If you are looking for some fun in Gulf Shores but have a small budget, here is a list of over 20 places that you can visit completely free! There is some really good stuff here! Check it out:
The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Here you can see more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. These historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed both inside the Museum’s nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and outside on its 37-acre grounds. This is something that you absolutely have to do while you are here, plan on spending at least a day at this amazing museum!
2. The American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA)- Founded in 1984, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of more than 1,500 pieces across all media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints, posters and photography. It is thought to have one of the most extensive sports art collections in the world. This is a fantastic educational and cultural experience for your family.
In 2004 Mr. Alan Goldman of Montgomery, Alabama donated his model railroad to the City of Foley. His only condition was that the railroad be on display for children to enjoy and that no fee be charged to view. What a great guy!
Welcome to 1950’s Main Street USA; complete with a fire station, car wash, church, bus station, and a city park with many happy children playing. You will also find a farm, a sawmill, a coal company on one end of the layout and an oil refinery on the opposite end. Don’t miss the Drive-in movie “Thunder Road”, an old Robert Mitchum movie. This is well worth the visit, especially if you have a train fanatic in your family.
4. Holmes Medical Museum – The Holmes Medical Museum is located in Baldwin County’s first hospital, which served the community from 1936-1958. Many of the items on display are the original medical artifacts including surgical instruments, operating room machinery and a human skeleton. The interior of the museum is practically unchanged from the time it served as the area’s first hospital. This is a hidden gem and a must visit!
5. Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum – Situated in an early 1900’s schoolhouse, the Indian and Sea Museum has an abundance of artifacts donated by the families of early fisherman and Native Americans. This little schoolhouse is packed with information and history and is definitely worth a visit while you are here.
6. History Museum of Mobile – As of October 2014, you can explore 300 years of Mobile history for free! The History Museum of Mobile is an educational and entertaining destination for people of all ages. As you explore the museum’s galleries, interesting artifacts and fascinating stories will appear around every corner. Explore the Community Gallery where local artists display their work, go back in time with the Faces of Mobile exhibit and have fun in the interactive Old Days New Ways exhibit.
7. Phoenix Fire Museum – Located in the restored home of the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company No. 6, The Phoenix Fire Museum houses turn-of-the-century horse-drawn steam engines and early motorized vehicles. The gallery on the Second Floor recounts the history of the volunteer fire companies of Mobile from their organization in 1838. Your family will love the history here!
8. Historic Fort Conde – Experience colonial Mobile like never before at Historic Fort Conde. Here you can learn about the people who colonized early Mobile. See historic artifacts of Native Americans and Europeans who played large roles in the evolution of the Port City in a time shaped by innovation and war. Don’t miss the Lifeway galleries where you can get a taste of what colonial life was like.
Every Thursday the Mobile Museum of Art has free admission. Don’t miss a chance to see an outstanding collection of American, European, African and Asian art including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include: 19th century American landscapes, realist paintings from the WPA era, contemporary international studio glass, turned wood and ceramics.
10. Gulf Shores Museum – This quaint little museum located in a pre World War II beach house gives you a glimpse into the lives of the families that settled the area along with a look into how the community works together to come back after the devastating hurricanes that have rocked the area in the past. This is a fun little museum that is worth checking out.
11. Fairhope Museum of History -The Fairhope Museum of History tells Fairhope’s unique story through its permanent collection of artifacts and interpretive information. From Fairhope’s earliest residents, the Native American Indians, to the potters who were attracted to the abundant and high-quality clay, to the Single Taxers searching for Utopia, to modern day, the Museum provides an enjoyable and informative look into Fairhope’s past.
You can’t visit Gulf Shores without spending a day at the beach. No one can resist the white, sandy beaches and warm blue water of the Gulf. Gulf Shores has many beaches with free public access, so grab your beach chairs, cooler and toys and have a great day or 2 or 3 soaking up the sun.
13. Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve – This refuge boasts over 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat that is home to migratory birds and nesting sea turtles. Take a hike on one of 4 scenic hiking trails and take in all the beauty of the plants and wildlife that call the preserve home. Guided tours are offered several times a year for free as well as many other annual events. Make sure to check out their events calendar for the latest info.
14. 5 Rivers – Alabama’s Delta Resource Center– Where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley rivers flow into Mobile Bay stands an incredible facility for outdoor recreation, conservation and land stewardship in Alabama: 5 Rivers. It’s the ultimate place to begin your adventure into over 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, woods and wetlands.
The Apalachee Exhibit Hall has over 4,000 square feet of exhibits including plant and animal life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, and cultural and historical information about Alabama too. Browse through turn-of-the-century photographs, unique art designs, and learn about the Forever Wild Program. See a 12 1/2 foot alligator caught from their very own backyard – and don’t forget to take a selfie with the enormous wild boar!
15. Baldwin County Bicentennial Park – With 367 acres of history, nature and fun, this park needs to be on your to do list. Here you can visit a 19th century blacksmiths shop, a country store, an Indian village and even a working farm. Pack a picnic and have lunch in the pavilion or spread a blanket on the grass and enjoy all the beauty that the park has to offer.
16. Audubon Bird Sanctuary – The Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island has been named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring bird migrations. It consists of 137 acres of maritime forest, marshes, and dunes, including a lake, a swamp, and a beach. Recently, the 3 mile trail system within the Sanctuary has been designated as a National Recreational Trail. Don’t forget your camera and a pair of binoculars.
17. Weeks Bay Reserve – The Weeks Bay Reserve encompasses over 6,000 acres of land and water in and around Weeks Bay and along Mobile Bay. Take advantage of the beautiful nature trails where you can see some of the over 350 bird species that call the reserve home. 2 Boardwalks, pitcher plant bog, picnic pavilions and and educational center make this a great place to spend an afternoon. Make sure that you don’t miss the butterfly and hummingbird gardens while you are there.
A breathtaking journey along seven trails winding through six distinct ecosystems that make up the more than 15 miles of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail complex through Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. You can explore the timeless beauty of the Butterfly Garden, the Freshwater Marshes and the Coastal Hardwood Swamps. Be sure to bring your camera so you won’t miss any of the amazing photo opps. Take your family to Boulder Park where kids can scale large boulders specifically designed to encourage kids to be kids and to have fun climbing outdoors.
19. Graham Creek Nature Preserve – 500 acres of natural habitats including pine savannas, bottomland wetlands, mixed forests and tidal marshes plus hiking & biking trails, disk golf and multiple opportunities for bird watching. The trails cross multiple habitats where you can see rare carnivorous plants and wildflowers all year long. Make a day of it and pack a picnic to eat at one of their many picnic pavilions.
20. Edward H Carroll Sr Kids Park – located at 26267 Canal Road in Orange Beach, this wondrous family park has plenty to to for everyone in the family. Amenities include a 400’ fishing pier with covered pavilions and seating, picnic shelters with grills, restrooms, paved walking path and parking. Lighted Kids Park with slides, swings and climbing areas. Bring your camera so you don’t miss a chance to capture a family picture with beautiful Wolf Bay in the background. Kids and adults will love this park!
21. Eastern Shore Fountains – This beautiful shopping center located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay in Spanish Fort, AL is a great place to take the kids to splash the day away. The fountains are open during regular mall hours, weather permitting.
22. Mobile Botanical Gardens
I’m adding this one with a small caveat, it is not completely free (children 12 and under are free, adults are $5) but it’s such a great price for a family that I have to tell you about it. The botanical garden is 100-acres of cultivated gardens, woodland trails, and longleaf pine restoration. You can enjoy picnicking, birdwatching, hiking, walking, drawing, painting, and photography in this lovely setting.
Look how easy it is to have in Gulf Shores without spending a penny!
Thank you to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism for hosting us on a fantastic getaway. All opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for details.