A Coastal Winter: Holiday Events on Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Everyone knows that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are great places to take the family for a summer vacation, but not many know that there are still memories to be made along the Gulf Coast when the holiday season rolls around. If you are looking to get one more beach trip in before the calendar rolls over to 2014, check out these great annual holiday events.

Holiday Ice Skating at the Wharf

You wouldn’t expect to find ice skating at the beach, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Wharf between
Nov. 22 and Jan. 12. This annual event has become a favorite for locals and holiday beachgoers. The rink is open Monday thru Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Skate rentals are only $8 for two hours and for an additional $2 you can add a spin on the Southeast’s tallest Ferris Wheel to your holiday fun.

Gulf State Park Coastal Christmas

Load up the family and get your Christmas season started with this Coastal Christmas event at the Gulf State Pavilion in Gulf Shores. You’ll find hot chocolate and cookies, Christmas arts and crafts for children and Christmas carols all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t forget to bring your camera and snap a family picture with Santa by the fire. Admission and parking is free for this event, which is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 1.

28th Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade

This event has become a local and holiday beachgoer favorite. This year’s parade will take place on Dec. 14 when the boat parade gets underway at 5:30. The parade route starts at LuLu’s, takes the lighted boats east down the Intercostal Waterway wrapping around the tip of Bear Point and ends at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach. Viewers won’t catch any candy at this parade, but the line of boats decorated from bow to stern is certainly a sight to see. Canal Road is a great spot to park the car and enjoy the show.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip

Does kicking off 2014 with a nice swim in the Gulf of Mexico sound like fun to you? That’s exactly what participants in the Flora-Bama Annual Polar Bear Dip will be doing on New Year’s Day. This event get’s started at noon and is free for viewers and participants. As an added bonus, the Flora-Bama will provide a traditional New Year’s meal with black-eyed peas, cornbread, ham and more to anyone brave enough to take the plunge.

Enjoy your holidays on the coast, and be sure to tell us about your favorite holiday activities in the comments below.

Family Vacation Road Games

I remember when I was younger, going with my family on a six hour drive to the Gulf Coast for vacation. The vacations were always fun, but the actual car ride, with two parents and three sisters all in the same vehicle, could sometimes be a bit challenging. My sisters and I discovered some entertaining games that we used to play to kill time while in the car. The next few paragraphs will share three of my favorite childhood games with you. I hope you, your family, and your friends have as much fun as I did.

License Plates

My sisters and I lived by the honor code. We assumed nobody cheated. With that being said, our first game to play was the License Plate game. Each of us had a notebook in which we wrote down every state we saw a license plate for. Georgia, where we lived, was super easy to find. Alabama, Florida, and some other states were also pretty easy to find. Every now and then we would see something from really far away, like Hawaii, and those license plates were always really amazing to find. Once we reached our destination, we would add up all the states and see who had the most state license plates. The person with the most states won.

Number Guesser

Okay, pick a number between between one and one hundred, and don’t tell me which number you have selected. Once you pick your number, I’ll guess what your number is. Let’s say you picked the number 23, for the said of illustration. I’ll guess that your number is 50. If I’m correct, then yay! If I’m not correct, you will tell me “up” or “down.” In this case, you would say “down” because I guessed a number that was too high. I would then guess 25 and you would again say “down.” I would next guess 12 and you would say “up.” This process continues until the correct number has been guessed. Make sure you keep track of how many guesses are made. Once the number is discovered, it’s my turn to pick a number. The person to discover the opponent’s number with the fewest guesses is the winner.

Story Riddles

Give a story riddle and explain the rules. This could kill hours of driving time. The rules are as follows:

  1. You give a partial story and ask your audience to solve the rest of the story.
  2. The players are given unlimited Yes/No questions.
  3. You can only respond to questions by saying “Yes” or “No.”
  4. You cannot give any clues.
  5. Giving up isn’t an option. If the players give up, then they will never know the answer.

There are many story riddles that people have given. One of my favorite easy riddles is called “Ranch Time Confusion.” Here is the story: A rancher decides he needs to go to a nearby city to purchase some supplies for the season. The trip to and from the city takes three days, so he doesn’t go very often. On this particular occasion, he leaves his ranch on Monday and returns on Tuesday. Here is the riddle: How could the rancher leave on Monday, return on Tuesday, and be gone for three days? The answer is that the rancher rides his horses to and from the city. He takes two horses. One horse is named Monday and the other is named Tuesday. He literally leaves ON Monday and returns ON Tuesday. His entire trip took three days.

Hopefully some of these games will be entertaining for you and your family. Please share some of your favorite car activities with us. We would love to add additional games to our repertoire.

Smart Travel: A Condo Rental is the Best Value for Your Vacation

The popularity of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach has been growing rapidly over the past couple of years as more and more families discover these beautiful vacation towns. Many families who travel to the Alabama coast are accustomed to staying in hotels, but Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer thousands of condo vacation rentals that provide a better value for your travel dollars than a typical hotel room.

Want to know how?

Here’s some things you might want to consider when choosing between a condo and a hotel.

Condos Offer More Space

Condo rentals are ideal for family and extended family vacations because they allow you to get everyone under one roof. You can find condos that range in size from one bedroom up to five bedrooms. Some units have almost 4,000 square-feet of living space and sleep more than 20 people. More bedrooms also mean more bathrooms, so there’s less fighting over the sink or waiting in line to take a shower. Condo vacation rentals also have living rooms, so when you’re taking a break from the beach, you can relax on the sofa and do some channel surfing.

The extra rooms are a great money saving feature. Two families of four can comfortably fit into a three-bedroom condo and split the cost down the middle. You would have to rent four standard hotel rooms to hold the same number of people.

Condos Have Full Kitchens

Another advantage is that most available condo rentals in the Gulf Shores area have kitchens equipped with full sized refrigerators, ovens and microwaves. The kitchens are stocked with all the pots and pans, utensils, and dishware you need to prepare and serve your favorite meals.

Also, it can be a real money saver not having to go out for every meal. One trip to the grocery store, and you can stock up to prepare meals just like you would at home. Some rental companies even offer a grocery delivery service. All you have to do is submit a list of the grocery items, and they will be waiting in your refrigerator when you arrive!

Condos Offer Better Amenities

Although the types of amenities condo vacation rentals offer vary from complex to complex, you can find a range of amenities in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach including heated outdoor and indoor pools, waterslides, lazy rivers, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms, full service spas, tennis courts, fitness centers, onsite restaurants and even an interactive golf simulator. Many rentals even have free Wi-Fi, and most have washers and dryers so you can pack less clothing and not return home with a mountain of dirty laundry.

So on your next trip to the Alabama coast give a condo vacation rental a try. It’s a great way to get the most out of your family’s vacation, and save some money in the process. If you’re already familiar with condo vacation rentals, leave us some feedback on your favorite rental features in the comment section below.

Pack Your Clubs: The Gulf Coast is a Golfer’s Paradise

Taking a golf vacation on the Gulf Coast is like having an open invitation to play all the best country clubs you need a membership to play on back home. There are seven championship golf courses within a short drive, and all are open to the public. Throw in the fact that the weather is conducive to playing almost year-round, and it’s literally a golfer’s paradise.

Most courses are open seven days a week with low fall/winter rates and even lower rates for playing in the afternoon.

Kiva Dunes

One of the most acclaimed golf courses on the Gulf is Kiva Dunes.  Among the numerous designations it has received are Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Best Public Golf Courses”  and Golf Week’s “No. 1 Golf Course in Alabama.” Designed to sit along the Gulf of Mexico by former US Open Champion, Jerry Pate, the course fits beautifully among sand dunes, lakes and the natural wildlife areas. Since it’s one of the more windy and difficult courses to play on the Gulf Coast, Kiva Dunes may be frustrating for high handicappers. Located on Fort Morgan Road in Gulf Shores, rates range from $64 – $92 depending on the time of year and time of day.

Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club

Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club is one of the more beautiful and popular courses in the area. Consistently rated Four Stars by Golf Digest, this Earl Stone designed 27-hole course is nestled beside Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve and winds through cypress, live oaks and other vegetation native to the area. There are three nines to pick from –the Marsh, Lakes and Cypress. The Champion Ultra Dwarf grass greens are big and fast. Set on Mobile Bay and located on Fort Morgan Road, rates range from $69 – $99.

Craft Farms

There are two Arnold Palmer Signature Championship Golf Courses at Craft Farms.  Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend are the only courses in the state designed by the golf legend. Both course are generally considered challenging, but fair. Rates ranges from $59 -$99

Gulf Shores Golf Club

Gulf Shores Golf Club was one of the first golf courses built in the area. It was redesigned in 2005 by Jay and Carter Morrish to lengthen it’s almost 7,000 yards and add numerous water features and bunkers. It’s one of the more female-friendly courses in the area. Fall/winter rates range from $49 – $69.

Glenlakes Golf Club

Glenlakes Golf Club is a Bruce Devlin/Robert Von Hagge designed 18-hole course in Foley.  Glenlakes has the feel of Scottish links golf featuring extra bunkering and postage-stamp sized greens. Considered one of the best values in the area, rates range from $30 to $65.

Lost Key Golf Course

Lost Key Golf Course has been nicknamed “Lost Ball” for the tightness of the course and number of balls lost to water features, wind gusts and other natural vegetation. However, golfers who play a precision game will enjoy the challenge and beauty of the course. Redesigned by the Arnold Palmer Group in 2006, Lost Key was the first golf course in the State of Florida to be certified as an Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary. Located in Perdido Key, rates range from $50 – $99.

Considering the natural beauty of the area, it’s no wonder some of the top designers in golf have chosen the Alabama Gulf Coast to construct their masterpieces. So, next time you are headed to the beach, don’t forget your clubs!