Of course, every summer must come to a close. But the family fun keeps going long after summer slips into fall.

As a matter of fact, the latter part of the year is ripe with opportunities for beach fun along the Gulf Coast destinations of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, Ala., and Perdido Key, Fla.

Numerous festivals and special events beckon visitors during a time when the weather is still warm and inviting, the beaches are a little more laid back, and the entertainment and restaurant options are abundant.

One of the most popular festivals in Gulf Shores has been held on the beach for decades. The Annual National Shrimp Festival is a four-day event always held on the second full weekend in October.

Attracting more than 300,000 people, the festival is held at the newly revitalized Gulf Shores Public Beach and features more than 100 hours of musical entertainment, hundreds of arts and crafts booths, and a row of 50 local and regional food vendors preparing shrimp and other dishes any way you like.

Children’s activities at the festival include an annual sand sculpture contest; the Children’s Activity Village with face painting, karaoke and more; and the Singing for Scholarships competition.

The Original German Sausage Festival, held just north of Gulf Shores beaches in the nearby town of Elberta, is typically planned for the Saturday just before Halloween.

Attracting up to 20,000 festival-goers, the event is a decades-long tradition that showcases Elberta’s famous German sausage and sauerkraut, entertainment for kids and adults, and more than 200 arts and crafts booths. You’ll also enjoy lively polka music and dancing.

The festival is a fundraiser to support the town’s needs as well as those of the Elberta Volunteer Fire Department.

For foodies, the first weekend in November brings the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend, where visitors can taste test oysters prepared any number of ways by local, regional and celebrity chefs.

Chefs compete not only for the overall prize but also in categories including Raw, Rockefeller, Cajun, Chef’s Choice, Favorite Restaurant and Best Booth.

The weekend kicks off with the Craft Beer Festival held in the courtyard at The Hangout Restaurant. All-inclusive tickets include live entertainment as well as samples from all the craft brewers showcasing their beers.

The oysters served during the festival represent the largest selections of boutique-farmed oysters from New England, the Pacific Northwest, the Mid-Atlantic, California and the Gulf Coast.

An all-star lineup of celebrity chefs offers tips and tricks on the Chef Presentation Stage. Chefs hail from the Food Network, including shows like "Top Chef" and "Guy's Grocery Games" as well as major events like Memphis in May.

November is a music-filled time at the beach, with the arrival of the Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival.

Featuring the songs of more than 200 nationally acclaimed songwriters, the festival offers seasoned and aspiring songwriters and musicians from all over the world the opportunity to play their songs and share the stories behind the lyrics.

Live music venues stretch throughout Gulf Coast beach communities and vary from art studios and grills to local churches and beach bars.

With the holidays right around the corner, Gulf Shores is a great place to visit to experience a coastal-inspired Christmas.

Get the Christmas spirit early, with a visit to The Wharf in Orange Beach’s ice skating rink. Next to the fire station near the front of the Main Street entrance, the ice skating rink is open in November and December, all the way through Jan. 1.

Other holiday activities at The Wharf include the Holiday SPECTRA Sound and Light Spectacular, horse and carriage rides, the City of Orange Beach tree lighting, and a holiday open house.

Coastal-inspired holiday events along the Alabama Gulf Coast begin right after Thanksgiving and include a lighted boat parade, breakfast with Santa, the “Happy Howlidays Kid and Pet Parade,” the Merry Market, the Jingle Jubilee Kid Craft Day, the Santa Drop at the Flora-Bama, a presentation of “A Christmas Story” by the South Baldwin Community Theater, and more.

Once arriving on the Gulf Coast for end-of-year adventures, be sure to take time to travel along Alabama’s Coastal Connection National Scenic Byway, which was recently rated by CarRentals.com as among the “Best All-American Road Trip Routes.”

The scenic byway is located on the southern tip of Alabama, running from Grand Bay across the mouth of Mobile Bay, along the Gulf of Mexico and up the eastern shore of Mobile Bay to the coastal town of Daphne.

The byway runs through towns of Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Elberta, Foley, Magnolia Springs, Fairhope and Daphne. At its midpoint, the byway crosses the mouth of Mobile Bay.

The route and the waterways the route follows are significant to the state and region for the historic landmarks visitors can see along the way, such as Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines; the protected wildlife areas, such as the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and Gulf State Park; the beautiful beaches; and a culture of working waterfronts.

Make sure you're taking advantage of special deals on top of already low fall rates by staying tuned to our "Specials Page."