Our quick trip to the beach this summer turned into an eventful and super fun 8 day vacation after Hurricane Michael came into the gulf and threw off our plans a little!
We started out in Gulf Shores, AL which is one of our favorite beach spots. The water isn’t as pristine as further east down the coast but we really love the town of Gulf Shores and all the family friendly establishments there.
No trip to Gulf Shores is complete without a visit to LuLu’s at the Wharf. LuLu’s is owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister and is an awesome family restaurant. They have live music, bars, gift shop, arcade, and all kinds of outdoor stuff for the kids to play on. Pictured below is my 3yo twins on the toddler ropes course but there’s also a bigger one for the big kids! During summer you can expect the wait for a table at LuLu’s to be at least an hour, but don’t fret, there’s so much to do while you wait that you won’t even get to do everything before your table is ready! LuLu’s is famous for their fried green tomatoes and wow sauce! We are Southerners so fried green tomatoes were already a staple in our summer meal plans but if you’ve never had them they’re definitely worth a try!
We have a ton of IHG hotel points so for this trip we stayed at the Holiday Inn Orange Beach. It’s a nice clean Holiday Inn right on the beach. It has a really great breakfast buffet and plenty of seating space. The staff there is super friendly. The pool area is rather small but there is a pool bar.
We had to hit DeSoto’s and Bahama Bob’s while in Gulf Shores, they’re regular eateries for us, but we were a little disappointed by both on this trip. DeSoto’s is classic seafood and has been around forever. The food and service is usually excellent but this particular day it was nothing to write home about. Bahama Bob’s was even worse off. It used to sit right on the beach but apparently the empty beach lot is not owned by BB’s and is now in the process of an house being built on it which completely blocks the view. Our food was also pretty bad and this is the first time we’ve ever had a bad experience there.
A few days in Hurricane Michael came barreling into the Gulf and threatened us with torrential downpours for the remainder of our stay. At this point we decided to head East to Panama City Beach to avoid all the rain. On our way out of town we stopped at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL. We love this museum and it’s great for kids of all ages! There’s even a cute little toddler play area and flight simulators for the big kids and adults.
Once in PCB we stayed at another IHG location, Holiday Inn Resort. There are actually 2 Holiday Inn Resorts in PCB and both are right on the beach, but they are very different! The one we like to stay at is a lot bigger, has multiple restaurants, and a huge splash pad for the littles. There’s also a large pool, pool bar, pool restaurant, and pizzeria. Every night there’s a huge projector screen that plays a movie out by the pool and there’s often live music. It’s super convenient to spend your days at the pool/beach and walk up the sidewalk to the outdoor grill for a quick lunch. Also kids eat free! Seriously free! There’s an awesome breakfast buffet and all kids meals are free!
Down at Pier Park the big Sky Wheel Ferris wheel was finally finished so we decided to check out the views from the top of it and it did not disappoint! I’m not scared of heights but I am pretty terrified of Ferris wheels but this did not bother me. They’re completely enclosed little capsules so it feels safer than your typical wobbly Ferris wheel
Worth noting about the Holiday Inn resort is that is does have great parking. There’s a large parking lot across the street and it’s accessible via an underground tunnel so you don’t have to actually cross traffic. It’s a super short walk through the tunnel but they also have a little golf cart shuttle that runs back and forth constantly if you can’t/don’t want to walk.
One of our favorite restaurants in PCB is Schooners. It’s an open air restaurant right on the beach with salty air and sea breezes. Be careful about dinner time there with small kids though because once the band starts playing it’s really loud. We usually have to ask to be seated as far away from the band as possible.
Runaway Island is another top notch joint on our list. It’s also really great for a date night. The food and drinks are superb and if you’re seated upstairs it feels a lot fancier than the downstairs crowd. But don’t worry, even the upstairs is kid friendly and with the entire wall of windows every seat has amazing ocean views!
When it was time for us to head home we decided to go a little out of our way and head to Georgia to pick peaches! I did a lot of searching and was surprised to find that most places don’t allow you to pick your own peaches off the trees anymore. I stumbled across Southern Belle Farms in McDonough, GA which is right outside Atlanta so that’s where we headed. SBF was exactly what we were looking for! We headed out into the orchard with our baskets and picked ourselves full of fresh ripe peaches. The kids absolutely loved it! When we were done picking peaches we headed to the other side of the farm to see the animals in the petting zoo. It was a really nice stop on our way home and worth the visit if you’re in the area or passing through!