Heading for Orange Beach from Atlanta for the first time! Loaded up the car with plenty of bathing suits, sunscreen, and snacks. Oh yeah, and the kids too. We left earlier than usual for our beach trip because while Phoenix check in was 3 pm, we wanted to catch the Blue Angels Practice session at Pensacola Naval Air Base in the morning. Their website suggested arrival by 9:30 am Central Standard Time because they sometimes close it early if big crowds are expected. It was a practically straight shot down the highway and was a nice quiet drive.
Blue Angels Air Show
We arrived on base and set to explore the free Naval Aviation Museum. The first stop on the 2nd floor was the experience of the being on an aircraft carrier, complete with wind machines and vibration effects. Next up was the world’s largest aircraft display with over 150 aircraft. The best part is that the kids can climb into models of different airplanes and helicopters. There is even a toddler area marked off. If your family is even the slightest bit interested in planes, a visit to this museum is sure to be a hit. The official practice time is 11:30 am. We purchased earplugs in the museum for a dollar each at the register in the gift shop along with some postcards to send home. If you get to the stands early, you can sit on the metal bleachers or bring your own chairs and set to the side. BRING SUNSCREEN; it gets hot! Umbrellas are allowed until the start of the air show, and then you have to put them down. It’s an AMAZING show that lasts about 45 minutes if the cloud ceiling is high enough.
Five to six F/A 18 Hornets fly as close as 18” inches next to each other in formation and perform the most breathtaking moves; it’s a huge crowd-pleasing event. Guides stand in front pointing in which direction the planes are incoming since it can be confusing with the distance they can cover in seconds. Occasionally if you miss the show, you might see some Blue Angels flying down Orange Beach at some point during your visit. However, your best bet is to catch one of their official practices.
Special Note: It can be confusing which entrance you need to enter at if you do not have official DoD credentials. The West Entrance, 1878 South Blue Angel Parkway, is where you need to enter. This entrance is the back entrance that is located off of Gulf Beach Highway. You don’t want to go in at the main gate; they will make you turn around and go to the other one, remember this an active military base. You will need your driver’s license to show at the visitor’s gate, and they will ask if you have any weapons. My son was overly concerned that I didn’t announce his Swiss army knife, I told him that wasn’t what they meant.
After the show was over, we decided to roam the museum some more and then make our way to Orange Beach. It was only about 25 minutes away at that point. We grabbed lunch at McDonald’s on the way and realized with the time change we still had some time to kill. We stopped at public beach access Cotton Bayou a few blocks from the Phoenix 7 to dip our toes in the sand while we finished our wait. Of course, toes turned into ankles, which then led into waist deep. Luckily all the beach accesses we visited had showers to rinse off before we left. I had been prepared for an early swim outing and had some swim bags packed. On the way to the condos, we hit the Publix for some last minute items including some fried chicken for dinner, knowing we would all be tired from our early morning drive and not wanting to head back out after more swims that late afternoon. It seems we spent a majority of our time on Perdido Beach Boulevard; all the Phoenix resorts are located there along with restaurants and grocery stores.
Checking into the Phoenix VII
At 3 pm we landed finally in the parking lot of the Phoenix 7! Time to go check in at Beach Getaway’s condominium! We arrived in the parking lot knowing we would have to buy our parking pass. Luckily, it was quickly purchased at the front desk. Also in the lobby lined up against the wall were many heavy-duty shopping carts and hotel carts ready for unloading and loading. The kids were inspired to help and hurry after spotting the pool. We unloaded the car and headed up the elevator. Technically we did not have to check in because we had our code already from Beach Getaways sent in the email the day before but we did want to grab our parking pass.
Tada! What a Condo!
It was beautiful! I felt like I was walking into someone’s immaculate and tastefully decorated home. But the view was the selling point. Previously, the kids had already looked through all the condo pictures in the days before and had decided who would sleep where, because that’s what kids do. However once this mama saw the view and got a whiff of the master bedroom facing the ocean with the massive sliding doors, I knew all bets instantly were off and this was going to be my room!
Quickly we settled in; the kids stood on the balcony looking at the pool and beach longingly again. How could I say no?
After settling all our snacks in the kitchen pantry and loading sodas into the fridge, our destiny awaited us. Officially our beach vacation had begun. The kids jumped joyfully in the Gulf and Mom took a nice relaxing chair in the sand and watched. The most beautiful sunset started to spill across the sand to my right. I could totally see why people loved this place.
After darkness had pretty much won, they wanted to hit the indoor and outdoor pools. I obliged them for about 30 more minutes and insisted it was time to call it a day. Lounging on the comfortable condo couches and a few watching their TVs in their individual rooms, our first day at Gulf Shores had finally drawn to a close. (To be continued …)