Southern Charm & Family Fun in Alabama's Gulf Coast

Being a Yankee from up North and still relatively new to living down South, I’ve been enjoying exploring the many unique cities now within my reach. From driving up to Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia to the Smoky Mountains & Dollywood in Tennessee.

This summer, we headed over to Alabama’s Gulf Coast and to the historic city of Mobile. Once called the “Paris of the South,” Mobile’s 300-year history and America’s original home of Mardis Gras offers visitors an authentic experience found nowhere else in the southern United States. Plus, fun coastal activities and exquisite eats.

Here’s a list of what to do, eat and stay!

Things to Do in Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores:

Tour Bellingrath Gardens' 65 acres of year-round floral pageantry in a Southern estate located on the Fowl River in Theodore, near Mobile. It’s also the former historic home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the Southeast.

With kids and on hot or rainy days, there’s lots of hands-on interactive fun at the GulfQuest Maritime Museum. TIP: kids under 5 are FREE!

Gulf Coast Trolley Tours - Take in the sights of downtown Mobile from the seat of an antique trolley car, while learning about the history and viewing the Antebellum architecture. Tours run daily. TIP: Kids 6 and under are free!

Head to the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, which is only a quick hour drive away from Mobile. At Caribe Marina you can rent Jet Skis and whip around in the bay or go on a more leisurely two seater CAT Boat ride, which I personally enjoyed manning.

Also, visit Gulf State Park for a morning bike ride along the sandy white beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. The park has bike and kayak rentals available for guests.

SUP! Try stand-up paddle boards in Dauphin Island. Call or email ahead of time for reservations as these boats are provided from a private home and dock, thus offering a less touristy experience.

Go on a Dolphin and Lighthouse Tour with Action Outdoors. Experience the ecosystems of Dauphin Island up close as we set sail on a 3-hour voyage around the island. Keep your eyes open for dolphins, fish and other animals in the surrounding waters!

Do not miss the Mobile’s Carnival Museum. Located in an old-home, this museum chronicles the traditions and secrets that make up Mardi Gras and Carnival season in Alabama. I had no idea about the secret societies, exclusive parties and extravagant courtly duties involved and found it all so fascinating. Our tour guide and author of Mardi Gras in Mobile made it particularly riveting. Take a look:

Where to Eat in Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores:

I promise you will NOT go hungry while visiting Alabama. In fact, eating was our main activity.

A must on all the visitor lists is Wintzell’s Oyster House - a Gulf Coast gem known for their mouthwatering oysters and caught-daily seafood. The original location in downtown Mobile on Dauphin Street is especially charming.

Wintzell’s Oyster House, Mobile, Ala.
Wintzell’s Oyster House, Mobile, Ala.

For an elegant night out, head to Dauphin’s Restaurant atop the 34th floor of the Trustmark Building. The menu spans every flavor of French Creole, but it’s the dramatic panorama views of Mobile Bay that will leave you amazed. TIP: for no extra charge there is a private table inside the kitchen, as long as you call-ahead to reserve. Between the amazing food, seeing the staff prepare meals and the floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll definitely be entertained and wow’d by the VIP experience.

Grab a fun-filled lunch at LuLu’s, which is Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy’s popular establishment. The colorful and massive indoor/outdoor restaurant is a great way to spend an afternoon. There are so many different elements that go into this Gulf Coast experience- the fabulous and unpretentious food, great service, family friendly environment, fun shopping, arcade, three-story climbing ropes course, a beach for the kids, live music and intracoastal waterfront ambience. TIP: If you’re dining with someone with food allergies, request the separate allergy menu.

The Gulf, a unique outdoor restaurant made out of shipping containers and serving farm to table locally inspired food. Grab a table on the beach and order form one of their to-go windows for drinks and food. Kids can run around on the sand, while adults enjoy a leisurely dinner and drink setting. The bright blue shipping containers and strung up lights make for a great Instagram background too that’s social media brag worthy.

Spot of Tea across from Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile, serves extravagant breakfast dishes like Eggs Cathedral and Bananas Foster French Toast. Bonus, they serve a large selection of loose leaf tea too.

Mobile’s Cream & Sugar Café is the quintessential neighborhood coffee shop, offering a wide variety of snack-size sweets and fluffy pastries. Their cinnamon rolls were simply amazing. TIP: Order their “Rocket Fuel” for a sweet, but strong iced coffee drink!

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Panini Pete's in downtown meanwhile has savory sandwiches and sweet Beignets (served with a lemon) that are not to be missed.

Felix’s Fish Camp is situated on one of the most scenic parts of Mobile Bay and offers Gulf seafood and USDA certified steaks. The dining room boasts gigantic windows to take in an entire panorama of natural beauty. TIP: Schedule your visit sometime around sunset. Also, look out for alligators, guests love to watch the gators nestled in reeds and shallow waters below the restaurant.

Where to Stay in Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores:

Would recommend staying in Mobile and traveling to the Gulf Shores for the best of city and beach.

In the heart of Mobile, The Admiral Hotel , a Curio Collection by Hilton, offers a modern, hip setting steeped in history. Located inside an historic building, the 75-year-old hotel boasts a central location. TIP: Ask the front desk for a homemade honey cookie! They keep bee apiaries on the roof for harvesting sustainable honey for their restaurants and recipes.

Tips for Visiting Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores - where to eat, stay and what to do!
Tips for Visiting Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores - where to eat, stay and what to do!
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