5 Tips For Having A Successful Vacation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many well-known reasons to take a vacation. Among numerous other benefits, vacations relieve stress, help workers focus, make them happier, strengthen relationships, and make employees more productive when they return to work.

But it’s important to remember that simply taking time off does not guarantee a vacation will be successful. To fully reap the benefits, there are a few things workers should do before, during and after their vacations, said Bill Watts, employee relations manager for SH Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Gulf Shores, Ala.-based Meyer Vacation Rentals.

Bill WattsWatts is responsible for counseling and assisting employees with work-related or personal concerns and otherwise providing employee support as needed. His services are one of the many ways Meyer parent company SH Enterprises Inc., recently voted one of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama in 2017, works to help employees stay happy, healthy and productive.

“It’s very important not to let work cause stress in our personal and family lives—not just for ourselves but also for our families. When someone gives everything to their job, something is left out. And, most of the time, it’s our families,” Watts said.

Watts entered the ministry as a pastor in 1976 but also held a job in the corporate world and attended college at the same time. As a minister, he provided support to members of his congregation while also managing his own busy work and family life.

As he worked, attended school and raised a family, retired from the ministry and one corporate career, and embarked on a completely new career at SH Enterprises in 2011, Watts said he learned some very important lessons about work-life balance that he passes on to his SH Enterprises colleagues today.

“For 37 years, I was a pastor of a church and almost all of that time worked a secular job. Because of that, many times, when my children were involved in activities, I did not get to spend the time with them that they would have liked for me to,” he said. “I didn’t realize until they were adults that they often felt shortchanged. They had resentment I didn’t understand until they were adults. It’s very important to pay attention to the needs of our families. And one of those needs is for our time.”

Watts said taking time to care for our own loved ones—and ourselves — is vital to finding happiness at work.

“Simply put, we are not going to be happy or successful in our work lives if our home lives are not happy. It is especially important to plan time to be with family, not just spend time with them when you have a few minutes.”

To make the most of time off the job, there are five things Watts suggested everyone do before, during and after a vacation.

1. Tie Up Loose Ends & Communicate

If you know you’re going to be away a month from now, try to leave as few loose ends as possible, Watts suggested. “Also, communicate to your colleagues that you are going to be away on vacation and that you will not be as accessible as you normally would be. Make them aware you won’t be checking emails every time you hear a ding or that you’ll only look at emails once or twice a day. At the same time, if there is a real emergency—if someone needs something right then—tell them they should call you and that if you don’t answer, you will call them back. This creates peace of mind for you and instills confidence and trust in your team.”

2. Lean On Your Team

It takes discipline to disconnect from regular work duties during vacation. However, giving direction to teammates about handling important tasks that may come up in your absence can help relieve pressure and help you focus your attention on the family.

“Empower whoever is going to be in charge in your absence to make decisions within certain parameters. Let them know that they can make whatever decision is needed. Not only will this help you vacation with greater confidence, but it will also help your teammates grow and develop in their own jobs.  While you’re away, you don’t need to worry about what’s not getting done. Enjoy your family. If there’s something that the person you’ve empowered can’t manage, realize that you can deal with it when you get back. There’s likely nothing you could do while you are out anyway.”

3. Limit Work Interruptions

“Remember that time away means time away. I urge people here all the time when we talk about stress and planning for vacation to realize that a true vacation can’t really happen if they still answer all their calls or emails. Many of our team members are in the position of taking calls from guests or vacation rental owners and feel like they can’t really get away because they must always be available to meet others’ needs.”

Watts advised that if workers simply must review emails while on vacation, they should only respond to those that simply cannot wait or be rerouted to a colleague to handle.

4. Prioritize Your Work Upon Your Return

Watts said when he plans for a vacation, he organizes and completes important tasks in advance. However, he is prepared for there to be numerous tasks to manage upon his return.

Rather than allowing himself to become overwhelmed when he returns to work, he prioritizes emails and tasks by deciding which ones must be handled immediately and which ones can wait until the next day or even the day after that.

“Prioritizing is a way to organize your time and energies or efforts to help you manage the workload when you return,” Watts said.

5. Kick The Fear

Watts said many people avoid taking time off from work because they fear their employer will find they can get along without them or their role in the company. This fear is unfounded, he cautioned.

“You shouldn’t worry that just because a team member can cover your duties for a few days, the managers are going to think they can get along without your position,” Watts said. “You must realize and accept your value and your position’s value to the company and understand that just because a co-worker can double up for a short time does not mean they can do it for an extended period of time.”

When such thoughts pop up in your mind during a vacation, Watts had this advice: “Turn to your family or return what you were doing. Refocus on enjoying the moment.”

Watts reinforced the need for workers to plan and enjoy productive vacations. “We are mentally, emotionally and physically healthier when we enjoy planned time away from work. Through a bit of self-management, we can vacation with confidence and return to work refreshed and more productive.”

ABOUT SH ENTERPRISES: Voted one of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama in 2017, SH Enterprises Inc. is the umbrella company for CENTURY 21 Meyer Real Estate for real estate sales and long-term rentals; Meyer Vacation Rentals for vacation rental management on the Alabama/Northwest Florida Gulf Coast; and Starr Textile Services of Alabama and Louisiana, with two commercial laundry facilities serving the Gulf Coast hospitality industry.

Vacation Rentals 101

The use of vacation rentals vs. hotels has been growing by leaps and bounds, with 40 percent of vacationers saying they have stayed in a vacation rental.

In a few short years, the vacation rental industry is projected to nearly double in size, with some industry experts predicting vacation rentals will overtake hotels as the primary form of lodging in the not-too-distant future.

These experts say travelers today are looking for more flexibility and options when it comes to their vacation experience. They want a vacation experience that makes them feel immersed in a locale and that they “own” their vacation property—even if it’s just for a few days, a week, a month or longer.

Read on for answers to several frequently asked questions about vacation rentals in general and also about Meyer Vacation Rentals.

How is a vacation rental different from a hotel?
The experience of vacationing in a rental property differs greatly from that of a hotel. (Details)

Full kitchens are one factor that makes vacation rentals different.A typical hotel room, at an average size of 325 square feet, simply does not have much space for families to hang out and relax. On the other hand, Meyer Vacation Rentals-managed properties range in size from efficiencies to five bedrooms and almost 4,000 square feet. We have houses with one bedroom, we have houses with 20 bedrooms, and we have everything in between.

Our vacation rentals come with private bedrooms and bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen that allows you to prepare full meals, a washer and dryer, a private balcony, deck or patio.

Each vacation rental is unique—uniquely decorated and unique in its availability of amenities. With a selection of more than 1,100 vacation rental properties, Meyer Vacation Rentals has a property to suit every taste, group size and desire for amenities.

Amenities at privately owned vacation rentals run the gamut, with some offering access to indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, a hot tub, playgrounds, fitness rooms, wireless Internet access, game rooms and on-site restaurants. Other vacation rentals have access to different amenities but offer other unique features aimed to please vacationers.

How can I figure out which vacation rentals are available for the dates I need?
Once you are logged on to MeyerRE.com on your desktop, you will see white boxes prompting you to select your arrival and departure dates.

Meyer makes it easy to choose your dates.You may use the calendar to fill in your dates here. Or, if you are unsure of your dates, simply click the “Search” button to pull up a list of Meyer Vacation Rentals-managed properties.

Once on the results page, select your preferred filters for property type, areas, orientations, number of bedrooms, etc. Other options allow you to further refine your list by categories such as rental houses with poolschildren’s poolsdog-friendlyboat friendlyground-floor units and so on.

On a mobile search, once you select “Vacation Rentals Search,” you will be prompted to note your preferred arrival and departure dates if they are known and also your preferred property type, view and area. It is not necessary to input arrival and departure dates, however. You may choose for your results to be sorted randomly, by featured properties at the top, by price or by the number of bedrooms. Selecting “Advanced Search” will allow you to access more filters to narrow your search results. On your results page, the link “Modify Search” will return you to the “Advanced Search” option.

In what areas are rental properties located?
Meyer Vacation Rentals offers the most diverse selection of beach houses and condos on the Gulf Coast, including 900+ condos and 200+ beach houses located throughout more than 38 miles of beachfront.

Properties are available in Gulf ShoresFort MorganOrange Beach and Perdido Key.

What’s the difference between a condo and a house?
Meyer Vacation Rentals manages both condos and houses for vacationers to rent.

Houses Vs. CondosA condominium rental is located in a multi-unit complex. While units are individually owned, property owners and their guests share access to common spaces and amenities like pools, fitness rooms, etc.

Meyer manages more than 900 condos and 200 houses along the Gulf Coast area that includes Gulf ShoresFort Morgan and Orange Beach, Alabama, and Perdido Key, Florida.

The selection of houses varies in size, the number of bedrooms and the number of people they can accommodate. Some houses have only a single bedroom and are right-sized for romantic getaways or a small family, while others have as many as 10 or even 20 bedrooms and can accommodate up to 56 people.

Regardless of whether you select a house or a condo and regardless of the number of people it can accommodate, each property has its own unique features and décor and includes fully equipped kitchens, living areas, and private bedrooms and bathrooms.

Meyer-managed houses feature a range of amenities. Some have their own pools while others are located in a neighborhood and offer access to a community pool. Some have elevators for ease of loading in and out.

While all of Meyer’s beach houses focus on the essentials needed by vacationing families such as fully equipped kitchens and washers and dryers, some owners have opted to reach beyond the fundamentals and offer extras such as gourmet kitchens, barbecue grills, and icemakers.

What are my options for views?
You may select from a variety of views at Meyer-managed properties. During your search for vacation rentals, simply filter your preferred results by the view.

Gulf ViewProperties with “Gulf-front” views provide an excellent beach view from your house or condo located directly on the Gulf of Mexico. There are no condos or houses between your balcony/deck and the beach. In the majority of properties, your view will be panoramic. However, at a few condos and houses, the adjacent properties are situated close to the beach on one or both sides, making your Gulf view still direct but not panoramic. The walking distance to the water’s edge varies by property.

Gulf View

When a property is considered Gulf view,” beach views range from excellent to angled or partial from your condo located on the Gulf of Mexico. The position of the condo building or house on the beach creates the type of view from the balcony of your individual property. Your advantage, in addition to the view, is the location on the beach side of the street.

Gulf-side” view means that there is no view of the beach from your condo located on the Gulf of Mexico due to the position of the condo building. Your advantage is the location on the beach side of the street.

Gulf-oriented” view means your condo or house is located in close proximity to the beach but not on the beach side of the street. Your beach views will be either excellent, good, angled, partial or no view depending on how the buildings on the beach side of the street are positioned. In most cases, you will have easy beach access nearby.

WaterfrontA “Waterfront” view means your house or condo building is located directly on one of the bays, lagoons or bayous on the island. Views of the backwaters will be excellent from houses. Water views from condos will be excellent, good, angled, partial or no view depending on how the buildings are positioned on the backwaters. In most cases, you will have easy beach access nearby.

Course-oriented” houses or condos are located on or near a signature golf course with excellent or partial views of the course.

How do I search for rentals large enough for my group?
When searching for vacation rentals, you may sort your results by criteria such as the number of bedrooms or by people you need to sleep.

Can I see photos of vacation rentals?
Yes, photos can be accessed on the individual house and condo pages as well as pages that highlight the shared amenities of condo complexes.

I’ve found some vacation rentals I’m interested in for my dates. How can I share these properties with my group or request more information?
Email to a friendFrom the individual property page, look below the main photo for icons that indicate you may email a friend, request more information or print a listing.

When you click the email a friend icon, a window will pop up prompting you to provide your name, email address and friend’s email.

Once you click “send,” your friend will receive a message directing them to click the link to view the property page.

The property I’m interested in is not available for my selected dates. How can I find something similar?
From your desktop computer, you will see that properties with similar attributes to the one you have selected appear on all property pages. Above the “Vacation Rentals” bar at the top of your results page, you will find “breadcrumbs,” or navigation links, that will identify your location within the website and allow you to return to a previous results page.

Do you ever run any specials?
Specials can be found on your mobile device on a tab at the bottom of the MeyerRE.com homepage. On the full site, specials and properties with hot deals can be found under the “Vacation Rentals” tab in the navigation bar at the top and also on the homepage in the “Vacation Rentals Special” block.

Joining our mailing list (click “Register” link at the top right of the homepage) and following Meyer on Facebook will alert to ongoing specials.

Can I book my selected rental online, or do I need to call your office?
You can book and pay for your vacation directly on MeyerRE.com. You may also call one of our vacation planners 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-382-9635.

Do you offer trip insurance?
Trip InsuranceYes, Meyer offers trip insurance that can be added to your reservation to protect your vacation investment.

Two options are available, “Cancel for Any Reason” and “Sun Trip Preserver,” both of which help protect your vacation investment in case of unforeseen circumstances such as illness To learn more about how the insurance options work, click HERE.

How do I obtain trip insurance coverage?
It’s easy! At the time you make your reservation online, select the checkbox for the desired travel insurance coverage and travel insurance will be included in the total cost.

If you are making your reservation by phone, please ask your vacation planner to add the desired travel insurance coverage to your reservation. You may choose to opt-out of this coverage online or by phone at the time of your reservation.

What are my payment options?
An Initial Reservation Payment is required prior to arrival and is specified in Meyer’s Rental Policies. A non-refundable processing fee to cover expenses associated with the initial reservation is due at reservation time and applies to all reservations.

Final payment, which is the balance due after the Initial Reservation Payment has been paid, is required prior to arrival. See Meyer’s Rental Policies for specific details.

Payment may be made by online or by calling 1-800-382-9635 via MasterCard, Visa, Discover or American Express. Final payment may also be paid by cashier’s check, money order or certified funds. Personal checks are not accepted.

What are your rental policies?
It is very important to carefully read and understand the Rental Policies, as this document is binding and detailed and addresses a variety of frequently asked questions.

What happens if something goes wrong with the pool or elevator at my vacation rental?
Just as in your own home, sometimes breakdowns occur. Availability of on-site amenities, such as pools, is not guaranteed. No refunds will be issued for changes made by individual property owners or unavailable amenities.

What if I need to cancel my reservation?
To cancel your reservation, you will need to call one of our vacation planners at 1-866-382-9635.

Cancellations may be made and refunds issued (excluding non-refundable processing fee) within a certain number of days prior to reservation check-in date. 

See the Rental Policies for details.

Are there plenty of attractions, grocery stores and shops, and restaurants near my rental?

Shopping while on vacationGulf Shores and Orange Beach have the most restaurants, attractions, grocery stores and shops to choose from.

Perdido Key and Fort Morgan are a bit less concentrated with vacation rentals and thus do not have quite as many options to choose from. But the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is a small enough destination where nothing is very far away. (Condo & House Maps)

What’s the best way to access the destination?
The Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is typically thought of as a drive-in destination, with easy access from U.S. Interstates 10 and 65.

If driving, once exiting I-10 or I-65, you’re only about an hour’s drive or so from the beach! (Driving Directions & Maps)

Most fly-in visitors use the Pensacola International Airport, which is a 45-minute drive east, or Mobile Regional Airport, which is an hour’s drive west. (Details)

Can I bring my pets with me to my rental?
Dogs are the only pets allowed in Meyer’s dog-friendly properties. Certain weight and seasonal restrictions apply to some of these properties. Details may be found on each property page within our dog-friendly collection.

According to local laws, dogs are not allowed on beaches except in Fort Morgan, where they must be on a leash. In addition, dogs must be on a leash outside of the property. (Details)

There are three dog parks where dogs may be unleashed, one of which is a dog pond located at Gulf State Park. (Details)

Are there any vacation rentals that welcome weddings?
Wedding-friendly propertiesYes, we have a select few wedding-friendly vacation rentals. (Details)

Wedding-friendly properties allow weddings outside the property (not inside) with certain restrictions and guidelines as noted on our wedding-friendly properties page.

Wedding-friendly properties also require a non-refundable fee ranging from $250 to $500 per property.

Does my rental have entertainment options?
Your vacation rental includes basic service cable- or satellite-connected TVs and DVD and/or BluRay players.

What about Internet access/Wi-Fi?
Each individual property details page lists available amenities, including whether Internet access is available. The majority of Meyer-managed properties are Internet access enabled.

Do we need to bring our own linens?
Beds are made with linens in all vacation rentals, and bath towels and washcloths are provided in bathrooms. Hand towels, however, are not provided for the bathrooms.

 
Do you provide toiletries such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc., and paper products?
You will need to bring these items to your rental. A complimentary starter kit of supplies is provided for the kitchen, including a dish sponge, two dishwasher tabs, a roll of paper towels and a kitchen trash bag placed in the can.

Each bathroom is equipped with a roll of tissue, a small and a larger bar of soap, and a small trash bag placed in the can.

What does my vacation rental kitchen come equipped with? Should I bring extra kitchen equipment?
Fully equipped kitchensKitchens in vacation rentals include glassware, flatware, and dinnerware based on the number of guests the rental can sleep. A variety of utensils is also included, such as a basting spoon, bottle opener, butcher knives, can opener, colander, corkscrew, grater, measuring cups and spoons, storage containers and more.

Small kitchen appliances that come standard in vacation rentals include a blender, automatic drip coffeemaker, hand mixer, microwave, and toaster.

The kitchen will also contain cookware such as a broiler pan for the oven, casserole dish, cookie sheet, baking dishes, fry pans, mixing bowls, muffin tin, pizza pan, saucepans and a shrimp pot.

General cleaning equipment such as a broom and dustpan, iron, ironing board, mop and vacuum cleaner are also available within the property.

Can I bring my boat or personal watercraft?
A select few vacation rentals are considered boat friendly and welcome guests who wish to bring boats or personal watercraft. Boat-friendly properties will feature an icon on the property page indicating that boats are allowed. Please be sure to review the amenities list on the property page for more information. (See Boat-Friendly Properties)

In properties not noted as boat friendly, boat trailers or trailers of any kind are not allowed.

How many cars can we bring and park at our vacation rental?
Parking is limited at ALL Meyer-managed properties, especially condos, where the number of parking passes is limited to the number allowed by the property owner association—typically one or two per reservation.

To find out the number of parking passes your selected rental permits, check the amenities list on each property details page.

Trailers are not allowed in condo parking lots and may be towed by the property owner association.

Extra cars may be parked in Meyer’s Gulf Shores parking lot at your risk and subject to availability.

Parking at houses is limited to the number of vehicles that comfortably fit within the driveway space.

When are the times of highest demand for vacation rentals?
Summer on the Gulf CoastVacation rentals vary in occupancy during seasonal timeframes. The period of highest demand is “peak summer,” when vacationers tend to reserve most properties in a Saturday-to-Saturday pattern.

Peak summer demand is followed by late spring and early summer. Demand tapers somewhat during spring, late summer and ending summer, while fall and winter seasons offer vacationers the greatest selection of properties. (See current Seasonal Calendar)

If you are interested in reserving a house for a summer week, is important to book early, as they tend to book a year or even two in advance.

What is the weather like there?
The weather on the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is temperate year round.

View Meyer’s weather page for a snapshot of the current weather, the forecast and average monthly temperatures and precipitation. (Weather)

What are some of the top festivals and activities in the area I can plan a visit around?
Fun festivals are held year round on the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast. Some of the most popular are held during the fall.

FestivalsFor example, the Wharf Uncorked Wine and Culinary Event is held in September, and the World Food Championships and the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend are held in November. 

But perhaps the most well-known festival held all year is the Annual National Shrimp Festival. More than 300,000 people come to browse 300+ art vendors, listen to music on multiple stages, entertain the young and young at heart at the Kids’ Zone, run in the 5K or 10K race, and so much more.

With the Shrimp Festival so popular, it is wise to make your vacation rental reservation as soon as possible so your group is near the Gulf Shores Public Beach festival grounds.

How do I learn more about what there is to do in the area?
MeyerRE.com is a wealth of information about fun things to do in the area. Click the “Area Information” tab for info about beach areasrestaurantsattractionsconcertscalendar of events, etc.

Where do the locals go to eat?
Locals love to eat! And that means seafood, burgers, gourmet cuisine, and everything in between.

If seafood is your choice, check out this list of popular seafood restaurants. (Seafood Restaurants)

See our Dining and Nightlife page for more options. 

Are there usually long wait times for restaurant dining?
There can be a bit of a wait for seating at restaurants during the busy summer season. But, during the spring and fall, getting into your favorite places to eat is no problem.

Some in my group enjoy exploring nature and seek out activities that thrill during vacation. What are the options for them?
Nature trails offer adventureThere are nature trails winding throughout the Gulf Coast area for hiking and biking. Kayaking is another popular activity, and there are several options for renting the needed equipment.

There are also high-adrenaline activities to enjoy, such as roller coaster rides at the brand new The Park at OWA, located in Foley. Or, check out The Track Family Recreation Center to ride the Wild Woody or the Spinning Coaster. An on-site arcade is lots of fun.

There are also plenty of mini golf courses to play, and the Hummingbird Ziplines at The Wharf at Orange Beach.

Some in my group prefer a more relaxing vacation experience. What are the options for them?
Shopping is always a fun activity, especially with the Tanger Outlets Foley just north of Gulf Shores.

There are also several spas for those who enjoy being pampered on their vacation.
 
Once I book, is there a spot on your website I can find more information I should know before I go?
Get ready to relax! Our “Know Before You Go” is designed to provide you with everything from a Meyer Vacation Rentals Vacation Handbook to details about special events, restaurants, beach tips and paying your final balance. (Details)

In addition, you will automatically begin to receive emails and text messages not only confirming your reservation but also providing important check-in instructions, payment details, area information and more.

A vacation rental is an ideal way to offer your family plenty of gathering space, privacy, a fully equipped kitchen for preparing meals, and the opportunity to live like a local during vacation. After all, you’ll be staying in someone’s beach home!

Make your family’s beach vacation reservations today at a beach house or condo.

New Things To Do In Gulf Shores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New developments in Gulf ShoresOrange BeachPerdido Key and Foley are making headlines and further enhancing the visitor experience. Here is a brief rundown of some of the latest Gulf Coast happenings that are giving visitors even more fun things to do.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

Major tourism projects are continuing in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, including improvements at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo’s 25-acre facility that will open in 2018. With five themed areas, an event center, a full-service restaurant, rides and playgrounds, the zoo will relocate from its current spot in Gulf Shores to just north of the Intracoastal Canal Waterway.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo: 1204 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Also under way is the $15 million Gulf Place Revitalization Project in Gulf Shores that will create new beach access points, public sidewalks and green spaces, walking paths, shaded structures, restrooms and more.

Gulf Shores Public Beach: West Gulf Place, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Public Beach EnhancementsWork is progressing on the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, an $85.5 million project that is creating additional access points, a new lodge and conference center, restoration and enhancement of dune habitat, and an interpretive and education center. A beautiful new boardwalk over Lake Shelby has recently opened.
Gulf State Park: East Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Authentic TacoThe Authentic Taco reopened at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar. Formerly located inside a gas station on Ala. Hwy. 182, the restaurant’s regular patrons were heartbroken when it closed. You can once again can get your fresh taco or tamale fix at the Flora-Bama. Oh, and get a Bushwacker on the side.

Authentic Taco: 17401 Perdido Key Dr., Perdido Key, FL 32507

The owners of the former Hot Spot Restaurant at The Wharf have moved into a larger, waterfront location at The Wharf and renamed the restaurant the Hot Spot Intracoastal. With a menu featuring everything from Intracoastal Kickin’ Shrimp to fried and grilled seafood, burgers, steaks and wings, this restaurant is making waves for seafood lovers.
Hot Spot Intracoastal: 4815 Wharf Parkway, Orange Beach, AL 36561

Barefoot Island Grill has opened on Canal Road across the street from the Orange Beach Recreation Center. Sandwiches, salads, steak and unique seafood dishes top the menu here, where every dish is made from scratch.

Barefoot Island Grill: 27370 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561

GT’s On The Bay also opened on Canal Road in Orange Beach. Overlooking Wolf Bay, the restaurant serves a variety of foods, including Cajun empanadas, chicken carbonara, pizza baked in a stone hearth oven, fresh Gulf yellow fin tuna, shrimp-n-grits and much more. The large dining room is able to accommodate large groups, and the large wooden deck overlooking Wolf Bay is a fun place to dine, relax and listen to live music.

GT’s On The Bay: 26189 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561

The Yard Milkshake BarA hot new spot at Pelican Place in Gulf Shores is The Yard Milkshake Bar. The Yard serves edible cookie dough, ice cream and specialty milkshakes with typical toppings like sprinkles as well as crazy toppings like glazed doughnuts, a birthday cupcake or a chocolate dipped smores. Order your milkshake in a pint or a quarter size.

The Yard Milkshake Bar: 3800 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Surf’s up at Big Wave Dave’s Kitchen & Beach Bar, which opened in June near Ron Jon Surf Shop in Orange Beach. The restaurant serves a variety of tropical drinks, sandwiches, tacos, salads and entrees. Be sure to try the Bali-Pops, hand-rolled bites featuring Gulf shrimp, pineapple, black beans, jasmine rice and sweet and spicy chili sauce.

Big Wave Dave’s Kitchen & Beach Bar: 22703 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, AL 36561

Big Mike's SteakhouseA busy restaurant from the very start, the new Big Mike’s Steakhouseopened in Orange Beach in the former Diamond Jim’s and Mrs. Donna’s restaurant. This is the third location for the owners, who also operate steakhouses in Thomasville and Andalusia. Big Mike’s offer seafood selections in addition to its signature items like its Canal Road Strip, Ribeye and Filet Mignon. Incidentally, Big Mike’s Steakhouse in Thomasville was recently named the best steakhouse in Alabama by al.com.

Big Mike’ Steakhouse: 25638 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561

A new barbecue joint opened at The Wharf, Blue Water BBQ now operates in the former Hot Spot’s location. Here, you’ll find pork, chicken, brisket, ribs, sausage and more.

Blue Water BBQ: 4780 Wharf Parkway, Orange Beach, AL 36561

There’s also a new oyster shack in town. Royal Oyster House opened its doors in the heart of Gulf Shores on Gulf Shores Parkway. The menu right now focuses on raw oysters and a great burger.

Royal Oyster House: 807 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Located on Loop Road between the Walmart Neighborhood Market and Winn-Dixie Shopping Center in Orange Beach is the new Buns in the Sun restaurant, serving Asian-style steamed buns, also known as a pork bun or a bao bun. Steamed buns are handmade fresh daily and filled with beef and cheese, barbecue pork, chicken, vegetables, grilled seafood and more.

Buns in the Sun: 3099 Loop Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561

Vacation in a beach condo or house in Gulf ShoresFort Morgan or Orange Beach to be near all the new fun places!

Foley

In Foley, work continues on OWA, an entertainment destination expected to open this month. The 14-acre park will feature 21 rides (including the Rollin’ Thunder rollercoaster as well as kiddie rides), food vendors, 154,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space, and a 14-acre lake with a 1.5-acre island. The amusement park will be located adjacent to the City of Foley’s indoor event center, multi-use sports fields and a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel.

Wahlburgers in FoleyOWA unveiled the first in a series of major retail and dining tenant announcements, including Wahlburgers, with locations in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Ohio.

Wahlburgers is a comfortable, family-friendly restaurant designed to appeal to every generation. The restaurant, which serves a variety of fresh burgers, housemade condiments and more, is the brainchild of Chef Paul Wahlberger and his family. The Foley operation will be the brand’s second largest U.S. location.

Other tenants announced recently include Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Alvin’s Island, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop and Utopia.

The Park at OwaWith OWA opening in July, new access roads have been completed. An entrance to OWA has been created on Foley Beach Express and also Baldwin County Road 20. At the same time Pride Drive has been extended to the east to the new sports complex and event center, creating access directly from Ala. Hwy. 59.

OWA: 10113 Foley Beach Express, Foley, AL 36535

New restaurants in Foley include Mama Mia’s Pizzeria (246 W Laurel Ave., Foley, AL 36535), Grumpy’s (214 W Laurel Ave., Foley, AL 36535), Yummy’s Bakery & Café (105 W Orange Ave., Foley, AL 36535) in the courtyard at Orange Blossom Square, the Copper Kettle Tea Bar (106 N Chicago St., Foley, AL 36535), Portabella’s (321 S McKenzie St., Foley, AL 36535) and Gelato Joe’s (202 E Michigan Ave. A, Foley, AL 36535).
Find your perfect beach vacation rental. Condos are perfect for many families, while some houses can accommodate large groups of up to 50+ people.

Perdido Key

New to Perdido Key is the Islander Food Shack, located between Villagio Shopping Center and Dave’s Snow Balls. The restaurant is known for its casual dining atmosphere and menu of sandwiches, burgers, seafood and hand-cut fries. Also popular are its baskets, featuring grouper, chicken fingers, vegetables and shrimp.

Islander Food Shack: 13818 Perdido Key Dr., Pensacola, FL 32507

A new shop at Villagio is the Barefoot Gypsy Boutique. A “minimalist Bohemian-style” boutique, Barefoot Gypsy features laid-back clothing, one-of-a-kind accessories and a variety of unique gifts.

Barefoot Gypsy Boutique: 13700 Perdido Key Dr., Pensacola, FL 32507

Stay in a Perdido Key beach condo or house vacation rental.

Places To Visit On The Way To Gulf Shores

For many, the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is the closest beach to home.

In fact, the Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key Gulf Coast region is only about a five-hour drive from Birmingham, Ala.; a 6.5-hour drive from Atlanta; a 4.5-hour drive from Baton Rouge, La.; and a nine-hour drive from Houston.

Just for fun, we’ve condensed the drive on U.S. Interstate 65 from Birmingham into a two-minute video, noting a few fun stops at landmarks along the way.

Next time you’re planning a beach trip, remember, we really are just a short trip away! Journey to the beach in the video below. Then, read on to learn more about these Alabama landmarks.

Priester’s Pecans – Fort Deposit

Visible from U.S. Interstate 65 in Fort Deposit, Ala., Priester’s Pecans is a major landmark south of Montgomery for those headed to the beaches of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key.

It’s worth pausing your journey to pick up a sweet pecan roll, a pecan pie or brownies, or even a bag of honey glazed pecans for the family to enjoy as a special treat while at their condo or beach house.

You’ll feel like you have taken a trip back in time when you step up onto the porch of the quaint Country Store. Here, you can purchase anything from pure virgin pecan oil, homemade jams, jellies and preserves, snack mix, pies and so much more.

Priester’s Pecans got it start back in the early 1900s when L.C. Priester decided to offer refreshments and a little taste of the South at his Texaco gas station that serviced travelers headed between Mobile and Montgomery. When customers began asking for the pecans to be cracked, L.C. had to begin hiring some helpers who sat on his back porch cracking pecans. Soon, the back porch could no longer handle the volume, and a larger facility was purchased, and the rest is history.

Fort Deposit is only 2 hours and 45 minutes from the beach.

Bates House Of Turkey – Greenville

You know you’re about halfway between Birmingham and Gulf Shores when you see Bates House of Turkey in Greenville, Alabama, just south of Montgomery.

Bates House of Turkey serves free-range turkey raised right on the nearby Bates Turkey Farm. The farm has been in the Bates family since 1923.

The family’s landmark restaurant opened in 1970 and serves only turkey from their farm and all the tasty “fixins.”

Enjoy an old-fashioned roast turkey dinner with cornbread dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables, rolls or corn muffin. Or, a Southern-style hickory smoked turkey sandwich or hot open-faced turkey sandwich may be more to your liking.

Whatever your preference, Bates House of Turkey is a great place to stop for a healthy, tasty meal. You can even pick up a whole turkey, sliced ham, turkey sausage, peppered turkey jerky or a smoked turkey breast for sandwiches at the beach.

This is one down-home dining experience you won’t want to miss on your way to the beach.

Greenville is only two hours and 35 minutes from the beach.

Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum – Georgiana

Just east of U.S. Interstate 65 in Georgiana is the Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum, where you can see the church pew where Hank Williams stood and sang as a child and the front porch where he learned to play guitar.

The facility is dedicated to the memory of Hank Williams Sr. and contains memorabilia and artifacts such as the country and western singer and songwriter’s cowboy hats, album covers, newspaper clippings, sheet music and more.

This 1850 house is the only home remaining that Hank Williams lived in prior to becoming a Nashville star. It opened as a museum in 1993.

Georgiana is only two hours and 22 minutes from the beach.

Burris Farm Market – Loxley

If you’re looking for fresh fruits and vegetables to take to your beach house or condo, be sure to stop by Burris Farm Market on your way.

You won’t be able to miss this family-owned and operated local farm-fresh produce market, as it is in the center of town in Loxley.

Rick and Jeanine Stewart, owners of Burris Farm Market pride themselves on their constantly changing products and the opportunity to provide fresh quality, healthy meals to locals and visitors alike.

Burris Farm Market also offers homemade jams, preserves, pickles, sorghum, molasses, cheese, salads, and baked goods for sale.

Burris Farm Market will open a new location at The Wharf in Orange Beach on Memorial Day weekend.

You’re almost here! Loxley is less than an hour’s drive from the beach.

For a quick beach getaway, book a two-bedroom condo in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach or Perdido Key.

For a longer visit and a larger group, a four– or five-bedroom house could fill the bill.

Major Amusement Park To Open Near Gulf Shores This Summer

OWA, a 520-acre, $500 million entertainment destination/amusement park, is coming to Foley, Alabama, this summer.

Located just seven miles from the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, the “city within a city” entertainment complex will feature a 14-acre lake; 154,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space; and a 14-acre amusement park with 20 rides (including one major roller coaster).

Italian company Zamperla is providing three of the roller coasters, a number of thrill rides and a range of family attractions for OWA.

One of the coasters will be a clone of the 125-foot-tall looping steel coaster Thunderbolt at New York’s Coney Island, which features a 110-foot vertical lift and four inversions, including a dive loop, a corkscrew and a heart-line roll.

OWA will give vacationers the sense they are strolling the streets of a small Southern town evolving through time.

Distinct districts punctuate the landscaped grounds. Guests strolling around the lake will encounter the Warehouse District, which is made up of larger-scaled structures that appear to have been used for manufacturing or as a train depot. These structures are meant to evoke the image of historic buildings in Foley and at OWA will house shops and dining establishments.

As guests continue around the lake, they will come upon Main Street, where they may shop for homemade goods and apparel, enjoy a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, or taste delicious candy at the candy store.

At the edge of town is a city park and the amusement park area, where guests will find everything from carnival rides and games to thrilling roller coasters and other major attractions.

All along the way are benches or structures to relax beside the water. There’s even an island in the center of the lake to unwind and enjoy the scenery.

Future plans call for the addition of an indoor/outdoor waterpark with attached hotel and resort-level RV Park.

OWA is adjacent to the Foley Sports Tourism Complex, which is composed of 16 multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse, football and sand volleyball. The complex also includes a 90,000-square-foot indoor events center for gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball and indoor volleyball tournaments.

A three-bedroom house in Gulf Shores or a three-bedroom condo in Orange Beach would be a perfect spot to call home for a visit to the beaches of the Gulf Coast, area attractions and amusement parks such as OWA.

Enjoy A Romantic Beach Getaway With Your Sweetheart

It goes without saying that your sweetheart will be more relaxed away from home without the pressure of daily responsibilities.

A romantic getaway is one of the best ways to de-stress and reconnect. And the beaches of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, Ala., and Perdido Key, Fla., are among the most romantic spots in the world for a retreat with your significant other.

Here are 9 ways to enjoy a little one-on-one time during a romantic getaway to the Gulf Coast.

Paddle In The Moonlight

A moonlight paddle is a romantic way to explore the area’s backwaters or the Gulf of Mexico. With the help of a guide and rented equipment, Gulf Coast Paddle Board offers both moonlight and sunset paddles around the islands of Orange Beach. “All the couple has to do is book a tour with us and show up,” said the company’s Zach Rounsaville.

To learn how to navigate the waters via canoe or kayak, another option is to take a class the Wind and Water Learning Center in Orange Beach. Operated by the City of Orange Beach, the learning center’s classes accommodate people of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds. The Wind and Water Learning Center is an active member of US Sailing and an affiliate of the American Canoe Association.

The Wind and Water Center also offers Sail Camp sessions during the summer for children, which is open to visiting kids.

Perdido Key, Fla., also offers numerous places to enjoy the water from a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.

Fly High In A Hot Air Balloon

Hot air ballooning over the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area is certainly a peaceful activity. In fact, it’s often been the site of wedding proposals.

Passengers gently lift off into an adventure to view the area’s most scenic vistas from a whole new vantage point. You will float over the countryside with virtually no sense of motion, and the only noise you’ll hear is the occasional hiss of the burner.

Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company, located just north of the beach, provides scenic balloon excursions or tethered hot air balloon rides.

Or, book a beach stay during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival, typically held in May.

Commune With Nature

There are many opportunities to explore nature during a visit to the Gulf Coast, including a visit to the seven trails that make up the 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail complex through Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park.

Along the trails, explore the butterfly garden, freshwater marshes and coastal hardwood swamps. Maybe even catch a glimpse of a bobcat on the twin bridges or a white-tailed deer on Gulf Oak Ridge. You might even see an alligator warming itself in the sun.

In Florida, Perdido Key State Park offers a nature trail that runs along the bay side of the park, offering views of an estuary where dolphins are frequent visitors.

Or, between Pensacola and Perdido Key, Big Lagoon State Park features crisscrossing nature trails that allow you to explore the lakes and the observation tower.

Indulge In Relaxation & Pampering

A great way to enjoy some special time together is to visit a local spa for a little pampering.

Eden Spa & Salon, located in Palm Pointe center in Orange Beach, welcomes couples to enjoy an hour-long massage. Other services in addition to a full menu of massages include facials, body treatments, aromatherapy, salon and more.

Evolve Fitness & Spa, located at The Wharf, is another option for services such as fitness training, sunless tanning and relaxing massages. Massages run the gamut from Swedish to therapeutic deep tissue.

The Spa at The Beach Club, located at the Beach Club Resort, features in-spa or in-room couple massages, soothing whirlpool, steam rooms and a full-service salon. During a couples massage, enjoy a complimentary glass of wine or champagne in a candlelit private room.

Serenity at the Beach Salon & Spa at San Roc Cay shopping center in Orange Beach offers a full menu of couples services, including massages, facials, body treatments and combinations of services. “Couples massage is a great way to introduce massage to a partner who has never had a massage before in a way that makes them feel more comfortable the first time,” said Serenity owners.

A full-service Aveda hair salon and day spa, Fusion Spa Salon features services like waxing, massage, and hair and nail care. Located at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Fusion offers a wide range of services, including hair, makeup, waxing and nails; facials; massage; and body treatments.

Dinner With A View

There are numerous restaurants to enjoy a romantic dinner for two, especially for those who enjoy a glass of wine.

Located at Caribe the Resort in Orange Beach is Cobalt The Restaurant, which is accessible by car or by boat. Nestled under the Perdido Bay Bridge, the restaurant features a spectacular view of the bay from every table. Oysters, pasta, sandwiches and creative fresh fish entrees are always on the menu.

With a view of Wolf Bay, Cayman Grill features a large outdoor deck and an 8,000-gallon stingray tank inside. Wood roasted pizzas are a specialty, but so is the seafood, which ranges from jumbo Gulf shrimp, oysters, yellowfin tuna and more. Steaks and pastas are also popular here.

Featuring fresh Gulf seafood, steaks and sushi, Shipp’s Harbor Grill in Orange Beach offers an extensive menu of fish, steaks and more. The view from this restaurant is outstanding, with windows looking out over a beautiful marina. Three of seven dining areas offer waterside dining, allowing you to relax and watch the harbor lights come alive during the evening.

Breakfast For Two

There are numerous restaurants for enjoying a romantic breakfast or brunch.

A local favorite is Another Broken Egg Café in Orange Beach, where breakfast creations range from Eggs Benedict and Gourmet Omelets to Biscuit Beignets, Cinnamon Roll French Toast and more.

In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, the morning is the perfect time to dine outdoors at Tacky Jack’s to enjoy the hearty Farmer’s Omelet, featuring potatoes, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, sausage, ham, and American and cheddar cheese inside and out. Other tasty options include the Shrimp Omelet, Pork Chop and Egg Platter, Shrimp and Cheese Grits and the Wheelhouse Pancake.

An iconic locals’ favorite for breakfast is Hazel’s Nook in Gulf Shores. Famous for its breakfast buffet and omelet station, Hazel’s has some of the best biscuits and gravy in L.A., Lower Alabama, that is. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the laid-back casual atmosphere, coupled with down-home Southern cooking.

Always a fun place for brunch (and read the clever puns on the marquee sign in front) is the Brick & Spoon in Orange Beach. Menu staples include Shrimp and Grits, Beignets and Cornmeal-dusted Louisiana Oysters. Also popular for breakfast or brunch is the Bloody Mary, where you can select from nearly two dozen vegetable garnishes and even proteins like shrimp, baked bacon strips, seafood deviled eggs and even something called a beef straw. It’s an adventure!

Ride The Ferris Wheel

A landmark on the Gulf Coast is the Ferris Wheel at The Wharf. One of the tallest Ferris Wheels on the Gulf Coast, take a ride with your sweetheart for a treetop view of the Gulf and the surrounding area.

Before or after your Ferris Wheel ride, stop by the Southern Grind Coffee House for a cup of brewed coffee, an espresso, a cup of tea or a frozen drink. Dine indoors or outside on the patio for breakfast or lunch. Or, choose from a selection of fresh Italian Gelato for a cool sweet treat.

Watch The Sunrise

One of the features that truly sets apart a beach vacation to the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is the prevalence of vacation rentals with private balconies.

From your balcony, enjoy the peace and solitude of watching the waves crash onto the shore, see dolphins frolic in the Gulf, and watch the sun rise or set with your special someone.

The sunsets are one of the most spectacular natural features of this region, and when you stay in Fort Morgan beach houses, you have a front row seat to this beautiful phenomenon. Fort Morgan rentals are also conveniently located near Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which offers a serene setting in which to watch the sunset.

Linger On A Lazy Sunday Morning

Coming to the beach on Friday for a romantic weekend getaway but need to get back to your responsibilities on Monday?

Check in Friday afternoon, play all day Saturday and then sleep in late, enjoy brunch at a nearby restaurant and get back on the road Sunday afternoon at your preferred pace. This is easy to do with a three-day stay checking in on Friday and out on Monday.

A perfect way to save up to 25% at select condos and houses is by filling two- or three-day gaps between existing reservations.

Revel in the solitude of Fort Morgan in a one-bedroom condo.

Be in the middle of all the entertainment action in a one-bedroom condo in Gulf Shores.

Orange Beach and Perdido Key also offer many one-bedroom options to choose from.

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