September 27, 2016

Week 2: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Ok, I can admit it. I am a snooty booty  (a snob for those of you looking for the definition now ;) when it comes to the beach. I can't help it. I grew up on the beaches of South Florida, namely Jupiter beaches. We are talking sunny skies, clean boardwalks, lush green mangroves lining the beach and clear blue waters. I mean, it's kind of AH-Mazing! Most other beaches seem a bit dull in comparison. I am also willing to admit that I could be wrong. It's been known to happen once or twice. Who knows? Maybe we'll find a new amazing beach that will put Jupiter beaches to shame.

All that being said, Gulf Shores was a nice time. I can definitely see why Texans or Northern Alabaman's (is that a word?) visit here for long weekends. I can especially see why they'd want to stay at Gulf State Park which is where we called home for the week. It is a very well run, clean park. There is a huge pool that looks like it's brand new, with a splash pad, Lake access, bike rentals, a nature center, kayaking rentals and even ziplining. You get free access to the pier and parking at the beaches when you stay at the State Park.

We enjoyed the pool and splash pad multiple times, the beach a few times at sunset and the nature center. Niko held a snake and Cayenne had some one on one time with a turtle. Everything else was a bit pricey (as in $75 pp for ziplining). We are ballin' on a budget so we can't do it all. That's the hardest part for me. I want to squeeze every single ounce out of each place we go to and this was the first place I felt like we couldn't do it all. Granted it's only our 2nd real spot on our adventure so I'm sure I'll experience this many more times. We also spent a lot of time this week cleaning, getting into a routine with homeschool, taking our dog Cola to the vet and really just figuring it all out. STILL.

This is Reno's face when he finds out we aren't going to the pool after the beach. HA!

That face! She is hilarious. 
Guide to Gulf Shores, Alabama - sunsets!

It was a busy week but overall we did see/do a lot. Here's the Cortes Guide to Gulf Shores!

1. Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Visitor Center- It's a really modern new building with the nicest 2 ladies ever to guide you in the direction you want to go. They gave us coupons (and this mama isn't ashamed to use those bad boys!) and advice on when to do what.

2. Fort Gaines- We took the Mobile Bay Ferry and the kids loved it! We took it over to Dauphin Island where we were able to go to Dauphin Island Sea Lab & Estuarium. I'd never even heard of an estuarium so it was definitely interesting. There were seahorses, a sting ray touch tank and just a lot to learn. Right next door was Fort Gaines. The kids got to hear cannons being set off as they celebrated their first annual Massacre Island's Pirate Siege. They had a pirate band and pirates (as in pretty sure these people really thought they were pirates) everywhere. It was a long and expensive day but it was a nice way for all of us (Edson included) to get to hang out and explore a new place.

3. Foley Railroad Museum- After the money pit of a day that was our family Sunday I opted for taking the kids to as many free things we could find. Que the Foley Railroad Museum. It was great! There is a large train the kids can explore outside but the huge model train display inside is where all the excitement happened. There are a bunch of old guys running this place that LOVE trains and could tell us a story about every building, train and detail. They let the kids honk the horns, drive the trains and one of them turned the lights off so we could see the display all lit up.  I was lucky enough to get some insider knowledge about the hotel on the display. The guy told me that there was a prostitute standing outside of the hotel. He said 'they rent rooms by the hour.' I couldn't help but laugh my uncomfortable laugh and then brush Reno off when he asked, "What'd he say?" "Nothing, buddy, nothing at all."

4. The Wharf at Orange Beach- This is a huge shopping area with restaurants, a ferris wheel and a Spectra Light Show. We came here around 7 or so and not many stores were open but we walked, went on the ferris wheel. and waited for the light show to begin at 8:30. There was the cutest coffee/ice cream shop called the Southern Grind there, too. That's a must visit for next time. We saw it as they were shutting down but it was all southern, all the way and I loved the decor and feel of the place. The light show was cool, too. It was a bunch of palm trees light up from top to bottom and the lights were set to music. Our kids were tired and thirsty by this time from all the walking so it was a bit anti-climactic. Note to self: Next time plan to have snacks or get ice cream for them to sit there and watch it happily. It doesn't help that its been in the mid-90s every day we were in Alabama.

Cayenne was so genuinely excited to be on a huge ferris wheel!

5. Farmer's and Fishermen's Market- The kids and I came to this market after reading online somewhere that it was a great place for local stuff. I was so glad we went. It was a bit off the beaten path but the cutest little set of indoor/outdoor shops ever. As in no a/c anywhere. Holy moly it was 98 that day. I felt awful for the people working there. At least we had a reprieve from the sun in the form of a/c in our car. It helped we bought ice cream.

Anywho- there is a large open air market where local vendors set up tables and sell their goods. There was a butcher, a baker and candlestick maker. Ok, not really but you get the idea: a little bit of everything. We ended up getting a White Pumpkin and Lilac candle and have been burning it every day since. So there you have it, we contributed to the local economy by spending $12 on a candle. ;) They also had a market with fresh tomatoes, fruits and veggies from local farms, the Alabama Straw Co. and a couple other store fronts,

So that was Gulf Shores. If I could do it again I'd probably leave out a couple things. For example: The Gulf Shores Museum. It was one of our free stops that I didn't even mention above. The lady working the place wasn't pleasant and we ended up leaving. It was not kid-friendly at all. There are a few things I'd suggest for people to do should they ever visit: Alligator Alley and the National Museuem of Naval Aviation. I read about those two places and heard people talking about Alligator Alley. Neither of them are right in Gulf Shores but it sounds like they are worth the drive.

We have been spoiled by South Florida beaches and the abundance of things to see/do in the Northern VA and DC Area. A lot of the things in Gulf Shores kinda feel (to me anyway) like a been there done that frame of mind. NoVA is home to tons of nature centers and really good ones with great programs. Florida is well... Florida and full of beaches, pools, splashpads and everything water related.

We are moving on to our next spot and looking forward to some cooler weather. Stick a fork in us because we are over the heat and humidity.

Hope you are keeping up with us! Please comment below as I love to read what you think, suggestions on what you'd like me to write about or whatever! Follow me on instagram to see fun photos real time at paigeec. Hope to hear from you soon!

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are using all these wonderful opportunities to combine the kids' activities with their home schooling. You are doing a great job, in spite of the issues you've had to deal with. I am so proud of you -- of all of you! You will never forget these memories.