Alabama Beach Festivals: Top 5 Events You Can’t Miss

The Gulf Coast is nationally known for white soft sand, wide beaches and cool blue water. It’s also long been a favorite destination for party-goers and fun seekers. Music, food, surf and sun all come together to spell good times and great memories. So, bring friends and family, and get ready to have a blast at these Alabama beach festivals.

Top 5 Alabama Beach Festivals: Don’t Miss the Fun in the Sun

alabama beach festivals mullet toss

Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss & Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party (April)

At some point in the mid-1980s, the folks at Flora-Bama on the Florida-Alabama state line decided tossing a dead mullet was as good an occasion as any to throw a beach party. Thus, the annual Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party was born.

What’s a mullet? Well, it’s the only fish with a gizzard and said to possess mystical properties. For some, it’s plain old baitfish on the East Coast but a local delicacy here.

Contestants enter a 10-foot diameter circle in the Florida sand and hurl a mullet over the state line into Alabama. The longest fish fling wins.
Note to mullet heads: There’s little risk of being bodily tossed across the state line by the hair unless you’re mistaken for a dead fish. Nineteen age categories allow everyone from the Davids to the Goliaths to have a chance at winning a trophy.

A portion of entrance fee proceeds goes to local youth charities, a contribution that most years exceeds $40,000. Get more details about the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss Festival.

alabama beach hot air balloon festival

Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (May)

Picture a placid, serene setting filled with awesome colors, shapes and sizes, both on the ground and in the sky. That’s the stunning visual treat that awaits at Foley’s annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival in May.

The balloonist gathering — a photographer’s delight — brings in more than 30 fire-powered hot-air balloons from across the country, in playful themes, filling dawn and dusk Gulf Coast skies. The event also features arts, crafts, food, live entertainment, and an opportunity to take a tethered ride in a hot-air balloon at sunset.

Important balloon festival tips:

  • Balloons fly early in the morning around dawn and late in the afternoon at dusk, so plan ahead for watching.
  • Balloons fly only in perfect weather. Wind speeds must be 7 m.p.h. or less to fly.
  • Leave coolers, smoking paraphernalia and pets at home.
  • Bring sunscreen and lawn chairs.

hangout music festival alabama

Hangout Music Fest (May)

Music, music, music! Bands, bands and more bands! It’s Hangout Music Fest, the Gulf Coast’s annual ode to surf, sun and sounds.

John Legend, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Weeknd, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Mumford and Sons are just a few mega-stars who have graced the stages in the past. Today, more than 60 acts rock this Gulf Shores beach.

Enjoy the entire event, soak in the sun and the music lineup with a three-day general admission wristband. VIP and Super VIP wristbands also available. No single day tickets.

Bring sunscreen and bug spray, blankets and beach towels, sunglasses, and hats. Leave at home: tents, umbrellas, chairs of any kind, coolers and pets. Free water fountains and water filling stations are located throughout the festival.

alabama shrimp festival fall

Wharf Uncorked Food and Drink Festival (September)

“The wine-o and I know,” Jimmy Buffett once crooned. And for wine, food and fun-lovers, Wharf Uncorked Food and Drink Festival is the only place to be in mid-September. This three-day event combines delectable food, inviting wines, live entertainment, Southern flare and a dash of Gulf Coast hospitality. More importantly, the event raises funds for Make-A-Wish® Alabama, granting wishes to Alabama children with life-threatening medical conditions.

More than 150 fine wines from local, domestic and imported vineyards are on-hand for guests to sample and purchase. The Wharf has also recruited some of the top chefs on the Gulf Coast to put their skills on display in a cooking frenzy of demos, food tasting, cookbook signings and cooking competitions. Can’t make the event? Find other things to do at The Wharf in Orange Beach.

National Shrimp Festival (October)

For half a century, this gathering has been assembling on Gulf Shores beach for a fall weekend of sun, shrimp and nonstop music.

Back in 1971, local businesses around Gulf Shores, Alabama, were looking for a way to keep tourists at the beach after Labor Day. The idea surfaced to hold a shrimp festival. That inaugural event amounted to a five-hour shrimp boil that attracted nearly 1,500 people. Over 45 years later, National Shrimp Festival draws 250,000 people to Gulf Shores for a four-day music and food extravaganza that features three stages and enough seafood to feed half the Gulf Coast!

More than 300 exhibitors offer choices in fine art, arts and crafts, and operate in a retail marketplace at Children’s Activity Village. Other fun activities include a sand-sculpture contest, a 10k run/walk, singing for scholarships and youth for art events. Best of all, admission is free.

Start planning a vacation, and don’t miss these Alabama beach festivals.