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Summer adventure awaits in Alabama's Gulf Shores

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North Carolinians are fortunate to have so many beautiful beaches within such a short proximity, but the Gulf Coast beaches are a whole new world worth exploring. Alabama's Gulf Coast is rich in beautiful stretches of sand, plentiful hotels, endless rows of towering condominiums, and delicious seafood restaurants. In fact, the beaches seem less crowded than our more traditional mainstay of Myrtle Beach, and the clientele blends a mix of friendly Midwesterners with southerners of all kinds.

Plan your next beach vacation to include some of these Alabama Gulf Shore hot spots:

-The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo: This charming zoo is larger than it looks and is known for its moniker of the "little zoo that could," made popular thanks to the Animal Planet documentary featuring the property's migration during a hurricane to a place of higher ground (the only one of its kind attempted by a zoo anywhere). Here, families can get up close and personal with the animals unlike larger zoos where exhibits are kept at a distance. One-on-one encounters, the likes of which are only found in Australia, are only $5 here. Want to have Madagascar lemurs climbing on your shoulders? There are few places that offer such an affordable opportunity; at this zoo, a modest additional fee gives families the chance to play and feed the animals to their hearts' content. The lack of rigidity is what makes this animal zoo so special. Its zookeeper has always had a heart for animals and is turning her passion for animals into a hands-on haven for visitors to truly understand and appreciate the wildlife that are kept at a distance at larger museums.

-Tacky Jack's: No visitor to the Gulf Coast can leave without paying a visit to one of the four locations of this southern landmark. Its clever and self-deprecating name has contributed to its fame drawing big name celebs from President Obama to Singer Tim McGraw. All four of the Gulf Coast Tacky Jack's locations have easy access for land and marine-based arrivals thanks to its dock locations. Popular menu items include Mexican Garbage, the eatery's tacky, large nachos tray delivered on a plate simulating a garbage hood and the restaurant's favorite Bushwacker, which is similar to an adult milkshake with silver and coconut rum and coffee liqueur.

-Sail Wild Hearts catamaran: This catamaran is one of the area's most popular adventure activities picking up guests from the Perdido Beach Soundside Pier. Boarding is quick and hassle-free with an itinerary that follows the beautiful coast line. After a tanline-inducing ride around the bay, this popular cruise makes a stop at the sportsman's private island for kayaking, standup paddle boarding, swimming, and sunbathing. This company is happy to tailor its itinerary to whatever is needed from sailing options to individualized visits making it perfect for families.

-Condos with heart: Numerous condo representatives make this destination hard to compete with and offer numerous benefits for clients. Amenities range from one to multi-bedroom condos that welcome guests with large fruit baskets and sea-facing vistas. Meyer Real Estate differentiates itself by offering constant vistas of the ocean from its units via access to its own Apple store app. With a record growth number of visitors coming to the area, there are more units facing the ocean than ever before.

-Gulf Adventure Center: Popping by this adventure-soaked, outdoor experience, located on 14 acres of the Gulf State Park is a must for families with an active and adventurous soul. Zip liners have met their match as they soar over the canopies scraping the leaf lines of Lake Shelby for vines at a time in closed-toe shoes. Kayaking and paddle boarding are also on the adventure must-do list.

Frequent flights into either Pensacola, Florida or Mobile, Alabama or a less than one-day driving distance from North Carolina make the Alabama Gulf Shores a destination worth exploring. Try something new for your next vacation and explore why the South is packed with a variety of vacation options.

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