Family Vacation Destination: Alabama Gulf Coast

This year for our Spring Break family vacation we decided to try the Gulf Coast of Alabama. This seems to be a popular destination for people who live in Wisconsin, so we decided to try it out. We usually do southern Florida, but that either means flying ($$$$$) or a very long drive. Flying the whole family wasn’t in the budget this year, but we still wanted to get away and go somewhere warmer, so we decided on Gulf Shores to find out what all the hype was about!


It worked out well because my parents live near Lexington, Kentucky, which is about halfway between Green Bay and Gulf Shores, so we had a nice stopping point to and from our destination and were able to see family along the way. For those who don’t have family along the route, you can either drive all the way through (it’s about a 17 hour drive) or stop somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee to break up the trip. (See some other great destinations you could check out along the way in these blogs about the Cincinnati areaChattanooga.)

We had a great time in Alabama. There are technically 3 towns/areas on the gulf coast…Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan. They are all nice and not too far from one another. I would say Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are more touristy and Fort Morgan, on the west end of the gulf coast, is a little more secluded and not as busy.


We stayed in Fort Morgan at an airbnb that was like a resort. It was Plantation West and while our particular unit wasn’t fantastic, the property was amazing. There were about 6 outdoor pools (unheated) on the property, several tennis courts and a beach volleyball court. There were also a couple of hot tubs and an indoor heated pool as well! In addition, it was situated right on the ocean, so we just had a short boardwalk to the expansive, white sand beach. There was also a restaurant/tiki bar on the property, so we really didn’t have to leave if we didn’t want to. My 15-year old daughter found and picked the place because she’s all about volleyball and being outside and active, so she and her younger sister were always running around outside doing all kinds of different things while we were there.

The weather in the spring is a little hit-or-miss. If you go anytime in the summer, you’re probably pretty much guaranteed nice (hot) weather. In the winter/spring, Jan-April, the weather can be cooler. But it’s still better than Wisconsin weather!!


We spent a lot of our time at the beach, pools and on our property, but one of the days when the weather wasn’t so good, we went inland a bit to Foley, Alabama to the Tanger Outlet Mall for shopping, which had a huge selection of stores.


There are tons of things to do when you’re there, and you can find lots of options on the Gulf Shores visitor website here. There are dolphin cruises, fishing charters, all the usual ocean activities (parasailing, jet ski’s, paddle-boarding, etc), The Hangout, The Wharf entertainment district that has a ferris wheel & nightly laser light show, Downtown OWA, Tropic Falls at OWA, Waterville USA, touring the USS Alabama in Mobile, a Zoo, mini golf, go-karts and more!


On our final day in Alabama, we went to Tropic Falls at OWA. It was AMAZING! It was such a nice theme park and water park–we were super impressed & had a great time. It was so clean, well-maintained and nicely done. There are about 23 amusement rides ranging from rollercoasters to teacups. They also have a midway with games, plenty of places to buy concessions (which seemed quite reasonably priced) and a 10,000 square foot Splash Pad with cabanas for the parents to relax while the kids play!!! In addition to the amusement rides, they recently opened an indoor waterpark as well–Tropic Falls Indoor Waterpark. This has over 11 water slides, including a 75-foot tall slide, and, of course, a lazy river. The indoor waterpark is open year-round, so if the weather isn’t cooperating, you still have a fun place to go and be in the water! If all of this wasn’t enough, adjacent to the indoor waterpark there is an outdoor tropical getaway called Big Water Bay and Coastal Curl which has a wave pool and a surf simulator!! Tropic Falls at OWA was affordable as well, with ticket costs being $69.99 each for Tropic Falls Tickets (which includes both the Theme Park & Indoor/Outdoor Water Park) or $29.99 for Theme Park ONLY. Kids 3 and under are FREE for both. (Pricing valid as of 2024.)


Last, but not least, there is also Downtown OWA, which is a newer, pedestrian-only, entertainment district. Downtown OWA is free to the public and opens daily at 11AM. Downtown OWA is family-friendly with shopping, dining and entertainment. If you want to stay on the premises to enjoy both Downtown OWA and Tropic Falls at OWA, there is a TownePlace Suites by Marriott Resort and a Luxury RV Resort Park for your convenience.


OWA is the vision of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). As direct descendants of Creek tribes who remained in Alabama after the Indian Removal Act of 1830, PCI members have long been committed to Alabama’s strong sense of place and family. OWA carries that spirit forward as a top family-friendly destination on the state’s celebrated Gulf Coast. OWA’s name is a tribute to the longstanding appeal of Alabama’s beaches and waterways. OWA means “Big Water” in the Creeks’ Muscogee language, and the recent completion of the region’s biggest indoor water park celebrates PCI’s forward-thinking appreciation of Alabama heritage and history.


For more info about this unique area, check out


Finally, depending on when you plan to visit, some special events that happen in the area are fireworks celebrations every Memorial Day, Independence Day & Labor Day as well as a Hot Air Balloon Festival that usually occurs during the first 2 weeks of May each year.


We had a great visit to Gulf Shores, Alabama and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a family vacation idea whether for spring break, summer or any other time of year!


For more family vacation destination ideas, check out these other travel blogs from let’s go mommy: Grand Canyon Road Trip, Mackinac Island, Chattanooga, Mount Rushmore Road Trip, Cincinnati, ARK Encounter, & Creation Museum.

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