Waves lapping at your feet and gentle enough for little ones to play in. Sand slipping softly between your toes and shaped into castles. With azure skies overhead and a cool breeze on your skin as the sun dips low on the horizon, the whole family feels utter relaxation. Daydream, though this may seem, this reality can be yours with a visit to Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Boasting 32 miles of sugar-sand beaches, spacious lodging, and endless outdoor fun, Alabama’s beaches offer everything you need for a family-friendly vacation, no matter your age or interests.
Dive into paradise along the Gulf of Mexico
First stop in paradise: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach’s expansive coast. Activities abound along this white-quartz shoreline, from boating and fishing to kayaking, diving, and more. With a towel and some sunblock, visitors can let their stress melt away on the region’s beautiful beaches. Add a sense of adventure—and a booking with top-rated local company Ike’s Parasail—and travelers can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the emerald-green Gulf below. For smaller travelers, Sand Castle University offers sandcastle classes that guide participants through the process of building and decorating sandcastles and sea creatures.
Beyond the coast, Gulf State Park boasts 6,150 acres of easily accessible nature, replete with opportunities to hike, sightsee, glamp, and enjoy the region’s biodiversity. For those who wish to explore on foot, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a 28-mile paved trail system that winds its way through the park’s nine unique ecosystems. If you prefer two wheels, the park offers a free bike share program, with 50 bikes available for rent at stations located throughout the park. Visitors interested in aquatic play can cool off in the pool and splash pad or take to freshwater Lake Shelby for a bit of boating.
Adventure beyond the beach
For a less rustic wildlife viewing opportunity, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo houses upwards of 500 animals from around the world, including bears, lions, lemurs, and alligators. The zoo also offers hands-on experiences such as giraffe-feeding and kangaroo-petting to visitors of all ages.
Offering a bit more adrenaline, The Track Family Fun Park packs tons of thrills into its outdoor amusement park, from go-karting to bumper boats and roller coasters to a family-friendly arcade. Meanwhile, the popular waterfront destination The Wharf inspires a mellower sensibility, with shopping, dining, and entertainment options for the whole family. Those who are still seeking thrills can take to the skies on the Ferris wheel.
Savor the catch of the day and more at local restaurants
After working up an appetite, visitors should hit The Hangout for mouthwatering eats, refreshing drinks, live music, dancing, and games. Renowned for its family-oriented offerings, The Hangout hosts daily entertainment and contests for everyone to enjoy, including musical acts on the main stage plus outdoor activities in the courtyard. With menu items such as the Ultimate Seafood Boil, visitors can delight in the best of the beach, savoring snow crab, mussels, fresh Gulf shrimp, and more—all in one delicious dish.
For dessert, anyone with a sweet tooth should hit The Yard Milkshake Bar, a photogenic, family-owned milkshake haven that first found fame on Shark Tank. With nearly 30 operating locations across the U.S., this Alabama-born spot for treats is sure to please.
A place to hang your (sun)hat
Whether you’re looking for a cute home rental or a child-friendly resort, Gulf Shores Orange Beach has copious options, including large condos. Located alongside the gulf, Hotel Indigo also borders miles of hiking and biking trails, including the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Holiday Inn Express Orange Beach by IHG offers modern rooms, an outdoor pool, and free breakfast and Wi-Fi at a family-friendly price point. Meanwhile, many beach house rentals make for greater privacy than a resort and include amenities such as tennis courts, pools, or local fitness centers.
No matter your age or style of travel, Gulf Shores Orange Beach has you covered. All you need to do is pack your sunscreen and get ready for your perfect vacation.