Family, Foley, Gulf Shores, restaurant, vacation

How crowded is Gulf Shores? Just visit Chick-fil-A for breakfast to find out

Living in Foley the neighboring city to the north of Gulf Shores and 14 miles from the beautiful white sand beaches has taught me some things over the last year. Being a “local” and learning to gauge the tourists and visitor activity is one of those senses you learn to develop. As well as learning other “local” tips for managing day-to-day life in an area that attracts millions of visitors each year.

  1. Learn the “back roads and shortcuts”. Highway 59 can become a bog of cars with all the influx on the busy days and weeks of the year. The Beach Expressway also can be quite congested depending on the time and day of the week. We quickly learned about the two lane road’s that run parallel to Highway 59. One will even bypass all of Foley and drop you at the beginning of Gulf Shores.
  2. Stay away from the center and south end of Foley on tourist days. Fortunately we bought a new home on the North end of Foley and both of us work about 2 miles from home. So we can avoid the overcrowded and congested areas of Foley to get to work and lunch.

So the question is….”How crowded is Gulf Shores and the surrounding area?”

What barometer can we use to know what the tourist climate is like each day? See with Sports Tournaments, vacations, spring breaks, and the other countless reasons we all flock to the Lower Alabama hot spots, each day is different. One day can be slow and laid back and the next BOOM chaos and back-ups!

The answer is surprisingly CHICK-FIL-A. Chick-fil-A is the gauge we use to monitor the tourist activity in Foley and Gulf Shores. Ranae and I eat breakfast together almost everyday and choose Chick-fil-A as our spot. Apparently most people who travel choose to “Eat Mor Chikin” as well. However busy the restaurant and particularly the drive-thru is helps us to plan and determine what routes to use and areas to avoid for the coming day.

  • Monday and people are rolling into the Chick-fil-A then they are leaving and things should be clearing up throughout the week.
  • Thursday or Friday and things are hopping at the Chick-fil-A and look out for a packed weekend at those wide sandy beaches.

By the way Chick-fil-A in Foley is an absolute great place to stop and eat anytime of the day. Never can get enough Chicken and of course waffle fries. Great service and always exceeds our expectations!

So join the crowds or the “locals” and just visit a nearby Chick-fil-A to see how busy your town will be for the coming day or days.

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When you visit Gulf Shores stop by Foley Chick-fil-A for breakfast and be sure to say “HI”


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Fort Morgan Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, vacation

What should I look for in a Vacation rental?

Vacation rentals have flooded the market in recent years and your choices are practically endless when it comes to selecting one. So what should you be considering when comparing properties and making a final decision.

  1. Take your time and do your homework. I know I always try to plan a year in advance and make sure I am choosing the right place for the family. Don’t get caught up in the Vacation excitement and make a rushed spontaneous decision.
  2. Be critical! Things rarely look better in person than they do in the photos. Ever met someone in person you had only seen in photos on Facebook? Ever said they sure look different in person. Well the photos that Vacation rentals post are their “best foot forward”. Look at the photos throughly.
    1. If the posting has more photos of the surroundings than of the interior and living areas then I wonder what they are hiding. I can find pictures of the beach and mountains on Google. Show me what the living space, beds, kitchen, and bathrooms look like where I am spending my hard-earned money to stay at over vacation.
    2. Look for what is missing. Our minds have a way of filling in information that is actually missingWas there a washer and dryer? Did you see kitchen appliances like a crock pot to cook meals in while you are out enjoying the sights? Was there counter space to be able to prepare a meal or two to save cost?
    3. Look at the scale of things. If the sofa takes up the entire length of the Living space and even sticks under the counter bar then maybe the living space is a little bit cramped. If the pillow barely fits across the bunk bed then it could be a tad narrow and small. Is that a Queen bed in the Master bedroom?

Narrow your list down to a few options and then drill down even further.

  1. Look at the comfort and amenities with your choices
    1. Bedrooms and sleeping spaces. Look closely at the sizes and quality of the beds. Unlike other items in the rental the beds are used EVERYDAY and for the most about of time! Vacation is about rest and relaxation and how can you enjoy yourself when you can’t sleep well.
      1. What size bed is in the Master bedroom? There is a big difference between a King and a Queen bed.
      2. What size are the bunk beds? I have seen a lot of rental units with bunk beds built into an old closet and they are very narrow and not long enough to be comfortable. In fact they are basically unsafe and dangerous. Again look at the scale of things. Look at the pictures and if the pillow barely fits across the bunk bed that seems like a small bed. Try to visualize the bunk along the wall at the head or foot and see if you can gauge the width that way.
      3. Is it a true twin or full size bunk bed?
      4. How safe does it look?
      5. Does it even have a railing or ladder?
      6. What is the quality of the mattress or bedding? Especially on the Bunk Beds where some people will cut bulk foam and say that is a mattress. Others will use RV or Baby Bed Mattresses as substitutes because of the bunk being that odd size “converted closet bunk”queen-bed-and-no-room-at-the-inn bunks-so-narrow-pillow-barely-fitsBunks-with-foam-mattressprison-bunks-no-railing
        1. Kitchen.  The biggest reason to rent a condo or home versus a hotel is the cooking space.
          1.  Do you have the counter space to cook and prepare meals to save on meal costs? We always like to eat one meal at the rental and one from local restaurant each day with snacks in between.
          2. Do you have the necessary appliances? A crock pot is nice to have. It does the work for you while you are out enjoying the sights and adventures of vacation and is ready when you come home. Just don’t forget to plug it on and turn it on!
          3. Can you fit a pot on the stove top? Some units I have seen barely have enough room under the above stove microwave to fit a pot to cook with.
          4. How many burners do you have on the stove and how big is the oven? Some ovens and stoves are so narrow you can’t fit anything into them.
          5. Does the kitchen size and equipment match the occupancy number?cramped-small-kitchen-no-stove-top-room
        2. Dining space. Once you cook the meal everyone one needs a place to eat it.
          1. Are there at least as many dining chairs as members of your family? Pretty simple to count and see. It is hard enough to get the modern family to sit down for 5 minutes together anymore, but especially difficult if you do not have the seating.
        3. Living space. You see sometimes it just rains. If the family is stuck in the rental can you all comfortable coexist?
          1. Is the living space open enough for us all to fit? Look again at that couch size in comparison to the room for an idea of scale. Also use the tiles in the floor to count and gauge feet in space. Floor tiles are either 12 or 18 inches square as a rule.
          2. Are there separate areas that family members can spread out? Well sometimes you just need a little space too.
            1. Is there an outdoor patio/balcony space you can enjoy no matter the weather?
            2. Is there a desk for child to sit at and color? small-living-space
        4. Technology and TV’s. Those sports teams keep playing and those reality tv shows continue in spite of your Vacation schedule.
          1. Are there smart TV’s? That way you can use your Premium subscription services just like at home. HULU , Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Watch out for the old school tube television!
          2. What are the size’s and location’s of the TV’s? A lot of rental owners think putting a small TV in the upper corner of the room is a good idea. It is awful! Can you imagine a week of straining your eyes, back, and neck to watch that? I hope they give you a FREE chiropractor visit to get realigned! Look for large TV’s mounted close to eye level so you are not awkwardly positioned to watch it.
          3. Is my check in process electronic and is there keyless entry? Being able to check in anytime 24 hours a day is nice because the unexpected can happen. Delays in arrival are common and having to meet someone and be given a key can be frustrating. Modern rental units have some form of electronic access and check in. Also with keyless entry you do not have to keep up with a physical key and everyone in the family can come and go at their desire. tv-just-a-little-awkward-to-watch-free-chiropractor-after-vacation-compressor
        5. Balconies and patios. Who doesn’t like to lounge on the balcony reading a good book or drinking your coffee listening to the waves crash. Too many Vacation rental balconies are just too small to even use!
          1. How large is the Balcony/Patio? Most seem to be very small, barely able to fit two people. This is one of those additional areas for your family to spread out and enjoy some time alone or together.
          2. Can you all fit and is there seating for everyone?
          3. What type of furniture is there? I see a lot of cheap flimsy plastic dollar store junk! Why can’t there be a nice lounger sectional on a roomy oversized balcony retreat to enjoy? no-room-balcony-and-cheap-plastic-chairsmall-two-person-balcony
        6. Washer and Dryer. You can pack lighter when you have a washer and dryer conveniently in your rental.
          1. Is there a washer and dryer in the unit? Don’t assume and let your brain fill in information that is not there.
          2. Is it full size or stackable? Who WANTS to do laundry on Vacation, but at least with a full size unit you can do it LESS often on Vacation.
        7. The furnishings. So many rentals look like they are furnished with the owners left overs. They look like Yard sale finds picked randomly to go together. Who wants to pay to stay in someone elses “Junk Drawer”? uncomfortable-furniture

Take your time and compare! You will find the dream rental that is perfect for your Family! Happy hunting and have a Great Vacation!

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Family, Gulf Shores, History Educational

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Our family loves the “Little Zoo That Could” so much. I call it a grown up petting zoo because you are up close and personal with the animals. There are no hills to climb and the property takes you in one big loop around the Zoo.

“Hurricanes, tropical storms, the recession, the oil spill. We aren’t called The Little Zoo That Could for nothing. We are definitely survivors, but it’s time to move to higher ground and become The Little Zoo That Grew,” said Patti Hall, Zoo Director.

The Zoo is in the process of building a new location and you can see updates on their Facebook page.

Where else can you hold a baby kangaroo, sit with sloths, play with lemurs, or hold a baby alligator?

Plan for about 2 hours of time to walk the zoo and take your time. It is definitely worth the family visit and in 2017 others agreed. The Zoo was the highest ticketed attraction in Baldwin County and welcomed more than 175,000 visitors.

We are Annual Pass holders and go as often as we can.

See website for Admission Cost and Hours

Below is a video we caught of a Lion interacting with his Keeper.