I live in Southeast Louisiana. I’m from Florida. It is in innate reaction to scoff when people refer to the “beach” here at our local park, I can’t help it. I was born a beach snob. I’ve tested out MS beaches, LA spots and had to go as far as Gulf Shores Alabama for a beach that holds up to my rigorous testing standards. White sands, blue or green water and clean bathrooms on the public beaches. Hotels can be found reasonably in the area, good pizza and seafood are regularly available and the best part? Publix grocery stores are always nearby. That said Gulf Shores is no hidden gem, if you’re looking for a non touristy beach this is not the local for you.
We got to Lulu’s right as they opened at 11 am on a Monday morning. By noon they were almost on a wait. Some think Lulu’s is cliche, but everyone on vacation goes there for a reason. Lulu, Jimmy Buffet’s sister, opened the restaurant and then floated it to its current location when their former lease expired in 2003. The food here is fine, but the atmosphere is why we come back every trip. The kids can play in the sand while you eat. We always request a table by the sand pit-it’s worth the wait if there is one. Just don’t plan on going home clean and dry. Often there is live music.
They have a ropes course that can look unassuming, until you climb up there yourself. They’ve added water walkers (the giant gerbil balls on water) and a kid’s ropes course for the shorter ones.
The beach itself is very nice, all along Gulf Shores Hwy are public beach areas. The cost varies but it’s generally under $6 to get in. I will happily pay that much to support the Gulf Coast National park and paying to keep up the clean bathrooms! They are doing an expansion from the National Park onto the beach itself.
For entertainment away from the beach check out The Track which includes mini golf, kiddie rides, go karts, and more. There’s also the Gulf Coast Zoo-aka “The little zoo that could.” It’s a small zoo and you get up close to all kinds of animals, including in the cage or pen with kangaroos and lemurs for an extra fee.
What about the inevitable rain days that seem to happen on vacation? You are in luck, less than 30 minutes from Orange Beach is the National Naval Aviation Museum on the Pensacola Airbase. Not only do you get to feel cool showing your id to pass through the gates, but it’s a huge free museum of airplanes. You or your kids (or grandmas!) can live out fantasies of being a jet pilot, climbing in cockpits of all sorts of planes.
There’s a small indoor playground for the toddlers and a cafe for lunch. We spent 9 am-1:30pm and my kids ran out of steam before we even explored everything. There is a flight deck simulation that is new and fantastic. You can also pay for some things like a Blue Angels 4D experience. In addition the base houses a light house you can climb.
The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are ever-expanding and have much to offer. A full size amusement park, OWA, with an insane looking roller coaster is opening up later this year. Foley is near by with Tanger outlet stores. The Wharf, an entertainment destination with restaurants, arcades and a ferris wheel also houses the zipline course that used to be in the National Park, it’s a blast.