3 Day Teen Approved Itinerary – Orange Beach & Gulf Shores (Family Activities)

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If you’re heading to the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches with your teens and tweens, this three day itinerary is jam packed with Gulf Shores family activities the whole family will love! 

Many thanks to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach who sponsored much of this trip for my family.

Click here for your own Alabama Beaches Vacation Guide!

As the mom of four kids of different ages and diverse interests, vacations can be tough. Thankfully, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach have enough fun activities and beautiful beaches for kids of all ages – so I don’t have to listen to the familiar whine… “Mooooom – I’m bored.”


sunset at orange beach alabama

Where is Gulf Shores / Orange Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are on the southernmost tip of Alabama along the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll find these lovely beach towns between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. They are the closest beach to many towns throughout the Midwest, including my hometown in Eastern Iowa. 

A 15 hour drive from Eastern Iowa, or a quick plane ride from Cedar Rapids, Gulf Shores is the perfect spot for a beach inspired Spring Break or a summer vacation. It’s also a great place to visit in the fall or winter, perfect for a warm respite from the colder weather up north.

Non-Beach Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Family Activities

We decided to give you mostly beach-free options for three days to round out your beach vacation. Sometimes the weather is too cool for playing on the beach all day, but we don’t need to tell you to visit the beach, right? If the weather is warm enough for swimming, make sure to tack on a few beach days to make the most of your Gulf Shores vacation.

If you’re spending six days in the beach towns of Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, three days at the beach and three days of non-beach activities will help you make the most of your time there!

This full three-day itinerary jam packed full of family-fun, with tween and teen approved activities is just what your kids will want to do but parents will also enjoy! 

There are so many fun things to do in Gulf Shores that it’s hard to pick just these.  

gulf state park alabama

Gulf Shores Alabama Day 1 

If you can rouse your sleepy heads from bed, get up early to enjoy the sunrise with a walk on the beach. If you can’t rouse them – let them sleep and enjoy a peaceful walk anyway!

breakfast at Foodcraft

Breakfast: Foodcraft at Gulf State Park

Breakfast is served on the scenic patio at Foodcraft at Gulf State Park. I highly recommend the avocado toast, but the kids preferred the loaded buffet! 

avocado toast breakfast at Foodcraft

With two miles of beaches, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities, plus hiking trails, you might even want to arrive early enough to catch a beautiful beach sunrise.

 Foodcraft | 21196 E. Beach Blvd. Gulf Shores, AL 36542 | (251) 923-2950

Morning Activity: Gulf State Park Fishing Pier

After breakfast, head over to the Fishing Pier at Gulf State Park and try your luck at pier fishing. You can rent all the gear you need right on the pier! Gulf State Park Pier is a great place to people watch, boat watch, and grab some souvenirs. 

If people in your group aren’t excited about fishing, they can hang out on the beach just beside the pier and do all the beach-y things like build sand castles, jump over waves, take a stroll on the beach. There are more than 6100 acres of Gulf State Park, so everyone should find a fun way to pass the morning on Day 1.

Read: 29 Family-Friendly Things to do at Gulf State Park (+where to eat, where to stay!)

Two things to note about Pier Fishing: Anyone who is fishing needs a Saltwater Recreational Fishing Permit which you can buy online. Also, only paid parking is available at Gulf State Park. The fee is $3 for 2 hours, $5 for 4 hours, or $10 for a whole day. If you pay $10, one fishing permit is included. 

Learn more about Pier Fishing here.

Lunch: Tacky Jacks

Work up an appetite fishing and then head to Tacky Jacks. Voted the locals favorite hang-out, there are three locations to choose from – Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and Fort Morgan, and they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Tacky Jacks is also pet friendly and accessible via car or boat!

Eat lunch outside near the water and make sure to try the Mexican Garbage Nachos and Flaky Fish Tacos!

 Tacky Jacks | 27206 Safe Harbor Dr. Orange Beach, AL 36561 | (251) 981-4144

giraffe at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Afternoon Activity: Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Located just six miles from the beach, the whole family will definitely enjoy an afternoon at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo watching lemurs, lions, kangaroos, giraffes and more! The most interesting information about this zoo is that it had to evacuate from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The evacuation experience and subsequent rebuilding of the zoo in a safer area was documented by the Animal Planet in a series called The Little Zoo that Could.

Our family enjoyed exploring the 25 acre park, its 600+ mix of local and exotic animals, petting zoo, and reptile house. We thought watching the monkeys was the funniest thing!

And we definitely appreciate the zoo’s efforts to go green. You won’t find plastic straws, styrofoam, or plastic bottles at the Gulf Coast Zoo. Their dedication to conservation and education and their restaurant, The Safari Club, is Alabama’s first certified Green Restaurant!

baby kangaroo in a pouch at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Don’t forget to sign up for an Animal Encounter for an up-close and personal experience with your choice of lemurs, sloths, or baby kangaroos! Our teens and tweens loved every second of their time with the baby kangaroos!

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo |  20499 Oak Rd. E. Gulf Shores, AL 36542 | (251) 256-7008

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the foam pit at the Hangout Gulf Shores

Dinner: The Hangout Gulf Shores

With food as delicious as the many options for family fun here, you will all enjoy The Hangout located right by the beach at Gulf Shores. Not only do they serve delicious food, they also feature several stages for live music, a courtyard with fire pits, foam pits, sand piles, games and shopping. Eating at The Hangout is one experience you will not want to miss.

The Hangout | 101 E. Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL | (251) 948-3030

the Wharf at Orange Beach

Evening Activity: Explore The Wharf in Orange Beach

If you’re up for more excitement, head to The Wharf Entertainment District. There are lots of family friendly things to do here including the giant Ferris Wheel at the Wharf, shopping, ice cream, live music, ax throwing, and a free Laser Light show called SPECTRA, nightly at 8:00, 8:30, and 9:00 pm.

Our teens enjoyed perusing stores, eating ice cream, and looking at the yachts on the wharf!

 The Wharf | 23101 Canal Road Orange Beach, AL 36561 | (251) 224-1000

Gulf Shores Family Activities Day 2 –

Breakfast: City Donut

For breakfast, grab freshly baked donuts from City Donut on Perdido Beach Boulevard in Orange Beach. Keep it a little light today for a huge lunch!

City Donut | 25751 Perdido Beach Boulevard. A-5 Orange Beach, AL 36561 | 251-981-3688 

Day 2 Morning Activity:

Back to the beach until it’s time to head to Foley! You did choose Gulf Shores for the beautiful white sand beaches, right?? There are 32 miles of gorgeous beaches to explore!

lamberts cafe in foley al

Lunch: Lamberts Café III

Serving up family-style home cooking with servers who quite literally throw huge rolls across the restaurant, Lamberts Café is a restaurant legend you really shouldn’t miss. It’s so busy though, that we recommend dining there for lunch. It’s a 30-minute drive to Foley from the beach, so leave in time to arrive right at 11 am and power up for your day at OWA.

Lambert’s Cafe III | 2981 S. McKenzie Foley, AL 36535 | (251) 943-7655

Tropical Falls at OWA

Afternoon Activity: Tropical Falls at OWA

Featuring 23 rides on 520 acres, Tropical Falls Amusement Park at OWA has a little something for all types and ages of adventurers including roller coasters, kiddie rides, and more! It’s the perfect place to spend a day on your family vacation. Younger children and older children will all find fun things to do!

Tropical Falls water park under construction at OWA

OWA also features one of the newest water parks in Alabama – with the addition of a large, indoor water park since we were there! And Phase 2 is coming in 2023 – a huge wave pool and a surf simulator. My son did a surf simulator at the Grove Resort in Orlando, and he really loved it! 

If your kids enjoy shopping, they’ll also like to explore the independently owned and operated stores at OWA’s Downtown District. There’s definitely enough fun activities to take up an entire day at OWA. 

murder creek distillery owa

Parents: we definitely recommend a stop at Murder Creek Distillery, where you can sample every flavor of moonshine they sell for only $1!

Tropical Falls at OWA | 101-N South OWA Blvd. Foley, AL 36535 | (251) 923-2111

Dinner: Choose your own at OWA’s Downtown District

 There are so many delicious options for dinner at OWA! We recommend:

  • Groovy Goat – everything is made from scratch at the Groovy Goat! We stopped in here for drinks while the kids were still riding rides, but every dish that came out to the tables around us looked and smelled delicious!
  • Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill – we ate a different Sassy Bass and it was so amazing! Their daily catch specials are not to be missed.
  • Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen – if you’re looking for southern comfort food served family style, this is your bet!
the theater at owa

Evening Activity: Entertainment at OWA

There are lots of things to do at OWA after dark. Ranging from shows at the OWA Theater to arcade games at the Arcade at OWA, you can also catch a Brandon Styles show! 

Learn more about the entertainment options at OWA here. 

Day 3 Gulf Shores Family Activities

Breakfast: Buzzcats Coffee and Sweets

Grab some coffee and a monster cinnamon roll or one of their weekly breakfast specials at Buzzcats Coffee. Take your appetite!

Buzzcats | 25689 Canal Road Ste. A, Orange Beach, AL | 251-980-2899

The Track Family Fun Park

Morning Activity: The Track Family Fun Park

You’ll find The Track at the Intracoastal Waterway not far from world famous LuLus Restaurant. They open for fun at 10 am on the weekends so head out for a morning full of arcades, go-carts, bumper boats and more!

Our family loved riding go karts on the three-level track most of all! Younger kids will need to ride with an adult, but older kids and thrill seekers will love this epic go-kart track!

the pantry at the wharf charcuterie to go

Lunch: The Pantry at The Wharf

Grab a delicious concierge charcuterie to-go from The Pantry at The Wharf on your way to the Flora-Bama Marina. They also have beautiful desserts and all sorts of goodies the whole family will enjoy!

The Pantry | 4790 Wharf Pkwy Ste. F106 Orange Beach, AL 36561 | (251) 981-2988

flora bama watersports

Afternoon Activity: Take a Boat Ride

Spend the afternoon on a pontoon boat from the Flora-Bama Marina & Watersports! If pontooning isn’t for you, they also rent jet skis for an afternoon of jet skiing excitement. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon puttering around the water, admiring the waterfront houses, and taking in the other boats. It was too cold for swimming the day we were out, but that did not deter us from having a great time!

Flora-Bama Marina | 29603 Perdido Beach Blvd. Orange Beach, AL 36561 | (251) 980-5222

Dinner: Flora-Bama Ole River Grill

Since you’re already down at the Alabama / Florida state line, you may as well stop in at the Ole River Grill and enjoy a delicious dinner on Flora-Bama’s open-air water-front deck! (Don’t worry – they also have AC if it’s too hot to sit outside!)

Evening Activity: Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf

Enjoy an evening of fun at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf located at the foot of the inter-coastal water bridge from Foley to the beaches. This miniature golf course will take your family on a treasure hunt through waterfalls, over bridges, through a seaside village and a tidal lagoon! Grab a coupon for the kids at their website linked below.

Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf | 3201 Gulf Shores Pky Gulf Shores, AL | (251) 968-GOLF

Now that you have a solid three day list of Gulf Shores Family Activities, what timer of year are you most looking forward to visiting?

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About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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