Here are the top fun things to do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Alabama with teens! If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with plenty of family fun and adventure options, Gulf Shores, Alabama is the perfect destination!
Fun Things to do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Alabama with Teens
A 14 ½ hour drive from our home in Eastern Iowa, Gulf Shores, Alabama is one of the closest beaches to Eastern Iowa. With 32 miles of pristine sugar white sand and lovely turquoise blue water, spending time at the Gulf Shores Beaches is certainly no hardship. If you’re familiar with Pensacola, Florida, you know about where Gulf Shores is – just to the west of the Florida Panhandle across Perdido Key.
Thanks to a partnership with Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, our family of six recently had an amazing beach vacation exploring Alabama Beaches, the Gulf of Mexico, and the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
After an entire week there, we can say without hesitation: do not cut your Alabama beach vacation short! There’s no shortage of family friendly, adventure packed things to do: water sports, lovely white sand public beaches, delicious food and so much more.
Favorite Things to do in Orange Beach / Gulf Shores
While the beaches are the biggest draw to Gulf Shores, there are so many attractions in Gulf Shores / Orange Beach that your family will also love! We found so many other fun things to do besides playing on the beach, that scheduling in beach time was more difficult than we thought it would be!
Make sure to give your family enough time to enjoy the area. You’ll want at least a week to enjoy all of our favorite things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Sugar White Sand Beaches
The Alabama Gulf Coast features 32 miles of amazing beaches including Gulf Shores Beaches, Orange Beach, Perdido Beach and more. Covered in lovely sugar white sand made of pulverized quartz crystals, the Alabama beaches actually squeak when you walk on them! It’s so fun to take off your shoes and enjoy, so you’ll want to make sure to head out for sunrise, sunset, and in the middle of the day too!
Not only are the beaches family friendly, but I also really liked the reclamation efforts and natural sand dunes that protect wildlife like sea turtles and birds you’ll find in Gulf Shores. To get to the beaches, use the boardwalks instead of walking on the dunes. You’ll feel good about helping Gulf Shores protect its wildlife.
The Gulf Coast beaches are great for swimming, and you can also enjoy every type of adventure beach water sport: from dolphin cruises to stand up paddleboarding, parasailing, banana boats and deep sea fishing – you’re only limited by time and your budget.
My kids desperately wanted to try parasailing but it wasn’t in the cards on this trip. The good thing is there’s always next time! You can learn more about the best parasailing in Gulf Shores in this article.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re looking for undisturbed coastal habitats, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge located on the Fort Morgan Peninsula in Mobile and Baldwin County is the place to go. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 for the protection of migrating songbirds and is a very important place for successful bird migration. Your family will enjoy fishing, hiking, birding and more!
We didn’t make it out here during our trip, but next time we’ll have to visit. Our family really enjoyed the beach nature trails at DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida, so I know we would also enjoy the beach dune and wetlands communities at Bon Secour as well.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Known as the Little Zoo that Could, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo recently moved to a new 25 acre location several miles from the beach and was great fun! As the first zoo to ever evacuate animals due to a natural disaster, its efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Ivan were featured on an Animal Planet documentary during 2006 – 2007.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of going to the zoo, but the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was so much fun! I highly recommend carving out at least a half-day to enjoy this zoo with your teens. You won’t regret it!
Our entire family loved the animal encounter with baby kangaroos where we got to spend time hanging out in the baby kangaroo area with a zoo keeper. We got to pet, watch, and snuggle with baby kangaroos in a pouch! The knowledgeable and caring staff was amazing and informative and watching my kiddos snuggle a baby kangaroo and take selfies with them really made me smile.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo also offers animal encounters with reptiles, sloths, and lemurs as well. The lemurs are currently moving into a new home and encounters are temporarily closed. But they should be open again soon!
The animal encounters was high on our list of fun things to do in Gulf Shores! Learn about animal encounters at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo here.
Wild Native Tours Dolphin & Wildlife Kayak Experience
You could take a Dolphin Cruise on a boat, or you could get a little closer to the water by taking a Dolphin & Wildlife Kayak Experience with Wild Native Tours. Our family highly recommends the kayak experience!
Spend an afternoon paddling around the Intra-Coastal Waterway learning about local wildlife and enjoying being on the water. We didn’t see any dolphins when we were out and about, but we did watch osprey and pelicans. When we got back to the put-in spot, there were the dolphins. Perfect end to a lovely afternoon!
We kayaked in rented two-person crews led by a two guides. Wouldn’t you know it, also in our group was a family who lives 30 miles from us. It was as much fun talking to the other kayakers as it was listening to our informative guide.
Don’t forget to to bring reef-safe sunscreen, sun-shirts, hats! Our family of red-heads certainly needs all the sun protection we can get. All of our kids – from 17 years old on down to 10 really enjoyed this afternoon.
Book your unforgettable dolphin and wildlife kayak experience here!
Gulf State Park
Featuring 6,500 acres of land, beach access, a learning campus, the Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail, and the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier – your family will find all sorts of fun activities to enjoy at Gulf State Park.
The Gulf State Park Fishing & Education Pier is the second longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico at 1,540 feet long. It’s Alabama’s only public pier on the Gulf and is a fun and affordable place try ocean fishing!
We thought pier fishing was a nice family alternative to deep sea fishing. The kids that didn’t want to fish played on the beach while the fishers tried their best to catch ocean fish! We came up empty our day, but still had a great time!
Rent equipment and buy bait right on the pier and have a great morning watching the ocean.
Pro Tip: sign up for a two-hour workshop called the Angler Academy that teaches the basics to becoming a saltwater fisher!
The Wharf at Orange Beach
If your teens are excited about shopping, The Wharf at Orange Beach is a entertaining place to spend an evening. Even if shopping isn’t your thing, you can enjoy the ferris wheel, nightly laser show, delicious food, ice cream, cocktails, movies, an amphitheater and more!
Our teens enjoyed playing big family games outside Yo-Ho Rum and Tacos, taking in the fancy boats on the marina, browsing at stores, and gawking at the lights!
Find out more about the Wharf at Orange Beach!
The Park at OWA is at the Top of Our Fun Things to Do in Orange Beach Area
OWA (pronounced oh-wah) is the Muskogee Creek Native American word for Water. It’s a cute little adventure packed entertainment district in the town of Foley, about 25 minutes from Orange Beach. The Park at OWA features 23 rides on 520 acres – a little something for all level of adventurer.
We spent the perfect day there exploring the park, the shops, and the restaurants. The weather was overcast and looked a little stormy which seemed to keep the people away and the lines non-existent. Luckily, the weather didn’t impact the rides at all until the very end.
Pro-Tip: To get the full experience, hit up The Park and then leave the teens there – grab a drink at the Groovy Goat, a glass of wine at the Wine Shop, or try 13 flavors of Alabama moonshine for $1 at Murdercreek Moonshine! After your kids have finished at the amusement park, they can shop a while. Then have a family style dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen and take in the Legends in Concert tribute band!Learn more about OWA here.
Orange Beach Boat Rentals
Another adventurous way to spend time in Gulf Shores is to rent a pontoon boat! Our family picked up a pontoon from Flora-Bama Marina and Watersports, Dan got a quick lesson on the boat and the area, and we were off! We spent several hours tooling around Perdido Key – stopped the boat for a few swims, and enjoyed gawking at the homes and bigger ocean boats we say along the way.
Our pontoon was perfect for our family of six. It was big, clean, and new. Many of their boats were just recently replaced due to the destruction of Hurricane Sally. Flora-Bama Marina and Watersports offers all types of boats including jet skis, fishing charters and parasailing!
Learn more and book your boating trip here.
Pro-tip – grab a delicious charcuterie board from The Pantry at the Wharf – Concierge to Go to enjoy on your boat! After your boat ride, get a Bushwacker from the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge – right across the street from Flora-Bama Marina!
Another Fun thing to do in Gulf Shores – Epic Go-Karting at The Track
Another adventure activity our family loved was go-karting at this crazy three story elevated go-Kart track called The Track. My husband actually so this track from the air a few weeks before we to our family road trip from Iowa to Gulf Shores. He showed us a picture of it from the air and our kids were SOLD!
This was our 10 year old’s first solo go-karting attend and she rocked it! I will have to say, she was pretty petrified, but she was determined and had a great time. At 4’10”, she just passed the height requirement. I’d probably recommend taking a double car for first time kiddos, though.
Not only does The Track feature several kins of go-karts, they also offer a huge arcade, bumper boats, and more. Save money by buying a fun card online. If mini golf and laser tag are your things, find them across the street from The Track.
Tour Navy Cove Oyster Farm –
One thing we wanted to do but weren’t able to, was tour the Navy Cove Oyster Farm to learn about their sustainable aquaculture techniques, as well as the ecology and geology of Mobile Bay. I’m not sure the kids would have enjoyed this that much, but I was really looking forward to it. Next time!
In all, we can’t recommend Gulf Shores enough. When you’re landlocked in Iowa like we are, a warm beach vacation with some amazing Vitamin Sea is just what the doctor orders!
With so many amazing, adventurous and fun things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama – this area might just be the perfect family beach vacation destination! Many thanks to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and all their industry partners for making this an unbelievable family vacation.
Curious about where to stay and which restaurants we really enjoyed in Gulf Shores? Read my next post – planning the perfect Alabama Beaches Road Trip!