Best Bars in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
You might be wondering where's the best place to grab a cold beer and watch the waves roll in along Gulf Shores and Orange Beach so here's our list of the Top 5.
Flora-Bama is a legendary landmark that hosts live music of all genres nightly from national recording artists to local and regional bands. This entertainment complex straddling the Florida-Alabama line is considered one of the last American roadhouses serving up a variety of food and drinks, including the infamous Buckwacker.
Interesting ingredients and coastal character give Big Beach Brewing Company a beachy edge on Alabama’s craft beer movement. The destination’s only brewery is a non-smoking, family-friendly facility indoors and outdoors featuring live music throughout the week, frequent firkin tappings and allows guests to bring their own food.
Since 1956, the Pink Pony Pub has served up some of the best burgers, nachos and Gulf seafood on the island. Located on the Gulf Shores Public Beach, this dive is a staple for many guests and locals alike due to its convenient beachside spot and live music/karaoke. Patrons can enjoy a nice selection of beer, wine and frozen drinks, including its version of the Bushwacker.
The open-air Pleasure Island Tiki Bar located at Sportsman Marina in Orange Beach is a favorite watering hole among locals at and is known for choice cocktails like the Robinson Island Bloody Mary, bountiful bar food and live music.
Wind down at Red or White at The Wharf for – you guessed it – an extensive selection of red and white wines as well as cheese boards, charcuterie boards and pizzas. This classy waterside establishment also hosts live music and wine dinners frequently.
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May is ‘National BBQ Month’ and in Alabama, barbecue is a culture all in itself. The state serves some of the nation’s best, with iconic and award-winning restaurants just about everywhere you look. Take a tour of some of North and Central Alabama’s best – from the fruits of lifelong professional pit masters to new kids on the barbecue block – and pick up a side of fun along the way.
The Alabama Tourism Department’s website helps travellers discover some of the state’s best places for ribs, pulled pork and chicken barbecue with a listing of some of Alabama’s most noted barbecue restaurants.
The website also links to the smart phone app “Alabama BBQ Trail” that can be downloaded for free and has information on more than 75 barbecue restaurants in 52 cities and towns across the state. The app has background on each of the restaurants and their best dishes. It will also allow users to set an alert, so their phone will notify them when they are within 20 miles or less of one of their chosen barbecue spots. The app is based on the book Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips that is available at Books-A-Million and online at Amazon.com.
Alabama BBQ Trail
Visit the Home of Alabama White Sauce in Decatur
Over the past 85 years, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q has grown from a makeshift table in Gibson’s backyard to a regional barbecue staple – garnering attention from news outlets and cooking competitions all over the country.
In the 1920s, vinegar-and-mustard-based Carolina-style sauce was the predominant choice of barbecue cooks. Big Bob Gibson didn’t think it complemented his chicken very well, so he came up with his own mayonnaise-based condiment, which also contains vinegar, apple juice, horseradish, lemon juice, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Pork With a Side of Soul
In Florence, you’ll find the W.C. Handy Home, Museum and Library where you can see musical instruments, personal papers and original sheet music belonging to the “Father of the Blues.” The legendary songwriter is credited with taking the blues from the South into other parts of the country, educating people along the way and turning the genre into a cherished art form. Each July, the W.C. Handy Festival celebrates the Florence native’s musical contributions and those of other blues musicians.
Bunyan's Bar-B-Q is located less than a half-mile from the W.C. Handy museum. A local favourite since 1972, Bunyan’s is known for its pork and hot slaw. Grab a spot at one of the small tables inside or dine al fresco at one of several outdoor tables.
Rib It Up in Tuscaloosa
Head down to Tuscaloosa and prepare to get your hands a little messy. Your first stop? Lunch at Archibald's in Northport.
George Archibald Jr. was 12 years old when he started working in the barbecue business his father started in 1962. Today, George and his sister, Paulette, keep this diamond in the rough going, serving the famous ribs and vinegar-based sauce that have garnered local admiration and national attention.
The Original Dreamland Bar-B-Que
No trip to Tuscaloosa is complete without a meal at the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que. First opened by John “Big Daddy” Bishop in 1958, the restaurant has hosted celebrities like Reba McEntire and Hank Williams Jr. The story goes that the idea to build a restaurant on the land next to his home came to Bishop in a dream. Soon Bishop and his wife were selling ribs, sandwiches and more to regular customers. Once known for serving only ribs, white bread and sauce, today the restaurant’s eight locations all serve pulled pork, chicken, traditional side items and desserts.
Get Your Fill in Birmingham
Birmingham is a barbecue lover’s mecca. From pulled pork at Jim ‘N Nick’s to Full Moon’s famous chow-chow, there’s plenty to keep your taste buds entertained. Pace yourself as you sample some of the best Alabama has to offer.
Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q has served the Birmingham community for more than 25 years, and it now boasts more than 25 locations throughout the South and in Colorado. Known for its pulled pork, cheese biscuits and homemade slaw, the restaurant consistently receives accolades from local and national publications like Saveur and Bon Appétit. In addition, Jim ‘N Nick’s was crowned the winner in the Alabama Tourism Department’s inaugural Alabama BBQ Bracket.
Also in Birmingham’s Southside is Full Moon Bar-B-Que. The restaurant famous for its half-moon cookies and chow-chow – a spicy, sweet Southern relish – was once owned by Pat James, then was bought in 1996 by brothers David and Joe Maluff. Full Moon now has eight locations, including the original.
Another must-try barbecue joint Saw's BBQ in Homewood is young compared to longstanding pork houses like Full Moon, Jim ‘N Nick’s and Dreamland, but it hasn’t taken long for it to become a local favourite.
Saw’s barbecue is North Carolina-style and served in a signature vinegar-based sauce. While the Birmingham location is the only source for the restaurant’s pulled pork, ribs, chicken with white sauce, stuffed potatoes and home-style sides, Saw’s Sauce is available online, in stores across Alabama and at other retailers throughout the country. Saw’s also boasts two sister restaurants in Birmingham – Saw’s Soul Kitchen and Saw’s Juke Joint.
Grab some napkins and get started!
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No matter the era, Huntsville has always seemed to be on the cutting edge. Leaders came together to sign the Constitution that made Alabama a state in 1819, scientists put a man on the moon and craft brewers launched Alabama's burgeoning brewing industry. It remains a city of ingenuity, particularly in the field of space exploration, since the U.S. Space & Rocket Center continues to be a key component of NASA's future as scientists are currently working on flights to Mars.
48-Hours in Huntsville
Day 1 - Afternoon
Start your Huntsville adventure at the state's no.1 tourism attraction - the U.S. Space & Rocket Ceter, which celebrates the history and the future of NASA. Witness the wonders that launched man into space at the largest and most comprehensive space-flight museum in the world. Marvel at an actual Saturn V rocket, suspended just a few feet above your head and named on of the Seven Wonders of America by the "Good Morning America" staff. For a truly hands-on experience, register for the centre's world-famous Space Camp, where you can build robots, design space suits and rockets and experience the weightlessness of a spacewalk or the adrenaline rush of piloting an F-18 Super Hornet and other craft using cockpit simulators. Space Camp offers programs for nine-year-olds to adults. Since it began in 1982, it has attracted more than 750,000 "trainees" from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.
Day 1 - Evening
Have dinner and attend a show at Monaco Pictures. This upscale movie house, outfitted with a stylish restaurant and bar is known for its sushi, state-of-the-art technology and reserved theatre seating. If you are an adult, pay a few more dollars more for the VIP Prive service and go upstairs to sip a wicked martini from the bar as you settle into an oversized, deluxe leather seat to watch the movie.
Day 2 - Morning
Literally stop and smell the roses, along with azaleas, daylilies, magnolias, camellias and hydrangeas that are blossoming to beautiful perfection at Huntsville Bontanical Garden. The 112-acre garden, about a one-mile drive from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is open year-round and is full of winding nature trails, numerous specialty gardens - including an interactive children's garden and aquatic garden - and butterflies. The Purdy Butterfly House features 12 native species.
Day 2 - Afternoon
Head to Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, billed as the country's largest privately owned arts facility. The seemingly endless line of studios and stores (127 if you're counting!) in the three-story former cotton mill offers one clever, unique, traditional option after another, from learning how to draw comic books from a master comic book artist or having your pet's portrait painted to getting a custom-made cigar box guitar or stained glass work. The shopping couldn't be any more low-key and enjoyable and provides a great souvenir.
Day 2 - Evening
As the sun begins to set, visit Campus No. 805, one of the state's most dynamic entertainment venues. Nine craft breweries call Huntsville home, and this "campus" includes some of the best. The building takes its name from its previous life as S.R. Butler High School in the city's 35805 zip code. Pick up some Earth and Stone wood-fired pizza at Yellowhammer Brewing, or if you prefer Japanese, then sit down at Rock N Roll Sushi where the menus are made from classic album covers. Either way, try one of the adult desserts at Earth and Stone, such as the vanilla ice cream with bourbon and pecans. If you want to focus on the fine dining instead of the fine brews, Cotton Row features a menu that changes with the availability of fresh, local produce. Other dining options include Pane e Vino Pizzeria, known for rustic-chic Italian fare and pizzas named after famous artists; Grille 29, famous for its crabmeat-stuffed jumbo scallops and Connors Steak & Seafood, recognised for its prime cuts of steak.
Day 3 - Morning
Read y to work off those adult desserts? Start your morning by hiking or cycling against a gorgeous backdrop. Monte Sano State Park, located atop Monte Sano Mountain in the centre of the city, features camping, picnic areas and pavilions, hiking trails, playgrounds and flower gardens.
Day 3 - Afternoon
Celebrate the arts of earth and beyond at The Huntsville Museum of Art, located in Big Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville. The museum's 3,000 pieces include the prestigious Sellars Collection of Art by American Women, an assemblage of more than 400 pieces by female artists from 1850 to 1940. The museum's collection also includes space-inspired works, such as Andy Warhol's "Moonwalk".
Worth the time:
- Ride one of the new Zagster bike-share bikes, available from eight stations downtown. The high-tech program allows you to request and unlock a bike through an app on your smartphone.
- Admire the carefully selected antiques for sale at Willowbrook Shoppe.
- Tour the 1819 Weeden House Museum and Garden.
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Gulf Shores Events & Festivals
Explore the activities happening along the Alabama Gulf Coast and decide how you want to spend your holiday. You can be as busy as you want. With plenty of events and activities offered there’s something for everyone. Festivals, plays, music, history, sports and nature are just some of the wide variety of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores events you can find year-round. Discover a whole new level of options when you visit Alabama's white-sand beaches.
Fancy being part of a raucous Mardi Gras celebration? LuLu’s restaurant hosts an annual Mardi Gras event every February. It always has great music, food, drinks and costumes galore.
For the car enthusiasts and fresh seafood lovers, the Orange Beach Seafood Festival and Car Show, a day long celebration during February, might just be the ticket.
For fine arts lovers, the annual Orange Beach Arts Festival is a must-experience event in March. You can see hundreds of artists and partake in artist in residence observation sessions to see the only glass blower on the north Gulf Coast and the new pottery studio. Set on the shores of Wolf Bay, this unique festival is a crowd pleaser.
Parrot Heads unite at this annual gathering honouring Jimmy Buffet, big brother to Lucy Buffet, owner of LuLu’s restaurant end of March. A rockin’ good time is a good bet.
The Wharf in Orange Beach has its C-Spire Wireless Concert Series every year that fills their 10,000 seat outdoor amphitheater with evening concerts from March to October. Many of these are country music performers.
The Hangout Music Festival in May is a HUGE event, drawing 40,000 music lovers every May each year for a 3-day beach concert with music on 5 different stages.
SummerTide Theatre from The University of Alabama brings their student performance group to Gulf Shores for a month every June to rehearse, produce and run a professional musical performance. These are always a hit with residents and visitors. Many of these students go onto careers on Broadway in the West End in New York City.
June every year also brings the Flora-Bama Shindig on the Sand, a 3-day beach concert featuring more than 60 Gulf Coast area bands and performers. A great, casual beach concert experience.
Also in June is the 'Funnest' Fishing Tournament on the Gulf Coast, the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo is the "Every Mans" fishing rodeo! Just like the lounge, you don't have to be a VIP to fish there. Categories will range from catfish to bill fish and everything in-between. The tournament is held at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club across the street from the world famous Flora-Bama Lounge. The FBFR is a 3-day Captains Choice tournament with anglers competing for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in 30 categories. Accompanying the tournament is a 3-day beach party and awards ceremony that will include daily weigh-ins with fish viewing area, live music, great food and hospitality done in true Flora-Bama fashion!
July marks the annual Blue Marlin Grand Championship at The Wharf where 50+ fishing boats compete for $1-million in prizes to catch the biggest deep water fish from the Gulf of Mexico. Gather for the weigh-ins, partake in fashion shows, food offerings and a whole lot of fishing stories! This is a capstone event for deep water fishing tournaments along the Gulf Coast every year.
The annual Wharf Uncorked wine and culinary festival showcasing wines, restaurants and well-known chefs. A great September autumn event!
The annual Alabama Coastal BirdFest is an immersion experience in bird watching, seminars and trips into the wild to experience it all up close. Set every October this draws visitors from all over the country.
The annual October National Shrimp Festival is the largest event of the year. This 3-day event celebrates all things shrimp, coastal, arts and musical. About 250,000 people attend the 10am-10pm event over the 3-days.
The Frank Brown Songwriters festival is a 10-day event available every year in November. This provides an intimate look and listen to the stories behind how a song came into being. A very engaging, casual and wonderful event that offers music genres of all kinds, but with an emphasis on country music.
Founded in 1702 as the original capital of the Louisiana Territory and nestled along the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, few American cities boast a history as rich as Mobile's. The birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, the area’s sheer beauty, modern architecture, amazing museums and famous seafood continues to impress visitors and locals alike.
If you're considering a romantic getaway, put Mobile at the top of your list. This beautiful city alongside Mobile Bay is an original French settlement more than 300 years old, with spreading live oaks that create shady canopies over the downtown and the wrought iron balconies on historic mansions.
Mobile is part of the Gulf Coast that stretches from New Orleans to Pensacola and Savannah and because of the city's fascinating history, you'll find a number of museums and dramatic architecture that encourage strolls along broad sidewalks. The proximity to the Gulf of Mexico puts fresh seafood on most menus.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a 65-acre public display garden and mansion located on the Fowl River in Theodore, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. The site is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage and on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens include a bridal garden, a conservatory, a great lawn, a nature walk, an Oriental garden, a rose garden, a chapel, the Mermaid Pool, Mirror Lake and an observation tower.
Bellingrath Gardens celebrate The Magic of Christmas in Lights every year as guests stroll around a dazzling display featuring more than 1,000 set pieces, 3-million lights and 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre garden estate. This light extravaganza was also featured in this years Southern Living Magazine best holiday attraction list.
For more information on visiting Bellingrath Gardens visit bellingrath.org
Delta Safaris in Mobile
Prepare to be amazed, inspired and relaxed by the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. All while “living the wildlife” with Delta Safaris – Coastal Alabama’s leading tour operator and only delta specialist. Tours last a a few hours or a few days including Delta Wildlife Eco Boat Tour, Secretly Awesome Harbour Tour and Delta Sunset Cruise. For further information or to book online visit 5rds.com.