Thinking of taking a trip to Gulf Shores Orange Beach? This itinerary is the perfect balance of sun, sand, food and fun for your family. This post is sponsored by the Gulf Shores Orange Beach Tourism Board.
We recently hit the road for our first family road trip of the year to a place that we’ve been wanting to explore for a long time. My husband is originally from Alabama. He grew up visiting Gulf Shores and always talked about how much fun he had visiting as a kid. We’ve always wanted to take our kids to the beaches in Alabama but just never had a chance to slow our life down enough so that we could truly enjoy it. This year we wanted to make it one of our top priorities and stop putting it off. I’m so happy we did.
Gulf Shores Orange Beach Family Itinerary
During our visit we got to experience so many things that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach has to offer but we also got to teach the kids about the area’s history, and create some amazing homeschool lessons for them while they were there. My family and I aren’t early risers so we typically start our day around mid-morning. The itinerary I created is definitely what works best for my family. You might want to move things around so your family is comfortable with the itinerary. If you have younger kids like we do, you’ll definitely want to work in some time for a nap so they don’t get restless during the day.
8am: Breakfast at Turquoise Place by Spectrum Resorts
Turquoise Place offers complimentary continental breakfast for guests who have booked through Spectrum Resorts. It’s a great way to start the day. You can bring your breakfast back to your condo and enjoy together as a family on the balcony with beautiful views or inside at the dining table.
10am: Head to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
I highly recommend visiting the zoo in the morning. You can get through the entire experience viewing 300 animals in a few short hours. They’re open daily from 9am-4pm. Animal encounters start at 10am. We got tickets to do the kangaroo encounter and my kids loved it so much.
If you plan on being at the zoo during lunch time, you can eat there. They have a restaurant, Safari Club, where you can enjoy lunch. It makes things a little easier when you can just grab lunch at the zoo instead of finding another restaurant to dine at.
2pm: Lunch at The Wharf (alternate option)
An alternate option other than lunch at the zoo is trying one of the many restaurants at The Wharf. Once you leave the zoo you can head over to The Wharf in Orange Beach. We ate at Yoho Rum and Tacos on our trip and it was so good. They have multiple tacos to choose from as well as other menu items. The firecracker shrimp tacos and spicy orange honey wings were my favorite. My kids ordered chicken tenders and they were happy with them.
4pm: Explore The Wharf
The Wharf has so much to offer. Shopping, dining, and entertainment to name the least. You can check out a movie, go shopping or even do a little axe throwing. I love that this area has many activities for families and travelers to enjoy. If you have younger kids, I would suggest checking out the Cool Shots Selfie Museum or The Wharf Mini Golf. Both are fun activities for families.
If your family is feeling a bit more adventurous, you could book a sunset cruise to experience the dolphins and marine life in the Gulf.
6:30pm: Dinner at The Wharf
8:30pm: Catch the light show at The Wharf
Every night a light show takes place in The Wharf. It really is an experience that you don’t want to miss and the best part is that it’s free. You can watch from the ground or hop on the carousel to get a closer view from up above.
9am: Breakfast at Southern Grind Coffee House
Southern Grind Coffee House is a local favorite and rightfully so. They have some great menu items. We learned very quickly during our stay though that it’s a hot spot. There was always a line every morning of people waiting to be served. If you’re staying nearby, you can grab breakfast to go and eat it on the beach.
11am: Spend the day at Gulf Shores Beach
3pm: Lunch at Sunliner Diner
Sunliner Diner has been a staple in Gulf Shores since it opened in 2018. It caught my attention while driving through the city and I knew that it was a place my family would love. The 50s retro vibe is something that is definitely a site to see. The food that they serve is family friendly and affordable. It’s perfect for any meal of the day. They even serve breakfast all day if that’s your kind of thing. If you happen to stop in during your trip and your party is small enough, ask to sit at the car table. It’s a fun and cute experience especially if you’re traveling with kids.
I highly recommend the Barnyard Burger and Chicken and Waffles.
5pm: Watch the sunset on Orange Beach
The sunsets are amazing on the beach. While you’re waiting for the sun to set your kids can get their feet wet in the ocean or you can play a game. Once the sun goes down you can use your phone’s flashlight to search for turtle eggs if it’s turtle nesting season. If you plan on doing this make sure to stop by the visitors center for a red flashlight filter so the nesting sea turtles don’t mistake the light for moonlight. You can learn more about sea turtle nesting here.
7am: Breakfast at Turquoise Place by Spectrum Resorts
Staying at Turquoise Place by Spectrum Resorts is not only a dream but it’s super convenient as well. They serve breakfast every morning for their guests. It’s included as a part of the resort fee and everyone who is staying in your room/party is able to get breakfast. The usual breakfast is mini waffles, bagels, coffee, fruits, eggs, etc. It’s a great way to save money on your trip especially if you’re vacationing on a budget. The best part about it is that you can take it to go so you can eat it back in your condo or right on the beach.
9am: Visit Fort Morgan Historical Site
This was probably the highlight of our trip. Tatiana complained about having to go here because she didn’t want to learn on vacation but once we got there she completely fell in love. She loved exploring the grounds and finding all of the hidden spots. It really is an incredible place. If you want somewhere to take your kids so they can burn some energy, this is the place to go. Both parents and kids will enjoy it. Explore it with us here.
12pm: Lunch at The Gulf
The Gulf is the perfect lunch spot if you’re looking for something quick and easy. They have some really great menu options and something for everyone. The views from the restaurant are perfect. It’s right on the oceanfront and close to Perdido Pass so you can see boats passing under the bridge. They have outdoor games and comfortable seating.
2pm: Enjoy the pool and lazy river
Turquoise Place by Spectrum Resorts has multiple pools and a lazy river for guests to enjoy. The lazy river is a bit on the smaller side but it’s on the rooftop of the building and the kids will definitely love it. There is an indoor pool for those days when the weather might not be the best for swimming outdoors.
6pm: Dinner at Big Mike’s Steakhouse
8pm: Grab dessert at The Yard
The Yard is one of the most popular ice cream spots in Gulf Shores. They’re known for putting their creative spin on milkshakes and being on Shark Tank. I will say that the milkshakes are amazing but way too much for one person to eat alone. Also note that each milkshake comes with a hefty price tag of $15-$20 per shake.
How to Get There
There are multiple ways to get to Gulf Shores. We chose to drive since it’s the most affordable option when traveling with kids. Gulf Shores, Alabama is about a 7-hour drive from Orlando but well worth the wait. Make it extra fun by making a few stops along your route.
If you’re not a fan of taking a road trip with kids then I would recommend flying. The closest airports are Mobile Regional Airport and Pensacola International Airport. Pensacola International is about an hour away and offers non-stop flights from many major cities.
How Long to Stay
If all you’re wanting is to spend time at the beach, a quick weekend family getaway is the way to go. You can soak up the sun and sand with your family and create those memories that you’ll remember forever. If you’re asking my honest opinion though, a weekend just isn’t enough. Four days or more is the ideal amount of time to spend in Gulf Shores Orange Beach. It’ll give you enough time to enjoy the beach and and a few of the destinations top restaurants and attractions. If you can extend your weekend trip to a long weekend, it’s the best option.
Where to Stay
The possibilities are endless when it comes to accommodations in Gulf Shores Orange Beach. They have everything from hotels to resorts to rental homes. You really can’t go wrong with any of the options. We stayed at Turquoise Place by Spectrum Resorts and were not disappointed. It was the perfect option for our family. The property is right on Orange Beach and has its own access to the beach.
If you’re looking for a family vacation destination that everyone is sure to love Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is where you want to be. It’s perfect for weekend getaways if you’re only a short drive away and longer family vacations.