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From ice skating and carriage rides to lighted boat parades and Christmas plays, the Gulf Shores area offers a variety of family-fun activities to wow both kids and adults this Christmas season.

At Christmas, All Roads Lead To The Beach

Christmas Season 2018 upon us, with dozens of seasonal events scheduled to take place on or near the beaches of Coastal Alabama.

Winter Wonderland At The Wharf

The Wharf is the site of many family-focused activities throughout the Christmas season.

A family favorite for years (regardless of outside temperature), the ice skating rink will open at The Wharf in Orange Beach Nov. 16 and remain operational through Jan. 13, 2019. The rink will be situated in the front parking lot at The Wharf next to Sand Dollar and the Fire Station.

Regular hours Monday-Friday will be from 4-10 p.m., and from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

The rink will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and will close at 4 p.m., Christmas Eve.

Cost is $10 for a skating session that includes skate rental. Pay $13 for a skating session and a ride on the Ferris wheel.

On weekends, starting Nov. 16, have photos taken with Santa. Times are from 3-7 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays, and noon-6 p.m. Sundays.

Various price packages are available.

From 5:30-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27, coastal Alabama will usher in the season at the Wharf with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting.

The Wharf will be decked out in its Christmas finest and will be the site of festive musical performances, cookie decorating, letters to Santa, cups of hot chocolate and more. The Holiday SPECTRA Sound and Light Spectacular will close the event. This event is free.

Enjoy a special Christmas treat with a horse and carriage ride at the Wharf. Trot through the streets and enjoy the lights and decorations from 5-8 p.m. starting Friday Nov. 18 and going until Sunday, Dec. 16. Cost is $25 per carriage ride for up to four people. Single rider is $5.

The 7th Annual Merry Market Expo will be held from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7 at the Orange Beach Event Center at the Wharf.

This unique gift and arts and crafts expo will feature 70 vendors displaying a variety of gifts, apparel, homemade products, local honey, toys and more.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, bring the kids to create their own original masterpieces for the holidays during the second annual Jingle Jubilee Kids Craft Day.

Crafting stations will be set up at various stores and restaurants, and a Coastal Christmas Art Contest exhibition will be displayed. Admission is free.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, visit The Wharf for the Happy Howlidays Kid & Pet Parade. Strut down Main Street with your pet decked out in seasonal wear. Walk them on a leash or perch them atop a lighted wagon, sleigh, etc. You get the picture! Parade begins at 2 p.m., and admission is free.

Reel in the New Year during the New Years Eve Street Party at The Wharf.

On Dec. 31, live bands and family-friendly and adult-centered fun will take place throughout the Wharf until midnight when the marlin drops and fireworks begin.

Kids can enjoy activities beginning at 11 a.m., including a mechanical bull, a rock wall, a bouncy house, a surf simulator, a trampoline jumpee, face painting, camel rides, a fire truck, and poodle shows. A confetti drop will be held at noon. Kids’ activities will also be held from 5-9 p.m.

Entertainment will be provided by DJ Ramsey from 5-7 p.m., Kyle Daigle from 7-9 p.m., the Wes Loper Band from 9 p.m.-midnight, kids’ activities from 5-9 p.m., and fireworks at midnight.

Admission is free, however, various kids’ activities range in price from $5-$10.

Bellingrath Gardens Magic Christmas In Lights

Head over to Mobile’s Bellingrath Gardens anytime between 5-9 p.m., Nov. 23 and Dec. 31 (closed Christmas Day), to see more than 3 million lights and 1,100 set pieces to illuminate your holiday season.

Magic Christmas in Lights also includes nightly choral performances on the South Terrace of the home Sundays through Thursdays. Guests may purchase hot chocolate on Live Oak Plaza.

The event is a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Festival and Event winner for December 2018. The display was also ranked on USA Today’s 2014 list of the “10 Best Public Light Displays in America” and selected to the American Bus Association’s “Top 100 Events of 2016.”

The Magnolia Café is open for evening meals from 4-8 p.m., during Magic Christmas in Lights.

Admission prices vary from $8 to $16, depending on venues selected.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Reserve your tickets to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” performance by the South Baldwin Community Theatre in Gulf Shores. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 and for 2:30 p.m., Dec. 9 and 16.

The theatre group brings to life the classic animated television special in a faithful stage adaptation where Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts Gang discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $9.95 for students.

Lighted Boat Parade

An annual Gulf Coast tradition, the 33rd Annual Lighted Boat Parade will be held Saturday, Dec. 8.

The parade will start at Lulu’s Homeport and travel east past the Wharf toward Bear Point, south to Ono Island, west to Perdido Pass, north into Terry Cove, do a big circle and end at Terry Cove. From there, the boats head to Flora-Bama Ole River Grill for an ending party.

The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. One of the best spots to view the boats is The Wharf in Orange Beach.

Billy Claus & The LuLuBelles

At 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, swing by LuLu’s Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores to hang out with Billy Claus (Santa’s warm weather-loving brother from the Caribbean) and his elves as they visit with the children and pass on their wishes to Santa. There will be arts and crafts for the kids and a reading of "Billy Claus and the Spirit of Christmas," a family story written by Lucy Buffett, sister of Jimmy Buffett.

Foley Christmas Tree Lighting

Head to Heritage Park in Foley at 6 p.m., Dec. 7 for caroling, visits with Santa and the lighting of the Christmas tree.

Breakfast With Santa

Bring the kids to the Erie H. Meyer Civic Center at 8 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and enjoy a breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs and pancakes before taking pictures with Santa. Admission is $5 per person, with children 3 and under free.

No time for a visit with Santa? Enjoy one of these 20 great breakfast nooks during your visit.

Wales West Arctic Express

A favorite of locals with children is the Wales West Arctic Express train ride to the North Pole.

Located in Silverhill, just a few miles north of Gulf Shores beaches, the journey begins by taking train passengers across a snowy winter wonderland past more than a million twinkling lights in the trees and cascading over exhibits, and to the North Pole, where children can visit with Santa and receive a free toy as a memento of their visit.

Be sure to book your family's beach house or condo for a long weekend, a week or more to experience the magic of the coast during the holidays.
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Alabama Gulf Coast

Upcoming Events

  • Dec 14
    Live Music: Poarch Ninjas
  • Dec 15
    Breakfast with Santa in Gulf Shores
  • Dec 15
    Happy Firkin Holidays 3.0
  • Dec 15
    Live Music: Steve Wilkerson Dueling Pianos
  • Dec 16
    Live Music: Crackerjack Diamonds
  • Dec 21
    Live Music: Sugarcane Jane
  • Dec 22
    Christmas at Oakleigh
  • Dec 22
    Live Music: The Chillbillies

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Last Updated on December 13, 12:55 AM CST

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