The gulf coast has long been a family-friendly spring break destination, and it offers plenty of fun for furry visitors, too! Whether you’re craving white-sand beaches, historic and prehistoric sites, or the thrill of NASCAR, Alabama has everything you need for a memorable getaway with your pack.
Posted by Lauren Barker
Grab your pup’s life jacket and head to the Alabama coast for an adventure on the water. Cruise the bay and do some fishing around Gulf Shores in a pet-friendly pontoon boat rental from Hudson Marina in Orange Beach. Pontoons range in size from 19-foot standard boats to the family-favorite, 30-foot double-decker boats with slides. If Fido is up for a real thrill, the marina also offers personal watercraft rentals. Whatever option you choose, be sure to make your reservation in advance for the best selection and to ensure that a vessel is available for you.
Following a day on the water, relax with your pooch at Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores. This all-suite property features full kitchens in each guest room so you can dine in with the family. Other amenities include a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, business center, outdoor pool, and fitness center. The hotel also provides guests with access to patio grills. Dogs up to 80 lbs are welcome for an additional fee of $75 (for stays up to 6 nights) or $150 (for stays of 7 nights or longer).
Continue your pet-friendly spring break on the Gulf Coast at Dauphin Island, a featured destination in the 2021 edition of our Ruff Guide to the United States. Bring your binoculars and explore over 3 miles of dog-friendly trails at the 137-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Look for some of the 420 different bird species that have been spotted on the island, as well as butterflies, turtles, fish, and the occasional alligator. Download the birding checklist and have the kids identify the feathered inhabitants. Next, visit Fort Gaines, where your pooch is welcome to join your family for a history lesson at a key site of the Civil War’s Battle of Mobile Bay. For some beach time, head over to Dauphin Island Beach, where leashed dogs are allowed everywhere except the west end. For lunch, grab a bite to eat on the dog-friendly patio at Islander’s Restaurant. Order the Islander’s famous bread pudding for dessert, but be prepared to share with the whole family.
After a long day of exploring Dauphin Island, Fido can rest his tired paws at Dauphin Island Harbor House, a favorite among four-legged beach bums. Take the whole family fishing at the waterside dock, catch some rays on the sundeck, or relax on the covered patio. Humans will enjoy a complimentary full southern breakfast each morning, and your water-loving pooch will enjoy the proximity to miles of dog-friendly beaches. Up to three dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per stay.
Take Fido and the kids on a prehistoric journey to Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport. This 314-acre park welcomes leashed dogs to explore grounds inhabited by Native Americans more than 10,000 years ago. Furry friends can even join you on a guided tour of the cave shelter, which housed countless humans throughout the Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian archeological periods. Visit the picturesque wildflower meadow, hike along a portion of the North Alabama Birding Trail, or enjoy a family picnic at this historic site. Ranger-led demonstrations of primitive tools and weapons provide a glimpse into the daily life of prehistoric inhabitants. Kids can pick up a Junior Ranger book and complete tasks throughout the park to earn their Junior Ranger badge while Fido gets certified as a B.A.R.K. Ranger. Be sure to pick up an official tag for his collar in the bookstore.
Located on the scenic Nickajack Lake, the Hales Bar Marina Floating Cabins feature one-, two-, and three-bedroom furnished accommodations with kitchenettes. Fish from the dock or visit the adjacent Hales Bar Resort, where you can play a round of miniature golf, take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, and shop for supplies at the Ship Store. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per pet.
Does your dog have a need for speed? If so, start your engine and make a beeline for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Lincoln. Located just off Interstate 20 next to Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR’s biggest race track, this motoring experience is a must-visit for racing fans of all ages, including those on four paws. The attraction features three exhibit halls and a pavilion area packed full of exhibitions of stock cars, road racing, motorcycles, and drag racing. From Jimmie Johnson to the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, you’ll learn about the best racers who have ever crossed the finish line at the World’s Fastest Superspeedway.
When your pooch is ready for an overnight pit stop, make your way to the Best Western Plus Bass Hotel & Suites in Leeds. Located a half-hour drive from the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, this comfortable hotel offers complimentary daily breakfast for humans and ample green space for Fido. Two dogs up to 80 lbs are welcome for an additional fee of $30 per pet, per night.
The International Motorsports Hall of Fame isn’t the only reason to visit this part of Alabama during spring break. While you’re here, hop over to the state’s largest city and get a bird's-eye view of Birmingham on 15 miles of nature trails at Red Mountain Park. Kids will love the awesome rope bridge and outstanding overlooks, while Fido’s highlight will be Remy’s Dog Park at Red Mountain Park, where he can play off-leash through a wooded area and an open grassy field. The dog park is made up of three sections, including one for dogs with special needs. If everyone’s craving more time outdoors, take a hike at Ruffner Mountain and keep an eye out for local wildlife. Top off a memorable spring break with a family flick at Grand River Drive-In, located just outside of Birmingham. As well as catching the latest movie, Fido can play in the off-leash dog park and join everyone for a round of mini-golf.
Housed in Birmingham’s iconic Empire Building, Elyton Hotel, Autograph Collection blends Southern heritage with modern luxury to create a pet-friendly oasis in the heart of the city’s bustling financial district. Four-legged guests are spoiled with pet amenities including a chic Elyton bandana to increase Fido’s style cred, a plush doggy bed, luscious treats, and the use of bowls. Elyton Hotel welcomes one pet up to 50 lbs for an additional fee of $150 per stay, and $20 per stay for each additional pet.
Treat your family to a historic spring break in Alabama’s capital. Start with a dog-friendly, self-guided Civil Rights Audio Walking Tour through downtown. You’ll learn about attractions including Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr served as pastor; the Alabama State Capitol, which was the end point for the third march for voting rights from Selma, AL; and the moving Civil Rights Memorial, where the names of martyrs are engraved along with a timeline chronicling the movement. Just a short drive away, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice also welcomes dogs. Enjoy a fitting end to the tour with lunch at a pet-friendly table at Scott Street Deli, which has been in business since the 1800s.
Book a room with Fido at the Drury Inn & Suites Montgomery. Your family will appreciate the free hot breakfast, the indoor/outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool, and from 5:30 to 7 each evening, free hot food and cold beverages at the 5:30 Kickback. Two pets up to 80 lbs are welcome for an additional fee of $35 per pet, per night.
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