On the actual day of our 14th anniversary, we pulled up stakes and headed south, with the kids and my mom in tow. We left home at 5:10 a.m. (not too shabby as we had a 5:00 a.m. goal) and drove and drove and drove and drove and.... finally at 4:50 p.m. we arrived! Where?
Orange Beach, Alabama! It was our third trip as a family to the Gulf, but our first time in Orange Beach (which neighbors Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the Florida state line). In the past we've visited Destin, and Seaside, both in Florida, so this was our first vacation at the Alabama part of the Gulf coast.
View looking down from our 12th floor condo at the outdoor pool.
Girls ready to go for a swim!
Boy ready for a swim; girls getting feisty!
Even the parents got to get some sun!
The condo we stayed in was gorgeous. We'd never been there so it was a little worrisome, but it turned out to be really great. It was huge, and very clean, and had a great view. We went at a good time - after all the loud spring-breakers, but before the crowds of summer vacationers. It's probably the best time to go.
The first day, the weather was nice, but not HAWT in the morning, so we decided to take that morning to go to the Gulf Coast Zoo. It was about a 15 minute drive from our condo, and I guess was featured on an Animal Planet TV show after it was being rebuilt after a hurricane. It's a cute little zoo. Most of the animals can be fed - goats, sheep, little horses, etc - though they had a huge alligator, two lions, two tigers, and a couple of camels too. The best part of the zoo is that you can pay an extra $10 for a lemur encounter. You get to go inside this little enclosure with a zookeeper and 2 live lemurs. They will climb on you and you can pet them. It was interesting and kind of gross, and Lucy was disappointed that they didn't climb on her more. The zookeeper said they are nearing the end of the 'encounter career.' They are a year old and at 18 months they are fully grown and will no longer interact so much with humans. So it was a little bit of a letdown, but still a neat experience to have.
These little yellow guys were my favorite. Such expressive little hands and faces! I could have watched them all day.
One day, it was rainy and chilly all day, so that was a perfect chance to visit the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It was about 20 minutes east of our condo. The museum is amazing. It's free to get in, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of aircraft, most of which can be climbed in, on, etc. They also had outer space type stuff, which was cool to see.
Probably our all-around favorite excursion was the dolphin tour. There are many companies in the area that will take you on a 'dolphin tour' but the reviews are wildly mixed. My mom's boss recommended one to her that he had used, so we went with that, and it was a great choice. They were friendly, the boat was nice, and we actually saw quite a few dolphins! It did get chilly (it was a 5-7pm sunset cruise) so they handed out blankets to the passengers. We also got to go in Wolf Bay and see some of the native plants and learn about those.
And, finally, what trip is complete without a trip to the souvenir shop? There were two pretty cool looking ones.