Christmas Open House in Gulf Shores

The twinkling lights in stores and on houses, the oversized plastic candy canes and snowflakes attached to the city’s light poles, the wreaths in the windows, the seasonal music in stores and on the radio . . . there’s no mistaking it—it’s Christmas time!

Christmas, holiday, open house, Gulf Shores, Alabama, Santa

Share the holiday cheer with your neighbors at the City of Gulf Shores' Christmas Open House on Thursday, December 1, 2011.

Your entire family is invited to celebrate as a community (whether you are a resident or visitor) when the City of Gulf Shores opens its doors Thursday, December 1 at 6:00 p.m.

You’ll find an abundance of holiday joy spread among four locations, all within walking distance of each other: Gulf Shores Museum, Thomas B. Norton Public Library, Erie Meyer Civic Center and Bodenhamer Recreation Center. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there, joined by some of their elves to help with photo opportunities (bring your camera!) and hand out treats. Whether listening or dancing, you’ll enjoy music by the Mobile Symphony Brass Quintet and Brent Burns. Crafts, stories, and activities such as a moonwalk bounce house will keep the children entertained, and everyone will marvel at the train sets, award-winning gingerbread houses and holiday village.

You can pick up a schedule of entertainment at any of the four locations mentioned above or South Baldwin Community Theater, or you may call 251-968-1172 for more information. And please plan to arrive with a gift to donate to Toys for Tots so that less-fortunate children also may feel the warmth of the holiday season.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

Arctic Express in Lower Alabama

Starting Friday, November 25, you and your little ones can leave Lower Alabama on a magical train ride to see Santa at the North Pole.

Wales West Light Railway, Arctic Express, Christmas, Santa, holiday, children, family

Experience the magic of a ride on the Arctic Express, straight to Santa! Departure from Wales West in Silverhill, Alabama.

The mile-long ride begins at Wales West on America’s only steam-powered, Welsh narrow-gauge railway. The train, Dame Ann, has been transformed into the Arctic Express to help fulfill Santa’s wish to visit with as many children as possible. Families ride past decorated Victorian-style buildings, gardens, woodlands and Lake Victoria, marveling at the million-plus lights that sparkle along the way.

Meeting, visiting and taking pictures with Santa (don’t forget your camera!) is only part of the North Pole experience. Santa’s elves will be busy handing out collectible wooden toy locomotives that can be taken home as is or decorated at the arts and crafts table. The kids may wish to make Christmas cards or an ornament, too, while they are there.

Once the train arrives back in Lower Alabama, everyone gets hot cocoa, a cookie and a candy cane to enjoy—plus on the weekends other special activities will be presented. But that’s not the end of the evening! Jump on a miniature train for a free ride past festive decorations, let the kids go shopping at the Elf Emporium, work off some steam at the playground, and take advantage of even more photo opps at the locomotive wall. Light lunch, dinner and snack foods are served at the café, and many train-related gifts—including Thomas the Tank Engine items—may be purchased at the gift shop.

North Pole transportation is available Fridays 4–9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 1–9 p.m., and as of December 14, a nightly schedule of 4–9 p.m. is added. It’s a tremendous amount of fun for just $12 per person (no charge for ages 13 months and younger). You’ll find Wales West on County Road 9 in Silverhill—take Highway 59 north to County Road 32 west, then turn north onto County Road 9; the railway is two miles ahead.

Make it an extra-special excursion by bringing your family to the beach for a long weekend! You may find the perfect place for your small family to be a 3-bedroom condo in Fort Morgan. Your larger family will be thrilled with a roomy 4-bedroom house or condo in Orange Beach. For true bonding time, you and your extended family can enjoy staying under one roof with a 6-bedroom house in Gulf Shores.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanksgiving Without the Hassle

The biggest holiday feast of the year for most Americans will be served this Thursday.

Thanksgiving, The Hangout, Gulf Shores, Alabama, feast, holiday, beach

The Hangout makes it possible to enjoy a family-style Thanksgiving feast without the hassle.

You do remember that it’s Thanksgiving, right? (Uh-oh . . . Yes, it’s here already. Is that panic I see in your eyes?)

What if you could have the feast without the hassle? No hours spent slaving over the stove and oven. No separating the cooks from the rest of the group during preparation and cleanup. No dishes to wash. No post-dinner discovery of that dish you spent extra time on and then forgot to serve. And no settling for just a regular, any-day kind of meal.

When you head to The Hangout between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, you can have your feast and eat it too! For just $22 for each adult, $9 for kids 6 to 12, and no charge for those 5 and younger, you can get the kind of celebratory meal you dream about. And no, it’s not a buffet—it’s served up family style at your table!

Dine on an entrée of moist, roasted turkey with turkey gravy, or maybe prime rib (additional charge). Surround the main course with healthy and yummy vegetables such as green bean casserole, fresh corn, mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Round out your meal with homemade cranberry sauce, corn bread and sausage stuffing, sweet potato streusel, deviled eggs, and fresh, hot rolls. Finally, reward yourself with a break from your diet. Dessert is too tempting to skip when your options include pecan pie, bread pudding and pumpkin pie.

Reservations are recommended, so call The Hangout at 251-948-3030 to guarantee your place at the table for a Thanksgiving dinner at the beach.

It’s not too late to decide on a Thanksgiving beach getaway. Book two nights in a condo or five nights in a house and get two more nights FREE when you provide promo code 11TG. PLUS, you’ll get a FREE bottle of wine or champagne when you choose to enjoy The Hangout’s Thanksgiving feast, courtesy of Meyer Vacation Rentals.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

Benefit Times Two Saturday at The Hangout

The Hangout in Gulf Shores is wonderfully active in the community, whether supplying entertainment (such as The Hangout Music Fest), hosting contests (including the Oyster Cook-off), or welcoming organizations that choose the restaurant as a home base for special fundraising activities.

Ta Ta Ride, motorcycle, The Hangout, fundraiser, breast cancer research, Alabama Sheriff's Youth Ranch

All-day fun at The Hangout on Saturday, November 19, to benefit breast cancer research and offer a safe haven for children.

This Saturday, November 19, 2011, combines two different causes into one fun event to benefit breast cancer research and to provide a safe home for needy, neglected and abused children.

The 1st Annual Ta Ta Ride is to raise awareness and money for UAB’s breast cancer research. Ta Ta Towing donates 10% of every tow to this program, so it’s fitting that they are presenting the motorcycle ride/poker run. Register Friday evening at The Hangout’s pre-party between 5 and 8 p.m., or sign up Saturday morning between 9 and 11 a.m. for the 11:00 ride that begins and ends at The Hangout. The fee for each bike is $30, and $10 extra for a passenger. It’s a good thing the weather should be in the mid-70s, as it is strongly suggested that all bikers – gals AND GUYS – dress in a bikini top.

The after party at The Hangout runs from 5 until 9 p.m., and is open to the public. Included will be games such as a frozen T-shirt contest, a men’s bikini top contest ($200 prize!), a cash raffle and a Dyna Super Glide 100th Anniversary Edition raffle. A $500 prize will be awarded for the best poker hand collected during the ride. Music will be provided by Foxy Iguanas, fronted by Smokey Otis; their family-friendly show begins at 7 p.m., with an adult show following at 11 p.m.

You can party all day or evening, but be sure to arrive before 6 p.m., as a pair of Iron Bowl tickets will be up for grabs in a live auction. The Iron Bowl (just a small contest between Auburn and Alabama) will be played Saturday, November 26, so this will be quite a competitive auction so close to the event date. And your bid supports the Alabama Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch in Summerdale—100% of the money raised will help give school-age children a better life.

Plan for a full day of fun that will benefit good causes. You are promised an enjoyable and appropriate start to your Thanksgiving week. Need more details? Call 251-752-1110 or 251-978-3990.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

Cooking Classes in Gulf Shores

Long walks on beautiful white sand, volleyball and other outdoor games, restaurants and night life, miniature golf and amusement parks . . . and a class? Taking a class when you come to the Gulf Shores area may not be top-of-mind, but widening your horizons may provide a welcome new vacation experience.

cooking class, Faulkner State Community College, Gulf Shores, Alabama, sushi, Cajun, cheesecake

Cooking is more fun when you know how! Choose from a variety of Gulf Coast Culinary Institute workshops to enhance your skills and bring out your hidden chef.

The Gulf Coast Culinary Institute at the Gulf Shores campus of Faulkner State Community College is offering a tasty array of afternoon and evening workshops through early December. Each class lasts 2.5 or 4 hours, and includes information, demonstration and guided hands-on opportunities.

To whet your appetite for the classes, take note of what the Culinary Institute has in store for you in November and December:

Saturday, November 12, 3–7 p.m. ($45)—Holiday Cajun Style
Who says your holiday meal has to be the same each year? Adopt a full Cajun theme or simply incorporate a few Cajun ideas to spice things up. This class discusses the history, the foods and the cooking techniques of Cajun cuisine. After a little exploration, you’ll get to put your new knowledge to use in the kitchen as Chef Trawick guides you through the steps.

Saturday, November 19, 3–5:30 p.m. ($45)—Sushi
Sushi lovers often declare that they would dine on this delicacy more often if not for the cost. But knowing how to make it means you can serve it often for a much lower cost than dining out. Chef Douglas will describe the history, food and techniques of sushi-making. Once you enter the kitchen, you’ll be instructed on selecting ingredients and cooking the rice, then experience the ease of making large rolls, small rolls, inside-out rolls and hand rolls.

Saturday, December 3, 3–7 p.m. ($30)—Cheesecake
Place a homemade cheesecake on the dessert table, and you’re the star of the gathering. You won’t need to watch someone else take those honors at your next get-together once Chef Douglas teaches you the secrets of successful cheesecake creation. Ingredients, tools and techniques will be covered, followed by guided preparation of a variety of savory and sweet treats. Among the lessons are crusts, styles, garnishes and sauces.

Register for any or all of the classes, held at the Faulkner State Community College campus just north of the Intracoastal Canal bridge in Gulf Shores, by calling 251-990-0445 or 800-231-3752.

Culinary workshops are even more fun when couples, families or friends share the experience, so get everyone together and come on down to the beach! If you haven’t already made your lodging arrangements, take a look at some of Meyer Vacation Rentals’ properties, such as 2-bedroom Gulf Shores condos and houses—or for larger groups, 4-bedroom houses and condos in Gulf Shores might be the perfect fit.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

Foley’s Heritage Harbor Days

Seldom will you find a two-day festival with such variety—variety of entertainment, variety of educational and historical exhibits, variety of cultures, variety of time periods, variety of edible delights. But that’s exactly what you and your family will be treated to at the 11th Annual Heritage Harbor Days on November 5 and 6, 2011.

Heritage Harbor Days, Foley, Alabama, Gulf Shores

Huge variety of fun! Heritage Harbor Days in Foley, Alabama, November 5 and 6, 2011.

At Heritage Park in Foley (corner of Highways 59 and 98), discover antique tractors from family farms, take a ride on the L&N Depot event train, and thrill the children with a photo opportunity with Thomas the Tank Engine (Saturday only, 10:00, 11:30 and 2:00). Hear stories of the wagon-train days as you sample food prepared in a chuckwagon by cowboy poet/humorist/cook Kent Rollins. Watch for Davy Crockett, who will share tales of his adventures as he walks about the festival grounds.

Visit the many “buildings” of Heritage Village, an open replica of early 20th-century Foley. Explore a school, doctor’s office, home, general store, sewing shop and candle maker’s work area. Gather in the town square for music of the era and storytelling about Foley’s yesteryear.

Stage acts are scheduled non-stop on two main stages plus the Children’s Village. Banjos, bodhrins, fiddles and spoons share the stage with the Mexican Folkloric Dancers and Native American Dancers. Bluegrass and folk songs are interspersed with popular music of today, including Broadway, and the Navy Band will highlight patriotic music. Sunday’s Children’s Village stage line-up brings storytellers, dancers, martial arts, pageantry and batons. Check out the full entertainment line-up at the festival website.

Watch the experts shuck oysters and teach you how to eat them. Once you’ve mastered that skill, round out mealtime with favorite yummies such as gyros, po-boys, kabobs, corn dogs, funnel cakes, lemonade, waffle-cone ice cream treats, kettle corn, pork rinds and much more.

Heritage Harbor Days, Foley, Alabama, Gulf Shores, history

Experience the history of Foley at Heritage Village during Heritage Harbor Days.

Many local arts and crafts experts will be offering their handiwork, so be prepared to make at least a couple of trips back to your car with gifts for yourself, your friends and your family. And just when you think you’ve experienced all there is at the festival, the organizers toss one more popular family activity your way: Fireworks at dusk on Sunday create a perfect, timeless way to close out the experience-packed weekend.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

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