Skip to Content

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Family Activities; Things to do from a Local

Hello friends! I don’t normally share personal posts, but thought this one might be helpful for those traveling on a family vacation with kids. We’ve lived in Gulf Shores on Alabama’s gulf coast for almost 20 years now. Gosh I can’t believe we’ve lived here that long and I don’t know where time has gone. I might be a little biased, but I do think our beaches are the perfect destination with great things to do for kids of all ages. Over the years we’ve learned a handful of family fun places for the whole family, so without further ado, here we go!

family activities for Gulf Shores Orange Beach

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach family activities

The Beach

First and foremost, if you’ve made the trip you obviously have to enjoy a beach day. The Gulf of Mexico has some of the prettiest white sand beaches. Beautiful beaches are what our area is known for. There are a few different beach options. If you prefer a beach with a close bathroom (what mom wouldn’t), check out West Gulf Place public beach with parking and decent new bathrooms. This beach location is right next to the Hangout so it’s also a great spot to grab some food then head out to the beach. It does get crowded during the peak summer months so make sure to go early or late if you want to get a good spot. 

If you want to ensure yourself a parking spot and don’t want to fight for parking, head on down to the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion where they have ample parking (I’ve never seen it full). 

As far as Orange Beach goes, Cotton Bayou is a great option with bathrooms. If you want to see a list of all the public beaches in GS and OB, check out this link. 

Gulf Shores beach

Looking for a more private experience on Alabama’s beaches “off the beaten path?”

My favorite beach “off the beaten path” is what the locals call “Mobile Street.” It’s a public beach access located down Fort Morgan Road off of Mobile Street. Don’t expect fancy bathrooms or plentiful parking. Actually, there are no bathrooms and parking is more like a small gravel opening in between a residential area. BUT, if you are looking for a remote beach without the hustle and bustle, this is the perfect place for that.

A fun experience that your kids might love (Adults love it too) is booking a class with Sand Castle University. They offer private classes as well as larger public classes! This is a unique experience I’ve never seen anywhere else! They specialize in teaching the best tips and tricks for building amazing Sand Castles to groups of ALL ages and skill levels. 

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

This zoo has previously been named the “Little Zoo that could.” It was featured in a few articles talking about how quickly they had to move ALL the animals in the event of a hurricane. After years of dealing with this, they finally moved off the island to higher ground. You can see more about the history of the Gulf Coast zoo in this article. The current zoo is a beautiful expansive area with lots of animals to see. It’s a great trip for the entire family, especially the younger kids. 

The zoo also has a great restaurant called Savannah. Make sure to check out both if you want something other than the beach to do. 

Alabama Gulf Coast zoo with tiger

Dolphin Cruise

If you are a boating/marine life loving family, booking a dolphin cruise might be a good option. Most of these cruises happen later in the evening around dinner time (sunset cruise) and they always know the perfect spot to see the dolphins emerge. See a full list of Dolphin cruises here. By the way, if you are looking for a fun Pirate Cruise ship for kids, there is a boating experience (similar to dolphin cruises) that takes you out on the waters for a fun “pirate adventure.” We have personally been on this cruise and it doesn’t disappoint! We even saw a few dolphins! 

Waterville USA

Are you looking for a water day beach alternative? Waterville is a great water park that caters to younger kids as well as older. Relax in the lazy river or enjoy a handful of fun slides. It’s even got escape rooms and arcade games for that family member who prefers to stay inside. Keep this in mind if you need a great place that doesn’t involve sand!

Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail

Do you love to bike, run or walk down beautiful trails? If you love to be outdoors and want to experience a few trails at the Gulf State Park, check out 28 miles of multi-use paved trails. You won’t believe some of the things you will see; you even might spot an alligator!

Adventure Island

What is it about taking a beach trip and finishing the day with mini golf or bumper boats? Either way, if you are looking for multiple indoor and outdoor attractions, as well as one of the largest arcades in the region, Adventure Island is the place to go. This place is full of loads of fun experiences like Go Karts and even an indoor black light mini golf experience. 

The Wharf

If you are looking for a laid back shopping environment with a few great restaurants to choose from, the Wharf is the place to go! You will find live music at some of the restaurants as well as an arcade that includes laser tag! Did I mention they have a huge ferris wheel? Along with a movie theatre and loads of fun concerts, the Wharf always has new and exciting attractions. 

Ferris Wheel

Whether you are on a summer trip with your family or spring break with your high schoolers, you can find loads of things to do for all ages. I hope I’ve shared a comprehensive guide of activities from someone who has personally been to all of these spots. I also hope you have an unforgettable experience as you visit our lovely beaches. And remember; leave only footprints behind.