:
Catch Some Rays at Gulf State Park Beaches
Pack a picnic and enjoy a sunny day at one of the most beautiful beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Located in Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park features powdery white sand and picturesque dunes. Public bathrooms, free parking, and well-maintained biking and hiking trails make it easy for families to be active and explore nature for hours. Search for sand dollars and other pretty shells before stopping at the free Nature Center to learn more about the area. For a small fee, walk out on the pier to take souvenir photos.
Take a Dolphin Cruise
Dolphins love Alabama’s warm Gulf waters, and families don’t need to own a boat to see these beautiful creatures. Take a cruise with one of the many tour companies, including Cruise Orange Beach Dolphin Cruises and The Fun Boat Dolphin Cruises, to watch pods of bottlenose dolphins — sometimes with babies in tow — playing in the boat’s wake. The friendly crews are knowledgeable about the local environment and can accommodate passengers of all ages. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring bottled water.
Play Time at Adventure Island in Orange Beach
Perfect for young children, Adventure Island in Orange Beach is a popular family fun center with two miniature golf courses, laser tag, go carts, bumper boats, paddleboat rides, and an arcade. Purchase tickets and join in the fun, driving colorful go-carts around a track before playing a round of mini golf under the famous smoking volcano. The arcade has all the favorites, including old-school games like Pac-Man, for the entire family to enjoy.
Ride the Ferris Wheel at The Wharf
In Orange Beach, visit The Wharf for shopping and dining, and don’t miss a ride on the Ferris wheel. Roomy seats take you 112 feet into the sky. At the top – especially at sunset – there’s a fantastic view of the city lights as well as a view all the way to the beach when it’s clear. With the addition of festive decorations and lights, The Wharf is especially magical during the holiday season.
The Wharf Amphitheater hosts live concerts throughout the year, including performances by some of the nation’s top headliners. Dining options onsite include seafood, steaks, Mexican, sushi, and more. The specialty shops offer everything from clothing to jewelry and accessories.
Stroll Fairhope Avenue
The quaint town of Fairhope features a lovely, renovated downtown area with excellent shopping, art galleries, and restaurants. Blooming flowers, trees lit with twinkling lights, and friendly shop owners make the town an ideal location for leisurely strolls with the family. Be sure to browse the Page and Palette, an independent bookstore with a coffee shop and outdoor seating. On the first Friday of the month, shops are open late and live musicians play in the streets to add to the charm.
Visit Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium
At Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, accessible by the Mobile Bay ferry that runs every 90 minutes, both kids and adults can learn about the natural underwater environment along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Live exhibits with fish, stingrays, and horseshoe crabs are popular with kids, and helpful staff members make the experience both educational and fun for the entire family.
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