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Bucket List: Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Friday, June 27th, 2014
Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival Mass Ascension

Cross ballooning off your bucket list on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Up, up and away! The butterflies never came as we gently lifted into the air. Waving goodbye to our ground crew, the scene before us got smaller and simultaneously opened up to bigger views of the sky and ground. It was just after sunrise and the soft dawn light and puffy clouds provided the perfect backdrop as more balloons followed behind us.

The beauty of a mass hot air balloon ascension is undeniable and totally accessible. Every year, the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival brings balloonists from all over to the small town of Foley, Alabama, just minutes from the beautiful coastal city of Gulf Shores. Entry to the festival is free, and the entertainment includes an interactive hot air balloon display, a hot air balloon glow and mass ascension, tethered rides, live music, a frisbee dog show, kids zone, arts and crafts village, retail marketplace, antique tractor display and more. The festival always takes place on Father’s Day weekend, so keep that in mind when thinking about a unique gift for dad. Daredevils can schedule a tethered ride, which usually cost $15-$20 per person.

Hot Air Ballooning on the Gulf Coast

It truly was a stunning end to the 10th annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival.

10 Things I Learned From My Hot Air Balloon Experience

  1. Hot air ballooning is one of the earliest forms of flight, and it is actually very safe. Leave the butterflies at home!
  2. During tethered rides, if a large balloon had just one tie-down, it could lift up an entire van.
  3. You can’t just take off and touch down anywhere. Landowner relations are an important part of determining your launch site and landing place.
  4. Direction is determined with a mylar balloon. To find our launch site, we drove into the wind, away from our predetermined landing spot.
  5. You don’t turn in a hot air balloon. You rotate.
  6. Your job is to help watch for power lines, even if the pilot says otherwise. Beyond that, just lean back and enjoy!
  7. Ballooning is a very expensive hobby. By supporting a pilot with your business, you help keep the art of ballooning alive and well.
  8. Because of their massive size, shape balloons are a dying art. One shape balloon can cost up to $200K for just the balloon itself and can weigh up to 1400 pounds.
  9. Larger balloon generally have a smoother landing due to their weight. It helps if you soften your knees.
  10. Hot air ballooning is fun — really, really fun!
Orange Beach Hot Air Balloon

Take dad for a tethered ride on Father’s Day weekend at the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival.

If you would like to schedule an untethered ride in a hot air balloon with one of our local pilots, be sure to contact them in advance. Winds must be less than 5 mph to fly, so balloonists are very restricted in terms of when they can go up. Typically, your flight will be scheduled at dawn, because the winds can die down to almost 0 mph around that time. Ready to check something off your bucket list? Here are some local balloon pilots and their contact information.

Balloon: Let’s Get High
Pilot: Captain Ellis Calvert
Location: Orange Beach, AL
Contact: 251-752-2248

Balloon: Hope Floats
Pilot: Tommy Rachel
Location: Magnolia Springs, AL
Contact: 251-970-FLYU (3598)

Pilot Warren's pirate balloon

If you were to hold this image to a mirror, it would read “Not all treasure is silver and gold me mates, for a gift of flight be precious. A Pirates Life For Me!”

If you are travelling to the area, we highly recommend you stay near the coast! Meyer Vacation Rentals has one of the largest selections of condos and beach houses in the area, and the search feature has a variety of different filters to make your search easy. How does that sound? A beach getaway and a magical hot air balloon ride. Share in life’s wonderful experiences with your friends and family.

I’d like to send a special thank you to Pilot Tom Warren and crew of American Balloons (Land O’ Lakes, FL) for the fantastic, fun and thoroughly safe experience, as well as Pilot Tommy Rachel for all of his hard work organizing the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival and finally Meyer Vacation Rentals for being a sponsor of this local event and helping to keep ballooning alive and well on the Gulf Coast.

American Balloons in Florida

Thanks to Pilot Tom Warren and crew for the wonderful experience!

Halloween on Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Spooky. Cute. Fictional characters. No matter your costume style, Halloween is a chance to let your imagination soar. Choose from a variety of opportunities for all ages to celebrate this fall holiday along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Halloween, haunted house, gulf shores, alabama, orange beach, foley

For spooky or not-so-scary Halloween fun for any age, the Alabama Gulf Coast is the place to be!

Nightly between 6 and 9 p.m. through October 31, LuLu’s in Gulf Shores becomes BooLu’s, including the Manor of Doom haunted house and maze plus age-appropriate games. The $5 donation goes to local school arts programs—and for another $5 donation, test your climbing and balancing skills on the Mountain of Youth Ropes Course.

Boo at the Zoo speaks to the softer side of the season. With furry, feathery and scaly friends all around, your little ones will squeal with extra delight Thursday, October 25 at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores. The costume contest for kids of all ages begins at 5 p.m., but games, prizes and snacks will round out the fun from 4 until 6 p.m. Admission is $2 for kids, $1 for adults.

Bring the whole family to the Uptown Foley Halloween Party on Thursday, October 25. This free event, 5:30–8:30 p.m., is a block party-style celebration. Local businesses will line the streets, where you’ll enjoy a food court, cake walks, spook house, obstacle course, face painting, free games and treats, an inflatable jump house, and a costume contest for all ages.

Combine trick-or-treating with a shopping excursion at SanRoc Cay in Orange Beach. This Friday, October 26, from 3 until 9 p.m., bring your own bag and pick up treats at the SanRoc Cay merchants. While you are there, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants, shop to your heart’s content, and even paint a special Halloween mask at Life’s a Canvas.

Get spooked at the Terror on the Gulf haunted house at The Hangout in Gulf Shores. For just $5 (or $25 for a season pass), find your way through the maze—but watch out for creatures! Open 7–10 p.m. for all ages that can handle the fright, then the adults-only version will run from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. for those 18 and over. Dates are Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27, then again October 29–31.

Let your pet in on the holiday fun! Bring your costumed pet, children and self to Magnolia By the Gulf Animal Clinic at Hwy. 59 and Co. Rd. 6 at 10 a.m. Saturday, October 27. Judging begins at 11 a.m. and prizes will be awarded for various categories for pets and people.

skeleton, halloween, gulf shores, alabama, orange beach, foley

Tiptoeing past a scary sight is just one of the many ways to celebrate Halloween in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.

Halloween Family Fun Night at the Bodenhamer Recreation Center in Gulf Shores includes fireside stories, carnival games, dunking booth, a cake walk, and costume contests. This event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, October 27. Admission and popcorn are free, and game tickets may be purchased for 50 cents.

Bring your lawn chairs and blankets Saturday, October 27 for movie night on the marina lawn at The Wharf in Orange Beach. The full evening begins at 6:30 with Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special, followed by Monsters, Inc. at 7 p.m. As the younger children head home, the screen will light up with the scary Poltergeist at 9 and Amityville Horror at 11. Admission and popcorn are free for all movies.

On Saturday, October 27, 7–11 p.m., join the Treasures of the Isle krewe for their Halloween Fundraiser at the Orange Beach Community Center. Your $20 donation includes a dinner of barbecue, chips and slaw. Ice, cups and set-ups will be provided, and you can dance to the music of Knee Deep. Be sure to dress up—you could win prizes in the costume contest!

Of course, you’ll need a place to relax after all the spooky fright of Halloween. Plan now to stay with Meyer Vacation Rentals any time of year for pure peacefulness at the beach.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

Oktoberfest in Perdido Key

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

October is just around the corner. That means it’s time for Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest, Perdido Key, FL, German, accordion, music, folk, tradition

Dress in German folk attire (you could win a prize!) or come as you are. Perdido Key Oktoberfest is filled with music, games, brats and beer. Join the festivities October 5 & 6, 2012!

The 3rd Annual Oktoberfest in Perdido Key, Florida, is proof of the success of their first two events. It has already outgrown the one-day schedule, so this year you have two days—October 5 and 6, 2012—to raise a toast to the folk traditions of Germany.

You’ll be treated to a musical performance schedule that features Buttons and Bows (accordionist Julie Council with her 9-year-old grandson Christopher Conger), Josef Mit Dehr OomPa, and the German band Bayrisch Blau that plays everything from polkas to American contemporary pop/rock.

Of course, the food is a huge favorite at the festival. Brats, schnitzel, pretzels and more will be savored by all ages. Children will enjoy the setting of the root beer garden that includes a bounce house. And the adults have the opportunity to sample a number of German beers by purchasing a $20 set of 10 tickets; single tickets can be traded for sample sizes of ale, or two tickets will return a full-size serving of your favorite variety.

Start warming up now to win one or more of the festival games described below. One game will be played every 15 minutes between 2:30 and 4 p.m. on Friday, and between each music set the remainder of the event.
›  Hammerschlagen—Be the first to pound the nail into the wood.
›  Stein Race—Run the course the fastest without spilling the beer.
›  Masskrugstemmen—Hold a beer-filled, liter-size stein at a 90-degree angle as long as you can. (This is harder than it sounds!)
›  Keg Roll—Push the keg through an obstacle course.
›  Brat Toss—Toss brats with a partner, using buckets.

Don’t forget to wear your traditional German clothing—at 5:45 each day, prizes will be awarded for the best-dressed male and female!

This free family-friendly event begins Friday, October 5 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, October 6 at noon; closing time is 8:00 both evenings.

You’ll find the fun at 13200 Gulf Beach Highway, on the former Sacred Heart Soccer Fields next to the Winn-Dixie Shopping Center.

Come for the weekend—or better yet, stay a few extra days! Make it a cozy getaway in one of Perdido Key’s 1-bedroom condos or bring the family and stay in a 3-bedroom Perdido Key condo. No matter how many in your party, you’ll have a wonderful time at Perdido Key Oktoberfest and the beach!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Back-to-School Beach Bash

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

You may not know it by the weather, but summer is coming to an end. At least it is for students and their families. Rather than bidding the season a sad farewell, come celebrate it with free live music and s’mores at the beach!

smores, s'mores, beach bash, back to school, gulf shores, alabama

Free s’mores and live music on the beach! Bring your family to celebrate the end of summer at Gulf Shores Public Beach on Friday, August 10, 2012.

This Saturday, August 18, the City of Gulf Shores will host the second annual Beach Bash. Starting at 5 p.m., it won’t be hard to find the activity at the west end of the public beach. You’ll see campfires surrounded by folks of all ages creating and savoring (or gobbling) toasty, melty, oh-so-good s’mores. And others will be enjoying shaved ice.

With all that extra energy from the treats, you and the kids will have a blast dancing to the music played by DJ Shawn Weaver.

Send the season out with a simply yummy event. Round up your beach blankets and chairs, a cooler of cold beverages, and your family and friends, then relish the final evenings of relaxation before school activities kick into gear.

How about celebrating even bigger with a last-minute back-to-school beach getaway? When you stay by August 25 and pay for 4 nights, you’ll get two more nights FREE! Check out the details, then start packing for some fabulous end-of-season bonding with your family.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

SEC Beachfest 2012

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Start warming up your arms for weeks of high-energy fist pumps. Begin your food planning for weekly sports-related snacks. Get your voice back in shape to enthusiastically sing your favorite school’s fight song.

SEC BeachFest, football, Gulf Shores, Alabama, Meyer Vacation Rentals, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Meet current and legendary coaches, play beach games, swap stories with players and fans, enjoy two great concerts, and participate in even more family-friendly fun at SEC BeachFest August 23–26, 2012 in Gulf Shores, AL.

And now there’s one more preparation for an awesome SEC football season: Pack your bags and head to the beach!

Get psyched to meet current and legendary coaches August 23–26, 2012, during the first SEC BechFest in Gulf Shores, Alabama. There’s no question that you’ll know these names: Nick Saban of Alabama, Gene Chizik of Auburn, Les Miles of LSU, Pat Dye of Auburn, Gene Stallings of Alabama, Vince Dooley of Georgia, R.C. Slocum of Texas A&M, and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee.

ESPNU’s SEC preview show will be broadcast from the beach, and it will include the current coaches. Get the inside scoop from these hard-hitting leaders during town hall discussions with the fans. You may even learn a few new moves from the icons of Southeastern Conference football at the FanZone sports clinics and games.

For some, it may be hard to understand that SEC football isn’t at the top of your loved one’s list. We understand your disappointment. But don’t leave those folks behind! Fueled by BP, FanZone will also host family and kids’ activities such as a sandcastle-building competition, beach games, beach volleyball, touch football with SEC legends, a 5k run and one-mile fun run, and a waffle breakfast. You can even get a foursome together and participate in the SEC BeachFest Golf Scramble.

In keeping with the excitement-filled “something for everyone” weekend, you’ll be treated to two fabulous evening concerts: Celebrate 35 years of rockin’ beats with the B-52s on Friday night, and dance on the sand Saturday night to Grammy-winning voodoo funk by Dr. John.

Each SEC school will have a fan/alumni headquarters at LuLu’s (Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee), Tacky Jack’s Gulf Shores (LSU, Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M) or Tacky Jack’s Orange Beach (Alabama, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri), so be prepared to swap stories and relive great football and school memories between 5:00 and 8:30 each evening.

To make the weekend even more appealing, we’ve arranged for you to get your 3rd night free in a condo or your 4th night free in a house when you stay with Meyer Vacation Rentals—AND you’ll get FREE passes to the weekend’s activities (each ticket is a $25 value). Get all the details, then get busy warming up for a fantastic SEC football kickoff event at the beach!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Summer Beach Games

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

“Ready . . . set . . . go!”

beach games gulf shores coast 360 summer 2012

Kids compete in beach games Thursdays at Gulf Shores Public Beach.

Each Thursday through the end of July, ten children between the ages of 7 and 11 will have the opportunity to participate in old-fashioned beach fun.

From 11 a.m. until approximately noon at the Gulf Shores Public Beach, these kids will race, throw, bend and twist their way through games as they compete for the winning position.

Register at 10:45 to play Hula-Hoop, Fish in a Barrel, Bucket Ruckus, Low-Tide Slide and Seafood Scramble. But be there early, as there is only room for ten children, so it’s first come, first served. The top three will receive special awards, but all participants walk away with a souvenir for their efforts.

You’ll find the fun—whether participating or watching—at Lifeguard Station #4. For further information, call the game sponsor, Coast360, 251-967-7572.

Still looking for the perfect vacation place for your family? Look no further! Perhaps a 3-bedroom condo or house in Orange Beach will fit your needs, or maybe a 2-bedroom Perdido Key property is just right. With more than 1500 vacation rental properties on or near the beach, all sizes and budgets, it’s easy to find what you are looking for.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Twitter and Facebook.

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