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25 Fun Things to Do in Orange Beach, AL (Couples’, Families, and Girlfriend Getaways)

25 Fun Things to Do in Orange Beach, AL (Couples’, Families, and Girlfriend Getaways)

(UPDATED JULY 2022) On my first visit to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, I got a taste of why everyone falls head over heels with Alabama’s fantastic beaches. Not only are the thirty-two miles of sugary white sand beaches a big draw, but the laid-back vibe, family-first values, and friendly locals also add to the allure. Throw in dunes with wild sea oats and sparkling turquoise water; you’ve got a recipe for success. When planning your visit, here are 25 fun things to do in Orange Beach, AL, that can fit into a family vaca, girlfriends’ getaway, or couples’ rendezvous. I hope you will love this place as much as my family and I have grown to.


Located between Mobile, AL, and Pensacola, FL, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores are used synonymously and border the Intracoastal, Gulf of Mexico, Perdido Bay, and Mobile Bay.

1. Shop at The Wharf

My Ole Miss graduate daughter told me all about The Wharf, but I had to see it to understand it fully. This premier waterfront mega entertainment center is a place to stay, play, eat, and have fun. We pick The Wharf for the shopping opportunities, such as Tickled Pink, Shades Sunglasses, and Archipelago, but even walking around to people watch is a fun option. 


2. Explore the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

This Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is one of the most popular family attractions in the Alabama beaches region. Although nicknamed “The Little Zoo That Could,” it is home to 199 species, 31 subspecies, and eight endangered species. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at this Gulf Coast landmark. 


One of the most remarkable new features is Animal Encounters (sloth and kangaroo), giving you an up-close experience with some of the zoo’s friendliest animals. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo also offers a look (and photo ops) at wolves, lemurs, reptiles, tigers, capybara, and gators in their natural habitats. Don’t forget the train ride, zip-line, and beautiful carousel. 


Come to the zoo hungry to taste the fantastic food options at Safari Club Restaurant at the zoo property. Safari Club is outside the admission gate, so you don’t have to be a zoo guest to dine there. Exceptional lunch choices include crunchy Fried Goat Cheese with fig jam and fresh fruit and Singapore Chicken Satays with peanut sauce.


3. Eat at Delicious Restaurants

The Orange Beach and Gulf Shores’ food scene is #1 in my book, and this region will knock your socks off for Southern cuisine and fresh seafood, I promise. You’ll have no trouble finding dozens of absolutely delicious places to eat. For breakfast, indulge in creative Eggs Benedicts from Ruby Slipper Cafe and classic diner faves from Sunliner Diner.


At lunch, feast on gourmet burgers and fresh salads from Brick and Spoon or shrimp baskets and a list of food a mile long from Lulu’s. For dinner, go all out on notable seafood favorites and creative culinary treats at Luna’s Eat and Drink or chef-inspired dishes from Playa. You’re sure to get memorable meals to go with your exceptional family vacation in Orange Beach and reasonably priced.


Call or go online to reserve your meal time to avoid the crowds and long wait times. For more places to eat, check out these delicious restaurants to try in Orange Beach/Gulf Shores.


4. See a Concert at The Hangout

This beachside open space is a huge attraction for those wanting to enjoy live music daily in a party atmosphere, have a tasty meal or beverage, or simply hang out. Spring Break (good, clean fun) and the annual Hangout Music Festival are two prevalent times at The Hangout, with top names in the music industry performing. From fire pits to foam parties, sandpits to the giant Shaka hand, this place is designed for optimum fun and frolic.

Photo from The Hangout.

5. Rent Beach Bikes

Do you like to incorporate bike riding on your vacation? Skip bringing your own; just rent one from Beach Bike Rentals. This place has the best bicycle selection I’ve ever seen, including E-bikes (electric bikes), available in any color. Half of the fun was picking out which cool helmet to wear from the wall full of great choices. Then there are the bike basket and bell. Fun and the staff is super helpful.


Tip: Our friends at Coleman Concierge have biked hundreds of miles in this Alabama coastal region, and they have lots of great information in this piece about where to hit the trails and hints for managing them.

6. Enjoy Alabama’s Beaches

The mesmerizing beaches are the primary reason to vacation in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The sound of the waves rolling is enough to relax some people and put them instantly in full vacation mode. I swear you can’t take a bad picture of this fantastic setting.


Laying out and doing nothing other than reapplying sunscreen, sipping a cold beverage, or reading a book are the joys we all look forward to on vacation. You can get some steps in with a brisk beach walk as you soak up the scenery and salt air.


Pro Tip: The beaches are less crowded from March through early May and September through November. You can take advantage of lower prices, too.

7. Experience the Best Alabama State Park

You can get outdoors for a walk or hike, go swimming, or even partake in birdwatching or geocaching, for that matter, at Gulf State Park. This exceptional Alabama State Park has abundant wildlife, including deer, armadillo, bobcats, and a sweet little butterfly garden.


While there, consider having a meal at Woodside Restaurant, serving high-end food and excellent coffee. Order the Muscle Shoals Omelet for an egg dish stuffed with shaved ham and smoked gouda pimento cheese, served with your choice of grits or potatoes. The rustic setting at this park makes for great photos and space for being at one with nature. 


Fun Fact: There are six miles between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, which I recently learned. The property at Gulf State Park separates them. 

8. Stay at Turquoise Place

Orange Beach is mostly home to timeshares and condo units. My favorite place to stay is Turquoise Place, a combo of both. This lovely blue property is the hilt of luxury and has a fantastic address. It may be the most recognizable building in Orange Beach, sitting on the waterfront with spacious balconies, a large outdoor pool, and a lazy river. Turquoise Place also has an indoor pool that plays music underwater. How cool is that?


Inside, Turquoise Place units are uniquely designed, with three to five bedrooms, and the furnishings are clean, comfortable, and visually pleasing. A long list of amenities accompanies your stay, while onsite covered parking is easy and makes loading and unloading a breeze.


Spectrum Resorts manage Turquoise Place. Directly booking through them guarantees your access to all amenities, the Spectrum Club Lounge, and the use of beach towels in your condo.


Get your groceries delivered, condo stocked, or help with attraction passes and much more from the one-stop-shop The Beach Moms Concierge Service. They are also now offering gourmet picnics on the beach and all sorts of goodies to make your trip the most memorable ever.


9. Visit the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach

The Coastal Arts Center is an art gallery complex featuring works from more than 100 local artisans, including potters, sculptors, painters, glass, and textile artists. The 10,000-square-foot fine art gallery is impressive and a must-see attraction. I could admire the precious works of art for hours!


10. Take a Sand Castle Building Course

Orange Beach has a unique beach activity that might pique your interest. Sand Castle University offers small group lessons for learning tricks to building amazing sandcastles. There is truly an art to making a sandcastle, and with a few simple tricks, you’ll be creating a masterpiece in no time.


My friends and I learned how to make the sand the right consistency with the perfect mix of water (the glue) and then, by using a few simple tools, create windows, doors, bricks, and even stairs. It was exciting and something you can carry on for years. The class is geared for up to 10 and is one flat fee for an hour session.


11. Dive into History at the Fort Morgan Historic Site

Located at the mouth of Mobile Bay is the Pentagonal bastion Fort Morgan Historic Site. The fort was constructed around 1820-30 on a 479-acre site. Admiral David Farragut commanded, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead“, as he led his troops into the Battle of Mobile Bay here on August 5th, 1864. The Union took over the fort shortly, and it became America’s largest permanent military outpost between 1900 and 1923.


I had a guided tour of Fort Morgan by resident historian Dylan Tucker, an interpretive historian who loves sharing a history lesson about the fort’s role in the Civil War. If you get a chance, snag him for your guided tour. Besides history, you can also launch a boat from Fort Morgan or picnic.


12. Go Boating

You can get out on the water for fishing or boating in several Orange Beach areas. The easiest for me is taking a chartered boat ride or fishing excursion, which you can charter from The Wharf. Go for an exciting boat ride through the back bays of Orange Beach to see the marine wildlife and prestigious million-dollar homes.


13. Make Pottery

In the Clay Studio at the Coastal Arts Center, master potters share demos and instruction while you channel your inner “Ghost” movie moment. Acrylic, watercolor, and mixed media classes are available, as well. The Coastal Arts Center is a relaxing place to enjoy rockers on the porch of the impeccable grounds, admire beautiful art pieces, and socialize with like-minded individuals.

14. Get Out on the Water

Whether you are soaking up the sun, building sand castles, catching the waves with a boogie board, or renting jet skis, the possibilities are endless. Perhaps a glass-bottom boat ride to watch dolphins would be fun for the whole family—or fishing for a family dinner. The Gulf waters are calm enough to go sailing or rent a wide array of boats. Other ways to get out on and in the water include stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving.


15. Fish

Fishing enthusiasts might prefer to cast a line for some of the freshest local fish: redfish, snapper, amberjack, and speckled trout. Orange Beach Boat Rentals are pet-friendly, and you can bring your own coolers onboard. You can also charter a deep-sea fishing trip, guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your vacation.

Gulf State Park Pier has a 2,550 sq-ft fishing pier that is a great place to drop a line and fish for Amberjack, Grouper, or Red Snapper. It is open 24 hours a day and is the second-longest pier on the Gulf Coast. Forget something? No need to worry. The dock has concessions for purchase, a retail area, clean bathrooms, and plenty of places to relax and people watch. An admission to access the pier is required, and an applicable fishing license is required. Children are free with a paying adult.


16. Quench Your Thirst at The Wharf

You can sip an ice-cold daiquiri at Island Time Daiquiris, have a fancy coffee drink at Southern Grind Coffee House, sample an Appleton Estate Rum Flight from Yo-Ho Rum & Tacos, or enjoy a refreshing glass of wine at Red or White at The Wharf. Special events are plentiful at this premier entertainment complex, namely concerts at the amphitheater. Be sure to check the listings to see what might be going on during your beach vacation.


17. Check Out A Beloved Trail

The 25-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail has six distinct ecosystems running through Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and Gulf State Park. We saw pristine freshwater marshes, hardwood swamps, and the mascot of the trail, “Lefty,” an alligator that loves sunbathing. Be sure to say hello to him!

You can walk, jog, or bike the trail, which is popular with the locals and beach visitors. Be sure to snap a photo of the trail map as you enter so you don’t get lost—says someone speaking from experience.


18. Try Your Luck at Blowing Glass

A super trendy hot glass blowing studio, The Hot Shop, has fun group classes, great for a girls’ night out. You can make your own glass creations in a beginner-level class for around $85 or make a flower, globe, or paperweight. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 4 PM. 


19. Pilfer Through Collections at The Hangout

If you choose to dine at The Hangout, the burgers and Po’Boys are off-the-hook delicious. Make sure to wander the restaurant and check out the retro collections, including Pez dispensers and lunch boxes. They are so cool and fun! Fancy a cocktail? The mules and mojitos are handcrafted, plus the Bushwacker is fantastic.


20. Treat Yourself to a Freak Shake

Need a sweet treat? The Yard Milkshake Bar is known for over-the-top milkshakes made with premium ice cream. There are monthly specials, plus a specialty milkshake and sundae menu that will make your jaw drop. My recommendation for adults is the Old School Banana Split, with strawberry and banana pudding ice cream in a chocolate jar rolled in peanuts, topped with strawberry topping, chocolate drizzle, a cherry, and banana.

Kids will love the Unicorn, a darling cotton candy ice cream creation with purple marshmallow drizzle inside a marshmallow cream dipped jar with sprinkles and topped with rainbow whipped cream, cotton candy, sour rainbow, and sugar cone horn).

The Yard also offers edible cookie dough if you’d prefer something besides ice cream. The menu also has gluten-free goodies and vegan-friendly options.


21. Do Typical Beach Activities

A beach vacation to me means getting an ice cream cone, playing mini-golf, and shopping for cheesy souvenirs. Why not take a hermit crab home to commemorate your Orange Beach vacation at Souvenir City (circa 1956), or at least a t-shirt spreading the Gulf Shores love? I’m not sure about you, but as a kid, I probably devoured no less than 500 bubble-gum ice cream cones in my time. I’ll forever treasure our beach memories when I see that ice cream, no matter where I go.

Photo from Souvenir City’s Facebook

And who doesn’t love a game of mini-golf? The family is always eager to play a round, especially when the venue has blue water and some crazy photo-ops, namely pirates. And speaking of pirates, you can enjoy a swashbuckling Pirate Ship Adventure Cruise that will be fun for the whole family.

Pro Tip: You can knock out mini-golf and ice cream at Shrimpy’s Mini Golf & Ice Cream Shop.

22. Straddle the State Line

You can be in two states at one time when you put one foot on the Florida side and one on Alabama at the Flora-Bama state line. You can also stay and enjoy the adult nightlife at the Flora-Bama, a waterfront bar with live music and a party atmosphere. Flora-Bama opened in 1964 and has been a staple in this region ever since.


23. Visit the Orange Beach Welcome Center

Pick up brochures and maps, and ask questions to travel professionals at the beautifully decorated Orange Beach Welcome Center. The staff is helpful and hospitable, and you can also take one of the full-color official vacation guides to help fill in the gaps of your visit. The welcome center is open seven days a week and offers free Wifi. 


24. Play at an Arcade

A beach vacation deserves a great day playing arcade games. It’s almost a rite of passage. You can play retro and current arcade games at Fat Daddy’s Arcade, with six locations: two in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Games range from basketball to The Wizard of Oz, Giant Crane game to Walking Dead and Plinko, and much more. 

25. Ride the Ferris Wheel and See the Light Show

The Wharf is really so much more than a one-stop shop. Two of the most popular things there are riding the giant Ferris wheel and seeing the free laser light show after the stores close nightly. The Ferris Wheel will cost you $8 per ride (ages three and under are free), is one of the tallest in the Southeast, and is entirely wheelchair accessible. 

The SPECTRA Laser Light Experience on Main Street at The Wharf has choreographed lighting (state-of-the-art lasers) to thrilling musical scores for all ages. The lights are dazzling, and the palm trees are the backdrop for the high-energy show. It’s a real thrill for all ages. Showtimes are nightly 8:30 PM (a patriotic display), 9 PM (a water and mythological sea creatures show), and 9:30 PM (a pirate adventure). 


Warning: This show’s flashing lights and strobe effect could potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy or other sensory disorders.

Tip: Grab a selfie at the “Orange Beach is my Happy Place” mural wall while at The Wharf. 


Orange Beach Delivers Family Fun For All Ages

Visiting Orange Beach is so much fun. I’m glad to see what draws people to visit and return to this Gulf Coast hotspot. Unlike most beach destinations, 85% of the area’s lodging is vacation rentals. There are also 15 campgrounds and RV parks. No matter where you rest your head, Orange Beach/Gulf Shores is sure to satisfy and make for a memorable vacation. We hope you will enjoy some of these 25 things to do for your Orange Beach, Alabama, vacation.


Thanks to the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism for hosting my visit to the Gulf Coast. As with all of my work, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.

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