GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – As the leaves begin to turn magnificent shades of orange and red and a cool breeze begins to glide along the shore, coastal Alabama calls fall beachgoers. With staple Southern hospitality and family-friendly events including festivals and sporting events, there is something for almost everyone to enjoy.
Become one with nature on Wednesday, Sept. 25 for a Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge nature hike. All ages are welcome to meet at the one-mile, handicap-accessible Jeff Friend Trail parking lot at 8 a.m. Along the way, participants will learn about the native flora and fauna found at the refuge. Closed toed shoes, long pants and bug spray are recommended for this free event. For more information, call 251-540-7720.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, raise your glasses for elite competition as bartenders vie for the title of the Gulf Coast Bartender of the Year at Compleat Angler at The Wharf from 5:30-7 p.m. as the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance (ARHA) and American Harvest Vodka search for a winner to compete in October for the title of the best bartender in the state. The winner of this preliminary round will receive $200, a plaque and entry to the state competition on Monday, Oct. 28 at the Renaissance Battle House Hotel and Spa in Mobile where the top three contenders from around the state will compete for the grand prize. For more information, click here.
The Wharf will present free movies on the marina lawn featuring Toy Story and The Muppet Movie on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Families may bring blankets and chairs and enjoy free popcorn. No outside alcohol will be permitted. For more information, go to www.alwharf.com.
Head to Wales West RV Resort & Light Railway in Silverhill for the 9th Annual Halloween Pumpkin Patch Express and Ghoul Family Night Train. The pumpkin patch will be open from Oct. 1-31, and the night train will run from Thursday through Sunday from 5-9 p.m. beginning Oct. 15. Free and paid activities will be available. General admission is $12 person plus tax, and children younger than 1 are free. Go to www.waleswest.com for more information.
Participate in guided trips by foot and on boat to prime birding locations on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail during the 10th Annual John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest from Oct. 3-5. In addition to guided trips, birders are invited to take part in the free Bird and Conservation Expo on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on the grounds of Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope. Activities include hands-on activities for children with live raptors and snakes as well as displays and exhibits from conservation organizations, vendors, artists and divisions of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Go to www.alabamacoastalbirdfest.comfor guided trip pricing and registration and a schedule of events.
The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach is set to present its 2013 Fall Scarecrow Festival on Friday, Oct. 4 from 2:30-7:30 p.m. Individuals, families, businesses and more are invited to create unique scarecrows for the coveted Fall Scarecrow Festival Awards. New this year and due to the generosity of the Friends of the Arts are traditional fall festival activities including hayrides, “Artists’ Alley,” children’s costume contest, apple bobbing, cake walks and more. Additionally, the arts center will offer glassblowing and clay work demonstrations, live music, food, beverages as well as artwork and fall vegetables for sale. Admission is free to the public, but reservations are required for scarecrow frames. Check out www.orangebeachartcenter.com or call 251-981-2787 for more information.
Brats, sauerkraut and a variety of German beer will flow during the Flora-Bama Oktoberfest from Oct. 5-6. Throughout the weekend, guests may celebrate this Deutschland tradition by dancing to German-style musical performances and drinking from traditional steins. Children are welcome during this family-friendly event. For more information, check out www.florabama.com.
Join birders from near and far for the Hummer Bird Study Group’s fall bird banding session at Fort Morgan from Oct. 5-17 as birds travel south to their wintering grounds. Banding is free and open to the public, but participants must pay a fee to enter the fort. For more information, contact Bob or Martha Sargent at 205-681-2888.
From Oct. 10-13, the 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival presented by Zatarain’s will take place at the public beach access in Gulf Shores. This free three-day event is one of the nation’s top outdoor festivals featuring more than 250 vendors offering fine art, arts and crafts and coastal cuisine to name a few. Additionally, more than 40 bands, including Everclear, the Jason Abel Project and Willie Sugarcapps, will perform on two stages throughout the weekend. Other activities include a 5K and 10K run, Children's Activities Village, sand sculpture contest, Shrimp Fest Idol and much more. Visit www.myshrimpfest.com.
Legendary Grammy-nominated band Three Dog Night and special guest Little River Band are set to rock the Amphitheater at The Wharf on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20-$45 and are available at The Wharf’s box office, on www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000. Go to www.alwharf.com for more information.
Prepare for fright on Oct. 18-19, 25-26 and 30-31 for the Terror on the Gulf haunted house at The Hangout from 7-10 p.m. Adults will be admitted for $5, and children who can handle the night of fright will be admitted for $3. Go to www.thehangout.com for more information.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the City of Orange Beach and the Wind and Water Learning Center will host the inaugural Pumpkin Paddle, benefiting the learning center. Advanced registration is $25 per paddler or $60 per family (three immediate family members), and day of registration is $30 per paddler or $75 per family (three immediate family members). The 2.5-mile race divisions include solo kayak, tandem kayak or canoe and stand up paddle board. The 1.5-mile youth division is open to children ages 13 and younger. Entry includes lunch, drinks, t-shirt and prizes for first, second and third place division winners. Also, participants are asked to bring a canned food item to donate to the Christian Service Center. For more information and to register, go to Pumpkin Paddle.
Hankering for a haunt? LuLu’s at Homeport Marina is set to host its annual Halloween “Boolu’s” Haunted House from Oct. 24-31 to raise funds for local school art programs. Those participating in the event may take advantage of a special promotional price for the Mountain of Youth ropes course at LuLu’s. Adults attending the event are kindly asked to make a $5 donation. Visit Boolu's.
Arts and crafts along with German-inspired entertainment and foods make the Original German Sausage Festival a staple in Elberta at Elberta Town Park each year in March and October. On Saturday, Oct. 26 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., join this quaint Baldwin County community for this free annual celebration for musical entertainment, stomping and clogging performances, carnival rides, polka, 250 arts and crafts booths, ever-popular homemade German sausages and sauerkraut and more. For more information, visit German Sausage Festival or call 251-986-5805.
Enjoy music, brews and more at the inaugural Crazy Sista Beach Party at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina from Nov. 1-3. In an effort to launch the Crazy Sista brand, including LuLu’s Crazy Sista craft beer, the restaurant is set to present a variety of musical performers. Additionally, the weekend will serve as a fundraiser for the LuLu's Love Fund, a charitable effort created by Lucy Buffett in 2006 to support the under-funded Baldwin County Public School System's art programs. General admission tickets cost $50 (includes a t-shirt and ticket to the three-day event), and VIP tickets cost $100 (includes a goody bag and ticket). Visit Crazy Sista Beach Party for more information.
With more than 25 extreme obstacles over the course of three miles, the Xtreme Obstacle Challenge is made for the competitor of the family. On Saturday, Nov. 2 at The Wharf, participants will face specially designed obstacles such as the Dizzy Lizzy in which racers must cross a quickly rotating spiral turntable. Registration received by Oct. 15 is $85, by Nov. 1 is $95 and on race day is $110. Those wishing to compete in the Xtreme Competitive Start competition will be charged an additional $10, depending on availability. Note that there is a $12 insurance fee with all registrations. All participants will receive a t-shirt, food, drink and live entertainment while finishers will also receive a bandana and medal. For more information and to register, visit Xtreme Obstacle Challenge.
Kick and score your way to Orange Beach for the 2013 SEC Women’s Soccer Championship from Nov. 4-10. Ten teams will compete to be crowned conference champions. All games will be played at the Orange Beach Sportsplex, and tickets to watch the games will be available at the gate for $5 per adult per game and $2 per child (K-12) per day. Championship play is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CDT) and will be broadcasted live on ESPNU. For more information, visit SEC Women's Soccer Championship.
In conjunction with the SEC Women’s Soccer Championship, the 2013 Alabama Soccer Festival will take place from Nov. 8-10 at the Orange Beach Sportsplex for youth teams, U8-U18. Youth soccer players from around the state and beyond will have the opportunity to interact with SEC players, coaches and alumni throughout the weekend. These rising soccer stars are invited to participate in matches on Saturday and clinics on Sunday. All players will receive a free ticket to the SEC Women’s Soccer Championship. The deadline to register is Oct. 28. For updates and to register, go to Alabama Soccer Festival.
From Nov. 7-17, listen to nearly 200 songwriters of various genres from around the country for the 29th Annual Frank Brown Songwriters Festival at the Flora-Bama and other venues around the area. Attendees will be able to enjoy an up close and personal concert experience filled with stories behind the music told by the original songwriters. Most shows are free, but a few will charge a small cover. Check out Songwriter's Festivalwww.fbisf.com for more information.
Taste a variety of oyster dishes from local chefs as they compete for up to $10,000 in cash and prizes at the 6th Annual Oyster Cook Off at The Hangout. Oyster dishes will be judged by a panel of celebrity judges on a point system based on presentation, flavor and creativity. Admission is free, and tasting tickets will be sold at the event. Go to www.thehangout.com for more information.
Shed those Thanksgiving pounds with the 2013 Kaiser Realty Coastal Half-Marathon, 5K and one-mile fun run on Saturday, Nov. 30, beginning and ending at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. With a distance for those of all fitness levels, guests will be able to enjoy wildlife on Gulf State Park’s Backcountry paved trails as well as beach views throughout Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. This event is produced by Team-Magic, a race production team from Birmingham, on behalf of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission and will serve as the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Half-Marathon Alabama State Championship and 5K Alabama State Championship. For more information and to register, visit team-magic.com.For a complete list of coastal events, visit things to do. For more information on this family beach destination, visit www.gulfshores.com or www.orangebeach.com.