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10 Exciting Things to do in Alabama’s Gulf Shores with Kids

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Okay, ladies. I have some brutal honesty that I need to share. We males need a little more excitement on family vacations. High tea at a swanky hotel? Not our thing. Character parades? They’re cute for a few minutes, but then it’s…meh. And don’t even get me started on shopping. We men desire something more. Something that gets our adrenaline pumping. Thus, I present to you a vacation destination you probably haven’t thought of before – Gulf Shores, Alabama. This is a destination that dads and kids will enjoy. I bet you will love it too. Here are 10 exciting things to do in Gulf Shores with kids that will please both masculine and feminine members of your family.
10 Exciting things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama with kids

1. Jet ski the bays and inner waterways of the Gulf Shores.

Tearing up the waves while (sort-of) trying not to fall off the jet ski gets the heart racing. Sure, this is an activity available at most resorts, but those tend to be on the ocean where the waves are bigger, thus making jet skis a little intimidating for new or young jet ski captains. (The legal age is many places is 14 to drive one solo). In the Gulf Shores, though, there are plenty of bays and inner waterways to explore where the waves are smaller. Caribe Marina & Watersports in Orange Beach is a great spot for jet skiing the inner coast.

Tearing up waves on a cat boat (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Tearing up waves on a cat boat (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

2. Pilot cat boats.

Admittedly, jet skiing is geared more towards the adrenaline junkies of your brood. Cat boats, on the other hand, provide a motorized water sport activity for all ages and adventure levels. These two-person boats sit low to the water and provide just enough speed to not be boring, but not enough to scare anyone. One person drives and the other sits back and enjoys the scenery. Orange Beach Cat Boat Tours leads two-hour tours of Orange Beach and the inner coast that may just be one of your favorite vacation experiences in Gulf Shores with kids.

Dining al fresco among the shipping containers at The Gulf in Gulf Shores with kids

Dining al fresco among the shipping containers at The Gulf (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

3. Eat fresh seafood at The Gulf.

After a wild day of taking to the waters, finish it with dinner at The Gulf on the inner coast of Orange Beach. The vibe can almost be described as fast casual meets a destination restaurant meets farm-to-fork. The delicious food is self-service from ordering windows, but it comes from a menu that’s created daily based on what local fishermen and farmers have available. The coolest part, though, is that it’s built into shipping containers. Oh, they have full bar service if you need to calm your nerves from the day’s previous adventures.

A family playing in the waves in Alabama's Gulf Shores with kids

A family playing in the waves at Alabama's Gulf Shores (Photo credit – Sweet Home Alabama)

4. Enjoy mellow waves at Gulf Shores beaches.

Let’s tame the excitement down a bit and mention the beach. Yes, Gulf Shores has plenty of beaches where white sand meets turquoise waters. And who doesn’t love a day of playing at the beach? As this is the Gulf, the waves are just the right size for all ages. And, given that Orange Beach is highly undeveloped compared to most beach destinations, you might find a secluded spot for your family to enjoy.

Stand up paddle boarding is a fun way to explore Gulf Shores with kids (

Stand up paddle boarding is a fun way to explore Gulf Shores with kids (Photo credit: Sweet Home Alabama)

5. Go stand up paddle boarding (with dolphins!).

If you haven’t tried stand up paddling boarding yet, it’s a must! It’s also a lot easier than it looks. I have severe balance issues due to a medical condition, yet I managed my SUP board without falling into the water. Besides, what’s wrong with falling into the water on a hot summer afternoon? It’s a great way to cool off. For stand up paddle boarding, I recommend heading out to Dauphin Island where there are plenty of quiet bays to explore. You might even have a close encounter with a dolphin like I did.

Plenty to do while you wait at Lulu's (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Plenty to do while you wait at Lulu's (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

6. Eat and play at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores with kids.

I’m not big on gimmicky restaurants, but, if they’re doing it right, then heck yeah. Lulu’s is doing it right. This restaurant/play area is owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister for all you Parrotheads out there (of which I am a card carrying member). That’s why waits are often an hour or two long. But don’t let the wait scare you away. There is plenty to do while you wait, from the ropes course to the arcade to the toddler play area. When you are finally seated, expect a dinner that is sustainably sourced and tasty. For those with food allergies, Lulu’s offers a special food allergy menu. Not only are those dishes prepared in a special allergy-free section of the kitchen, but also they’re delivered by management to avoid cross contamination.

Interactive weather exhibit at GulfQuest (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Interactive weather exhibit at GulfQuest (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

7. Explore interactive maritime exhibits at GulfQuest.

On rainy days, or when you need a break from the humid Gulf Shores’ heat, head indoors to GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. The interactive maritime exhibits are fun and educational for both children and adults alike. Exhibits cover everything from steering a tugboat to private treasures and maneuvering shipping container cranes. My favorite, however, was experiencing hurricane force winds! Yeah, I think I had more fun than the kids.

Getting ready to tour the USS Alabama (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Getting ready to tour the USS Alabama (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

8. Board the USS Alabama Battleship.

The GulfQuest National Maritime Museum is so much more than just touring the WWII battleship. Having said that, you will want to tour the ship that won nine battle stars. And, unlike most battleships, the USS Alabama is air conditioned. Additional attractions at the park include 14 airplanes that are viewable from an observation deck, a bunch of tanks and artillery, and the USS Drum submarine, which is also open for tours.

Whose idea was it to let me drive the duck boat? (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Whose idea was it to let me drive the duck boat? (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

9. Take a Gulf Coast Duck Boat Tour by land and sea.

I’d never been on a Duck Boat until my trip to the Gulf Shores. You know these boats. They're the ones shaped like ducks that take travelers on tours of cities and towns through streets AND waterways. I always thought they were a little too “touristy” for me. Now, I plan to go on one whenever a duck boat is available. None, I fear though, will equate the experience from Gulf Coast Duck Boats. They're the only outfit in the country that boasts a triple splash. The tour covers downtown Mobile, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, and the Mobile River. You'll also get an entertaining take on Mobile’s history. Did you know the city has been occupied by six different countries?

Fort of Colonial Alabama and view of Mobile

Fort of Colonial Alabama and view of Mobile (Photo credit: sepavone,

10. Learn through play at the Fort of Colonial Mobile.

Speaking of Mobile’s history, Fort of Colonial Mobile makes for a fun visit near Gulf Shores with kids. Unlike most forts, the Fort of Colonial Mobile is less about the history of the fort and more about the way of life for soldiers that once manned the fort. Thus, the exhibits fall towards the interactive side with a shooting range, tunnel tours, and the chance to dress up in period costumes for a photo op. There are also plenty of period characters milling about that kids will enjoy meeting.

Want to explore more of Alabama? Read more about South Alabama with kids or get a taste of Alabama Gulf Shores restaurants now.

So, what do you think? Would your husband (and you!) like to visit the Gulf Shores with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from Travel Mamas: The Hungry Travel Daddy was hosted by Sweet Home Alabama. All opinions are his. Travel Mamas did not receive any monetary compensation related to this story.

About Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy

Bryan M. Richards began his blog,, to document his culinary adventures with his wife around the world (and around the kitchen). During the first eight years of their marriage, they followed their taste buds across five continents, 20 countries, and 71 cities and drank plenty of beer along the way. Then Deacon was born, and they’re learning how to incorporate their son into their culinary adventures. Currently, Bryan balances his role as stay-at-home dad to his young son with his novel writing and freelance gigs covering craft beer, food, and travel. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow his adventures on Facebook and Instagram as @BRichWrites.

  1. Ashlea Kelly says

    We’re actually visiting Gulf Shores for the first time starting TOMORROW (yay) for a mix of spring break with the kids & 41st birthday celebrations for me. These are EXACTLY the kind of things I was hoping to find to do there (was especially worried since it’s due to rain Thursday & maybe Friday). How am I supposed to choose just one of your suggestions though? They all sound right up my crazy, awkward, competitive family’s alley!!!! ?: jet ski bays & inner water ways?! ugh so fun!!!. . . stand up paddle board? oh we’d laugh too hard (I have a 18 year old daughter & 9 year old son too), Duck boat, battleship. . . COME ON. . too many to choose from. You made my research easy though. Now I can get back to work 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. I am such a foodie I would love to eat at The Gulf! Who knew Alabama was so fun?

  3. Carol Cassara says

    Jet skiing, paddle boarding, and more! I really love how much activities there are here especially if you’re going with the family! It’s definitely going to be so much fun!

  4. Toni | Boulder Locavore says

    These look SO much fun! I’m definitely adding these to our travel list!

  5. Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says

    It’s a completely beautiful place! I would love to go there with my boys and just enjoy and have fun! In the summer, maybe! This makes me want to go on vacation!

  6. I am not sure what it says about us, but we need water to make it feel like a vacation. I know the kids would love to jet ski on the shore!

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      I agree with you. I need water for a vacation. I’ve had a hard to explaining this to my wife. After eleven years, she’s finally understanding.

  7. A trip to the Gulf Shores sounds like it would be a ton of fun. We could probably use a vacation with lots of water activities and seafood!

  8. The stand up paddle boarding my kids love to do, but we do it in Michigan where there aren’t dolphins. My kids would be so geeked to paddle board with dolphins!

  9. Wendy Polisi says

    I live in Florida and still love places like this. It never gets old to me!!

  10. Angela Milnes says

    This sounds like such a beautiful place. I don’t get to come to the states often but I would love to because of places like this.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      It’s one of the still authentic places to visit in the US and definitely worthy of consideration.

  11. We’ve never been there but heard great things. I will be pinning your post as it looks like a place we would love to visit.

  12. Travel Blogger says

    My hubby is always telling me he needs something a little more active on vacation than shopping and reading on the beach lol. He would love maritime exhibits and duck boat tour. We will have to keep this in mind for our next family vacation.

  13. Pam Wattenbarger says

    We loved both Lulu’s and The Gulf. The Gulf had such a cool ambience about it. I’ve been SUP once and it was really fun.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      I think the Gulf was my fave of two if I had to pick one. The ambiance there is spectacular.

  14. Our Family World says

    This is such a fun place for families. If my family was there, I know my husband and my sons would do the get ski and the paddle board while me and my daughter will be having our fill of fresh seafood!

  15. This looks like such a great family time! I am glad you enjoyed Gulf Shores with kids, really wonderful experience and looks super warm. I will have to take the family there sometime soon!

  16. Michelle Waller says

    We have been thinking about visiting the Gulf Shores next summer instead of our normal beach. This looks like a great list and tons of awesome things to do with kids.

  17. Guys don’t enjoy the character parades??!??! Well that explains a lot. 🙂 I haven’t been paddle boarding yet, but I’d love to go!

  18. That sounds like a super fun place to vacation with the family. I am going to add this to my list of places to visit.

  19. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    These are all such great suggestions! Gulf Shores is one of our favorite beach areas to visit when we go on vacation. We’ve been there several times, and we love it.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      What’s your favorite thing to do there?

      • Definitely paddle boarding with dolphins. If it is your first time, just letting you know it is not as easy as it looks.

        • Colleen Lanin says

          Ha! Paddle boarding is definitely a good core workout. I was actually surprised the first time I went that it was easier than I had imagined but I guess I was comparing it to surfing or windsurfing! 😆

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