This year, create a completely new family holiday tradition at the beach in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan or Perdido Key.

After all, with seasonal temperatures, fewer visitors on the beach and more, Thanksgiving and Christmas are perfect times to enjoy the Alabama Gulf Coast region.

Here are 5 reasons to go coastal this holiday season.

1. The Weather’s Fine

As winter begins its annual march toward the United States, the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is still benefiting from sunny skies and pleasant temperatures both during the day and at night. The average highs during Thanksgiving and Christmas are in the 60s, with the average lows in the 50s.

And, while the Gulf water temperatures might be too cool for a full-fledged dip (although many folks do enjoy water temperatures in the mid-60s), you can still comfortably splash in the surf, toss the football on the sugar-white sand, or watch the sun rise and set over the Gulf.

2. The Crowds Have Thinned

Another benefit to spending time at the beach during Thanksgiving and Christmas is that Pleasure Island retailers and restaurants are still open for business. But the crowds have thinned, and hospitable local residents are relaxed and eager to welcome you to their home.

If you are visiting during Thanksgiving and want to get out on Black Friday, there are several great shops where you can pick up a beach-themed Christmas ornament or two or get a head start on Christmas shopping.

Want to create a personalized Christmas present for yourself or that someone special? Visit Blue Girl Beading at 2200 East Second St., Suite F, to select everything you need to design your own jewelry. Owner Tara Gifford has a team of instructors to teach everything from basic stringing to wire, metalwork and intricate stitching.

3. Let Someone Else Do The Cooking

There’s no need to tote a turkey with all the trimmings to cook at the beach. That’s because several restaurants typically open their doors to serve the holiday meal, such as Bahama Bob's Beachside Cafe, Bubba's Seafood, Cobalt The Restaurant, The Hangout, Hazel's Restaurant, Jesse's Restaurant and Voyager's, for example.

4. Or, Cook In Your “Own” Kitchen

All of Meyer Vacation Rentals’ beach condos and houses are outfitted with full kitchens, making it a breeze to prepare your own Thanksgiving meal if you choose.

Our kitchens are stocked for typical, everyday use, including dishes, pots, pans, glassware, silverware, etc., but since each unit is unique in its offerings, consider planning ahead to bring your favorite holiday cookware and baking dishes.

Even better news is that there is no need to pack groceries in the cooler, as there are several local options. Supermarkets like Publix, Winn-Dixie, Rouses, Wal-Mart and more are located in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and keep regular hours during the shoulder season.

Something unique about these supermarkets is that many will even prepare your Thanksgiving meal for you, in part or in full. Just give them a call in advance to place your order.

Delivery services are also available.

Publix Super Market (Ala. Hwy. 59 – Gulf Shores): (251) 948-1281

Publix Super Market (Perdido Beach Blvd. – Orange Beach): (251) 980-1400

Rouses Supermarket (Ala. Hwy. 59 & Fort Morgan Road – Gulf Shores): (251) 948-4715

Wal-Mart Supercenter (Fort Morgan Road – Gulf Shores): (251) 968-5871

Winn-Dixie (Perdido Beach Blvd. – Orange Beach): (251) 981-1796

Looking for local seasonal produce? Stop in at Burris Farm Market in Loxley on your way south to the beach. Here, you’ll find everything from sweet potatoes and squash for your casseroles to delicious homemade pies and breads along with other seasonal favorites.

Burris Farm Market (Ala. Hwy. 59 – Loxley) (251) 964-6464

5. It’s A Perfect Time To Explore The Outdoors

This region is a nature lover’s paradise. If you want to see the coast’s colorful critters and some of the most diverse landscapes in the country, there are numerous places to explore.

Of course, there’s the beach with all of its natural beauty. With 30+ miles of beautiful coastline, there are many beach locales to explore in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and Perdido Key.

If you’re looking for a beach a bit off the beaten path, set your sights on the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, an all-natural stretch of coastline brimming with an impressive array of native wildlife. The area is also home to a number of beachside hiking trails that can make an outing on the Gulf into a full day of adventure.

You may also want to spend a few hours at the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system, where you can explore a serene landscape that has remained relatively unchanged for decades. There are more than 10 miles of paths to hike and bike, making this area a perfect outing for families that want to take a break from the beach.

Because of its location along the coast, the Backcountry Trail has numerous ecosystems to wander through, whether you want to take in panoramic views from a hilltop or get muddy at a swamp.

If you’re an avid bird watcher, you’ll find yourself spending hours at the Backcountry Trail, which crosses through major migratory locations for birds like the snow egret. Keep your eyes open for the park’s residential gator, Lefty, who pays little to no attention to hikers passing through.

Along the Gulf Oak Ridge, you can enjoy true serenity as you look over the ledge to a picture-perfect valley. Located along the highest bluff in the area, the ridge gives you the opportunity not only to enjoy panoramic vistas but also have an up-close-and-personal encounter with the area’s wildlife. Whitetail deer and migratory birds frequent the area, so you might want to encourage children to be on the lookout for these animals.

Another option, the Cotton Bayou trail, weaves through the sandy dunes and wetlands of Orange Beach. Ideal for bikers, this path starts right on the beach and makes its way into the Backcountry Trail system for about a mile before meeting up with other routes.

Why You Should Go Coastal This Holiday Season

1. The weather is perfect. With temps in the 60s during the day and in the 50s at night, wear shorts if you want to, or cover up with a light jacket if the Gulf breeze gets a little brisk.

2. The crowds have thinned out a bit. After the summer is over, enjoy quieter beaches and less traffic on the roads.

3. Someone else can cook for your family. There are local restaurants that will be open to serve traditional fare on Thanksgiving day.

4. Cook if you want to. All of Meyer Vacation Rentals’ vacation condos and houses offer fully equipped kitchens so cooking is a breeze. In addition, numerous supermarkets are located in the area, some of which prepare Thanksgiving entrees and sides for you.

5. Explore the beauty of the area. Because the weather is usually so pleasant this time of year, it’s a perfect time to explore local trails and beaches.