Things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama for a Fun Family Beach Vacation 

If you’re daydreaming about beautiful beaches, epic family activities, and unforgettable experiences, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama has a ton of things to do for your family vacation. Our family spent 4-days in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama on a dreamy family vacation and found the best family activities, delicious family-friendly places to eat, and places to stay- including hotels, condos, and beachfront options. 

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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Most Memorable Activities:

Dolphin Cruise with Cetacean Cruises in Orange Beach:

Our family had an amazing experience on Cetacean Cruises looking for dolphins. My kids loved seeing the dolphins and pelicans. The highlight for us was watching our kids’ faces light up as they took the captain’s seat, steering the boat and honking the horn. The thrill of spotting dolphins playing in their natural habitat is pure magic. It was definitely a highlight of the trip for us! You can book tickets here

Sandcastle University:

I was most excited for Sandcastle University so I could master the art of sandcastle building. This hands-on workshop is both fun and educational, teaching you the secrets to creating impressive sand sculptures. 

They will meet you at your beachfront hotel or condo or find a public beach for you to meet at. They bring all the supplies and you just need to come ready to have fun! Our kids had a blast sculpting their own masterpieces, and we were all amazed at the end results.

Gulf Shores State Park, Gulf Shores:

For nature enthusiasts, Gulf Shores State Park is a must-visit destination. Whether you prefer hiking through scenic trails, biking along wooden boardwalks, walking along pristine coastline, viewing wildlife, or kayaking among tallgrasses and pelicans, this park offers a variety of outdoor activities to suit all interests. 

When it rained one morning, our family made a stop at the Nature Center. It is located within the campground entrance. It was a good spot to view and learn about animals, get a map of the state park and other resources, and ask about the frequent programs the state park offers. Be sure to add one of their free events to your itinerary! 

As you hike, bike, or paddle keep an eye out for herons, ospreys, and other coastal birds that call this area home. With its tranquil waters, abundant wildlife, and stunning views, Gulf Shores State Park is a must-do activity that allows you to connect with nature and create lasting memories on your Gulf Shores vacation.

The Track, Gulf Shores:

The Track in Gulf Shores, Alabama has family fun vacation activities such as go-karts, bumper boats, thrilling rides, and arcade games. This entertainment complex promises hours of excitement for all ages. There are rides for every age. My 3-year-old son rode with me in the go karts while my 6-year-old daughter drove herself on the kids’ track. 

There is mini golf and the arcade was a big hit with my kids. They loved picking out the prizes at the end. It’s the perfect thing to do for a family fun vacation!

The Wharf in Orange Beach:

Whether you’re in the mood for shopping, dining, or exploring The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama has you covered. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade, where you can admire the yachts and boats or catch a stunning sunset over the water. Our family enjoyed the iconic Ferris wheel that offers panoramic views of the Gulf Coast. The kids also loved riding on the mini train before stopping for ice cream at Dippin Dots. 

The Wharf is a fun stop if your family likes beautiful views, family-friendly rides, shopping, or good food!

Bamahenge and Dinosaurs in the Woods:

If your family likes quirky roadside attractions, Bamahenge and the Dinosaurs in the Woods nearby in Elberta, Alabama will spark your sense of wonder. Bamahenge is a fascinating replica of England’s iconic Stonehenge, but with a Southern twist. This modern marvel, created by artist Mark Cline, stands tall in the Alabama countryside. My kids loved running through the structure and I used it as an opportunity to teach them about Stonehenge. 

Nearby, nestled among the trees, you’ll discover a prehistoric wonderland inhabited by lifelike dinosaur sculptures. You can walk or drive along the wooded trails and encounter towering T-Rexes, gentle Brontosauruses, and other dinosaurs frozen in time. It’s a journey through history that’s both educational and enchanting, making it a must-see destination for families, and curious travelers alike.

If you like geocaching, we found 2 geocaches in this area. It just added to the fun! 

The Beach:

Although our family enjoyed all the activities and things to do, nothing beats Alabama beaches! Our family loved building sandcastles, laying out a beach towel, and soaking up the sun’s rays. The kids splashed in the waves and hunted for seashells for hours. With designated swimming areas, lifeguards on duty during peak seasons, and amenities like restrooms and showers, Gulf Shores beaches are both family-friendly and convenient. 

Whether you’re planning a relaxing day at the beach or an action-packed adventure, Gulf Shores beaches provide the perfect backdrop for unforgettable memories and endless vacation fun. We drove 14-hours for this experience and it was definitely worth it! 

Favorite Restaurants:

GTs on the Bay:

GTs on the Bay in Orange Beach, Alabama is a must-visit for families. Situated right on the waterfront, this restaurant offers not only delicious food but also a pirate ship playground that kept our kids entertained for hours. With a menu featuring fresh seafood and Southern favorites, it’s the perfect spot to unwind after a day at the beach. Our kids were entertained by the sand and play area, while my husband and I enjoyed food, drinks, and live music. 

Lulu’s, Gulf Shores:

At Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama, they take food allergies seriously. With separate kitchens to accommodate various dietary needs, everyone can enjoy a worry-free dining experience. The kids will love the outdoor play area, complete with sand pits and games, while the adults can relax and soak up the laid-back atmosphere. Don’t forget to try their famous Key Lime Pie!

Sunliner Diner, Gulf Shores:

Step back in time at Sunliner Diner in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a charming 1950s-themed eatery that’s sure to delight nostalgia lovers. With retro decor, classic diner fare, and the chance to dine in a classic car booth, it’s a dining experience unlike any other. Be sure to play a tune on the jukebox! Our kids loved the chocolate chip pancakes.

The Original Oyster House, Gulf Shores:

The original Oyster House is a culinary gem that’s not to be missed. From succulent oysters to mouthwatering seafood platters, the menu is a seafood lover’s dream. My husband and I were impressed by how delicious the oysters were! Pair your meal with a refreshing cocktail and enjoy the laid-back ambiance. My family went nuts for the pie! 

Tacky Jack’s, Gulf Shores:

Tacky Jack’s in Gulf Shores is a waterfront restaurant that is very popular on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Tacky Jack’s invites guests to kick back, relax, and soak up the stunning views of the Intracoastal Waterway. The menu is a delightful mix of Southern favorites and coastal classics, featuring everything from seafood platters and po’boys to burgers and salads. Our family even tried the gator tails because when you’re in Alabama you have to try the local fare!

Brick & Spoon, Gulf Shores:

Brick & Spoon in Gulf Shores is a culinary gem that offers a fresh and innovative twist on classic Southern breakfast and brunch favorites. Whether you’re craving fluffy pancakes, hearty omelets, or gourmet sandwiches, Brick & Spoon’s menu has something to satisfy every palate. If you like Bloody Mary’s this is a must-do for you. Their deluxe Bloody Mary’s are so beautiful they would fit in on Pinterest. My kids tried their first ever beignet and loved them! 

Milkshakes at The Yard, Orange Beach:

Indulging in a milkshake at The Yard in Orange Beach, Alabama is an absolute must for anyone with a sweet tooth. What truly sets their milkshakes apart is the presentation – each shake is a work of art, adorned with whipped cream, candies, cookies, and other delectable toppings that make it almost too pretty to eat. Make sure to stop by The Yard for a milkshake that’s as Instagram-worthy as it is delicious.

Places to Stay:

Condo with Liquid Life:

For those seeking a home away from home, look no further than Liquid Life’s beachfront condos. We stayed in a cozy condo with a balcony overlooking the gulf – the perfect spot for morning coffee or sunset cocktails. With a fully equipped kitchen and a washing machine, it’s easy to feel right at home. They provided enough detergent and dishwashing soap for a few loads, which was a thoughtful touch for families.

My kids loved waking up and going out on the balcony to see the ocean. It was so convenient to be able to walk to the beach and be near our room in case we forgot something, needed a break, or a kid was ready for a nap. This was truly the easiest and most luxurious way to stay at the beach! Book a condo here. 

Hotel Indigo, Gulf Shores:

If boutique hotels are more your style, Hotel Indigo is a fantastic choice. With stylish decor, family-friendly amenities, and a prime location near Gulf Shores State Park, it’s the perfect base for exploring all that the area has to offer. The kids especially loved the bunk beds, adding a fun twist to our stay. The hotel breakfast restaurant was delicious. It was next door to a coffee shop and within walking distance of the Back Country Trail. Book Hotel Indigo here

The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores:

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is a beautiful beachfront hotel with modern amenities within Gulf State Park. The rooms are modern and have private balconies with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel has state-of-the-art facilities, including a fitness center, swimming pool, and on-site dining options, and a conference center.

Beyond its accommodations, the resort is committed to sustainability and environmental conservation, making it a unique place to stay. Guests can explore the park’s trail system or walk along the white-sand beaches just steps away from the resort. Book The Lodge at Gulf State Park here

Book a trip: 

From the thrill of spotting dolphins on a cruise to the joy of building sandcastles with your kids, there is so much to do on a family vacation to Gulf Shores and  Orange Beach, Alabama. Make Gulf Shores and Orange Beach your next family trip destination. With so much to do, your family will cherish memories of your time here for years to come!

If you’re looking for places to stop on your drive to Gulf Shores or looking for another exceptional Southern destination, check out this weekend itinerary for Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a cute and artsy college town worth the stop. 

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