Mild temperatures, white-sand beaches and community-wide events invite groups to celebrate the holidays in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.
From the Friday after Thanksgiving to January 3, 2019, Coastal Christmas lights up the community with more than 40 seasonal events. It features everything from shopping and culinary delights to parades and lighting extravaganzas. Group planners will discover there’s more than a beach in beautiful coastal Alabama. Here are just a few options to begin building your itinerary.
7th Annual Merry Market
December 7-8, 2018
At the Orange Beach Convention Center there will be plenty of fun and shopping opportunities. From its early beginnings, Merry Market has grown to more than 5,000 visitors and 70 vendors. The Coastal Alabama Chamber of Commerce has attracted a wide variety of unique gifts, arts & crafts, jewelry, apparel, personal items, children’s games & books, and much more. Admission is free.
33rd Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade
December 8, 2018
The Coastal Alabama Chamber of Commerce lighted boat parade takes off at about 5 p.m. from LuLu’s at Homeport Marina and finishes at Flora-Bama. More than 45 decorated vessels, including sailboats, charters and even a kayak or two, make this boat parade one of the largest in the Southeast. There are great viewing sites all along the Intracoastal Waterway, but for groups the best spot is The Wharf at Orange Beach, adjacent to the convention center.
23rd Annual Magic Christmas in Lights
Bellingrath Gardens and Homes
November 23-December 31, 2018
A Gulf Coast holiday tradition, the 65-acre estate displays 1,100 pieces, three million lights and 15 scenes. The Bellingrath Home is fully decorated and adorned with lovely poinsettias. Nightly choral performances take place Sundays through Thursdays. Be sure to warm your group’s hearts with a cup of hot chocolate on Live Oak Plaza. This ABA Top 100 Event in 2016 is certain to get visitors in the holiday spirit.
Holiday SPECTRA Sound & Light Spectacular
November 19-December 31, 2018
Nightly shows at 6 and 7 p.m., each combining choreographed lighting effects and popular, surround-sound music, deliver an exceptional entertainment experience. The shows are free to attend.
Horse & Carriage Rides
November 18-19, 26 and December 8-10 and 15-17, 2018
Spend an evening under the stars trotting through the streets to view the lights and decorations. The carriages carry up to four people and operate between 6 and 10 p.m. There is a cost. Have your camera ready for some great photo ops.
Coastal Christmas events are family-friendly and ideal for a multi-generational tour. The nearby USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is perfect for any age group, but especially during the holidays. The Ice Skating Rink at The Wharf is a joy for adults and kids. Santa’s Workshops at OWA Amusement Park invite the kids to be Santa’s helpers. A photo with Santa is perfect after making their craft gift. There are plenty of Santa sightings throughout the area.
Accommodations in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach range from condominium rentals and RV campgrounds to private and flag hotels. SpringHill Suites by Marriott Orange Beach at The Wharf is central to all the holiday festivities. As any visitor to the area will tell you, there’s an abundance of dining options. Many of the 100-plus restaurants are group- friendly and serve exceptional seafood specialties.
For further information about Alabama’s Coastal Christmas, visit alabamacoastalchristmas.com. To begin planning the accommodations and dining options, visit the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber at mygulfcoastchamber.com.