Look out your airplane or car window upon arriving along the Gulf of Mexico, and the view rivals those of Hawaii, Puerto Rico or other tropical islands. But that’s where the comparisons stop for the myriad Southern destinations that thrive, thanks to a nearly year-round pleasant climate and white-sand beaches. Depending on whether you’re in Florida, Alabama or Mississippi, there’s a different experience to be had. Here, we dive in (don’t worry, the water is warm).
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Ala.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism reported record growth for 2016, welcoming 6.3 million guests. A major attraction in 2016 was the World Food Championships at The Wharf, described as “America’s Most Watched Food Sport Event,” returned for a second time this November.
If you’re taking a meeting to this destination, you’re most likely going to utilize Perdido Beach Resort, the area’s only full-service hotel. Not only is it right on the beach, the resort has fine dining with Voyagers, an on-site restaurant for buttering up VIPs. New additions to the hotel include a club level, where planners can place VIPs, and a beach-level conference room, Night Reef.
In June, the area gained its first upscale beachside boutique hotel in Hotel Indigo Orange Beach. The property has 62 guest rooms and is adjacent to Big Wave Dave’s Kitchen & Beach Bar, a casual restaurant serving coastal fare like Gulf shrimp and lobster rolls. A second full-service hotel, The Lodge at Gulf State Park (flying under the Hilton flag), is also in the works. The 350-room, $80 million property with on-site meeting space is scheduled for completion in 2019.