What's New in Gulf Shores
Revisit one of the Gulf Coast’s best beaches this summer.
By Kayla Smith
Looking for the perfect place to celebrate the start of summer? The 32-mile stretch of sugar white beaches spanning Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, has long been a favorite vacation destination, but this year it’s better than ever. The Travel Channel has added Gulf Shores to its list of the Best Gulf Coast Beaches, and Budget Travel magazine included it in a list of America’s Coolest Small Towns for 2013. In addition to old favorites like Souvenir City, Gulf Shores Steamer and the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, Gulf Shores has several new attractions to present to beach goers this summer.
The Wharf is Orange Beach’s entertainment district, consisting of shopping, concerts, dining, lodging and more. May 24 is the start of The Wharf’s “100 Days of Summer,” three months of activities for everyone in the family. There’s The Amphitheater, a 9,600-capacity theater that will host some of the biggest names in music this summer, including Lady Antebellum (May 26), Brad Paisley (June 15), Alabama (July 5) and Dave Matthews Band (July 23). While at The Wharf, you can also catch the newest movie releases at the 15-screen Carmike Cinema or ride the tallest Ferris wheel in the southeast.
A new addition to The Wharf is Toby Keith’s restaurant, I Love This Bar and Grill, which opens in early June. The restaurant will feature casual dining, with menu items like Toby’s Starter Platter, Famous Chicken Wings, Fried Chicken Dinner and Deep Fried Twinkies for dessert, live music and a 95-foot, guitar-shaped main bar. With so many great restaurants to choose from, it’s easy to make every meal in Gulf Shores a memorable one. Start the day at Kitty’s Kafe in Gulf Shores or Duck’s Diner in Orange Beach, both on Urbanspoon’s list of most popular breakfast spots in America.
For those craving an adrenaline rush, the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park now offers a 2 1/2 hour ride on Hummingbird Ziplines. The course consists of more than a mile of lines and reaches heights up to 90 feet. An individual ticket is $79, and children 12 and under are $59. You can also rent paddleboards and kayaks at the state park.
If you can’t visit until later this summer, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach will host the second annual SEC BeachFest August 15-18. The event kicks off the SEC football season and offers a chance for visitors to meet SEC coaching and Heisman legends, run in a 5K Fun Run or register for the Golf Scramble. Weekend tickets are $25.
For help planning your Gulf Shores getaway, visit www.gulfshores.com. Vacation Rental By Owner, Brett Robinson or Kaiser Realty make finding a condo easier. Beach houses, hotels and camping are also available.
Photo Credits: Gulf Shores beach courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism; The Wharf and I Love This Bar and Grill courtesy of Buffalo Communications; zipline from Gulf Adventure Center Facebook page.
An intern with Deep South, Kayla Smith grew up near Picayune, Mississippi, in a community too small to have its own mailing address. She graduated from Brown University last May, where she double-majored in English Literature and Literary Arts. She spent the past year back in the South and will return to the Northeast in the fall to begin her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia’s School of the Arts. Follow her on Twitter @KaylaMSmith89.