It goes without saying that the culinary climate in a tourist destination as popular as Gulf Shores, Alabama, is going to be enticing, offering just-caught seafood, beachside dining, and southern charm.
But that isn’t what this article is about. Instead, this is a list of other things you can do at Gulf Shores’ more than 100 restaurants — like making a prom dress out of duct tape, for example. Or watching rodeo bull-riding on a beach.
Here are just five unique “dining experiences” to be had in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach:
Challenge Your Dining Companions to a Game of Beach Volleyball
Not only can you get your serve on, but Lulu’s offers a concert stage and daily live concerts. Not a big surprise, as the owner happens to be Jimmy Buffett’s baby sister, Lucy Anne. Nine types of margaritas, fish baskets, and, not unexpectedly, a Cheeseburger in Paradise will fuel the big match. Lucy, who calls herself the “Crazy Sista,” spent 10 years in “plastic California” before she moved back home to open a burger joint on Weeks Bay, the very spot where Daddy took her and Jimmy fishing. Five years later, she loaded the whole restaurant onto a barge and floated it to a bigger spot at Homeport Marina. Chairs are made from recycled milk jugs and the margarita blenders are powered by a wind turbine.
Design Your Own Duct Tape Bathing Suit
Rarely a summer day goes by when Tacky Jack’s, one of Gulf Shores’ oldest restaurants, doesn’t host some kind of special event. And we’re not talking about its award-winning happy hour that starts each day at 2 p.m. No, we’re talking about reps from the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo or the Gulf State Park stopping by with a snake or a baby kangaroo, or open mic day, beach games, or duct tape origami. Whether you want to make a wallet or a bikini, Tacky Jack’s “Art al Fresco” regularly offers up “Ductagami” and hundreds of rolls of duct tape for participants to get creative. For July 6, the restaurant even invited contestants from Stuck at Prom, an annual competition sponsored by the Duck Tape company, where scholarships totaling $50,000 are awarded to teens with the most imaginative duct tape prom garments.
Pet a Stingray
Cayman Grill, overlooking Wolf Bay, has an 8,000-gallon tank with stingrays (the restaurant’s mascot), fish, and a few small sharks. And yes, patrons are allowed to feed them. Not surprisingly, this elegant spot with a 6,500-square-foot deck serves more than a dozen kinds of fresh fish.
Say Hallelujah at a Beachside Church
At Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar, a 50-something-year-old hole-in-the wall that straddles the Alabama-Florida state line, two church services are held every Sunday. Jimmy Buffet immortalized this wildly popular roadhouse in his song “Ragtop Day,” and even before the church ladies showed up, this rustic bar with mismatched tables and chairs was a lesson in diversity. Expect to find everyone from ponytailed surfer dudes to elegant Southern Belles, often dancing together on top of the tables.
Sometimes, table-top dancing occurs even at Worship on the Water, the popular church service that draw hundreds to Flora-Bama’s beach every Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m. Baptism is held in the ocean, the collection is gathered in neon tackle boxes, and congregants — drinking Bloody Marys and bushwackers — sing from the honky tonk hymnal.
And by 6 p.m., S.I.N. (Service Industry Night) takes over with free admission and employee prices for anyone in the biz.
Skip Through a Ginormous Bubble Machine
Games, dancing, music, and contests start early in the morning and don’t stop until closing at The Hangout, a crazy fun restaurant smack-dab on the beach. At the top of the hour, the bubble machine revs up and kids (even adult-sized kids) can run amuck through an avalanche of foamy bubbles. There’s also a gigantic sandbox, a fire pit, a mermaid bar, collections of vintage lunchboxes and Pez containers, and a 15-foot wishing wall where guests jot down their heart’s desire, roll them into scrolls, and slide them into slots. Food? Almost beside the point. (Editor’s Note: Food is never beside the point at The Daily Meal!)