What to do on the Gulf Coast of Alabama?
May 20, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I'll be spending a few days on the Gulf Coast in lower Alabama in mid-October for a family reunion. Looks like we'll be staying in one of the delightfully cheesy resort condos in either Gulf Shores or Orange Beach. While I plan to spend a lot of time enjoying the gulf and the pool, I know I'll need to get away from that occasionally. So what cool stuff is there to do? The Shrimp Festival is already on the itinerary.

Stuff I'm interested in (I'm aware some of this may be a longshot):

Where to get my morning (and afternoon) coffee
Good food
Good booze (great cocktails, places with craft beer)
Cycling (Know a place that rents decent bikes? Is there actually anywhere to ride?)
Stand-up paddleboarding
Shopping for local goodies
Historical stuff
Sex toy shops and the local kink scene, if it exists
Really anything you think is fun or cool to do or see or eat or buy that isn't on a resort property
posted by rhiannonstone to Travel & Transportation around Mobile, AL (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And despite three previews I forgot to add that I'm also interested in massage/spa recommendations, even if they are on resort property.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:45 AM on May 20, 2013

Best answer: I grew up going to the beach there every summer. For food, I remember eating at Sea 'n Suds, Pink Pony Pub and Lulu's (owned by Jimmy Buffet's sister). Souvenir City is the famous-y tourist shop - it has the crazy shark mouth entrance.
posted by quodlibet at 10:48 AM on May 20, 2013

Best answer: The Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum is a lot of fun to visit, if you are into airplanes. Johnson Beach National Park, on Perdido Key in Florida, has lots of beach and few people. There is also a nature walk on the bay side of that park.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:54 AM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bellingrath Gardens is always lovely if the weather isn't too hot.
posted by BrianJ at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2013

Best answer: Florabama, a bar on the beach straddling those state borders, is certainly an interesting cultural experience.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So the Alabama Gulf Coast is about a minute wide, but it's called the Redneck Riviera for a reason.

I'm not too knowledgeable about what's right there, but just east a little bit into FL there's lots of awesome stuff. As mentioned above, the NAS museum in Pensacola is not to be missed. There's another naval museum there in 'Bama too, it has seagoing ships instead of airships. Take a walk on a battleship. :)

If you want to go on the most beautiful drive of your life (honestly, I'm not sure if it's open right now or not), pop over to Pensacola, drive across to the island, and then take 399 east as far as you like. If, instead, you drive to Navarre first and THEN cross over to the island, you can drive to Pensacola without paying the toll. 399 is 2 lanes of asphalt that runs along the beach. On one side is the intercoastal waterway, which is always calm and blue and gorgeous. On the other side is the Gulf. On both sides is nothing but white sand and dunes and occasionally a pavilion. There is no commercial development through there at all, it's something like 13 miles of nothing, and it's AWESOME. You just can't pull off the road except at parking areas....and don't try, because even if you don't get towed you'll get stuck, even if you've got 4wd. Appalachian Quartz sand is slippery.

If you go just a little bit further east, down to Destin, October is the Fishing Rodeo. Sounds dumb, but it's pretty rad. October is the absolute best overall month for fishing the Gulf, and every evening the Rodeo has weigh-ins. Grab a beer or 5, grab some grub, enjoy.
posted by TomMelee at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2013

I'm nthing Pensacola as well. It's a short drive away and everything you're looking for can be found there with a targeted google/wikitravel/yelp/etc. type search.
posted by caveatz at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2013

Yay, Pensacola! (It's where I married Ralph and had my children.)

Yes, go to the Naval Air Museum, for sure. And check and see if McGuires' Irish Pub is still there.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:38 PM on May 20, 2013

Oh, and there are some old forts on naval property that are fun to check out too.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2013

Best answer: Gulf Shores / Orange Beach is very touristy (as I'm sure you're aware). Most of the restaurants (including ones listed earlier) are fun, but overpriced and the food is mediocre at best (most 'seafood' restaurants serve frozen fish). They know you're probably not going to leave the area, so quality is not job one.

Two good choices for food, though not seafood, are Cricos (urban spoon) and Old World Bakery and Pizza (urban spoon)

Is there actually anywhere to ride?

Biking is popular. The parks are bike friendly, and even the main highway has a large bike lane.

Historical stuff

As far as Gulf Shores Fort Morgan is beautiful.

I have no idea if you plan on leaving the area, but if you do, it's true that Pensacola is your best bet (Destin is beautiful, but not much different than Gulf Shores in what it offers). Pensacola is about an hour drive from Gulf Shores and would make a great day trip.

As mentioned the Naval Aviation Museum is pretty awesome (Battleship Memorial Park is in Mobile but unless you simply love Battleships the Naval Museum offers much more). You can also visit Fort Pickens on Pensacola Beach (Geronimo was held captive there). The rest of Pensacola Beach is much like Gulf Shores (touristy) but if you wanted to make a day trip of it Peg Leg Pete's would make for a nice lunch (grouper sandwich is awesome).

You mentioned cocktails: You could have a bushwhacker after lunch at the Sandshaker (where the bushwhacker was invented). It's right down the road from Peg Leg Pete's.

McGuires' Irish Pub, as mentioned, is still here. It's fun, and famous, but again, overpriced and there are better restaurants here if that's not your thing.

Downtown Pensacola has been revitalized and is pretty awesome now. It's almost like a miniature New Orleans, with much easier parking. It would be almost unrecognizable to anyone that hasn't visited in the last few years. You could easily spend a day there eating, drinking and shopping, almost all local businesses... very few chains.

You could have lunch at the Leisure Club or Carmens. Both good choices. The Leisure Club as well as The Bodacious Brew serve great coffee. Good dinner choices would include Jacksons Steak House or The Fish House if you'd rather have seafood.

You mentioned craft beer. Hopjacks, World of Beer, and Pensacola Bay Brewery are all downtown and within walking distance of each other (most restaurants downtown also have a nice selection of craft beer).

In fact, everything I've listed downtown is within walking distance of each other, though I would take a car to the Fish House.

Sex toy shops and the local kink scene, if it exists

You're visiting one of the most conservative regions in the nation. Your'e more apt to have a preacher screaming at you from the intersection. Might wanna safe this for another trip, away from this trip.

If you have any questions feel free to email me.
posted by justgary at 5:54 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Help a longtime Mac user switch to Windows.   |   The right bra? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.