North Alabama is on SPRING BREAK, and my BFF is here!

{Caution: this blog is slightly longer than usual because I am giving y’all a full 4 day itinerary that we just lived while my BFF was here} A little more about who I am, so that you understand where I’m going…I was born in a small town (sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song) in northwest Alabama. Specifically, Helen Keller Memorial Hospital-named for Tuscumbia city’s most famous citizen. I graduated high school at Muscle Shoals High. Muscle Shoals is a city that has recently received a lot of attention because of the movie, “Muscle Shoals” [check it out/now available on Netflix]. The documentary film features the men who produced tons of incredible music in that majestic area alongside the “singing” Tennessee River. I have community pride that started practically at birth, and I am so incredibly proud of my roots, and my current hometown: OBA {refer to blog #1 if you don’t know what that stands for} Obviously, when one of my hometown north Alabama BFF’s visits me in Orange Beach for the very first time, my wannabe tour guide instinct kicks into overdrive, and I’m BEYOND excited to show off the town where I’ve spent the second half of my life. In four short days, we’ve packed in so much activity and good eating, I need a spa vacation, a fast, and a master “cleanse” to fully recuperate! We visited many of my favorite hot spots, so here is a bonus blog run down of our last 4 days!

FOOD My beautiful friend is the mother of two adorable children under the age of 10- a daughter and a son. We started their spring break vacation at one of the most kid-friendly super-sized fun places in town. After a quick dip in the Gulf, we all headed over  to LuLu’s for a world-famous cheeseburger in paradise (this beach is considered by many to be “paradise”). To clarify, I had a shrimp quesadilla, but there were a couple of cheeseburgers on the table. This famously well-known restaurant is located on the north side of the intercostal canal waterway, in Gulf Shores, under the W.C. Holmes bridge. LuLu’s proprietor, Lucy Buffett (Jimmy’s sister) has built an empire, and I hope to see her win a “most powerful woman” award in the future because (in my opinion) Lucy is one of the most powerful business women in the state of Alabama. From the largest t-shirt selection, to a giant sand pit where the kids can play while the adults chat and perhaps sip on “mommy juice”, LuLu’s offers hours of endless ways to have an enjoyable meal, and a fun outing with the kiddos while adult friends enjoy one another’s company. Keeping the little ones satisfied is just genius, and makes a vacation much more relaxing when every family member is happily occupied, doing something age appropriate. Lucy Buffett has all the bases covered for every age from 1 to 100.
LuLu’s has fun photo opportunities, too. LuLu’s outer exterior is decorated like a cute little section of Key West with colorful and fun props down every walkway and corner. Make sure you take your camera to LuLu’s. You never know who you might see there ((wink wink)) Yes, JB has been known to pop in.

ADVENTURE (with a side of food) Day 2: We awakened and cruised on down to Dolphin Tales shelling/swim/snorkel tour. Dolphin Tales [251-269-5555] has the most diverse tour boat in the gulf coast area. They offer so much more than just an average dolphin watching tour. According to a social media post, and I’m going to paraphrase for a moment, because I don’t have the direct quote in front of me, but a recent [West Palm Beach, FL] customer of Dolphin Tales wrote, “Captain Bart and his wife have a heart for their community. They are the best tour guides. We saw an incredible dolphin show, and they also turned us on to a fantastic restaurant that we would never have known about.” That kind of review speaks volumes about the bonuses you get with choosing this particular tour. In addition to a beautiful boat ride down the calm intercostal canal, this unique boat can literally “beach” and has a wide platform, and solid steel steps that lower right onto the water’s edge of the beach. We walked right off the boat with ease and my feet never even got wet. We rolled up on this undeveloped island surrounded by clear water-perfect for snorkeling, and swimming. We walked the beach and found gorgeous sea shells. This chosen island is perfect for “shelling”- a new found hobby/love of The Beach Whisper. The Blue Angels were suppose to rehearse, and two of them flew by (we assume they were checking the weather conditions) but they never launched all the jets. Everyone had a great time regardless. Dolphin Tales plans to incorporate Blue Angel viewing (following the schedule posted online) with the swim/snorkel/shelling cruises on the days of Blue Angel rehearsals. Your vacation will not be complete unless you get on this fully covered boat with padded seats. BONUS: Your little “skippers” get to assist the captain and “drive” the boat [another great photo opportunity]. The captain is very friendly, and really great with children.

We spent the rest of Day 2 at the Tanger Mall, shopping until we literally were dropping! The children were so tired, but somehow during dinner at Cactus Cantina {aka: BEST MEXICAN FOOD I’VE HAD THIS SIDE OF MEXICO} they got their second wind! Cactus Cantina [Highway 59; slightly north of Target, on the opposite side of the road] It would take WAY too many words to accurately describe Cactus Cantina’s perfectly diverse menu. Trust me on this one…if you just “kind of” like Mexican cuisine, you absolutely want to eat at Cactus Cantina at least once during your visit to GSA/OBA- perhaps twice!!! Yes, it is that good! That second wind was spent at The Track, riding go karts. The Track is a perfect place to keep your kiddos occupied, and also works well as a “reward” for good behavior.
Day 3: I had to work (yes, I have a job because writing a blog is not a paying job, and I’m quite fond of the roof over my head). In my absence, my friend and her children took my advice, and had lunch at the home of the “throwed rolls”, Lambert’s (after they rode go karts AGAIN!!!). Caution: The Track has an addictive effect on most children (and some adults). The Track has a tendency to make elementary aged kids want to move there and live in a bumper boat-think miniature Disneyland/Peter Pan. In an effort to maintain your sanity, and avoid meltdowns upon departure, you may want to develop an “exit strategy” before you even pull into the parking lot-just saying. After spending the perfect afternoon at the beach (the warmest and nicest weather day of the week), they had a nice dinner at Live Bait. My BFF said that Live Bait’s crab legs were outstanding! The Beach Whisper highly recommends Live Bait.
Day 4: Sadly, this is the last day, and we had to go out on a BANG! My friend’s children wanted to Zip Line at The Alabama State Park [between GSA & OBA]. The weather was a little crummy so they were postponed due to lightning. What now? What else can you do with a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old when it is raining at the beach? Go on a regular old-fashioned dolphin cruise (if it isn’t lightning, of course). Ok, but most boats I’ve seen are open. Who has a covered boat that can go out in the rain? DOLPHIN TALES {remember…most diverse boat} BONUS: Dolphin Tales offers a discount if you do two activities with them in one week.
Until next time…thank you for your feedback, and for reading my blog. I have enjoyed a little break but I am about to get back to work on a new writing assignment.

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