PART I: GULF SHORES, ALABAMA
(You can click each image for a larger view)
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama and Nashville, Tennessee. Struggling in Seattle where we’ve had nothing but rain and gray weather for almost nine months, I was ready for some 90 degree heat and humidity, as well as the chance to see some live music along the way. My husband’s home office is in Madison, Alabama near the Tennessee border. He was already there on business, so my son and I joined him later in the month.
We drove south to Gulf Shores, which has seemed to make a decent recovery from the horrible oil spill last year, although the tornado damage along the interstate was enough to take my breath away. People seem to be moving slowly forward, though: some businesses have reopened, and damaged areas were getting cleaned up. The devastation was phenomenal. I really don’t know how families fully recover, if at all, from such sudden and violent destruction. We could only hope we helped out the economy a little by paying a visit to the local restaurants, gas stations and shops along the way.
Gulf Shores, and its sister town Orange Beach, are family-friendly, laid-back vacation havens. This is not the place to be if you want to have a jet-set high-class experience in swanky nightclubs and posh restaurants. You can head for Malibu or Miami for that.
I assume Spring Breakers were there earlier in the year, but when we were there in late June, most of the visitors were young families. Although most of the activities offered were for younger children (putt-putt golf, small amusement parks, and a zoo), we managed to find some quality entertainment for us and our teenaged son.
The best venue in Gulf Shores is The Hangout, located right on the beach. Over Memorial Day weekend, the place gets hopping, and the stage and crowds move to the beach for a big music festival hosting a variety of artists like Foo Fighters, Widespread Panic, Paul Simon, Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket and Cee Lo Green.
The Hangout includes an indoor dining area with large bay doors that open up to the beach. A small stage on the premises hosts cover bands nightly. There are a couple of outside bars, and a giant bar next to the dining area. Kids are allowed to sit at the bar with their adults. That’s how they roll in the South!
When we were there, we ended up going out three out of the four nights we were at The Gulf. It was enjoyable for us and our son had a great time. There was a different band playing every night, and they played everything from Johnny Cash to Gnarls Barkley. The Hangout keeps youngsters occupied while waiting for their meals by participating in YMCA sing-alongs, massive foam parties, and pirates galore. They announced people’s birthdays and anniversaries and made the birthday kids (and adults) dance for the rest of the audience.
A similar, though smaller hangout is Lulu’s, Jimmy Buffett’s “Crazy Sistah’s” restaurant. It sits back on the canal, next to Homeport Marina. It also has open-air seating, live music, a couple of bars, and a sand lot for the kids. There are also original arts and crafts booths and a souvenir shop. The food was delicious, and we listened to a nice Jamaican steel drum band while we ate.
After four days of sun and sugar-soft sand, we packed up the van and drove our sun-kissed, dark-white bodies north, with a brief overnight stop in Huntsville. We then continued on to Nashville for a two night stay.
GO TO PART II OF THIS TRIP!!