1. Make A SplashThere are numerous spots where the kids can splash water on themselves and other people and they won’t get in trouble!
The Surf Style shop on Hwy. 182 in Orange Beach features a splash pad right out in the front of the store. Stop into the store to pick up your beach essentials such as swimsuits, sunscreen and souvenirs, and let the kids blow off some steam at the splash pad.
The Park at OWA’s splash pad is 10,000 square feet of water-themed fun. Called “Wacky Waters,” the splash pad also features a 20-foot-tall dump bucket, a towering coconut tree that rains down 54 gallons of water per minute, a six-foot-tall dome of water and more than a dozen other interactive water features. For parents that want to stay dry and cool, there’s a cabana-style spot with lockers.
Make a full day of watery fun with the group at Waterville USA, where kids can enjoy Shrimp Boat Village. Shrimp Boat Village is three stories of sprays, geysers, net crawls, slides, water cannons and dumping buckets. For the littlest in the bunch, WaWa World is a pirate-themed waterpark and is limited to those under 42 inches tall and their parents or guardians only. WaWa World includes frog, pelican and duck slides along with deck space, chairs and shade for supervising adults.
2. Beachin’The Gulf Shores Public Beach area at the end of Ala. Hwy 59 is a great spot for kids of all ages. Here, you’ll find shade structures, a playground, open-air pavilions, a picnic area, restrooms and showers, and affordable paid and up-close parking.
Also making this area convenient is the proximity to major restaurants like The Hangout, Picnic Beach and the Sunliner Diner as well as retailers such as Surf Style, Alvin’s Island and Souvenir City. There’s even a Dollar General just a couple of blocks north of the main public beach area for all your vacation needs.
3. Castles In The SandTurn a Stevie Wonder song into a reality with a sandcastle-building lesson from Sandcastle University.
Sandcastle University specializes in teaching the tools, tips and tricks of building amazing sand castles to all ages and skill levels. The Sandcastle University team will come to you in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or Fort Morgan to help you create your own piece of beach art.
4. Playgrounds & ParksThere are three fun kids parks/playgrounds in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
The Gulf Shores Kids Park, located at 348 West 19th Avenue near the Bodenhamer rec center is open daily until dusk. There is plenty of shade, ample parking, grills, a picnic pavilions and lots of space for the kids to run. Another playground option with plenty of room for the kids to have fun is Meyer Park.
The Edward H. Carroll Sr. Kids Park in Orange Beach, part of Waterfront Park, is more than a fun playground area. On site you will find a 400-foot fishing pier with covered pavilions and seating, picnic shelters with grills, restrooms, a paved walking path and plenty of parking. The fenced kids park is lighted and contains slides, swings and climbing areas.
While not a park or playground, the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail Complex consists of 15 different trails that comprise 25 miles of paved trails within Gulf State Park. There are areas for biking, jogging, walking, skating rock climbing, plant and tree identification, photography and more.
5. Restaurants That Love FamiliesMost restaurants along the Gulf Coast welcome children. Some even cater to them, such as Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s and the Hangout.
Billed as the spot for coastal cuisine flavored with fun, LuLu’s is a fun place for playing and dining. To keep kids entertained while you wait for a table, check out the Mountain of Youth, a three-story climbing apparatus. If you’re taller than 48 inches, go ahead and harness in to experience the thrill of tightrope walking and climbing. The Little Ropes Course at Munchkin Mountain is fun for children under 48 inches tall.
The Hangout, at the terminus of Ala. Hwy. 59, is a place to dine, drink and celebrate the beach. When you dine here, you’ll enjoy a lively atmosphere where the team conducts daily family games, they’re known to dance on tables, there are pickup games of table tennis, foosball, four square and other activities in the courtyard, and there’s always live music and shows happening on the main stage. The kids particularly love the fire pit, oversized beach chairs, and family foam parties where the kids can run around and play in the bubbles.
In the summer months, the Hangout hosts the Pirates and Princesses Breakfast Adventure. Kids play along with the entertainers by acting like pirates and princesses as they hunt for treasure, play games, dance and more. Reservations are recommended and can be made on the Hangout’s website.
6. Kid-Friendly PoolsSo many of Meyer’s collection of condos feature kid-friendly pools. Whether it’s a simple wading pool, a lazy river or an amped up pool with slides and other water features, there are many options to consider. Some of our favorite kid pools are at Phoenix West and the Caribe Resort, but there are many more to consider.
Check out the pools at the community recreation centers, which welcome visitors for a small daily fee. Let the kids play in the pool (even sign them up for a swim lesson), play in the game rooms or hit the basketball courts. They’ll be good and tired at the end of this fun day!
7. Giant DinosaursBarber Marina just north of Orange Beach is no ordinary marina. Of course, there’s a boatyard, wet slips, indoor and outdoor dry storage slips, a ship store and more—all of which you would expect to find at a world-class marina.
But what is unexpected at the marina is worth the short drive north of the beaches to the quaint German-inspired town of Elberta. On the grounds owned by George Barber near the marina you’ll find numerous giant dinosaur statues lurking in the trees. The dinosaurs fascinate kids of all ages and make for a great spot for pictures.
Also on the grounds is Bamahenge. According to Roadsideamerica.com, Bamahenge “stands in the piney woods about 200 yards off the marina entrance road. Visitors simply pull their vehicles onto the grass and walk back to its clearing.” There are no explanatory signs, keeping the mystery alive, and the structure is nearly the same size as the real Stonehenge.
Find Barber Marina, the dinosaurs and Bamahenge by taking U.S. Hwy. 98 east of Foley, turning right onto Fish Trap Road and turning left at the Barer Marina sign. Bamahenge is situated about a mile down the road and is free to visit.
8. Alabama Gulf Coast ZooWhen it’s real animals the kids want to interact with, pay a visit to the “Little Zoo That Could,” otherwise known as the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.
Located in Gulf Shores, the zoo is one of the most popular family attractions in the area and is home to more than 600 animals.
Only about a mile north of Gulf Shores beaches, the zoo is adjacent to Gulf State Park and is tucked off Ala. Hwy. 59. The zoo is spread out over 7.5 acres and features wide pathways, shaded picnic areas, rest stops and benches.
There is a reptile house; a black leopard; Bengal tigers; an American black bear; a petting zoo with goats, sheep, donkeys and deer; more than 200 birds housed in an aviary and roaming freely on the grounds; camels; primates; and Chuckie the American alligator, the zoo’s mascot and oldest resident.
Get up close and personal with some of the gentlest and friendliest animals in the zoo’s Animal Encounters, where visitors can touch, hold, feed and learn facts about the animals. Among the animals that have been included in the encounters are sloths, kangaroos, lemurs, reptiles and anteaters.
9. Jump & PlayA great activity to enjoy with the kids, especially when a break from the beach is needed, is a visit to The Factory trampoline park.
Kids of all ages will enjoy the Factory’s open jump in 12,000 square feet of connected trampolines, trapeze, mega slide, Ninja obstacle course, foam pits, adrenaline jump, Xtreme dodgeball, flight simulator and arcade games.
There’s even a “Munchkin Jump” from 10-11 a.m., Saturdays. At the same time, kids are always welcome to jump during the open jump sessions, which takes place during all other hours of operation.
10. Miniature GolfThere are numerous mini golf courses to explore along the Gulf Coast, two of which are just north of the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge: Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf and the Track Family Fun Park.
The Track is home to Surfin’ Safari Golf, with features including jungle animals, tunnels and waterfalls. Also on site are several fun rides designed especially with the littlest ones in mind. Kids Country includes a carousel, kiddie karts, a Ferris wheel, an airplane ride, a train, spin tops, swings and more.
At Pirate’s Island, golfers enjoy a themed adventure through a seaside village, a tidal lagoon, caves where pirates have buried their loot, and a mountain. Landscapes, waterfalls, streams and bridges make the course especially fun.
Other miniature golf courses in the area are open year round.
If yours is a big group with lots of children, consider renting a house with five or more bedrooms. But, make your reservation early, as these houses fill quickly for summer.
When you’re looking for budget-friendly properties, we have a large selection of condos and houses that are situated off the beach but near all the local attractions.
Another option is a two- or three-bedroom condo when you need to sleep up to 12.