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When you think of the Gulf Coast of Alabama, what comes to mind? Summertime beach trips, sand, and fun, right? While all of that is true, I want to challenge your thinking by saying that I think the best time to visit the beautiful Gulf Coast is “shoulder season.” What exactly is “shoulder season?” Well according to various sources, shoulder season is best defined as “a period of time between peak and off peak season in the travel industry.” I like to think of it as the best time to vacation, especially at the beach. I was recently invited by the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism Board to experience shoulder season on the coast for myself, and I am so pleased to share how wonderful my experience was. Read on to find out why I think shoulder season is the best season for a vacation.

The Crowds

The crowds were pretty much non-existent during our weekend stay, and I was pleased to find low wait times when dining out and plenty of personal space on the beautiful white sand beaches of the Gulf. Summer, for obvious reasons, sees a huge spike in the crowds, and, with young kids in tow, it can sometimes be a hassle to navigate the roads and find enough space for your crew on the beach. Shoulder season typically lines up with the school calendar, but, if you can swing it, I highly recommend taking an extra day or two before the semester really begins to enjoy some “last moments of summer” while the beaches aren’t so busy.

The Weather

Even with a tropical storm threatening to make landfall during our stay, the weather could not have been more perfect. While I love jumping into the cool ocean waves during the heat of the summer, there is something to be said about relaxing on a beach chair or towel and not needing to hop in the water to cool off. The breezes are incredible and the sun doesn’t seem to burn as hotly during the day.

The Dining

No trip to the beach is complete without a dive into the best restaurants in the area, and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach will not disappoint you. Obviously, you’ll want to experience the finest gulf seafood available, but I also recommend trying new places that aren’t “typical” beach fare. I scarfed down an amazingly fresh salad at The Beach House Kitchen & Cocktails in Gulf Shores (two words: cilantro-lime vinaigrette), and had a crisp, cheesy Margherita pizza at Cayman Grill in Orange Beach. Don’t limit yourself to just seafood!

The Beach

I would lump this into the crowds and weather section, but, really, it’s the beach. I need to speak to how amazing the beach is during shoulder season. With low crowds and cooler weather, being beach side is even easier than you’d think. Don’t forget the sunscreen, though! Just because you can’t “feel” the sun as much doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I would go on and on about how wonderful shoulder season, but I think you’re catching my drift. Look for more posts about my stay in the upcoming weeks! What’s your favorite aspect of shoulder season travel?