Monday, July 13, 2015

7 Tips for Gulf Shores Shrimp Fest Fun

When 250,000 people converge on one beautiful beach for four days of great seafood, awesome arts and crafts and toe-tapping music, the atmosphere is filled with excitement at the annual National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. As a local I rarely miss an opportunity to spend some time (and money) at this unique festival each October. This year the 44th annual event happens October 8-11, 2015.
I’m happy to share my personal tips for enjoying the Shrimp Fest to its fullest.
1. Take Me There – Parking is almost non-existent because this festival is held along the beach boardwalk at the public beach in Gulf Shores. Your best bet is riding the BRATS shuttle for $5 per day and leaving the driving to the bus personnel. If you are staying in an outlying area such as Fort Morgan or Perdido Key simply drive to one of the shuttle stops to park and ride.
2. Musical Chairs – As you enter the festival grab a program from the information booth to select your music for the day and evening. Then stake your claim on a prime spot by setting up your folding chair in front
of either the East or West music stage. This allows you to roam freely around the festival grounds until your favorite band begins playing. There are no worries about your chairs being available when you are ready to return to them.
3. Arrive Day One – If your schedule allows, I recommend arriving on Thursday (Oct. 8) for a less-crowded opportunity to scope out all the shopping possibilities and the seafood selections. We call it “Local’s Day” but all visitors are welcome.
4. Shopping Times Three – A diverse selection of items for sale range from comical signs for your garden, to elegant pottery, to leather hats and much more in the three distinct vendor areas:
a. Fine arts (center booths between The Hangout and the public restrooms)
b. Arts and crafts (rows of booths to the west of the public restrooms)
c. Commercial (rows of booths to the east between The Hangout and Pink Pony Pub)
5. Much Munching – Of course shrimp is king at the National Shrimp Festival and you’ll find it up and down the boardwalk prepared in a variety of dishes. Other seafood and non-seafood delights include gumbo, Cajun pistols (yeast rolls stuffed with creamy sauce and seafood), crawfish, oysters, sausage and more. Save room for the sweets that include ice cream, Italian ice, and even old fashioned soda. Pace yourself as you pick out what you’ll eat on subsequent days and nights of the event.
6. Sunglasses + sunscreen – You are exposed to the sun 100% of the day, so sun protection for your skin and eyes is essential. Dress in lightweight resort-style clothing for comfort and wear shoes comfortable enough to navigate the asphalt walkways. Take along a light jacket for evening when the gulf breezes cool down the shore.
7. Little ones – Kids activities all four days include free arts and craft projects, inflatables and entertainment in the Children’s Activity Village. On Saturday (Oct. 10) be sure to enter the little ones and not-so-little ones in a Sand Sculpture Contest (11 am to 3 pm) for age categories 5-10, 11-15 and 16+. If you register as a family you can all dive in to help.
Save on Shrimp Festival accommodations at Meyer Vacation Rentals by using promo code 15SF to receive a 3rd night free in condos or a 4th night free in houses at in Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key (Gulf Shores properties are excluded). Condos and houses include a balcony or deck, kitchen and living room area plus private bedrooms and baths that are great for a family or a family of friends to share.

See you at the beach.

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