Dauphin Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico south of Mobile, Alabama, is home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its Aquarium, which offers a close-up look at life under the water. The Aquarium—30 aquariums housing more than 100 species—is open to the public and highlights the four key habitats found along the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Located in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is not afraid of a challenge. In 2004, the Zoo had to relocate its animals in the face of Hurricane Ivan; the epic evacuation was featured in an Animal Planet documentary series, “The Little Zoo that Could.”
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, located at 423 Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans, features 23,000 square feet of insect-related fun, including a chance to see thousands of everybody’s favorite bug, the butterfly. Housed in the historic old Customs House, the attraction has been voted “a top museum for you and your kids” by CNN.com. Visitors should note that since the Customs House is a federal building, anyone entering must pass through Security. Yes, like the airport.
On October 10-13, the Alabama coastal town of Gulf Shores celebrates the 48th annual National Shrimp Festival, four days of peace, love and shrimp on the white Gulf beaches. The Festival began in 1971 as a way to keep tourists on the beach after Labor Day. That first Festival was more like a shrimp boil on the beach, with star power provided by a couple who had won a trip to Gulf Shores on the television show “The Dating Game.” All 1500 attendees were reported to have had a good time.
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.
The grounds of Asheville, North Carolina’s elegant old Grove Park Inn holds a surprise—a museum which showcases vintage cars in an historic building. Originally built in 1923, the headquarters of the Antique Car Museum was home to Biltmore Industries’ weaving shop, where forty looms turned out high-quality homespun cloth. In 1953, Biltmore Industries was purchased by Harry Blomberg, owner of one of the first Cadillac dealerships in North Carolina. Harry was an antique car aficionado and in 1966 he converted the old weaving shop to house his collection of vintage autos.
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.