Gulf Shores, AL, offers pristine beaches, laid-back restaurants, and plenty of outdoor activities. You’ll find plenty of ways to have a great family vacation in Gulf Shores. Here are our favorite things to do in Gulf Shores with kids.
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Gulf Shores, Alabama
When it’s time to eat, you’ll discover that the Gulf Shores restaurants are just as laid back as the rest of the area, so see what’s for lunch (or dinner), below.
Fun Fact: Lucy Buffett’s Lulus is owned by Jimmy Buffett’s little sister. The restaurant itself sits right on the water, so that vacation feeling kicks in right away. You can start with Alabama caviar (back-eyed peas) or peel and eat shrimp, and move on to seafood, salads, burgers or sandwiches. Kids get their own menu, with choices including quesadillas and shrimp. Even if you have to wait, kids probably won’t mind: There’s a ropes course and a beach arcade. Read reviews here.
It will be crowded at Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Café; that’s a given. It’s small, and there’s always a line. You can start with plenty of fried options (alligator, mushrooms, crab claws, pickles) and then try one of the specialties, like baked whitefish or grilled tuna. Kids get their own menu, and there are plenty of frozen drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to get that beach vibe going. Read reviews here.
Right on the Intracoastal Waterway, Tacky Jacks Gulf Shores is plenty kid-friendly, but what they’ll probably like best is that they can write their names on colorful pieces of duct tape and stick them…pretty much anywhere. When they’re done taping up everything in sight, they can turn their attention to the menu, which features everything from fried green tomato fries to “tacky shrimp” (shrimp simmered in a spicy broth). There’s a section called Little’s Vittles just for small fry—and it includes small fry shrimp and tot’s grilled cheese. Read reviews here.
As you can probably tell from the name, the Flip Flop Deli Shop is a pretty laid-back kind of place. They offer deli sandwiches, nachos, pizza, hot dogs, and shaved ice, plus specialty coffees. Someone should probably try the West Beach Walking Taco—a bag of Doritos mashed with taco meat, shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream…all in the bag. Read reviews here.
Kitty’s Kafe doesn’t have any actual cats, but they do have lots of cute animal pictures. Breakfast is served all day, which is good news for many of us, or anyone, really, who never knows when the urge for buttermilk pancakes might strike. If you’d rather move on to lunch, you’ll find a good-sized “kittens” menu for the young ‘uns (including a pork chop, chicken and dumplings, and breakfast items) as well as salads, sandwiches, wraps, and the Kountry Korner, which features the classic “meat and two.” Read reviews here.
Family-Friendly Hotels in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Proximity to the beach is probably on your list of musts-haves in Gulf Shores. We’ve found some almost-in-the-water options for hotels, below.
If you’re looking for a no-frills hotel close to the water (literally across the street), Paradise Isle offers apartment-style units that come with kitchens and a separate living and dining areas. (You can’t miss the colorful units.) You have access to BBQ grills, plus there’s an outdoor pool. Grab some snacks and sit in one of the unit’s outdoor porches; not the worst ending to your day.
The Crystal Tower is a high-rise condo complex that offers vacation rentals. You get apartment-style units (washer and dryer, parents), plus a cool (literally—it’s air conditioned) skywalk that connects the complex to the beach. You can hang out on the mini lazy river, or one of the two outdoor pools. There’s also an indoor pool and a fitness center. It’s right on the water, so you can spend your days just meandering from one form of water to another.
The best part about the Best Western on the Beach is that it’s on, yes the beach, and it won’t break the bank. It’s doesn’t come with a ton of bells and whistles, but there is an outdoor pool, a kiddie pool (both practically on the beach), and an indoor pool with two Jacuzzis. Rooms have a fridge and microwave, there’s free parking, and of course, the ocean’s right at your feet.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, is right on the beach, but you can also choose to hang out at the pool, explore the hiking trail, or rent a bike—its location in a state park gives it unique access to plenty of outdoor activities, plus environmental programs. There’s also a fitness center if you prefer to get your exercise on a stationery bike.
The Hampton Inn Gulf Shores is a good choice when you want basic amenities, plus a pool, but don’t want to go all out. It’s about a mile from the beach, plus it’s close to area attractions like Waterville USA and the zoo. Rooms have microwaves and refrigerators for an early dinner or 3 p.m. snacks, and you also get a free hot breakfast.
Family-Friendly Activities in Gulf Shores, Alabama
So much for families to do in Gulf Shores! History, animal encounters, and yes, more animal —Gulf Shores is that kind of place.
The focus at the small Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is on animal encounters, so if your children have ever wanted a lemur to sit on their heads, this is the place to do it. Other encounter-able creatures include a kangaroo, sloth, and anteater. And yes, zookeepers are present, and you should make sure your camera is loaded and ready to go. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Read reviews here.
At the Gulf Shores Museum, you can visit a house that dates back to right before the Second World War. It’s a great way to check out some local history; exhibits include ones on hurricanes, as well as info on some of the families that settled in the area. Check out their series of lectures and other programs, too. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to noon; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission: free. Read reviews here.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Gulf Shores Museum (@gulfshoresmuseum) on Oct 17, 2017 at 11:56am PDT
The Track at Gulf Shores is not where you go to watch horses race; it’s a family entertainment center with Go Karts, an arcade, and rides from Blaster Boats (boats with water cannons; you will get very, very, very wet) to Bumper Cars. There’s also mini golf, but once your kids have heard the phrase “boats with water cannons,” that’s pretty much it. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Read reviews here.
You’ve heard of a rescue cat or dog…but a rescue alligator? All the gators at Alligator Alley were, in fact, rescued from places that weren’t safe (for them). On the elevated viewing platform, you can see alligators (a total of 450) sunning, swimming, and hanging out. If you keep walking, you’ll see more gators, plus other wildlife like turtles and ospreys. If you venture into the gator station, you can hold a baby gator—and, this being modern times, maybe even take a selfie with one. Seniors (65+): $11; children (ages 3-12), $11. Read reviews here.
At the Fort Morgan Historic Site, you’ll see a fort that played a role in both the Civil War and World War I. There’s also an escape room, boat launch, picnic area, and beaches, and, depending on when you go, you might see some historical re-enactments.) There’s also plenty of room to just run around, for whomever might need to do that. Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Read reviews here.
Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Gulf Shores, Alabama
When it’s time to go outside, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly activities to keep you busy. Grab the sunscreen and get moving!
If Blackbeard played mini golf, he might have played at Pirates Island Adventure Golf. Families can start their mini-golf adventure by following in the footsteps of some notorious pirates, and then follow a tidal lagoon, plus caves where pirate bounty might be buried. You’ll gaze at waterfalls, streams, bridges, and various cool landscapes on the way—all while playing mini golf, of course, lest you forget why you’re there. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Read reviews here.
Waterville USA offers a water park, amusement park, and escape rooms. The water park has a lazy river, huge slides (some for the extremely brave at heart), a wave pool, and a mini water park for little pirates. If you feel the need to be dry for a while, try out the launch pad (trampoline), arcade, merry ground, little train for younger kids, and even mini golf. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; amusement park open noon to 10 p.m. daily.
The name “Bon Secor” in the Bon Secor National Wildlife refuge comes from a phrase meaning “safe harbor,” and the coastal barrier habitat provides a safe home to various kinds of wildlife, including the endangered Alabama beach mouse, as well as nesting place for sea turtles. The refuge offers four trails plus an observation tower—keep an eye out for alligators and armadillos (though probably not in the same place.) Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Read reviews here.
Wild Native tours offer a series of tours designed to let you explore how you want to explore. The Delta After Dark Boat tour is for those who like some spookiness and the possibility of alligator sightings, while the Dolphins & Wildlife Kayak Experience will teach participants about Bottlenose Dolphins—in their natural habitat. Like an element of surprise with your tour? The Secretly Awesome tour doesn’t tell you much about it—but you can bet that it will be awesome. Tours offered daily, but check their website for specific days/times. Prices start at $25 per adult; $20 per child.
The Hummingbird Zipline Tour offers eight ziplines totaling 6,000 feet. Adventures last about two and a half hours, and you have to be 10 years of age to participate. Be prepared: At various times, the heights can reach 115 feet, and you can go up to 30 miles per hour. The rides are notable for where you go and what you see—if you glance down, you might see a bay, some wetlands, or even the Intracoastal Waterway. The facility is open every day, and adventures start at $89 per person. Check their website for details. Read reviews here.
Beachy Keen: Check out some of the many beaches in the Gulf Shores area! Gulf State Park encompasses two miles of sandy white beaches, plus a campground. And Orange Beach is both a city and a beach—if you’re into water sports, you’ll find something here.
This article was originally published on