April 20, 2009

Spring Break A Family Affair on the Alabama Gulf Coast

If you gathered the family and asked each member to list the attractions each would like to find at the perfect spring break vacation destination, what would that list include?

Would there be recreation activities such as fishing, boating, golfing, tennis, water skiing and swimming? Would there be nature activities such as hikes, walks and visits to parks or zoos? Would there be science and history activities such as trips to museums or forts?

Would there be thrill-seeking activities such as parasailing or hitting the amusement or water park? How about shopping? Dining? Sleeping in? Staying up late? Family time? Alone time for mom and dad? There is one destination that promises -- and delivers -- all this and more. It's the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Spring break is almost here, and with just a little homework, a family of any size and combination of ages and interests can pack a whole lot of fun into those brief few days.

But where, oh where, to begin? The aforementioned list-making exercise is not a bad way to start. Find out what each person hopes to do while visiting the area, and that will give you a running start at either packing in the most activities you can or spreading out the fun so that everyone comes home refreshed and not exhausted.

Another consideration is reservations. Once you have booked accommodations, you also need to find out if any of your planned activities have to be scheduled in advance. If, for instance, you want to go deep-sea fishing, you will need to charter your trip ahead of time. While many local attractions are designed for walk-up traffic, many also offer special tours or events for those who call ahead. Guided walks or special encounters with zoo residents are just a couple of examples.

Planning ahead also allows for finding out if summer-season venues have opened for spring-break crowds. Although the Alabama Gulf Coast is a year-round destination, a minuscule number of venues open only for the summer. Check ahead so your schedule can flow smoothly. Now that you have an idea of what is on each person's agenda and what is available to fill those wishes, it's time to start planning logistics. After all, you don't want to try to pack in a day's fun only to find out your events are on opposite ends of the coast. The less time spent getting around, the more time spent having fun.

Speaking of having fun, some of the sites that families might want to consider include historic Fort Morgan, which played a role in at least four wars; Gulf State Park, home to freshwater lakes, camping facilities and hiking trails; the Gulf Shores Zoo, also known as "The Little Zoo That Could" for its efforts to keep its residents safe during hurricanes; or The Wharf, with its movie theaters, restaurants, shops and giant Ferris wheel.

Be sure to pencil in plenty of stops for refreshment, because you will want to sample all the delights the local culinary scene has to offer. Fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood is available year-round. Of course, no one wants to skimp on time at the main attraction: The sparkling white sands and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether your group is of the "early-to-rise" persuasion or considers sunset the start of the action, the Alabama Gulf Coast is ready for one and all. From break-of-day walks to set the pace for activity to late-night strolls for lovers, the sparkling sands and breaking surf are a perfect setting for a getaway.

With just a little planning, and a bit of cooperation, spring break at the Alabama Gulf Coast can be the perfect mix of sun and fun, family and freedom, refreshment and rejuvenation. And while the week whips by at break-neck speed, there is one bright spot: Summer is just weeks away. To find out more about what the Alabama Gulf Coast has to offer, visit www.thebeachiscalling.org. Check out the Travel Tools drop-down menu for guides to help in planning your visit.

Carol Weaver is a local writer who is looking forward to welcoming family and friends for their annual spring-break visits.

By CAROL WEAVER

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