Valentine’s Day is on a weekend this year, creating a unique opportunity to extend your celebration with a romantic trip to the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast.

Leisurely walks on the beach, gazing at picture-perfect sunsets, or preparing a romantic gourmet dinner for a loved one at your beach property are special ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day at the beach.

But there are many other ways to enjoy a romantic long Valentine’s Day weekend in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and Perdido Key.

When I asked a longtime local Alabama Gulf Coast resident where she and her special someone enjoy spending time together on Valentine’s Day, she had the some wonderful ideas ranging from dining at fabulous restaurants to exploring the beauty of the Gulf Coast from a bird’s eye view.

1. Nolan’s Restaurant & Lounge –
A Local Valentine’s Day Tradition

A tradition on the Gulf Coast for a romantic Valentine’s Day dining experience is Nolan’s Restaurant and Lounge.

With live dance music, an extensive wine list and some of the finest cuisine on the Gulf Coast, Nolan’s has been part of the Gulf Coast dining scene since 1986. “If you like to dance, this is the place to go,” said one TripAdvisor reviewer.

Menu mainstays include fresh seafood, USDA Choice Beef, authentic Greek-styled dishes and more.

Why not start off with an appetizer of Baked Oysters Rockefeller or Greek-Style Beef Tips, or even a cup of Crab & Shrimp Bisque?

Then, move on to a Greek Salad topped with feta cheese, Parmesan, Kalamata olives, tomato and pepperoncini before enjoying a plate of Veal Scaloppini Bianca or Mediterranean Greek Grouper.

Hungry for a steak? The Whaler is a 24-ounce rib eye topped with sautéed lump crabmeat. Any steak can be finished with a variety of toppings, including a Greek-styled sauté, lump crabmeat, Béarnaise sauce or blue cheese crumbles.

Long enjoyed by diners of all ages, Nolan’s also appeals to children, with a menu highlighted by fish, chicken or shrimp.

Another TripAdvisor reviewer commented on the friendly atmosphere at Nolan’s. “Great atmosphere and great steaks! We have always had amazing service and great food at Nolan’s. Great place for date night or special occasions.”

Open from 5-10 p.m., the restaurant is located at Sawgrass Landing in Gulf Shores (1140 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores) and may be reached at (251) 948-2111.

A two-bedroom condo in Gulf Shores would be a perfect spot to stay if you are planning a night of dining and dancing at Nolan’s.

2. Cobalt The Restaurant – A Gem Of A Spot

Looking for a dreamy view and a great meal to share with your Valentine? Look no further than Cobalt The Restaurant in Orange Beach, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view of Perdido Pass and some of the most stunning sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Said one TripAdvisor reviewer, “A great place to eat and relax with friends, especially if you time it to watch the sunset. Located right next to the Perdido Pass Bridge, with plenty of parking, it's s great venue.”

Said another: “Cobalt is one of the dining gems on the Alabama Gulf Coast in Orange Beach. The atmosphere is full of energy and has beautiful views of Alabama Point, Robinson and Bird Islands. The food is superb. The fresh catch, the homemade pizza cooked on a wood burning stove, or the steaks are all mouth watering. Cobalt is a must visit when you are in Orange Beach.

Some of the menu items mentioned in reviews include Oysters Rockefeller, Panéed Gulf Grouper and Peppercorn Encrusted Filet.

Located at Caribe The Resort (28099 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach), where you can also rent two- or three-bedroom condos, Cobalt is open until 9:30 p.m. and can be accessed by boat. Numerous boat slips are available for small boats or medium-sized yachts. While a reservation is not required, you may make one by calling (251) 923-5300.

3. Jesse’s Restaurant – Cozy & Historic

Regardless of the holiday, white linen service is customary at Jesse’s Restaurant in nearby Magnolia Springs.

A Magnolia Springs tradition for 75 years, Jesse’s originally opened as Moore Bros. Store in 1922 and today is known for its tasty cuisine and charming setting in a historic market.

“Executive Chef Jeremiah Matthews never seems to stop amazing us with his innovative creations, trends for the most meticulous pallets and awe-inspiring art on a plate cuisines,” said owner Steve Coltharp. “We pride ourselves in serving unique cuts of dry- and wet-aged steaks, bone-in cuts and fresh fish brought in daily.”

Popular starters include Brie en Croute, New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp and Magnolia River Green Tomatoes. Oysters are also served and range from on the half shell to Oysters Jessamine, topped with pesto, fresh mozzarella and pine nuts.

Entrees vary from Bone-In Filet of Ribeye topped with sautéed lobster, asparagus and hollandaise to Shrimp and Grits or New Zealand Rack of Lamb. Fresh fish entrees are not placed on the regular menu, as fish is delivered daily from local seafood suppliers who participate in the Gulf Wild program.

Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is located at 14770 Oak St., Magnolia Springs. For more information, call (251) 965-3827.

One-bedroom or two-bedroom condos would be a perfect choice for a Valentine’s Day weekend escape including a dining experience at Jesse’s.

4. Gulf Adventure Center For Heart-Pumping Fun

Before enjoying a special meal, get your heart pumping during a Valentine’s Day visit to the Gulf Coast with a visit to the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park.

Located at Gulf State Park (21101 Ala. 135), the center’s ziplines sail high in the air. Consisting of seven towers and six ziplines spanning the length of a mile, the zipline course takes you as high as 90 feet off the ground. The height provides a great vantage point for taking in spectacular views of the area’s white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.

Also on site are paddleboards and kayaks available for rent on Lake Shelby. Knowledgeable instructors are on hand to ensure a safe and fun experience.

For more information, call (251) 948-9494.

Nearby, Grand Beach and Royal Palms offer cozy space for your weekend getaway.

5. Give Your Valentine A Lift - In A Hot Air Balloon

A truly unique way to experience the beauty of the Gulf Coast area from a bird’s-eye view is to charter a hot air balloon for a couple’s flight from Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company in Magnolia Springs.

Prior to taking flight, you’ll get to participate in the setup, launch and packing of the balloon. A typical flight lasts approximately an hour, but this timeframe may be extended.

Flights always take place in the early morning or late evening when winds are lightest. The balloon can carry the pilot and two to three passengers.

For more information or to make a reservation with Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company, call (251) 970-3598.

If you’re bringing a group to the beach and need a little more space, consider a two- or three-bedroom house.

Enjoy a sweet special Valentine's Day deal this year. Use a free night for a late Sunday check out. Arrive Friday afternoon, stay Saturday night, sleep in and take it easy on Sunday, and check out late that afternoon (instead of typical check-out at 10 a.m.). Certain restrictions apply.