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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.

*Update: As of August 2014, the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival has been permanently canceled by event organizers.

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!

Celebrate Memorial Day at the Beach

Thursday, April 10th, 2014
boy holding flag on beach

Spend Memorial Day weekend on the Gulf Coast with Meyer Vacation Rentals!

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff of summer. Have you found yourself planning family trips and outdoor events? If a long weekend on the beach appeals to your sentiments, then you are not alone. Thousands of sun-hungry visitors and locals alike will flock to the shoreline of area beaches and their corresponding deep waters. Where will your plans take you? If you’re heading to Alabama or the NW Florida Gulf Coast, then we have a few suggestions to add to your itinerary.

Fort Morgan Memorial Day Tribute

We can’t think of a more creative way to spend your Memorial Day holiday than the Memorial Day Tribute at historic Fort Morgan. Go back in time, Monday, May 26, with historical interpreters and live demonstrations throughout the day. You can even participate if you’d like! Historical interpreters, dressed in period uniforms of the United States Army from different eras of the fort’s occupation, will conduct special guided tours of the fortification throughout the day. Also, artillery, small arms, and other demonstrations will show the complexities that have faced the military garrisons at Fort Morgan.

Fort Morgan was built after the War of 1812 but is best known for its part in protecting, or attempting to protect, the Mobile Bay ship channel during the Civil War. On August 5, 1864, when Union Admiral D. G. Farragut led his fleet past the guns of the fort and into the bay with the loss of only one ship, we recall his famous quote of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The Memorial Day Tribute is from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the fort, located at 51 State Highway 180 West, Gulf Shores, Ala. 36542 (very end of Fort Morgan Road, past the ferry). Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children 6-12. Fort Morgan’s phone number is 251-540-7127 and you can also find more information at their website.

Celebrations at the Wharf

Saturday, May 24 starts the 100 Days of Summer Kick-Off at The Wharf. Celebrated country artist Dylan Scott will perform, starting at 6:30 at Main Street at The Wharf. The Pepsi Beach Ball Drop at 8 p.m. will feature 2,000 inflated beach balls bouncing around throughout the crowd. After the ball drop, the 2014 premier of SPECTRA, The Wharf’s Sound and Light Spectacular will continue the entertainment. And that’s not all! Sunday, May 25 at 7 p.m., classic rock legends Foreigner, Styx and former Eagles member Don Felder will be serenading Orange Beach with their Soundtrack of Summer tour. Bring your family and enjoy the open air amphitheater located waterfront near the Wharf Marina.

The 10th Annual LuluPalooza

Another fun, family-friendly event happening Memorial Day weekend is LuluPalooza. Located right on the Intracoastal Waterway at Lucy Buffet’s famous Lulu’s restaurant, LuluPalooza is always fun and friendly. Details on this event have not been announced, but it will be taking place all-day Saturday, May 24. Lulu brings the best regional funk, blues, soul and rock and roll, so this is a party you won’t want to miss!

Gulf State Park Luau

It’s the 75th anniversary of the Alabama State Park system and the Year of Alabama State Parks, so expect lots of fun activities at Gulf State Park this year. They started off with a beach bonfire and fireworks celebration on New Year’s Eve, and for Memorial Day, they are hosting a traditional Hawaiian luau! Fire dancers, hula dancers and delicious food will entertain and delight anyone lucky enough to be at this celebration.

Beach and Waterfront Accommodations

If you’d like to spend Memorial Day weekend somewhere on the Alabama or Florida Gulf Coast, then check out our large selection of vacation rentals including both gulf-front and waterfront condos and beach houses throughout Perdido Key, Fla., Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, and Fairhope, Ala. We are filling up very fast, so book now for the best selection! We can be reached 24/7 with any questions or concerns at 888-463-8016.

2013 Gulf Coast Oyster Cook-off

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

IMG_7027_bBring your appetite to The Hangout’s 6th annual Oyster Cook-off, an all-day event, November 9th. Innovative chefs from around the region will showcase their favorite Cajun, Rockefeller and raw oyster dishes. A panel of celebrities will judge the submissions based on flavor, creativity and presentation. The winning teams will take home cash prizes and tickets to the 2014 Hangout Music Festival. Tasting tickets are only $2, and admission to the festival is free. You can also get a book of 20 tasting tickets for $30. Cast your votes for the People’s Choice award, and enjoy the raw talent at the shucking competition.

There are plenty of other things to do at the cook-off beyond eating oysters. Dance to live music, watch the annual Alabama-LSU rivalry game on the big screen or just enjoy the variety of craft-brewed beers. And remember, the beach is only a few steps away.

IMG_8348_bNeed a place to stay for the festival? Meyer Vacation Rentals, a preferred lodging partner for the 2013 Gulf Coast Oyster Cook-off, is giving away a free night’s stay. There are also limited number of free tickets to the exclusive preview party, November 8th, available to Meyer guests. The Oyster Cook-off is located on the grounds of The Hangout Restaurant, at the end of Hwy. 59, at the public beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Did You Know?

IMG_8142_bThe history of Oysters Rockefeller is quite interesting. It all began in New Orleans, circa 1899, at Antoine’s Restaurant. Founder Antoine Alciatore had developed a recipe for snails Bourgigno. After a shortage of French snails, Antoine’s son, Jules Alciator, adopted the dish into what we now know as Oysters Rockefeller. Oysters were rarely cooked prior to this, and Jules is known as a culinary pioneer. Antoine’s is the oldest running family business, and the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely-guarded secret. It was said that on his death bed, Jules vowed that it would stay that way forever.

Oysters R (always) In Season

IMG_7009_bHave you ever been told not to eat oysters in the months without an R in the spelling? It doesn’t really apply anymore. Refrigeration and our advanced shipping industry ensure that oysters are safe to eat year-round. The warm waters consistent with the R-less months of May, June, July and August do not make oysters any less safe to eat. They do reproduce during these months, and that can have an effect on their flavor, but interestingly, oysters can reproduce at any time during the year in our warm Gulf waters.

Kids and Oysters

All oyster lovers have to develop a taste for them at some point. If your kid wants to try oysters, start them off easy. Even picky eaters and compromised immune systems can handle oysters baked, broiled and chargrilled. Eating raw oysters can be a fun adventure for the little ones. You might want to dress it for them the first time with their favorite spices. I prefer my raw oysters served on a Saltine cracker and topped with cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon and a dash of hot sauce! How do you like your oysters?

Hungry for more? Take a look our highlight’s from 2012’s Gulf Coast Oyster Cook-off.

Perdido Key Kayak, Barbeque & Blues Festival

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Perdido Key’s first annual Kayak, Barbeque & Blues festival is being held Saturday, August 31st over Labor Day weekend. The two and four mile race course starts and ends at Galvez Landing. There will be solo and tandem kayak races, as well as a paddleboard competition. Following the races, you can head to Hub Stacey’s for live music and BBQ. The BBQ cook-off will be judged by a blind tasting, and all the entries will be available for purchase.

Regional blues artists Larry T. Wilson & Big Muddy play from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by Johnny Barbato and The Lucky Doggs from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Johnny Barbato and the Lucky Doggs won the duo award in both 2011 and 2012 for the regional roundup of the International Blues Competition, representing the Gulf Coast and the Gulf Coast Blues Society.

From 5:30 to 8 p.m., South Florida’s Blues Brothers Soul Band will be rocking the stage with their musical talent and entertaining antics. The Blues Brothers Soul Band is a tribute to the original Blues Brothers with the stage presence to prove it. If you need a break from dancing, browse the booths of the arts and crafts vendors on site. Who doesn’t love festival goodies?

When the music’s over, they’re not turning out the lights. Don’t miss the stunning fireworks show, planned and produced by Pyrotecnico, a fireworks company with more than 100 years of business behind them. And to give the whole event a little extra local flavor, they’re ending it with more water sports. They had to get permission from the Coast Guard to make this happen, so make sure you stay for the flyboarding demonstration! The flyboarder will be wearing an LED suit, so that it’s visible to the crowd.

Want to Participate?
Prizes will be awarded to the top athletes in each class (solo, tandem, & paddleboard). First place for the two mile course will receive $200, followed by $100 for second and $50 for third. First place for the four mile course will receive $400, followed by $200 for the second and $100 for the third. If you register in advance, it’s only $25 for the two mile course and $45 for the four mile course, and they’re giving military personnel a 25% discount. You can also get half-price kayak and paddleboard rentals (that would be $25 a half-day) if you rent from Perdido Paddleboard Company and Pensacola Kayak and Sail at the race location.

Where to Stay
Meyer Vacation Rentals has you covered. The BBQ and Blues Festival special is running through September 2nd, and it include a free nights at all non-gulf-front condos. Search available properties to find out where you’d like to kick back and relax. Mark your calendars!

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.

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