Best Annual Events in Perdido Key, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores

Nestled along the sun-kissed shores of the Gulf Coast, the enchanting destinations of Perdido Key, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores beckon travelers with their pristine beaches, warm hospitality, and a calendar brimming with exciting annual events. Whether you’re a local resident looking to soak in the community spirit or a visitor seeking vibrant experiences, this coastal paradise has something for everyone. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the best annual events these seaside gems have to offer. From quirky traditions to music festivals that make the sands come alive, there’s an event to suit every taste in this captivating slice of paradise.

Gulf Shores

National Shrimp Festival

This beloved event pays homage to the Gulf Coast’s rich seafood heritage, with a special focus on the delectable shrimp that grace the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Each year, as October rolls around, locals and visitors alike eagerly anticipate the arrival of this grand spectacle. It’s a time when the salty sea air mingles with the mouthwatering aroma of shrimp dishes prepared in every imaginable way. From succulent shrimp scampi to crispy coconut shrimp and spicy shrimp gumbo, the festival’s food vendors serve up a tantalizing array of shrimp creations that leave taste buds tingling. But the festival is not just about tantalizing palates; it’s a vibrant showcase of the area’s artistry, music, and community spirit. Stroll through the festival grounds, and you’ll find an art village where talented artisans proudly display their crafts, from intricate jewelry to vibrant paintings. The festival’s musical lineup fills the air with lively tunes, featuring a diverse range of performers from local bands to nationally recognized artists, providing the perfect soundtrack to your shrimp-inspired adventure. And if you’re feeling competitive, don’t miss the shrimp boil-off, where chefs go head-to-head to create the most delicious shrimp boil. With its tempting array of shrimp dishes, lively atmosphere, and the sheer warmth of its community, the National Shrimp Festival is a mosaic of flavors, sights, and sounds that encapsulates the very essence of Gulf Shores’ unique culture.

Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade

The Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parades are a colorful and exuberant tribute to this legendary celebration, and they encapsulate the very essence of the community’s festive spirit. As the calendar flips over to the new year, preparations begin in earnest for the grand spectacle of Mardi Gras. Like many coastal communities, Gulf Shores revels in the customs and rituals that define this time-honored tradition. The parades are the centerpiece of these festivities, a whirlwind of excitement and creativity that sweeps through the city in the lead-up to Mardi Gras.

Each parade is a visual feast, featuring floats adorned with elaborate decorations and vibrant colors. These works of art are a labor of love for the dedicated teams that put countless hours into their creation, making sure they tell a unique story and capture the imagination of all who witness them. But the parades aren’t just about the floats; they’re also a platform for self-expression, with participants donning elaborate costumes, masks, and accessories that showcase their creativity and revelry. Families and friends line the streets, sharing in the sense of community and camaraderie that Mardi Gras fosters. There’s an air of anticipation and delight as parade-goers eagerly await the throws—colorful beads, doubloons, and other trinkets that parade krewes toss to the crowd, with children and adults alike scrambling to collect these treasured keepsakes.

The festivities are accompanied by the enchanting melodies of local marching bands, whose spirited tunes infuse the air with a sense of celebration. The beat of the drums and the blare of the brass instruments create a rhythm that is both uplifting and infectious, urging everyone to dance and join in the revelry. The Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parades are more than a mere procession; they’re a joyful and spirited celebration of community and culture, a time for people to come together and let their hair down, to embrace the traditions of Mardi Gras that have been passed down through generations.

These parades, typically held in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, provide a unique and exciting dimension to the Gulf Shores experience, offering visitors a glimpse into the vibrant tapestry of Gulf Coast life. They’re a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of the community, echoing the sentiment that, even in the face of life’s challenges, there’s always time for celebration and unity.

Orange Beach

Orange Beach Seafood Festival and Car Show 

The Annual Orange Beach Seafood Festival and Car Show, held in February, is a cherished tradition that unites the Gulf Coast community for a day of delectable cuisine, captivating art, lively music, and a mesmerizing display of classic cars. This annual event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., has become a beloved highlight on the Orange Beach calendar, drawing over 15,000 eager festival-goers each year.

In 2023, the festival made history with the first-ever Makos on Main parade, a spirited procession featuring students, and the Mako Mudbug Mania crawfish-eating contest, adding an extra layer of excitement to an already exhilarating event. The festival is not only a celebration of the rich culinary traditions of the Gulf Coast but also a significant fundraiser for the Makos Academics Arts & Athletics Club (MAAAC), which plays a pivotal role in supporting Orange Beach schools.

As you wander through the festival grounds, you’ll discover a mouthwatering array of food offerings, from fried shrimp and alligator to oysters, fish, seafood etouffee, and jambalaya. Seafood lovers will be in paradise with options like seafood po’boys, shrimp tacos, crab cakes, and seafood gumbo. The festival also caters to those with a taste for snack items, including kettle corn, old-fashioned sodas, and boiled peanuts. For those who enjoy a cold beverage, the beer tents, managed by MAAAC volunteers, have become a popular feature since their introduction in the 2022 festival.

In addition to the culinary delights, you’ll find over 100 artists from across the South showcasing their talents. From handmade jewelry and metal yard art to beach-inspired signs and homemade candles, the Arts & Crafts booths are a treasure trove of unique and eye-catching items. The festival also boasts a large Kids’ Zone with activities to keep the little ones entertained, as well as a massive car show along Main Street, featuring antique, classic, and hot rod vehicles that will transport you to the golden age of automobiles.

The best part? Admission to this fabulous event is absolutely free, and parking is plentiful. Orange Beach school volunteers are on hand to assist with parking, and donations in support of local schools are warmly accepted. This is more than just a festival; it’s a celebration of community, culture, and the cherished traditions of the Gulf Coast. Come hungry, come curious, and come ready to make memories on the vibrant shores of Orange Beach.

The Wharf Boat & Yacht Show

For those whose hearts beat to the rhythm of the tides, this show is nothing short of a maritime utopia. Each year, this spectacular gathering unfolds, drawing boating enthusiasts, seasoned sailors, and anyone with a penchant for life on the water. With the Gulf Coast’s azure waters as its backdrop, “The Wharf Boat & Yacht Show” offers a captivating journey through the world of aquatic wonders, a showcase of the finest vessels afloat. In this maritime extravaganza, you can expect to be spellbound by a dazzling array of boats and yachts that span the spectrum from the sleek and sporty to the opulent and luxurious.

One of the key draws of this event is the opportunity to explore the latest models from renowned boat manufacturers and yacht builders. The show unveils an exquisite fleet of vessels, each one meticulously crafted and showcasing the latest innovations in marine technology. It’s a chance to step aboard these floating marvels, to feel the smoothness of their fiberglass hulls underfoot, and to envision the adventures they promise. Whether you’re on the hunt for a weekend cruiser, a fishing boat built for the open sea, or a superyacht that exudes opulence, “The Wharf Boat & Yacht Show” has a vessel to match your dreams.

Yet, this event offers more than a visual feast of boats and yachts. It’s a full-fledged maritime celebration, complete with a range of activities designed to immerse you in the world of boating. You can indulge in sea-inspired culinary delights, engage with experts who can help you chart your next nautical adventure, and even partake in hands-on activities that deepen your connection to the water. The ambiance is one of camaraderie, where fellow enthusiasts gather to swap stories of sea voyages, fishing tales, and sailing escapades.

Perdido Key

Flora-Bama Mullet Toss

This is not your typical beach bash; it’s an experience that defies convention, fusing revelry, competition, and community in a way that only the Gulf Coast can deliver. At the heart of this event is the singular act of throwing dead mullet fish, a tradition that echoes the region’s colorful past. Participants stand at the Florida-Alabama state line and hurl these fish across the border into Alabama. It’s a playful and unusual contest that perfectly captures the lighthearted and unconventional nature of the Gulf Shores community.

But the Mullet Toss is more than just a fish-flinging contest; it’s a sprawling beach party where people from all walks of life come together to celebrate. The sands of the Gulf Shores are transformed into a carnival of live music, food, and drinks, with the sounds of local and regional bands providing the perfect soundtrack to the festivities. As the sun sinks below the horizon, the beach comes alive with the glow of bonfires, lending an almost mystical ambiance to the night. What’s perhaps most remarkable is the diverse crowd that gathers, drawing attendees from far and wide. It’s a unique blend of locals, tourists, and even a few eccentric characters who embrace the playful spirit of the event. The Mullet Toss fosters a sense of togetherness, where shared laughter and a sprinkle of good-natured rivalry create memories that last a lifetime.

In the end, the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss is a testament to the idiosyncratic charm of the Gulf Coast, where the line between tradition and whimsy blurs. It’s a celebration of the offbeat, the irreverent, and the resolute determination to have a good time. As the mullets soar through the air and land on the sandy shores of Alabama, they mark the beginning of a raucous, joyful, and unforgettable gathering that’s as much a testament to the spirit of the Gulf Coast as it is a tribute to a humble fish that brings people together in the most unusual way.

Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival

Photo by C. Shelz

This extraordinary event isn’t just a festival; it’s a heartfelt ode to the craft of songwriting. From its inception, the festival has been a magnetic pull for talented songwriters from far and wide, transforming the coastal communities of Perdido Key, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores into a resounding symphony of melodies and narratives. What sets this celebration apart is the exceptional intimacy it fosters between the artists and their audience. Attendees are treated to a rare opportunity to witness the creative process up close, as songwriters share not only their music but also the poignant stories, emotions, and inspirations that breathe life into their compositions.

Throughout the festival, a diverse array of songwriters takes the stage, representing a tapestry of genres and backgrounds. From aspiring talents to seasoned professionals, these storytellers bring their songs to life with heartfelt performances. Audiences can expect to be swept away by the evocative lyrics and soulful melodies, often delivered with raw, unfiltered emotion. What makes the experience truly unique is the opportunity for direct interaction with these artists, whether it’s during a post-show chat, a workshop, or an impromptu jam session. The festival isn’t just a spectator event; it’s a gathering where connections are forged and stories are shared.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the festival venues come alive with the spirit of the Gulf Coast. Whether it’s the cozy confines of a beachside bar, an open-air stage with the sea as the backdrop, or a historic venue with a story of its own, each location contributes to the rich tapestry of the festival experience. The blend of music, camaraderie, and breathtaking coastal scenery creates an atmosphere that is as enchanting as it is unforgettable.

The Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival is not just a celebration of music; it’s a journey into the soul of the Gulf Coast, where the beauty of the region’s landscapes and the warmth of its communities come together to nurture the art of storytelling through song. It’s an event where melodies meet the surf, lyrics mingle with the sands, and hearts open up to the magic of music. In this unique celebration of songwriting, attendees are offered a glimpse into the deeper currents of creativity, connecting with the very essence of the craft and the profound stories it brings to life.

Drawing wine enthusiasts and art connoisseurs from near and far, this festival provides an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in the local art scene while sipping on some of the finest wines the region has to offer.

But the festival is more than just a celebration of fine wines; it’s a vibrant canvas for local artists to showcase their talents. The art displays are a visual feast, featuring an array of works that capture the essence of the Gulf Coast. From seascapes that mirror the Gulf’s ever-changing moods to abstract pieces that stir the imagination, the art on display reflects the boundless creativity of the region. Attendees have the opportunity to engage with artists, discuss their inspiration, and even acquire pieces that speak to their souls, turning the festival into an art gallery under the open sky.

Discover the Best of Perdido Key’s Festivals with Luxury Coastal Vacations

Perdido Key Beach

As your adventures at the festivals in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Perdido Key come to a close, there’s still so much more to savor on the Gulf Coast. That’s where Luxury Coastal Vacations steps in to offer an unforgettable retreat that complements your festival experience. These luxurious accommodations aren’t just places to stay; they’re a continuation of the magic you’ve encountered at the festivals. Imagine waking up to breathtaking beachfront views or relaxing in the spacious comfort of a vacation home surrounded by the beauty of coastal landscapes.

With each day at Luxury Coastal Vacations, you’ll be reminded that the beauty and wonder of the Gulf Coast extend beyond the festivals. It’s a place where you can escape, unwind, and create cherished memories in an atmosphere of comfort and opulence. So, let the coastal breeze, the memories of the festivals, and the warm embrace of Luxury Coastal Vacations be your companions on a journey of tranquility and luxury.

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