Gulf Coast Travel
The BP (Stock Quote: BP) oil spill is causing many tourists to second-guess their planned Gulf Coast vacations and states such as Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama are experiencing a marked dip in tourism. But travelers shouldn’t be so hasty to cancel plans.
As MainStreet previously reported, many coastal towns aren’t as affected by the oil spill as prospective vacationers think. Additionally, it can be difficult to get a full refund for your airfare, so before you decide what to do with those pre-purchased plane tickets, check out these Gulf Coast vacation alternatives. You might just have a blast after all.
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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Ala.
A Gulf Coast area that is experiencing significant oil impact, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach do have some attractions that can salvage your coastal vacation. Visit the popular waterpark Waterville USA as a substitute for closed beaches or check out Orange Beach’s amusement park Adventure Island, which features a five-story “active” volcano and a popular miniature golf course. You can also visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which explores the natural habitats of more than 400 animals or Alligator Alley, where you can feed the ferocious reptiles.
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Travelers to Alabama’s coastal towns can head over to its largest city, Birmingham, which is home to both the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Families can also check out the Birmingham Zoo and The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. Just 21 miles south of the Birmingham is Oak Mountain State Park, which includes a sprawling golf course, biking and hiking trails, rental cabins, campsites and horseback riding facilities. The park also offers the opportunity to geocache, an outdoor activity that lets participants hide and/or seek out treasures. You can visit the park’s Web site for more information about the worldwide hunt.
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Tourists can make the most out of their Pensacola vacation. They’ll just have to look to the skies, instead of playing in the ocean. Travelers can visit the Museum of Naval Aviation, which is inside the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Visitors lucky enough to vacation during a performance can see the legendary Blue Angels flight team. History buffs will enjoy the Civil War Soldiers Museum and families can take the kids to the nearby Gulf Breeze Zoo, a 50-acre facility that features hundreds of animals from around the world. (You can actually get up close and personal with the giraffes in the zoo’s feeding tower attraction.)
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Panama City Beach, Fla.
So far the oil spill’s effects on this popular tourist destination have been minimal. While a medium-sized container believed to be from the Deepwater Horizon did wash up on local shores recently, all beaches remain open and swimming is still considered safe.Should this change, however, (authorities are saying that any disruption should be in the form of tar balls) there are plenty of other things to do in Panama City Beach. Most resorts offer great pool facilities, but water lovers can also visit the immensely popular Shipwreck Island Waterpark. Pier Park, a new shopping and entertainment area, features major department stores, gift shops, restarants and bars. Tourists can also check out Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which features collections of oddities from all around the world … and a “4D” interactive movie theater.
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Those concerned with their southern Florida travel plans could consider travelling to Orlando. The city, of course, is home to both Disney World and Universal Studios Theme Parks, which means your vacation will easily be chock-full of activities, regardless of whether or not you can swim in the ocean.
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Louisiana has been hit the hardest by BP’s oil spill, but travelers should still consider visiting its most popular city where it’s Mardi Gras (at least a little) all year round. Party lovers can hang out on Bourbon Street, visit Harrah’s New Orleans Casino and hit up popular nightclubs, such as The Republic New Orleans, which is so cool The Situation can’t even get in.Music lovers can visit Preservation Hall, a music venue founded in 1961 to honor New Orleans’ Jazz scene. They can also hit up one of the many festivals being held over the summer, like the Essence Festival and Satchmo Summerfest. If you go in November, you can check out Swamp Fest, a Cajun food and dance celebration that takes place at the nearby Audubon Zoo. Those looking for a more tranquil trip can tour the French Quarter, visit the Garden District and hang out at the local botanical gardens.
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Biloxi, Miss.Save a few tar balls, this popular Mississippi Gulf Coast town has remained unscathed by the oil spill. If the problem does escalate, however, you should keep your hotel reservations. Biloxi and Gulfport are known for their casinos and those are sure to stay open all summer long. Check out the Imperial Palace or the Hard Rock Casino for particularly luxurious experiences.If the casinos don’t interest you, you should check to see if a popular festival is going on during your trip. Some of the more popular Mississippi events include the Choctaw Indian Fair, Mississippi State Fair, Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival, Elvis Presley Festival, Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and the Vicksburg Riverfest.Photo Credit: rususeruru
Also the home of many nice casinos, non-gamblers can hit up this coastal town’s award-winning golf courses. One of the most popular golf clubs in Gulfport is the Windance Country Club, which is currently offering a special “Hole in One Golf Package” with The Island View Resort Casino. The package includes a one-night stay in a deluxe room at the hotel, green fees with a shared cart, 10 free slot view plays and a $10 dining credit per person. You can contact a golf reservation agent at 877-774-VIEW for pricing and package availability information.Family members who don’t want to play the course can go over to Gulf Island Waterpark, the largest waterpark on the Mississippi coast for some fun in the sun.
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