HGTV can be a pretty inspirational thing. A few months ago, in somewhat last minute fashion, my wife and I were looking at places to visit this summer for a family vacation. Someplace new, yet affordable, that we hadn't really done yet and that the kids would love. Cape Cod, Lake Michigan, Charleston, even Italy all came up, but when doing our research they checked all the boxes accept that all so important affordability one. When plane flights are involved for a family of five that vacation cost can skyrocket really quickly. Frustrated and not willing to pull the trigger on what would have equated to a long weekend in any one of those places I thought all hope of a summer vacation was lost. Then, remembering an episode of Beachfront Bargain Hunt, I threw out the idea of Gulf Shores, Alabama.
It looked beautiful on TV but then again, what doesn't on that show? It looked even better online, however the internet has a knack for turning not so stunning places into dream locations. Nonetheless, and somewhat skeptically, my wife started looking into it. After a bit of further research, she found a beautiful condo resort right in Orange Beach, the town prior to Gulf Shores when heading west from Perdido Key, Florida into Alabama. The Caribe afforded water views of the bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other and had a multitude of pools aptly equipped with a variety of slides and a lazy river that were guaranteed to keep the kids occupied while we bathed in the sun and drank tequila all day. The best part? The cost for an entire week including our flight was about half of what those other locations would have cost for five days. Score! Book it! I said without hesitation thus setting us on a course to discover this hidden gem and apres surf lover's paradise.
Fun for the Entire Family to Enjoy
If you have a problem with family friendly resort towns known for their huge white sand beaches, crystal clear water and tons of fun beach bars than don't bother with Orange Beach or Gulf Shores they are probably not for you. I get it, stuff like that can totally suck. So too can boating around all day and dropping anchor at one of the many tiny islands on the bay side of Orange Beach or gathering with friends and family for good times over cocktails on the beach, at the pool, in the ocean or wherever you see fit. Yes, life is tough on Alabama's gulf shore and this laid back, après surf lifestyle can get boring really quickly. Nah...not at all!
Big Beautiful Beaches That You Won't Want to Leave
The beaches in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are stunning. Gulf Shores is known for its small town big beach vibe (the town's motto) and Orange Beach is far from a slouch in this category. Beaches in either town are abnormally large with white sand for days that is so fine it's known as sugar sand. Not a joke, it actually has the consistency of confectioner's sugar and it even squeaks when you walk on it, both features that my kids love. And, The Gulf of Mexico is beautiful with water as clear as any Caribbean destination that I have been to and calm enough to hang out in while chatting with friends over a few cocktails. This is, in fact, what everyone does, standing in the ocean with beers in Koozies, mixed drinks in Yetis or, in the most extreme cases, a full Yeti cooler. That is until they finish it all up, decide to pull themselves out of the water and go have a few more at one of the local beach bars of which there are an abundance of.
Stunning Views, Live Music and Fun Activities Keep the Party Going
Water views and live music are a regular occurrence at the majority of the bars, so you better be into that kind of thing. This is especially true at the famous Flora Bama which sits right on the beach on the Florida Alabama line (thus the name). There they have music all day every day on multiple levels in multiple buildings (there are three). This is only enhanced by the fact that the mixed drinks are about a third of the cost of what we pay back here in the tri-state area. Talk about promoting a good time. As for the kids, they are welcome too. There's a rather interesting daily Bingo session at Flora Bama that my girls seemed to enjoy but what really sent them over the top was another bar in Gulf Shores called The Hangout.
Famous for its yearly Hangout Music Festival, it also sits right on arguably the largest beach I have seen. Remember, small town big beach as they say. The Hangout is a bit more family friendly because where kids have to be out of the Flora Bama by 6 they can party all night at the Hangout with kid-friendly activities including bungee cords, a sand pit with tunnels and a kids' foam party every hour on the hour. This all while the adults dance to beats of any one of the bands that they have playing daily live in the courtyard.
Go To Orange Beach, Just Don't Tell Too Many People
Yes, they sure do know how to have fun down there on Alabama's Emerald Coast. It's really hard not to. The white sand beaches and clear water offer up some seriously beautiful scenery all while you enjoy a host of activities from boating, to dolphin watching to just chilling out on the beach or by the pool with your family. Then cap it all off with some apres surf entertainment chilling out at one of the many beach bars enjoying each other's company over drinks and delicious southern comfort food. Just when you do, don't tell too many other people. I'd like to keep this hidden gem between us. Okay?