By Kelly Baughman
The weather is getting warmer, nature is in full-bloom, and plans for fun in the sun are in the works. That can only mean one thing: spring break is officially upon us.
Visitors and locals alike are making plans for fun on the sugary white sands of Perdido Key, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores, all known for their vast appeal to both college kids blowing off steam and families looking for a fun, safe place to celebrate what many consider to be the kickoff to the upcoming beach season.
While the tradition can be traced back as far as early Greek and Roman cultures who celebrated the beginning of spring with dancing, feasting, and the drinking of wine, spring break as we know it today actually began in Ft. Lauderdale thanks to Colgate University’s Sam Ingram. Ingram, the University’s swim coach, brought his team to train at the state’s only Olympic sized pool, where wild parties and debauchery ensued.
Spring break in our area has seen both the wild crazy college party animals and families with children of all ages seeking rest and relaxation on the beach. With so much to offer people of all ages and walks of life, the Gulf Coast is an obvious, and somewhat affordable, choice for Spring breakers.
As we welcome well behaved spring breakers with open arms, the area aims to maintain its reputation of a family friendly destination during the season of sin. In recent years, spring break in the area has garnered some negative attention causing city officials to take action.
In 2016, Gulf Shores gained national attention after a video went viral showing a Texas State University student hitting a Gulf Shores Police Officer with a launched football. Reports of under-age drinking, balcony jumping, public intoxication, and property damage were also on the rise, and city officials decided enough was enough.
The cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach followed the lead of Panama City in cracking down on spring break mayhem, with Gulf Shores even banning alcohol on the beaches from March 2nd through April 28th. And although Orange Beach doesn’t have an official Spring Break alcohol ban, city officials say that alcohol has been illegal for years on state park beaches, so know where the state park access areas are before you set foot on the sand.
“We want everyone to have a good time here during spring break,” said Orange Beach Mayor, Tony Kennon. “All are welcome, but if you come here, you better behave, or you’re going to jail. It’s that simple.”
But even though getting smashed on the beach or anywhere else may be frowned upon during spring break, there’s still plenty of fun to be had for everyone. Here’s some suggestions on things to do, where to go, and how to stay safe this spring break.
As you first get to town, take some time to take in the scenery. While there’s absolutely no bad place to do this, some of the best places to smell the salt air and feel the breeze on your face to get the party started are easy to find. Sip on fresh made lemonade with your toes in the grass (or sand…it’s your choice) at The Gulf in Orange Beach. Here, you’ll get great food and a view of the pass that is second to none.
Try a signature local drink, like the Bushwacker, at the World Famous Flora-Bama Lounge’s upper observation deck. Here, you can look out over the gulf, and maybe even see a flyby by the Blue Angels, all while sipping a chocolate-ty delight that can be flavored with butterscotch, coconut, banana, and more at this happening joint.
If you’re looking for the best sunset view in town, head over to Sunset Grille in Perdido Key, Cobalt in Orange Beach, or Lulu’s in Gulf Shores. All of these places are known for their amazing vantage points for spring and summer sunsets, and all three have amazing menus that will satisfy your craving for Fresh Gulf Seafood.
For a little adventure on the high seas, check out sailing on Wild Hearts, the 53-foot open ocean catamaran offering excursions both offshore and inshore with restrooms, refreshments, and an on board bar, or maybe you have a little scallywag who dares to plunder the emerald waters where legendary pirates have sailed. Hudson Marina in Orange Beach offers the pirate adventure of a lifetime on The American Star at Skull Harbor. Here, kids of all ages can dress up as pirates, learn pirate lingo and how to read a treasure map, and search for treasure on board while playing interactive games with the crew.
If plundering for booty isn’t adrenaline pumping enough for you, try parasailing at Orange Beach Parasail, Pleasure Island Parasail, or Chute Em Up Parasail. For those seeking something a little more “grounded”, try a boat or jet ski rental for the day, chartered fishing trip, or dolphin cruise, where you can see the majestic and friendly creatures we locals love, up close and personal.
If the skies turn grey and the rain comes down, don’t worry! There’s plenty to do on the Gulf Coast on a rainy day. Do a little shopping at The Wharf in Orange Beach where you can create your own signature scent that will always remind you of spring break 2019 at High Cotton, bring a piece of the coast home to your home from Bungalows home décor, make a life-long friend of your own at Build-a-Bear Workshop, or taste delicious homemade treats from Kilwin’s Chocolatiers.
Find your inner artist at The Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach, where you can blow glass, throw pottery, learn how to paint, and much more. Create your own beautiful jewelry at The Blue Girl Beading Company in Gulf Shores, or take a weaving class at Clara’s Loom & Coastal Textile Center.
Maybe you’re more of a history buff. Then head over to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, check out historic Ft. Morgan, or make the trek to Mobile to see the USS Alabama. All of these amazing and educational stops are affordable for the whole family, and will leave you with a better understanding of the rich history that runs deep throughout the region and some great photos too!
If you’re looking for nightlife, the Gulf Coast has plenty to offer. Watch the sun go down while dancing outdoors to a live band at the legendary Pink Pony Pub right on the beach in Gulf Shores, or check out the eclectic crowd of all ages and from all walks of life at The Flora-Bama Lounge. Both of these music venues offer great music, and are fantastic choices for spring breakers both young, old…and even in between.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the star of the show, the try your hand at karaoke. The Jellyfish Bar and Restaurant in Perdido Key serves up some of the best local seafood and sushi, then turns up the fun with karaoke at 10 pm. Island Time Daquiris at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Live Bait, and The Undertow in Orange Beach are all great places to sing your heart out, and Mud Bugs and The Pink Pony Pub are known for their great singers and good times in Gulf Shores.
After all that night time fun, you may need a little pick me up in the morning. Head over to The Southern Grind for fresh ground coffee and delicious food items, and while you sip, you can shop for some of the most unique coastal treasures the island has to offer. Try the delicious New Orleans pastry, the beignet, at Café Beignet, or soothe your hangover with an epic Bloody Mary from Brick & Spoon in Orange Beach.
So whether you’re young or old, wild or tame, single and ready to mingle, or spending time with your family, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Perdido Key has something for everyone this Spring Break.
Just be sure to obey the law, drink responsibly, know your flags on the beach for water safety, and most importantly…respect our home. While you may just be passing through, remember that there are thousands of people just like you who live here year-round. Make sure that you leave our beaches and our towns beautiful so they stay that way for the next time you visit.
Have a happy and safe Spring Break!