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Apr 15 14

Easter Happenings on the Gulf

by S. Lynne

All along the Alabama and Florida Gulf coasts, communities are getting ready to celebrate Easter this weekend with live music, egg hunts, bunny visits, and more – and visitors of all ages are welcome to join in! Following is a (partial) list of what’s going on.

Destin and South Walton

– The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin, April 19, noon to 3 p.m., Easter Explosion. Visits with the Easter Bunny, kids’ crafts, Inflatable Fun Zone, stilt walker making balloon animals, face painting. There will be a special showing of Peter and the Wolf, presented by Sinfonia Gulf Coast, at 1 p.m. http://www.baytownewharf.com

– Emerald Grande, HarborView Room and HarborWalk Village, Destin, April 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Easter Bunny Brunch (till 2 p.m.) in the HarborView Room, followed by kids’ activities and photos with the Easter Bunny at HarborWalk Village. http://www.emeraldgrande.com

– Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, April 20, 6 a.m., sunrise service, conducted by Destin UMC. www.destinumc.org

– Eastern and Western greens, Rosemary Beach, April 20, non-denominational worship service, (8:30 a.m. on the Eastern Green; bring your own low-rise chair), followed by an Easter egg hunt and complimentary mimosas for the adults (9:45 on the Western Green, rain or shine). http://www.rosemarybeach.com

– WaterColor Inn and Resort, Marina Park, Rosemary Beach, April 20, 12:30-2 p.m., WaterColor Easter Celebration. Free and open to the public, so bring the kids for an Easter egg hunt and more! www.watercolorresort.com

– Baytowne Marina, Sandestin, April 20, 1-3 p.m., Easter lunch cruise on the Solaris. Enjoy a three-course buffet meal prepared by the luxury yacht’s executive chefs. Reservations required. www.SunQuestCruises.com or 850-650-2519

– Lyceum Lawn, Seaside, annual Easter Egg-stravaganza, April 20, noon to 2 p.m. Events include a visit from the Easter Bunny, live music from 30A Radio, and an Easter egg hunt for more than 12,000 eggs. http://www.seasidefl.com

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area

– The Wharf, Orange Beach, April 19, 11 a.m. – Easter egg hunt featuring 2,500 eggs, face painting, balloon artists, and more. http://www.alwharf.com

– Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Live Oak Plaza, Theodore, AL, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service, followed by Continental breakfast in the Magnolia Cafe, 7:30-8:30 a.m. http://www.bellingrath.org/

– Flora-Bama Lounge, Orange Beach/Perdido Key, April 20, 11 a.m., Worship on the Water. http://www.florabama.com

– Gulf State Park beach pavilion, Gulf Shores, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service. https://www.alapark.com/gulfstate/

– The Hangout, Gulf Shores, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service, followed by an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet. An egg hunt for the kids begins at 11 a.m. http://www.thehangout.com

– LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores, April 20, 2 p.m. Easter egg hunts, arts and crafts, visit from the Easter Bunny. http://lulubuffett.com

Panama City Beach

– Frank Brown Park, April 19, 10 a.m., Easter egg hunt, hosted by the City of Panama City Beach. www.visitpanamacitybeach.com

– Pier Park, April 19, noon. Easter Egg Scramble, featuring more than 7,000 eggs filled with sweet treats and other fun surprises, arts and crafts, and more. http://www.pcbeach.org/events/events-community.php

Southwest Florida

– Siesta Key 14th Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Games, April 19, 9-11:30 a.m. Each child gets a goody bag stuffed with prizes and an Easter stuffed animal. http://www.siestakeychamber.com/event_calendar

– Manatee Public Beach, Anna Maria Island, Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island’s 50th Annual Easter Sunrise Service, April 20, 6:30 a.m. Attendees should bring their own blankets and chairs. The Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe will open at 6 a.m. for breakfast. The island trolley will also start running at 6 a.m.

– Sanibel Island, G Dock, Port Sanibel Marina, Easter Egg Hunt and Dolphin Cruise “Island Style,” April 20, 10-11:30 a.m. Join the Easter Bunny for a cruise of San Carlos Bay to Picnic Island for an Easter egg hunt. And maybe see some dolphins on the way! http://www.adventureinparadiseinc.com

For places to stay while you’re enjoying Easter on the coast, check out our links at www.beachguide.com.

Apr 14 14

Awesome Gulf Shores Vacation Deals on Condos and Houses

by Renee

Gulf Shores vacation special for April
Vacation guests who book and stay in April with Young’s Suncoast will save up to 35% on stays in a beachfront condo or cottage rental in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or Fort Morgan. Plan a trip for Easter, the Mullet Toss, Spring Break, or just a weekend getaway. This Gulf Shores vacation deal is good on new reservations only.

Call 800-890-1265 to speak with a reservationist or book online and use Promo Code Awesome35.

Some popular resorts included on this offer are The Lighthouse, San Carlos Condominiums, Boardwalk Condominiums. Or, choose from a large selection of Beach house rentals. In Orange Beach, the special offer includes The Wharf, Pelican Pointe and Summerchase Condominiums.

 

Mar 31 14

The Gulf Coast Welcomes Spring With Food, Wine, Music, and Fun

by S. Lynne
la gumbo festival bowl of gumbo

The Seabreeze Jazz Festival is coming to PCB's Pier Park April 23-27.

With a lineup of events that includes music festivals and food festivals, plus the iconic Flora-Bama’s annual Mullet Toss, folks along the Gulf Coast are gearing up to have fun this spring. Following are some highlights of what’s happening in the next few weeks.

April 5 and 6, Pensacola Beach, 31st annual Pensacola Jazz Fest, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both days, Seville Square. Presented by the Jazz Society of Pensacola, the festival celebrates jazz, gospel, and blues. Other activities include an arts and crafts exhibition and hands-on entertainment for the kids. Admission is free. For details, visit www.jazzpensacola.com.

April 23-27, Panama City Beach, 16th annual Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Pier Park. Named one of the top ten jazz festivals in the USA by JazzIZ magazine, the festival features both local talent and nationally and internationally known stars. Among the festival highlights are a dinner cruise on Wednesday, April 23, featuring Brian Culbertson, and a midday cruise the following day with Eric Darius. Both cruises, aboard the luxury yacht Solaris, depart from Lighthouse Marina in Panama City Beach. Hours for the dinner cruise are 7 to 10 p.m., with the boat boarding at 6:30 p.m. The Thursday cruise runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the boat boarding at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are available online at www.seabreezejazzfestival.com or by phone at 800-595-4849.

April 24-27, Destin, South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival, Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. The four-day event includes wine and food pairings, wine tastings (more than 800 wines from around the world), craft beer and spirits tastings and food pairings, and live entertainment. Special guests include celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. On Saturday and Sunday, Nashville’s top songwriters will perform their hit songs as part of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Endless Summer Songwriters Series. Tickets, priced from $40 to $150, are available at www.sowalwine.com.

April 25-27, Orange Beach/Perdido Key, annual Flora-Bama Mullet Toss – officially known as “The Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party,” on the beach outside the Flora-Bama Lounge. One of the iconic roadhouse’s most popular events, the Mullet Toss annually raises around $20,000 for local youth charities. It features daily competitions in which participants take turns throwing a frozen mullet across the state line from Alabama into Florida. Participants compete in groups based on age and gender, and prizes are awarded in each group for the longest tosses. The fun starts at noon on Friday and at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The cost to toss a mullet is $15. Related events include the Mullet Man Triathlon, on Saturday, April 19, and the Mullet Swing Golf Classic, on Wednesday, April 23. For more information, visit www.florabama.com.

April 30-May 4, Panama City Beach, 16th annual Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally, various venues around town, including Boardwalk Beach Resort, Club LaVela, Frank Brown Park, Hammerhead Fred’s Island Grill and Bar, Harley-Davidson of Panama City Beach, Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar, the Shoppes at Edgewater, and Wicked Wheel Bar and Grill. Events include the Kick-Start party, Miss and Ms. Thunder Beach pageants, Best of Thunder Beach Custom Bike Show, the Official Thunder Beach Bike Parade, and the Official Thunder Beach Poker Runs. For details, check out www.thunderbeachproductions.com.

May 9-11, Orange Beach LA Gumbo Festival, The Wharf. It’s LA (Louisiana) versus L.A. (Lower Alabama) gumbo as chefs compete to see whose version is the best. In addition to the gumbo cook-off, events include live entertainment, more food, arts and crafts, and cooking up the world’s largest pot of gumbo. To learn more, call 251-224-1000 or visit www.gumboforlife.com.

May 16-18, Gulf Shores, Hangout 2014 Music Fest, on the beach by the Hangout restaurant. This year’s headliners for what has become one of the most popular music festivals in the country include The Black Keys, The Killers, Outkast, and Jack Johnson. Other artists include Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse, and The Flaming Lips. Tickets are available at www.hangoutmusicfest.com. The kick-off party, on May 15, requires a separate ticket.

For places to stay, restaurants, and other things to do while you’re at the beach, visit www.BeachGuide.com and click on our links.

Mar 13 14

Plans for the Perfect Wedding Start With the Beach

by S. Lynne
watercolor night reception at pool

Both romantic and practical, beach weddings are popular with busy couples who want their big day to stand out from the crowd. And the white sands and emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico form a dramatic backdrop that’s guaranteed to make your wedding memorable. Other attractive Gulf Coast venues include lush tropical gardens, elegant resorts, and quiet bed-and-breakfast inns.

You’ll find more about spots that specialize in wedding bells by clicking on our links at www.BeachGuide.com. Many of our vacation rental properties offer special package deals that include lodging for you and your guests, plus on-site wedding planners and lists of preferred caterers, florists, and other vendors to make your choices easier.

To help take the pain out of planning one of the biggest events of your life, we’ve also put together a comprehensive month-by-month checklist of things to do and when to do them – because the secret to pulling off the perfect beach wedding, be it big or small, is to pay attention to the details!

BeachGuide.com Beach Wedding Checklist and Planning Guide

Twelve to Nine Months Before the Wedding:

– Start a wedding folder or binder, and create a Pinterest board to collect ideas for colors, food, fashions, etc. Also start researching photographers, bands, florists, and caterers. Put their contact information in your binder and examples of their work on Pinterest.

– Determine your budget.

– Choose your venue (beach, resort, bed and breakfast, garden, etc.), and reserve a date and time (For a wedding on the beach or at another outdoor venue, make sure there’s a backup spot in case bad weather forces you to move the party indoors).

– Book your officiant.

– Pick your wedding party.

– Start the guest list.

– Hire a wedding planner (optional).

– Block out rooms or arrange other lodging for wedding guests.

– Take engagement photos.

– Throw an engagement party (optional).

Eight Months Before:

– Hire the caterer (unless your wedding venue offers its own catering service).

– Hire the photographer.

– Book the entertainment.

– Choose and order your gown ( preferably light-weight and comfortable for a beach wedding).

– Register with retailers (at least three).

Seven to Six Months Before:

– Choose and buy invitations, and, if desired, hire a calligrapher to address them.

– Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses (so there’s plenty of time to order and size them).

– Meet with the officiant to discuss the ceremony and ensure that you have all the official wedding documents (these will vary by county and religion).

– Start planning the honeymoon (and make sure your passports are up to date, if you’re traveling out of the country).

– Send save-the-date cards.

– Book a florist.

– Book wedding transportation (limos, minibuses, town cars, trolleys, etc.).

– Shop for wedding rings.

– Choose groom’s and groomsmen’s attire. (For a beach wedding, it doesn’t have to be formal!)

–Take dancing lessons with your fiance (only if the two of you need them, of course!).

Five to Four Months Before:

– Book venues for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner

– Order the cake. (Make sure you taste before you order!)

– Buy wedding shoes and other accessories and start dress fittings.

– Schedule hair and makeup artists.

– Choose your music. (It’s a good idea to keep a running list of what you do – and do not – want played.)

Three Months Before:

– Mail invitations.

– Finalize the menu and flowers.

– Finalize the order of the ceremony and reception.

– Order favors, if desired.

– Buy wedding accessories (guest book, ring pillow, etc.)

– Buy gifts for your bridal party.

– Print menu cards and programs (You can save money by doing this on your computer rather than going to a printer.)

– Send your finalized event schedule to your vendors.

Two Months Before:

– Meet with the photographer to discuss specific shots and find locations that appeal to you.

– Submit a wedding announcement to the newspaper.

– Write (or customize) your vows.

– Finalize ceremony details with the officiant.

– Coordinate date of your bachelorette party with the Maid of Honor.

One Month Before:

– Get your marriage license (generally takes five or six days, but it’s better to allow plenty of time).

– Choose your something old, new, and blue, and select your wedding jewelry.

– Break in your wedding shoes.

– Review RSVPs and phone people who have not responded.

– Mail rehearsal dinner invitations.

– Visit dressmaker for final wedding dress fitting.

– Stock the bar (now that you have a firm head count).

– Assign seating.

– Get your hair cut and colored.

– Confirm times for hair, makeup, and all vendors.

– Review photo list with photographer.

Week of the Wedding:

– Contact vendors again to verify arrival times.

– Check on one final time with the photographer.

– Pick up your dress.

– Delegate tasks such as carrying your things, handing out tips, being in charge of gifts, etc.

– Write checks for the vendors and put tips in envelopes ready to be handed out.

– Send the final guest list to the caterer and other vendors.

– Schedule a manicure and pedicure (for the day before the wedding) and, if you like, a massage to relax you and relieve stress.

– Rehearse the ceremony with the officiant and the bridal party.

– Enjoy the rehearsal dinner.

A post-wedding walk on the beach at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The popular Destin resort offers full-service wedding planning.

Wedding Day

– Give the rings to the Best Man or Maid of Honor

– Exchange gifts with your fiance.

– Relax and enjoy the day!

Mar 7 14

Sandestin Wine Festival Promises Food, Wine, and Fun in the Sun

by S. Lynne
sandestin wine festival 1

Get ready to “Uncork Some Fun in the Sun” at this year’s Sandestin Wine Festival, scheduled for April 10-13. Now in its 28th year, the annual festival offers wine lovers the rare opportunity to sample hundreds of wines from around the world, interact with top wine makers, learn what foods and wines go best together, and buy favorite wines at discounted prices.

This year’s event kicks off Thursday night, April 10, at the Village of Baytowne Wharf, where local restaurants will offer specially prepared menus featuring appropriate wine pairings. On Friday, the Village of Baytowne Wharf will host the Grand Wine Tasting, a chance to learn about the best appellations from all of the major wine-producing countries. Also on Friday, the Delicious Food Pairings will feature foods prepared by local chefs and paired with complimentary wines. Another Grand Wine Tasting takes place on Saturday afternoon, again at the Village of Baytowne Wharf.

The festival ends on April 13 at Baytowne Marina with Sunday Brunch by the Bay, featuring live music, good food, and a selection of great Champagnes and sparkling wines.

Festival-goers will be able to purchase wines and spirits at discounted prices in the Retail Tent, which will be open daily Friday through Sunday. Sandestin Wine Festival tickets, priced from $55 to $125, can be ordered online at www.SandestinWineFestival.com.

And don’t forget to check out www.BeachGuide.com/Destin for vacation rentals, places to shop, and other things to do while you’re in town.

Feb 12 14

February Fun in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

by S. Lynne
miram mardi gras logo

Winter Dinner Specials, Cafe Palm Breeze, Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach. Enjoy Chef John Hamme’s Two for Tuesdays (every Tuesday), featuring two entrees and two glasses of wine for $18.95. And feast on daily dinner specials for $12.95 per person Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. For menus and more information, visit http://www.perdidobeachresort.com; contact the concierge at 251-981-9811, ext. 103; or send an e-mail to café@perdidobeachresort.com.

Mystical Order of Mirams Parade float (above) and Mirams krewe logo (top)

Tropical Re-Union, LuLu’s, Gulf Shores, February 15, 4 p.m. Register online at http://www.lulubuffett.com/tropical-vow-renewal.php or sign up at the door for this FREE Valentine’s Day wedding vow renewal ceremony. Enjoy live music and chances to win prizes, plus complimentary wedding cake, a wedding vow certificate, flowers for the bride, and a champagne toast!

Second Annual Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball, LuLu’s, Gulf Shores, February 26, 7 p.m. Enjoy live music, a buffet feast, and lots of fun with Krewe De Lu Roux. Tickets, on sale now, cost $50 per person and include the buffet, an open bar, and entertainment (all participants must be at least 21 years old). For tickets, call 251-967-5858 or visit LuLu’s online store at http://shop.lulubuffett.com.

Mystical Order of Mirams Parade, Orange Beach, February 28, 6:30 p.m. Mobile’s famous Mardi Gras celebration comes to Orange Beach via this popular parade put on by an all-woman krewe. Collect sweets, trinkets, beads, and toys as the revelers travel their route from Wintzell’s Oyster House to Highway 161 in Orange Beach. There is no charge to watch the fun!

Check out our links, www.beachguide.com/gulfshores and www.beachguide.com/orangebeach for places to stay and other things to do in the area.

 

Jan 21 14

Walks on the Wild Side Explore the Alabama Gulf Coast

by S. Lynne
bon secour 3

The mild days of winter are ideal for exploring nature along the Alabama Gulf Coast. And the park rangers at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores are offering guided walks for visitors who’d like to learn about the natural history of the area.

The themed walks, scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday each week from January 28 through March 6, include a Bird Walk, Nature Hike, and Dynamic Dunes Beach Tour. The Bird Walk is geared to all ages and is for both beginning and experienced bird watchers. The Dynamic Dunes Tour will explore the beach and dunes. Participants in the Nature Hike will learn about the ecology, plants, and wildlife of Alabama’s coastal wetlands.

There is no charge for the walks, but reservations are required, and 24 hours’ notice is requested for cancellations. The one- to two-hour walks are limited to 12 people each.

For more information and to sign up for a walk, contact Park Ranger Denise McInturff at 251-540-7720 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To learn more about Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, visit the refuge’s Web site at http://www.fws.gov/bonsecour.

With off-season rates and fewer crowds, winter is the perfect time to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast. For more information about where to stay, things to do, and places to eat, click on our links to Gulf Shores vacation rentals, Gulf Shores recreation, Gulf Shores restaurants, Orange Beach vacation rentals, Orange Beach recreation, and Orange Beach restaurants.

Jan 9 14

Gulf Coast Food Festivals Warm Chilly Winter Days

by S. Lynne
sandestin gumbo festival gumbo

Winter is prime time for food festivals along the Gulf Coast. Following are details on some of the most popular, coming up in the next few weeks.

Apalachicola Oyster Cook-off – Friday, January 17, 6 – 8 p.m., and Saturday, January 18, noon – 5 p.m., Riverfront Park

On Friday evening, there will be a preview of oyster-related silent auction items, plus a sampling of the tasty Apalachicola Bay bivalves.

Saturday’s cook-off starts at noon, with judging and live entertainment (bands and dancing) starting at 2 p.m. Oysters prepared every conceivable way – raw, steamed, fried, baked – will be served, along with other refreshments.

Proceeds benefit the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department. For more information, visit www.oystercookoff.com.


Sandestin Gumbo Festival, Friday and Saturday, February 14 and 15, the Village of Baytowne Wharf.

The festival weekend starts Friday night with a seafood boil at Baytowne Marina Bar and Grille. Cost for the event, which begins at 2 p.m. and continues until the food runs out, is $15 per person. For more information, call 850-267-7778.

Saturday marks the 25th year of the Sandestin Gumbo Festival with live Zydeco music and activities for the kids as well as samplings of delectable chicken, sausage, and seafood gumbos from leading Gulf Coast restaurants and businesses. Hours for the festival are noon to 4 p.m.

Advance tickets are available now for $20 per person ($25 on the day of the event). For tickets and more information, click on www.sandestingumbofestival.com.

Note: The Sandestin Gumbo Festival will take place rain or shine!

Emerald Coast Parrot Heads Annual Chili Cook-off - Saturday, February 22, noon – 4 p.m., HarborWalk Village, Destin

Proceeds from the event benefit the American Cancer Society – Relay for Life. For more information, visit www.emeraldgrande.com.

St. George Island Regional Charity Chili Cook-off and Auction, Friday, February 28, through Saturday, March 1, center of St. George Island.

In addition to Saturday’s professional chili cooking contest, events will include a golf tournament (at St. James Bay Golf Course), the 5K Red Pepper Run, the Crock Pot Chili contest (for amateur cooks), Miss Chili Pepper and Mister Hot Sauce contests, and an art auction.

Event proceeds help fund the St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department and First Responders. For more information, call 850-927-2753 or visit www.stgeorgeislandchilicookoff.com.

 

Dec 23 13

Polar Bear Dip Marks New Year’s on the Gulf

by S. Lynne
polar bear dip sign

Continuing what has become a New Year’s tradition on the coast, the Flora-Bama invites everyone to take a quick dip in the Gulf on January 1. Scores of partiers, some in costume and others wearing nothing but their swimsuits, will gather on the beach outside the iconic roadhouse at high noon for the annual Polar Bear Dip. And it takes more than the chilly (think mid-fifties) water to dampen the enthusiasm of this crowd, which typically numbers 1,000 people or more.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Nelson Studios

The free event, which is open to all ages, starts around 11 a.m., with the dip in the Gulf scheduled for noon. The watery free-for-all is followed by a traditional feast of black-eyed peas, cornbread, ham, and more. There will be live music all day long, and plenty of fun for everyone.

The Flora-Bama is located at the Alabama/Florida state line, between Orange Beach and Perdido Key. For places to stay in the area, check out our listings at Orange Beach vacation rentals, Perdido Key vacation rentals, and Gulf Shores vacation rentals. And here’s hoping you have a safe and happy new year!

Dec 10 13

Aviation Museum Offers Family Fun Away From the Beach

by S. Lynne
national naval aviation museum exterior

As an outing for a rainy day, or just for a break from sun and sand, Pensacola’s National Naval Aviation Museum offers an exciting and educational experience for the whole family. One of the most-visited museums in Florida, the kid-friendly facility offers free admission, free parking, and free guided tours of everything from vintage aircraft (more than 150 of them) to a panoramic view of life aboard a World War II aircraft carrier.

Interactive exhibits include flight simulators, motion simulators, and the authentically reproduced cockpits of dozens of famous aircraft. Themed exhibits explore such topics as Naval Aviation in World War I, the POW Experience in Vietnam, Naval Aviation in Space, and Women in Naval Aviation. The museum houses more than 4,000 artifacts, including vintage uniforms, photographs, historic documents, and military equipment.

The museum also houses an IMAX Giant Screen Theater and the new Blue Angels 4D Theater, both of which show exciting, interactive movies.  There’s a museum store selling clothing, toys, games, artwork, jewelry, and other gift items, and a cafe that’s open daily and serves soups, salads, deli sandwiches, and desserts.

For more information, visit www.navalaviationmuseum.org. And for places to stay in the area, check out our links at http://www.beachguide.com/PensacolaBeach-vacation-rentals and http://www.beachguide.com/PerdidoKey.

Nov 27 13

Annual Light Show Dazzles at Bellingrath Gardens

by S. Lynne
bellingrath magic christmas poinsettias

More than three million lights will illuminate the skies over Bellingrath Gardens and Home as the Theodore, Alabama, estate celebrates its annual Magic Christmas in Lights. The show, which starts November 29 and runs through December 31, includes some 1,000 displays throughout the 65-acre property.

The English Renaissance-style Bellingrath mansion will be dressed for the holidays as well with poinsettias, twinkling lights, Christmas trees, and magnificent arrangements of seasonal greenery. Nightly choral performances will be held on the home’s South Terrace.

Guests can also have their picture taken with Santa and shop for Christmas presents in the estate’s well-stocked gift shop. And the on-site Magnolia Cafe will be serving dinner, with specials offered daily.

Admission prices for Magic Christmas in Lights are $15 for adults (13 and older), $7 for children aged 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under. Prices for Magic Christmas in Lights and a tour of the Bellingrath mansion are $24 for adults (13 and older), $13 for children aged 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.

Magic Christmas in Lights is open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. through December 31 (closed Christmas Day). Home tours are given every hour and half hour until 8:30 p.m.

Advance tickets can be ordered online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/466694. Tickets are also available at the door. For more information about Belllingrath Gardens and Magic Christmas in Lights, visit http://www.bellingrath.org.

For links to area vacation rentals, restaurants, and more, visit www.BeachGuide.com/GulfShores and www.BeachGuide.com/OrangeBeach.

Nov 7 13

Happening in November in Destin

by S. Lynne
sandestin habitrot for humanity

Saturday, November 9

Habitrot for Humanity Half Marathon and 5K Run

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, 6 a.m. to noon

Course features spectacular scenery ranging from beach to bay. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity.

www.sandestin.com/events

Saturday, November 16

Sandestin Wine Festival presents Sparkling Wine and Holiday Nights

Village of Baytowne Wharf, 4 to 7 p.m.

Participants will sample a selection of champagnes and sparkling wines, plus complimentary holiday fare from Village restaurants. Cost is $40 per person.

www.sandestinwinefestival.com for tickets

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28

Thanksgiving Brunch on the Bay

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Linkside Conference Center, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Menu includes fresh shrimp, oysters, and crab claws; made-to-order omelets; sage-rubbed roasted turkey; pineapple and bourbon-glazed ham; roasted steamship round of beef; assorted seasonal sides; and bananas foster flambe. Cost is $46 per person (adult), $19 (ages 5 to 12).

850-267-6398 or thanksgivingbrunch@sandestin.com for reservations

Thanksgiving Buffet Feast

Solaris Luxury Cruise, 11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Leaves from Sandestin’s Baytowne Marina.

The Solaris is a 125-foot, three-deck, 5,200-square-foot yacht. Menu includes garlic-and-herb-roasted turkey with giblet gravy, maple ham, and shrimp-and-andouille jambalaya. Full-service bar will be open throughout the cruise. Cost is $58 per person (adults), $35 (ages 3 to 10), $20 (under 3).

850-650-2519 or www.SunQuestCruises.com for reservations

Thanksgiving Day Feast at Hilton Sandestin

Emerald Ballroom, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Menu includes chef-carved fried turkey breast and cranberry-cornbread dressing, Grouper Casino, chicken roulade with cranberry and sage, and roasted Long Island duck in orange sauce. Cost is $34.95 per person (adults), $12.95 (ages 6 to 12), and complimentary for children 5 and under accompanied by a paid adult.

850-267-9500, extension 44, or 800-559-1805 for reservations

Need a place to stay in Destin? Check out our vacation rental listings at www.BeachGuide.com for condos, cottages, beach houses, and hotels in the area, plus any special deals they’re offering.
Oct 30 13

Songwriters Take the Spotlight at Annual Music Festival

by S. Lynne
fb songwriters fest sheet music

The Gulf of Mexico and its white-sand beaches are the backdrop for the 29th annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. Rated one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, the Frank Brown festival showcases the talents of songwriters from around the world.

This year, the 11-day event runs from Thursday, November 7, through Sunday, November 17, and features more than 200 songwriters. They’ll be performing at multiple venues – from Perdido Key and Pensacola, Florida, to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama. The headquarters for the festival is the iconic Flora-Bama Lounge on Perdido Key.

The line-up of songwriters includes Larry Henley, who wrote the 1989 Better Midler hit “Wind Beneath My Wings”; Will Rambeaux, who wrote “Wild One,” performed by Faith Hill; and Brett Jones, who penned “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” sung by Justin Moore. Past performers include Earl Bud Lee, whose “Friends in Low Places” was recorded by Garth Brooks, and Steve Dean, who has co-written six number one hits, including “Walk On” for Reba McEntire and “Southern Star” for Alabama.

Named for the late Frank Brown, music lover and night watchman at the Flora-Bama for 28 years, the festival is unique in that it spotlights songwriters rather than performing artists, giving them their own opportunity to shine. And because most of the entertainment venues are small, they also have plenty of chances to interact with the audience and share the stories behind their songs.

For more information on the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival and lists of venues and entertainers, visit www.fbisf.com. Admission at most venues is free; some may have a small cover charge.

November is off-season at the beach, and plenty of vacation rentals are available at reasonable rates. For places to stay in the area, check out our listings of condos, beach houses, and hotels at Gulf Shores vacation rentals, Orange Beach vacation rentals, Perdido Key vacation rentals, and Pensacola Beach vacation rentals. And click on the links for Gulf Shores restaurants, Orange Beach restaurants, Perdido Key restaurants, and Pensacola Beach restaurants for places to eat.

Oct 15 13

Beer Fest This Weekend at Baytowne Wharf

by S. Lynne

More than 200 international and craft beers from 40-plus breweries are the stars at the sixth annual Baytowne Wharf Beer Fest in Sandestin. Known as “the Best Beer Fest on the Emerald Coast,” the celebration kicks off on Friday night, October 18, with a beer and barbecue pairing presented by Marlin Grill on the Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Events Plaza Lawn. This year’s theme is “Beer From Around Here” – locally brewed favorites and others from breweries around the Southeast.

Friday evening will also feature a cooking demonstration by Julia Rutland, senior food editor of Coastal Living magazine. Rutland will be at the Village’s Events Plaza Stage, preparing easy, mouth-watering recipes incorporating beer. Admission to the cooking demonstration is free.

The main beer-tasting event is scheduled for Saturday, October 19, from 2 to 6 p.m., on the grounds at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Brewery representatives from around the nation will be on hand to discuss different types of beers. Among the companies represented are Abita, Sam Adams, Pensacola Bay, Back 40 Beer Company, Fat Tire Amber Ale, Good People, and Ranger IPA.

Denton Hatcher and the Soapbox Blues, the Modern Eldorados, and others will be playing at the Events Plaza Stage from 2 to 6 p.m.

Cost for the Friday night barbecue is $35 per person. Tickets for Saturday’s beer tasting are priced at $25 per person until October 18. They can be purchased the day of the event for $30 per person. For more information and to order tickets, visit www.baytownebeerfestival.com.

Special discounted accommodations packages are available at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort for Baytowne Beer Festival visitors. For details, call 1-866-912-3224 or click on www.beachguide.com/Destin/SandestinGolfBeachResort. Please use promotional code BEER13 when making your reservations.

Oct 7 13

National Shrimp Festival Set for This Week

by S. Lynne
natl shrimp fest fried shrimp

Always a crowd pleaser, the National Shrimp Festival opens this week in Gulf Shores. Founded in 1972 to lure vacationers to Alabama beaches during the off-season, the annual festival has grown into one of the Southeast’s biggest special events, attracting more that 250,000 visitors each year.

This year’s festival, scheduled for October 10, 11, 12, and 13, features more than 250 vendors offering everything from crafts and fine art to jewelry and clothing. Of course, there will be plenty of shrimp – cooked every way imaginable by local chefs – plus generous samplings of other seafood favorites, side dishes, drinks, and desserts.

Additional activities include a sand sculpting contest, a 10K/5K run/walk, and live music daily featuring top local, regional, and national performers on two stages. There’s also the Children’s Activity Village with games, crafts, and other interactive things to keep the younger set entertained.

The Saturday sand sculpting contest includes categories for all ages, plus a family category, so everybody can be part of the fun. The run/walk, also scheduled for Saturday, is a charitable event, with all proceeds going to the Coastal Baldwin Education Enrichment Foundation to benefit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach public schools. For a complete lineup of musical acts, go to www.myshrimpfest.com and click on the Music link.

Produced by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, the National Shrimp Festival is held on the beach, where Alabama Highway 59 meets the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores.

To learn more, visit www.myshrimpfest.com. For places to stay in Gulf Shores and neighboring Orange Beach, check out our listings at www.BeachGuide.com/GulfShores and www.BeachGuide.com/OrangeBeach.

Sep 23 13

October Means Month-long Seafood Celebration in Destin

by S. Lynne
destin fishing rodeo 4

“The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” is counting down the days till the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Described as “the ultimate tournament for saltwater anglers of all ages,” the popular competition – a magnet for fishermen since 1948 – annually attracts more than 30,000 participants. The fishing is free for everyone aboard boats that are registered in the tournament. The fishing rodeo begins October 1 and continues daily for the entire month. Weigh-ins are held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

A popular lead-in to the tournament, the Destin Fishing Rodeo Kid’s Kick-Off and Wagon Parade, is scheduled for Saturday, September 28, at 1:30 p.m. This crowd-pleasing parade of children’s wagons decorated with nautical themes is always a hit with all ages. The parade starts at AJ’s and winds through HarborWalk Village. Refreshments, kids’ activities, and prizes for the best-decorated wagons add to the fun.

Other activities include a 5K run on Sunday, October 6, and a children’s fishing tournament on Saturday, October 19. All proceeds from the race, whose course runs along Choctawhatchee Bay, benefit the Miss Destin Scholarship Fund. You can register online at http://beta.active.com/destin-fl/running/destin-5k-rodeo-run-2013. The fishing tournament begins at 9 a.m. at Okaloosa Island Pier and ends with lunch on the dock at noon. The cost of $10 per child includes the pier fee for the fisherman and his/her parents, a T-shirt, bait, a rod and reel (to keep), and lunch.

The fishing rodeo’s final weigh-in, on Wednesday, October 31, ends with Halloween trick-or-treating, followed by fireworks. Kids in costume eat free at AJ’s from 5 to 7 p.m. More than $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the winning fishermen.

To sign up for a participating fishing boat and for more information about other tournament activities, visit www.destinfishingrodeo.org.

Not Just Good Fishing, But Good Eating, Too!

Held each year in conjunction with the Destin Fishing Rodeo, the Destin Seafood Festival showcases fresh local seafood. This is the 35th year for the festival, which takes place October 4, 5, and 6 at HarborWalk Village. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

In addition to plenty of seafood provided by area restaurants, there will be live music on seven different stages and three kids’ fun zones featuring inflatables, rock-climbing walls, face painting, magic shows, and refreshments. To learn more, go to www.destinseafoodfestival.org.

For Destin vacation rentals, Destin restaurants, and other things to do in the area, visit www.BeachGuide.com/Destin and check out the links.

Sep 9 13

Any Time’s a Good Time for Fishing in the Gulf

by S. Lynne

As home to more than 200 species of fish, the Gulf of Mexico attracts thousands of anglers every year. In fact, there’s something biting year-round, all the way from Destin – known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and boasting one of the largest charter fishing fleets in the U.S. –  to Gulf Shores – which annually hosts the popular National Shrimp Festival.

Any time of year, the catch of the day could include amberjack, grouper, redfish, sheepshead, and vermilion snapper. September is a great month for catching just about everything. It’s also the peak month for blue and white marlin. Spring is the season for cobia, the trophy fish popular with so many anglers. Spring through fall, catches may also include flounder, jack crevalle, shark, bluefish, and both blackfin and yellowfin tuna. Winter is the ideal time to catch bull redfish.

For visiting fishermen, there are plenty of charter services offering both inshore (back bays, bayous, and other waterways) and offshore (deep-sea) excursions. A charter is a great choice for novice anglers because it’s run by an experienced captain who will not only keep you safe but also knows all the spots where you’re most likely to catch fish. The charter company also takes care of licensing, bait, and equipment, and many crews will even clean your catch at the end of the day.

If you’re an experienced fisherman and opt to rent your own boat, make sure you have the proper license and know which areas are open to fishing. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the weather forecast and know the tide schedule before you set out.

Pier and beach fishing can yield great catches as well, at much less cost and with no danger of sea sickness! Check with local outfitters for equipment, bait, and advice on the best spots to fish. If your vacation rental is on the beach, you may be able to catch your dinner just a few steps away from your door!

For places to stay, lists of fishing charters, and other information to make your Gulf Coast getaway your best vacation ever, visit www.BeachGuide.com and check out our links for the destination of your choice.

Aug 23 13

Pool Parties, Picnics, Fine Art, and More for Labor Day

by S. Lynne

Folk art at last year's Baytowne Art Walk

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is gearing up for its annual Labor Day Weekend Celebration, August 29 through September 4. This year’s lineup of special events includes an art show, live music, pool parties, picnics, beach volleyball, bonfires, fireworks, and more.

Resort guests will also receive discounts on accommodations, plus complimentary bike and kayak rental and other extras, beginning August 29.

The star attraction is the Baytowne Art Walk, showcasing world-class works from leading Southeastern artists, set among the landscaped grounds of Baytowne Wharf. The show features a variety of different mediums, including folk art and jewelry as well as fine art. The three-day festival,which also features live musical entertainment, is free and open to the public. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. August 30 through September 1.

Other events include beach bonfires at the marina from dusk to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings; “Sailgate” tailgate parties at the marina with broadcasts of NCAA and NFL football games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights; Saturday pool parties at the beachside Elephant Walk Pool Deck from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and volleyball and badminton games on the beach.

Saturday through Monday, both active and retired members of the U.S. military are invited to participate in Patriot Golf Day. Eligible golfers can play for $20 per round on all of Sandestin’s championship courses and at Burnt Pine Golf Club. Rounds can be booked by calling 850-267-8155.

For places to stay in Destin over the Labor Day weekend, check out www.beachguide.com/Destin. To make a reservation at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, visit www.beachguide.com/Destin/SandestinGolfBeachResort or call 1-866-912-3224. Use the booking code LDAY to receive discounts – 40% off on Thursday, 30% off Friday through Sunday, and 40% off Monday through Wednesday for those who book Grand Village studios and one-bedroom units.

Aug 16 13

New Music Festival Debuts in Panama City Beach

by S. Lynne
gulf coast jam darryl worley.crpd

Country music fans will have something to celebrate when the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam debuts in Panama City Beach next month. Scheduled for September 26, 27, and 28, the event  features a stellar lineup that includes Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, Trace Adkins, Kip Moore, Darryl Worley, Blackberry Smoke, and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Performances will take place on six stages, including three located directly on the beach. The beach stages are being hosted by Edgewater Golf and Beach Resort, Boardwalk Beach Resort, and Seahaven Beach Resorts.The other three venues include the headline stage at Frank Brown Park, Club La Vela, and one other still to be announced.

“Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam’s entrance into the festival market is going to be huge,” said Executive Producer Rendy Lovelady. “Not only does the event have a massive lineup, it is a destination location. Festival-goers will come for the music, but I know they will be just as excited to experience Panama City Beach and everything that comes along with it. It will be the ultimate country music fan celebration and getaway all wrapped into one.”

Headliner for Thursday night, September 26, at Frank Brown Park is Trace Adkins. A Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Adkins has sold more than 10 million albums, performed seven USO tours, and is also a television personality, actor, author, and spokesman for the American Red Cross and Wounded Warrior Program.

Friday night features ACM New Male Vocalist Brantley Gilbert, whose compelling lyrics and dynamic live show have attracted a loyal fan base known as the BG Nation. Gilberts concert is also at Frank Brown Park.

The festival closes Saturday night at Frank Brown Park with Toby Keith, who has been turning out chart-topping albums since 1993. His hit, “Red Solo Cup,” is the most commercially successful country single in recent years, with a viral video boasting more than 20 million views.

General admission tickets for Gulf Coast Jam (good for all three days of the festival, plus free shuttle access) cost $139 per person. VIP tickets, offering up-close views of the stages, front-of-the-line access to the event grounds and shuttle service, and other extras, are priced at $399 (VIP Pit) and $999 (Side Stage VIP, which also includes food and adult beverages).

For more information and to order tickets, visit www.gulfcoastjam.com.

Many of the local property management companies are offering special packages that include discounted rates on accommodations, admission to Gulf Coast Jam, and other extras. To learn more, visit www.BeachGuide.com/PanamaCityBeach.

Aug 6 13

A Prosperous Past Enriches the Present in Apalachicola

by S. Lynne

The spirit of Old Florida is still alive along the wide, tree-lined streets of Apalachicola. Situated between river and bay, the town has been a busy commerce center since the 1830s and was once the third largest shipping port on the Gulf Coast.

Before the Civil War, cotton grown in the surrounding areas was stored in Apalachicola warehouses until it could be shipped to the Northeast and Europe. Today, many of the same buildings house a mix of shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums, and other businesses.

Still a working port, Apalachicola boasts more than 900 historic homes and buildings, many of which can be viewed on a walking tour of the town (For a map, visit http://www.apalachicolabay.org/file/PDF/walkingtour2011.pdf). High points include the Dixie Theatre, built in 1912 and still in use; the pre-Civil War Orman and Raney mansions; Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Sponge Exchange. At the John Gorrie State Museum, visitors can see a replica of the ice machine Dr. Gorrie developed to cool the temperatures of patients with yellow fever. His invention was the basis for the ice industry and the forerunner of modern air conditioning.

The surrounding countryside is as rich in natural resources as the town is in history. The Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay offer great fishing for both freshwater and saltwater anglers. And the cypress swamps, marshes, and bayous of the Apalachicola Estuary system – teeming with birds, gators, and other wildlife – invite endless opportunities for exploration by boat. There are plenty of outfitters offering everything from kayak rental to airboat ride excursions.

Two nearby state parks – on St. George Island and at Cape San Blas – offer miles of undeveloped shoreline and dazzling white-sand beaches, perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, snorkeling, shelling, and hiking.

Apalachicola also boasts plenty of places to eat. Not surprisingly, fresh seafood, including the famous Apalachicola Bay oysters, are the specialty of the house at many local restaurants. The town is also home to several bed-and-breakfast inns, including the award-winning Coombs House, plus the new Water Street Hotel and Marina. Both properties are pet-friendly and offer luxurious accommodations within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and other local attractions.

To learn more about Apalachicola, and to book reservations, visit www.beachguide.com/Apalachicola.