DIMPLES AND TANGLES TRAVELS: GULF SHORES AND THE USS ALABAMA - Dimples and Tangles

DIMPLES AND TANGLES TRAVELS: GULF SHORES AND THE USS ALABAMA


This time two weeks ago we were sitting on the beach in beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Little did we know that just days later Hurricane Sally would blow through, bringing devastating winds and flooding to the entire region.  Today I'm sharing our trip with you, and as I composed this post I couldn't help but keep the people affected in my prayers as they work to clean up, rebuild, and re-open hopefully soon!  We also had a special event at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, which I'll share with you in the second half of the post.  I know many of you know and love this area, so I hope these photos remind you of good times spent there, but also that some of you are friends wanting to visit the area in the future, so I hope this is a good resource for you!  

 (*This post contains affiliate links, including Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

WHERE WE STAYED




Whenever we travel, I always begin my search with listings at VRBO, Home Away, or Airbnb.  We prefer the extra space and a kitchen rather than a standard hotel room when traveling with the family.  However, we booked this trip just a week before we went and my search for a condo wasn't proving successful, so I checked out hotels in the area.  I came across The Lodge at Gulf State Park, it offered great rates during our stay, and looked gorgeous!  Our stay was so short, it also didn't take much to convince me that we could just eat out our few meals there and not mess with finding a place with a kitchen and taking food to prepare our own meals.  :)  


Where to stay in Gulf Shores Alabama

This hotel seemed so new I thought it must have just opened a few months ago, but it's actually been open for about 2 years.  All of the decor was so fresh and appealing!


This hotel was located on the west edge of Gulf State Park, so the park was on the north side of the hotel, with the beach on the south side.  The park offers many trails for walking or biking, and we fully intended to check it out as well but couldn't tear ourselves away from the beach during our short 2 days there.  


Not a bad view any way you look!  I also liked that this hotel was separated from the busy central hub of all of the Gulf Shores high rise condos, souvenir shops, etc.  It was nice and quiet.  Our room had a balcony with a view of the state park above, but on the beach side of the hotel there were several of these common balconies to enjoy the beach view as well.  It was nice to be able to slip out of our room and enjoy this spot even though our room faced the other direction. 


The pool was also great!  Due to Covid the capacity was limited, so they offered 2 hour time slots that you could sign up for each morning to enjoy the pool.  



The hotel is beachfront, just a short boardwalk away from the perfect white sand.  



There are umbrella and chair rentals available, but we had thrown a few of our beach necessities in the car and those were all we needed.  We have a couple of small chairs and have used this shade tent on two beach trips now, it's been a great alternative to an umbrella and packs away in a small bag that is easy to transport.  

Similar Beach Shelter here, here or here

Also, my beach towel was THE BEST!!  I bought it last Summer and sadly the exact one isn't available, but this one is virtually identical... same pattern, size, and composition.  They are large and soft and thick, worth every penny for the beach or to cover your entire pool lounge chair.  (slightly smaller towel here but good deal on a 4-pack)

If you ever see me at this beach this is what I'll be doing... reading! 



I loved this kimono and it was a great triple duty piece to pack... I used it as a beach cover up, a robe in the room, and cute top layer with shorts and a t-shirt one night for a casual dinner. The bird and floral pattern on it fit right in at the beach!  :)



WHERE TO EAT


We were there for such a short time, we didn't have a chance to eat very many places.  After polling my Instagram friends on where to eat in the Gulf Shores/Foley/Orange Beach area, here's what we ended up choosing:  

Doc's Seafood- We ate here one evening and loved it!  Totally scratched our seafood itch.  It was suggested that we eat at the original "shack" location on Canal Street in OB (which has no frills and is not fancy at all, super casual), not the newer location on Perdido Beach Blvd.  We both loved our entrees and especially the choice of new potatoes instead of fries as a side... yum!


Another Broken Egg Cafe- A personal local friend told me that they ate twice here when they were vacationing in the area a few months ago, so we gave it a try for breakfast.  They LOVED it but I think we didn't choose the right things (we got pancakes and french toast- just craving plain comfort food!) because it didn't knock our socks off.  I'd probably give it another shot though and get something more interesting off of the menu, they had tons of unique, creative options (gluten free selection if needed).  

Hog Wild BBQ- We enjoyed the patios and sitting areas around the hotel so much that for our second dinner we just picked up takeout and brought it back to eat overlooking the beach.  This place was good!  The BBQ sauce was different than what we're used to in TX and OK, very vinegar based, so that took a minute to get used to but it was a delicious meal.  (A chunk of that pier in the distance is now missing after the hurricane. 😔)


Here are the other restaurants that were recommended:

Cobalt
The Original Oyster House
Fin & Fork
The Gulf
Wolf Bay
Cactus Cantina
Gulf Cafe
Lulu's
Papa Rocko's Pizza
GT's on the Bay
Fisher's Upstairs
Shrimp Basket
Cosmo's
Sea N Suds
Anchor
Lambert's (we've eaten at the Branson location, fun family spot!)
Flora Bama Yacht Club
Big Fish
Efe's Greek Kitchen
Picnic Beach
Hangout
Bahama Bobs
Tin Top
Mo's BBQ
Sunliner Diner
Portobellos

I don't have a list, but in addition to the beach and other natural attractions, there is a wide selection of entertainment and shopping opportunities in the area.  Mini golf courses, go-carts, arcades, movie theaters, zip lines... plenty to keep your family busy.  And, I saw thrift store after thrift store I was just dying to check out!  


I also had several people recommend a visit to Fairhope, which is a small town along the coastline scenic route between Mobile and Gulf Shores.  My friend said it makes you feel like you've stepped into a Hallmark movie!  She recommended walking out onto the pier there and exploring the restaurants, shops and boutiques.   I really wanted to be able to go there but we just ran out of time.  Next time for sure but I wanted to mention it so you can check it out if you're in the area.  


I'm sure we'll return to Gulf Shores in the future, it's not a bad drive from Oklahoma City.  If you're a regular visitor there I'd love to know your favorite place to stay!  If we return with the whole family we'll likely be looking for a condo, so bonus points for those that are possibly beachfront and a bit more quiet than the huge high rise condos.  





USS ALABAMA BATTLESHIP 

MEMORIAL PARK


Now, the whole reason for our trip was to attend our friend's military retirement ceremony, a few days at the beach were just a bonus!  It was held on September 11 in Mobile at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.  If you've been through town and have never stopped to tour the ship and the grounds you simply must!  Several years ago we toured with our kids and they've done such a good job with the grounds and memorial, it fosters such an appreciation for our military service men and women! 

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

Our friend, Chaplain Endel Lee, RDML, U.S. Navy, enlisted as a Recon Marine at 18, later moving to the Navy in the Chaplain Corps, rising to rank of Rear Admiral and working at the Pentagon as a Chief of Chaplains.

To us, he was the pastor of the first church where Ray served on staff after we married and he finished seminary (Endel served in the reserves while he pastored). He taught Ray everything about being a minister that they don’t teach in seminary... how to do a wedding, funeral, run a business meeting, and above all how to love and serve people well. Kathy showed me how to be a gracious pastor’s wife, using her gifts to serve in the church as well as keeping things with their family running smoothly while Endel served the church and our country.

The family welcomed and visited with their guests in the "Mess Hall" of the ship before the festivities began, then we all moved out onto the deck of the ship for a flag raising ceremony.


Current version of my dress (it's a great one!)  ||  Wedges here or here  ||  Earrings


Endel's grandfather was in the USMC, killed in action during the Battle of Okinawa in WWII. As part of the ceremony, they flew his funeral flag on deck of the USS Alabama, as well as at the Pentagon last month on his last day of service there.



Endel has also spent time working with the Coast Guard, so they did a flyover during the flag ceremony to honor his service. (video freeze screen shot, sorry it's a bit fuzzy but very cool!) 


The actual retirement ceremony was held in the aircraft pavilion adjacent to the battleship.  This building houses retired aircraft and memorabilia. 


After the ceremony they invited everyone out to their place for lunch and time to be able to visit. Such a sweet, patriotic day (in spite of sweltering Alabama humidity... ha!) to celebrate all of Endel's accomplishments over the course of his career, many of which I'm sure we'll never know due to his extremely humble nature, never seeking out any acknowledgment for himself, only to honor the Lord.




We are forever grateful for the impact they made on us early in our marriage and ministry as well as for their outstanding service to our country (yes "their" service... each military family member definitely makes countless sacrifices in order for the military member to do their job!), and it was an honor to celebrate the Lee family at his retirement ceremony. You can see more photos and video from our day here.





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14 comments

  1. Glad you you had a great time! The timing couldn’t have been better!😬

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  2. You two are such a beautiful couple. So glad you had a great trip and missed the hurricane. I met my husband at Flora Bama, while on a short trip to Gulf Shores with a girlfriend in 2002. I have never heard of Fairhope, but I will definitely have to check it out when we are back that way. Thanks for sharing.

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    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, what a great story! Thank you for your kind words. :)

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  3. I loved seeing these pics Jen & am so glad y'all had a great trip! My husband Wayne is a USMC Vet & both grandpas served in WW2 on Naval ships & several uncles were also Navy men, so I have a great appreciation for anyone who served (in any capacity). The picture above that has the Alabama with all the tanks has at its forefront an AmTrac (Assault Amphibious Vehicle or AAV) which was what my hubby drove in the Corp... (they're the ones that can go from land to sea & they just lost 9 Marines in July due to the deadliest AAV incident in USMC history). Anywho, I LOVE all your posts & miss seeing you guys! Stay safe out there ;-)

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    Replies
    1. Oh wow, Jennifer. Such a rich family history! Good to touch base with you! :)

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  4. Hi! I live 3.5 hours from Gulf Shores and own a condo there, so we go at least once a month! We are foodies and I can give you the low-down on restaurants! Also, I can recommend places to stay depending on what you are looking for. I saw your list and the original DOC's is great! If you want something upscale, I'd suggest Voyagers at the Perdido Beach Resort, Louisiana Lagniappe (OB), Fisher's Upstairs (OB). Best breakfast is Brick & Spoon(OB). Cobalt and Cosmos are owned by the same ppl and good, GT's, The Gulf, LuLu's, Flora-Bama Yacht Club are all good. Not good: Orig. Oyster House crowded and has gone down over the yrs-busy touristy, Shrimp Basket, Hangout (great view though), Bahama Bob's. Sea -N- Suds, pretty good, and Wolf Bay Foley location is pretty good. Tin Top is a 15-20 min. drive but good. Fin and Fork is very good but they relocated to Pensacola.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, if you like a good steak and seafood Big Mike's is your place.

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    2. That's great info. Shannon, thank you! I hope your place is ok after the storm!

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