Visitors to Gulf Shores. Alabama, who want to take playing in the sand to the next level now have the option of learning how to construct an awesome sand castle under the tutelage of Janel Hawkins, young owner of Sand Castle University.
Just east of the beachfront town of Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge offers a safe home to some of the area’s most threatened species. The last large undeveloped parcel of land along the Alabama Gulf Coast, the 7,000-acre refuge was created in 1980 to protect the habitats of migratory songbirds and those of threatened and endangered species. The Refuge, which has been named as one of Alabama’s Ten Natural Wonders, also offers humans a chance to commune with nature along one of its scenic hiking trails.
Baldwin County, Alabama, is pretty scenic from the ground, but for visitors who want to literally take their experience up to the next level, there’s nothing like floating over the Gulf Coast in a hot air balloon. Tommy Rachel of Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company has been taking passengers aloft for eighteen years now, though his interest in ballooning started more than thirty years ago when he went to help a friend in Orange Beach set up a balloon.
Scenic Point Clear, Alabama, is home to an iconic business, born as a backyard hobby, which has been dishing out sweet and savory treats for more than 65 years. Punta Clara Kitchen, located in the circa-1897 Brodbeck family home, welcomes visitors to enjoy a step back in time.
Tommy Rachel’s boat tours are headquartered in Magnolia Springs, Alabama, near the Alabama Gulf Coast. In addition to fishing trips, he offers nature cruises ranging from two hours to all day.
Since 1847, The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa has welcomed travelers to the shores of Mobile Bay. Recently, the Queen of Southern Resorts completed a three-year transformation and has now joined the Autograph Collection, Marriott’s portfolio of more than 150 distinctive properties.
Every August, the World’s Longest Yard Sale snakes its way 690 miles from Gadsden, Alabama to Hudson, Michigan. With such an embarrassment of riches, the shopper may not know where to start. (The stopping part is easy: you run out of money and/or room in the car). Here’s a suggestion: the southernmost part of the route follows the scenic Lookout Mountain Parkway 93 miles from Gadsden through a corner of Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since the Alabama portion of the route alone boasts some 1000 vendors, you will probably be throughly over the whole experience by the time you hit Chattanooga. If not, no problem. Just keep following the U.S. Highway 127 Corridor from Chattanooga for another 600 miles.
The beachfront town of Gulf Shores, Alabama, is headquarters of Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s, a combination restaurant, gift shop, fun park, and way of life perched on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway. LuLu’s,which is getting ready to celebrate its 19th anniversary, heads into Mardi Gras with a party involving a boat parade, live music from New Orleans’ Big Fun Brass Band, birthday cake and a couple of thousand well-wishers. “Mardi Gras is in the Buffetts’ blood,” says Marketing and Communications Director Gabrielle Barnett, who as she spoke was getting ready to go to Destin, Florida, which has its own LuLu’s. Lucy Buffett agrees: “Mardi Gras is special to me because I was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, where Mardi Gras originated.”
Early each spring, the charming resort town of Fairhope, Alabama, welcomes special guests to its haven on Mobile Bay. The travelers happily settle into their cottages near the pier and enjoy a hearty welcome-back dinner of mosquitoes.
A tree-lined neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama’s midtown cradles a Victorian mansion where visitors can experience the gentility of the Old South. The Kate Shepard House, a stately Queen Anne-style home replete with porches, balconies and turrets, was built in 1897 from a kit—the house’s components were assembled on-site–and went on to a distinguished career as both the Shepard family home and a private school run by Miss Kate Shepard. Outliving its original family by some years, the building fell upon hard times before it was rescued and renovated. Today, as the Kate Shepard House Bed and Breakfast, it has become a beloved Port City destination.