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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something’s in bloom year-round at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. The former country estate of Mobile Coca-Cola bottler Walter Bellingrath and his wife, Bessie, the 65-acre property in Theodore, Alabama, makes a great day’s outing away from the beach.
Attractions include an award-winning rose garden, the Bayou Boardwalk, Mirror Lake, the Great Lawn, the Asian-American gardens, the Fountain Plaza, the terraces, the Grotto/Riverfront, the Rockery, and the Butterfly Garden. Depending on the season, visitors enjoy dramatic displays of azaleas, hydrangeas, camellias, daffodils, roses, chrysanthemums, poinsettias, and other lush plantings.
Also open for tours is the 10,500-square-foot English Renaissance-style mansion built for the Bellingraths in 1935, three years after the gardens first opened to the public. The entire property was inspired by European estates visited by the couple on trips abroad. House and gardens were designed by well-known Mobile architect George B. Rogers.
The house, still lavishly furnished with the Bellingraths’ belongings, includes an “ultra-modern” bathroom, circa 1935, and the original kitchen appliances. The adjoining guesthouse and garage, added to the property in 1939, now hold an impressive collection of Boehm porcelain.
Guests can also lunch in the on-site Magnolia Restaurant, browse for souvenirs in the well-stocked gift shop, and take a 45-minute sightseeing cruise up the Fowl River aboard the Southern Belle.
Bellingrath Gardens is 20 miles southwest of Mobile and about 1 1/2 hours’ drive from Gulf Shores. For ticket prices and more information, call 251-973-2217 or visit www.bellingrath.org or www.facebook.com/bellingrath.
For places to stay in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, plus restaurants and other things to do, just click on our links to Gulf Shores vacation rentals, Orange Beach vacation rentals, Gulf Shores restaurants, Orange Beach restaurants, Gulf Shores recreation, and Orange Beach recreation.
While you don’t need a whole lot of stuff for a trip to the beach, it still pays to put a little thought into what you’re packing. Otherwise, you’ll either end up lugging too many pairs of shoes or discovering when you arrive that you’ve forgotten something basic like suntan lotion or your bathing suit. Following are our suggestions on what to pack:
– Two to three bathing suits per person (so suits can dry out between wearings)
– Waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
– Flip-flops or other waterproof sandals (for the whole family – yes, Dad, too!)
– Pair of dressier shoes for evenings out
– Beach cover-ups
– Beach bags
– Beach towels (two per person)
– Baseball caps or wide-brimmed hats
– Sunglasses, eyeglasses, and contact lenses
– Books and magazines
– Your favorite music
– Cell phones and chargers
– Laptop and charger
– Travel-size toiletries
– Hair dryer
– Cash, credit cards, driver’s license or other photo I.D.
– Prescriptions and other medications
– Medical insurance cards
– Cooler with drinks and snacks
– An umbrella (for rain)
– Beach umbrellas and folding chairs
– Beach toys (Frisbee, volleyball, bucket and shovel, kite) – especially important if the kids are going along
– An outfit or two to wear away from the beach (for restaurant meals, sightseeing, etc.), including a lightweight sweater or jacket
– Workout clothes, athletic shoes, and socks (if you’re planning to work out)
If you’re traveling with Baby, you’ll also want:
– Collapsible stroller and car seat
– Baby wipes and diapers
– Formula, baby food, bottles
– Travel-size bathing supplies
– Bibs and pacifiers
– Lightweight, long-sleeved cotton tops and bottoms
– Brimmed sun hat
And when it comes to planning where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, make sure you check out our listings of vacation rentals, restaurants, and things to do at BeachGuide.com.
Get fired up and get a head start on football season at the second annual SEC BeachFest, scheduled for August 15, 16, 17, and 18 in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. In addition to appearances by football greats Gene Stallings, Vince Dooley, and Phillip Fulmer, activities at this championship celebration include 5K and one-mile fun runs, a golf tournament, live music, and fishing tournaments for adults and kids.
Other famous coaches making appearances include Billy Brewer (Ole Miss), Bill Curry (Kentucky), Pat Dye (Auburn), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), Houston Nutt (Ole Miss), R. C. Slocum (Texas A & M), and Jerry Stovall (LSU). Several former players, including Auburn’s Ben Leard and Florida’s Chris Doering, will also be on hand to sign autographs, make predictions regarding the upcoming season, and just generally talk about football.
The fun kicks off on Thursday, August 15, with the Golf Scramble, which runs for three consecutive days during BeachFest. Hosting the golfers are Craft Farms, Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club, and Gulf Shores Golf Club. The top qualifying teams will play the finals at Kiva Dunes. The winning team will receive a trip for eight to the SEC Football Championship in Atlanta.
On Friday, local restaurants will host Alumni Happy Hours from 5 to 8 p.m. Auburn fans will meet at the Compleat Angler Seafood Grille and Bar, SEC East fans at Baumhower’s Restaurant, and Alabama fans at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina.
Free concerts will star Marc Broussard, performing his signature mix of funk, rock, and blues (Friday at 8 p.m.), and country singer Rodney Atkins (Saturday at 8 p.m.).
Open all three days is the FanZone, offering exhibits, beach football, beach volleyball, corn hole competitions, and more. There will be an ongoing program of talk show-type interviews with the coaches and players.
Saturday activities include the 5K and fun run (starting at 8 and 9 a.m., respectively) and the adults’ SEC BeachFest Fishing Challenge (7 to 11 a.m., with a weigh-in party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Young anglers get a chance to show off their skills on Sunday in the Kids’ Pier Fishing Tournament. Hours for the kids’ tournament are 9 to 11 a.m.
Weekend tickets for SEC BeachFest cost $25. Other ticket options, including a VIP ticket with plenty of extra perks, are also available.
For more information, to order tickets, and to sign up for the golf, races, or fishing competitions, visit www.secbeachfest.com. And for recommendations on places to stay and the best spots to eat, check out our links to Gulf Shores vacation rentals, Gulf Shores restaurants, Orange Beach vacation rentals, Orange Beach restaurants, Perdido Key vacation rentals, and Perdido Key Restaurants.
All along the Gulf Coast, resorts and communities are gearing up to celebrate Independence Day next Thursday with fireworks, food, music, and more. And since the fun starts on July 3 and continues through the weekend, we’ve compiled a list so you won’t miss a thing. (Unless otherwise stated, admission to all events is free.)
Apalachicola – Wednesday, July 3, 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Time), second annual July 4 fireworks celebration, at Riverfront Park.
Destin – Thursday, July 4, 7 p.m., 4th of July Extravaganza on the Harbor: Red, White, and Blue Celebration. Live music, children’s activities, and fireworks, at HarborWalk Village.
Destin – Thursday, July 4, 7 to 9 p.m. The Sunventure I catamaran is hosting a special sunset and dolphin cruise for the whole family. Cost of the cruise is $38 for adults and $25 for children aged 2 to 14. To make reservations, call 850-650-2519.
Gulf Shores – Thursday, July 4, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fort Morgan’s Salute to American Independence. Artillery and small arms firing demonstrations, special tours of the fort, at Fort Morgan. No additional charge with admission to the fort ($7 for adults, $4 for children aged 6 to 12).
Gulf Shores – Thursday July 4, 9 p.m., Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration. Featuring specialty shell fireworks, at Gulf Shores Public Beach.
Mexico Beach – Thursday, July 4, 8:30 p.m. Annual fireworks show, can be viewed from the beach and local restaurants.
Orange Beach - Friday, July 5, 6 p.m., Independence Day Celebration at Perdido Beach Resort. Concert by the Grammy-nominated Wannabeatles and barbecue feast prepared by Executive Chef John Hamme, followed by fireworks at 9 p.m., all on the Beach Deck. Advance tickets, $25 for adults, $12 for children aged 5 to 12; day of event, $30 for adults, $15 for children aged 5 to 12. Call 251-981-9811, ext. 103, for advance tickets.
Panama City Beach – Thursday, July 4, 7:30 p.m., POPS performance, at Aaron Bessant Park.
Panama City Beach – Thursday, July 4, 9 p.m., three fireworks shows, at City Pier, County Pier, and Grand Lagoon.
Pensacola – Thursday, July 4, 11 a.m., Sertoma’s 4th of July Celebration in Old Seville. Children’s area with inflatables and pony rides, arts and crafts, food, and live entertainment, followed by fireworks at 9 p.m., in Seville Square.
Rosemary Beach – Thursday, July 4, 7:30 a.m., Bike Decorating Breakfast and Bike Parade. Doughnuts, juice, and red, white, and blue decorations for bikes, in North Barrett Square.
Seaside – Thursday, July 4, Seaside 4th of July Parade, 8 a.m., Seagrave Plaza west to Seaside.
For places to stay in any of these communities, just check out our listings at www.BeachGuide.com.