Down here in Lower Alabama we may never have a white Christmas but we still manage to have a good time. During the holidays we turn the celebrating volume up to an 11 with our parades, festivals and holiday displays. Check out these top five holiday events in the South.
Magic Christmas in Lights
If you’ve lived in Mobile for more than minute, then you are familiar with the famous Bellingrath Gardens and Home. The sprawling estate has holiday events through the year but the property really comes alive with the annual Magic Christmas in Lights. Sip hot chocolate as you stroll through the garden’s display of over 3 million lights with 1,100 set pieces and 15 scenes. The Bellingrath Home will have on its Christmas best with holiday décor and dozens of poinsettias.
33rd Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade
If you want to go coastal for the holiday season then head down to Gulf Shores for the 33rd Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade. It is one of the largest boat parades in the Southeast with over 45 vessels decorated in colorful lights. The parade begins at Lulu’s at Homeport Marina and travels down to the Flora-Bama with viewing sites along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Christmas Nights of Lights
Enjoy the beauty of millions of Christmas lights from the comfort of your car at Christmas Nights of Lights. Located near the Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, this drive-thru lighted Christmas display has over 1 million LED lights synchronized to both traditional and rock-themed holiday music. The display opens in November and runs through January 1.
Merry Market Unique Gifts and Arts and Crafts Expo
Produced by the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and city of Orange Beach, the Merry Market Unique Gifts and Arts and Crafts Expo grows every year. This year, over 70 vendors will be in attendance with everything from arts and crafts, jewelry, clothes and food. There will be door prizes and story time with Mrs. Claus. The event will be held at the Orange Beach Events Center located at The Wharf. Also happening at The Wharf is a wide selection of holiday activities including carriage rides, an ice skating rink, photos with Santa and the Jingle Jubilee Kids Craft Day on December 8.
Holiday Market & Christmas Kids Day
Visit Bienville and Cathedral Squares for a fun filled day of holiday activities and shopping on December 8. Cathedral Square will be home to over 50 local makers and vendors. Families can ride the free Christmas train to Bienville Square for the Christmas Kids Day event. There will be many holiday-themed activities for kids of all ages such a face painting, a petting zoo and story time. Be sure to stop and take a selfie with Santa!
So just because it’s nearly 80 degrees outside that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little holiday fun in Lower Alabama. From parades to craft shows, it can all be found along the Gulf Coast this Christmas season.
Remember how you used to spend the day after Thanksgiving? Relaxing on your couch in your pajamas, watching reruns and munching on leftover pecan pie. Now, we wake up ridiculously early, grab our pumpkin lattes and camp out in the freezing cold at the big box stores. But why do we put ourselves through this? Is it to only save $10 on a $600 big-screen television? You bet your Butterball turkey it is. If you want to survive Black Friday in Lower Alabama, you’re going to need some help and that is where I come in…
Do Your Homework
One of the many benefits of living in Lower Alabama is that we have a great selection of shopping destinations. The shopping choices are endless down here from our dozens of local shops to the malls and boutiques. And boy, do these stores make it rain when it comes to Black Friday deals. Before you head out in the November cold (that will turn into the November heat by the end of the day), it’s important to study those sale ads like they’re a midterm exam.
Plan an Itinerary
Imagine yourself as your shopping team’s cruise director for the day. Collect all the sales ads and coupons and get together an itinerary. Plan everything from the time you start, which stores to hit up, where to eat and where the best restrooms are located (the last is probably the most important). You don’t want to look like a deer in headlights when you enter the stores (because your fellow shoppers can smell fear).
Assemble Your Crew
Assemble your best gang of gals as a Black Friday Special Ops team whose main duty to secure those deals. Sisters, cousins, old BFF’s all make the perfect shopping squad. And don’t underestimate Me-Maw. She’s probably more prepared than you with her wallet packed with coupons and her trusty coffee tumbler. Don’t hesitate to invite a guy or two (i.e., husband, Paw – Paw). They’ll come in handy as the designated “purse holder” as you delve deep into the crowds.
Stay in Your Lane
Not only will the stores be packed but so will the roads. And since hardly anyone practices traffic etiquette 99% of the time, Black Friday is no exception. Remember to pack some snacks and your patience because you’ll need both as you sit in Black Friday traffic for hours on end.
If you got an early start on your Black Friday shopping, then chances are you are on your eighth cup of coffee. And it’s not even 9:00 AM. Remember to stay hydrated by filling up your portable alkaline water container from Peak Alkalinity. You’ll stay refreshed and hydrated allowing you to continue on your shopping journey.
Black Friday in Lower Alabama is nothing to be afraid of if you come prepared. Just imagine yourself at the end of the day… in front of that 65-inch television, you saved $10 on while you devour the last piece of pecan pie.
Y’all, can we talk the mosquitos for a second? Yes, we are in full-fledged holiday mode and we still have to deal with these annoying, little leeches. But why? Don’t they know the lightning bugs have packed up and gone home for the year? Everything else in the animal kingdom has started to hibernate so why aren’t they? I got two words for you: The South.
While the Seasons Change, Everything Stays the Same
We should all know by now that just because summer is over in the South, nothing changes. It’s still pretty toasty outside, we’re applying sunscreen by the gallons and we always wear our flip flops. This also means our BFFs, the mosquitoes, are still swarming. Mosquitoes prefer warm climates (yay, us!) and love to set up shop in open bodies of water. This means our lakes, ponds and unused kiddie pools (that was $15.00 well spent…insert eyeroll) are susceptible to being taken over by scourges of mosquitoes. The only way to beat these little guys at their own game is to use environmentally friendly mosquito dunks and to empty those unused plastic wading pools.
If you’ve had all you can take from mosquitoes, give the guys at Safety First Pest Control a call. They have tools you need to rid your home of these swarming suckers once and for all. They can also treat your home for any other annoying pests you may have.
There is an Ecological Benefit for Mosquitos
Ok, despite the fact they leave itchy, annoying little bumps on the skin that irritate the dickens out of you, these little pests are beneficial to our ecosystem. Of course, this is no benefit to them (that’s payback you tiny aeronautical bloodsuckers). These guys are a vital food source for fish and other insects. A mosquito’s larvae are aquatic meaning it thrives in the water and basically becomes a buffet of sorts for fish. And not only do fish find mosquitoes tasty, so do birds, spiders and other insects. Without these flying feeders as a food source, the numbers of species dependent on them would begin to decline. And I don’t want to live in a world without beautiful birds and fried fish (but spiders, I can do without you).
The End is NearHere is something you probably didn’t know: mosquitoes are cold-blooded. Once the temps hit 50 degrees, they close up shop and hibernate until the temperatures rise again. So judging by our recent weather, we should see some reprieve from mosquitoes in January, perhaps?
While the mosquitoes have taken over nearly every inch of your backyard, I’ll bet you one place they have yet to show up….the beautiful courtyard at NoJa. Enjoy a meal and a glass of wine in the company of good friends without worrying about being bitten from head to toe.
Don’t worry, soon enough it will begin to feel less like the Fourth of July and you will finally get some reprieve from mosquitoes. Until then, pass the bug spray.
It is the most wonderful time of the year! No, not that time. Not yet anyway (despite what you may see in the stores). For us down here on the Gulf Coast we have a little secret we’ve been keeping to ourselves. The beach in the fall is pretty magical. Sure, the idea of salt water and pumpkin lattes may seem like an odd mix, but they go together like gumbo and hot sauce (sort of).
There is a reason why the entire country seems to find their way to the Gulf Coast every summer. The sand, the surf and the food are just some of the reasons but I really like to believe it is the hospitality. I mean, it is pretty nice of us to share this slice of heaven with the rest of the world. So, we let them enjoy it for a few months out of the year. But, after Labor Day the beach becomes ours again. We have full access to all of our favorite hot spots and we can stretch out on our towels without rubbing elbows with our beach neighbors.
No Lines, No Problem
Thinking about taking a break from the beach to visit activities on land? While the water parks may have closed for the season, we get to do all the fun stuff customarily occupied by the tourists. No more lines for miniature golf and the kids have a full range of the arcades. But best of all, no more ridiculously long wait times at the restaurants. I’m sorry, but if I have to wait over an hour for a shrimp po’boy, I will buy a net and get the shrimp out of the Gulf of Mexico myself.
The Weather is Beautiful
Ok, the hurricane season does begin to wind down during the fall so there is a chance it could be frightful. Until then, we’re enjoying the breezes, the reduced humidity and near perfect water temperatures.
If we ever see any nonlocals in the fall, it’s probably because they are here for some of our awesome festivals. Just name any seafood and chances are we have a festival for it. We celebrate everything from crawfish, shrimp and oysters with plenty of activities and music to match. Head down to the Foo Foo Festival in Pensacola for a 12-day celebration of culture, food and fun.
And don’t forget to hydrate when you visit one of the many festivals. The fall season means nothing to the beach because it is still 80 degrees outside. If you want to break away from your usual beverage choices, then stop by Peak Alkalinity in Fairhope. Purchase one their portable H2O To Go bottles so you can enjoy alkaline water anytime and anywhere.
The fall season usually conjures up the thought of pumpkins and fall colors dancing in your head. And sure, it’s hard to get a store-bought scarecrow to stay up in the sand but one thing you can count on is how amazing the beach is during the fall.
It’s that time of year again…the pumpkin lattes are being poured, there’s a breeze in the air, you’ve lit your fall harvest scented candle and now you can sit back and enjoy the season. Except it’s not even 10 AM and you’ve already broken a sweat. Welcome to fall in the South! It may be October but the temperature outside says it’s the middle of July.
It’s Cooler on the Surface of the Sun
Hot weather is synonymous with the South and normally, it’s January by the time we experience fall-ish weather. And when the weather does begin to cool, we get all the seasons in the span of a week.
Fall Foliage? Never Heard of It
Northerners have the advantage of seeing the leaves change into colors of amber and a fiery red. Our fall foliage? It consists of pine needles blanketing the ground leaving a skinny, bare naked looking tree.
We Enjoy the Cool Breezes of a Hurricane
Unfortunately, hurricane season is still a thing until November. Our ears perk up anytime the meteorologist says the word “disturbance”. While the dropping temps bring in cooler air up North, the closest we get to a fall breeze is the wind from a hurricane.
Shorts and Flip Flops All Day, Everyday…Until December, Maybe
Sure, me-maw knitted you a cute scarf and matching hat but you probably won’t wear it until February. And your favorite leggings and alma mater sweatshirt? Might as well leave those packed up. Down here shorts and flip-flops are the official Southern uniform…until it cools to 60 degrees. Then you can break out the parka.
All the Bugs
The sun has begun to set for the evening. You and your family decide to enjoy the semi-cool weather on the back porch. Except, now instead of slapping on the sunscreen you are STILL smacking mosquitoes. Get back to enjoying the outdoors by calling Safety First Pest Control to remove those and any other pests you may have.
The Beach is Still a Thing
Right about now, our Northern friends are enjoying campfires, s’mores and a friendly game of football. Well, we are too, except we’re doing it at the beach wearing our swim shorts and sippin’ on a smoothie from Agape Juices. The water has yet to cool below 70 degrees and you better believe we are will squeeze in our vitamin sea as long as we can.
The Ride on Hay, We Decorate It
Nothing like putting out your best fall decorations and breaking a sweat. Sticking a bale of hay in your front yard with a store bought scarecrow is essential to Southern decorating. And while the idea sitting on a bale of hay in a wagon in the heat may sound like a good time…. we’d rather put a chevron bow on it and call it decoration.
Oh sure, there are some bright spots to enjoying fall in the south. Football season begins, the fairs start to arrive and no one bats an eyelash as you drink a margarita during a hayride.
If you are one of the many people who visit the Gulf Coast in the summer then you can stop reading. I’m joking. You can continue, but promise me you won’t tell anyone else that now is the best time to visit the beach.
No More Gridlock
Three Words: No More Traffic. Ok, there is some traffic still on the roads but that is mainly due to us locals. Heck, we’re only going to the places we have avoided for the last three months. Not only is Highway 59 a smoother drive but so is the main drag from Gulf Shores to Perdido Key.
People from all over the country (and in some cases, the world) come for our beautiful beaches. Another thing they come for? The food. Most importantly, seafood. But nothing is worse than hitting up your regular lunch spot only to wait three or more hours to SIT and eat something that is literally swimming just yards away from you. Where’s my fishing pole? I’ll just go catch it myself.
The Weather and the Water
Pro-tip: it’s best to go to the beach in the offseason because the water is at its most beautiful. I’m sure there is an oceanic/meteorological professional explanation for this but I’ll just choose to believe Mother Nature is saving her best for us locals.
And not only is the water gorgeous but each day (when there isn’t an approaching hurricane) it is more beautiful than next. Instead of the heat and humidity; we get breezes and below 80-degree temps.
You Don’t Hate Shopping Anymore
If the simplest trip to, I don’t know, anywhere, reminds you of Black Friday; then your quick shopping trip turns into what nightmares are made of. You encounter a trifecta of traffic, tourists and sweltering heat that is enough to make you question why you left the house.
We Get the Best Festivals
Don’t get me wrong, The Hangout Festival sounds amazing. But I don’t think I am up for schmoozing and sweating with a 1,000 millennials for three days. That is why the Gulf Coast’s selection of fall festivals is one of the best things about tourist season being over. From seafood to craft beer and wine you can bet there’s a festival for it this fall.
You Can Finally Stretch Out
Remember that time you went to the beach and you were crammed in between a bloated Jimmy Buffett look alike and that family reunion with the 15 kids? That was awesome. Stop lying, no it wasn’t. Well, now that the tourists have left town, that means the beach is your domain. Go there any time of day on any day of the week and the beach will be all yours with the exception of a few locals doing the same.
But seriously, we love the tourists like we love our mother-in-law. They keep us company when they visit but we love it more when they leave.
In the South, two things are certain: it will always be hot and there will always be tea. Now, it’s not what you think, I’m not referring to the beverage commonly poured by our cousins from across the pond. No, down here we like it in a tall glass, served over ice and with or without an obscenely amount of sugar added to it. But just like a good team rivalry, there will be disagreement. Do you say Roll Tide or War Eagle? Do you ask for sweet or unsweet tea? Let’s discuss…
First, let us talk about the abomination that is unsweet tea. If you avoid sweet tea because of dietary restrictions, then you have been excused. However, if tea that is unsweetened is a choice you opt for because you want to be “healthy” well, you might as well move. You can’t live in a region whose vegetables plates consist of fried okra and macaroni and cheese. You can’t have one without the other….you have to go all in.
Now unsweet tea isn’t all terrible. If can be jazzed up artificial sweeteners or lemon wedges (lots and lots of lemons). A cold glass of unsweet tea that doesn’t taste like liquefied cotton candy can help you beat the heat on a sweltering summer day. But if you see someone sweetening their tea with sugar… you’ll definitely know they ain’t from around here (bless their heart).
The Sweetness of Sweet Tea
Southerners like to believe that on the seventh day God created sweet tea. Just ask any Southerner if they would like a glass of sweet tea with their meal and you’ll be preaching to the choir. Also referred to as the “house wine of the South,” this liquid gold goes with just about any southern meal (and dessert). You know you’ve reached the Mason Dixon line when the restaurant you’re at offers sweet tea as a beverage choice.
Think back to when you visited memaw’s as a child. She always had a cold, pitcher of tea waiting for you in the fridge. The delicate beads of sweat would trickle down the sides of the container as it sat on the kitchen table. She’d offer you a glass and y’all would enjoy the lunch of tomato sandwiches she had prepared. However, don’t you dare ask memaw for a glass of unsweet tea! (You may not get that dollar for your birthday next year.) After all, memaw’s sugar is for kissing and cooking; not for adding to your tea. And just like any true Southerner, memaw had her own recipe for biscuits, fried chicken and sweet tea.
So whether you like your tea sweet or unsweet, tea there is no denying that this beverage plays a huge part in Southern culture and cuisine. We’ve been enjoying this beverage since the days before air conditioning. And regardless of your choice, you know how we like it…ice cold and filled to the brim (with or without copious amounts of lemon wedges).
Some days you want to get away from it all but work, kids and the inability to find an affordable plane ticket, keeps you from getting very far. Luckily, down here in Baldwin County we have access to one of the premier resorts in the country, The Grand Hotel in Point Clear. Located just steps away from the quaint town of Fairhope, this fabulous destination will give you a much needed recharged feeling without leaving the state.
The Grand opened in 1847 and recently underwent a $32 million dollar renovation. The hotel received a fresh new look and is now a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, an elite collection of 100 independent-style properties.
Let’s cut to the chase, if The Grand’s newly renovated property doesn’t take your breath away then just sit back and wait till about 7:50 PM. That’s when the magic happens. Ok, not a real magic show per se (although awesome) but the sky lights up every night in nearly every color of the rainbow…including some not found in a crayon box. The colors cascade down into the waters of Point Clear as Mother Nature does her best to show off.
Be sure to arrive with an empty belly because The Grand offers an array of dining options. Swim up to Jubilee Poolside Bar and Grill or visit the resort’s newest eatery, Southern Roots whose menu features farm to table fare. Finish your evening with a glass of fine wine at Bucky’s Lounge. Your kitchen will be so jealous.
You may think you are the Queen and King of England when you arrive at The Grand. Ok, put the scepter down…it may be because the employees do everything to make you feel like the Southern Emperor that (you think) you are.
Ok, all together now say, “Spaaa…ahhh.” Yes, those will be your exact words after you visit the updated and expanded 20,000 square-foot Grand Spa. This luxury spa offers several relaxing treatments including facials, body scrubs, manicures and pedicures, as well as couple’s massage.
Don’t worry guys, The Grand hasn’t left you out. Take your pick of two renowned golf courses at Lakewood Club or practice your backhand at one of the resort’s ten tennis courts.
The kids can also get in on the fun by spending a day at the pool complex with a newly added splash pad. Relax and watch them play while you lounge in one the stylish cabanas.
Part of The Grand’s renovation included a complete gut and redesign of the rooms. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of southern charm left in these newly modernized, upscale rooms. Available room options include everything from bay views to a king suite.
So, as you can see, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy the finer things in life. Visit The Grand Hotel in Point Clear and you will have an entirely new view of southern Alabama (because, sunsets).
Once upon a time, in a land filled with cotton fields, Spanish moss and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, people were mysteriously painting their front porch ceilings a sky-blue color. Perplexed, the Northerner would ask, “Why is your porch ceiling blue?” Gazing down from a tall glass of sweet tea, the Southerner would politely answer, “None of your business.”
Ok, it probably never went down quite like that but yes, the South has many quirky traditions. While it’s always fun to confuse the Northerners, we continue these traditions because they are steeped into our Southerner roots like chicory coffee.
One of the most commonly found down here is painting your front porch ceiling a soft blue or “haint” color. You probably saw this delicate color covering the entire stretch of your Me-Maw’s porch ceiling and found yourself curious about its origins.
Why did she or anyone in the South have blue porch ceilings? Was it because it accented our home’s white columns so nicely? Was it an affordable paint color choice? Or was it (and I’m a firm believer) to mess with the Northerners?
Where it All Began
This custom actually began with the Gullah Geechee people who were descents of Central and West African slaves. The Gullah resided in the low country areas of the United States including Georgia and South Carolina. They would paint the exterior portions of the homes blue as a way to ward off spirits or “haints.” Nothing was off limits…shutters, doors, window frames, and of course, porch ceilings were painted in this color. The Gullahs believed the “haints” would confuse the light blue color with the sky and instead of entering the home, the spirits would pass on through the ceiling. (I wonder if this would work for door-to-door salesmen? Hmm…)
Some people also believed the “haints” were deathly (see what I did there?) afraid of water. If a haint came upon a home with this watery color hue, the spirit would avoid the residence all together.
The Insect Theory
If there is anything a Southerner despises more than a plate of cold biscuits it is an intense hatred of anything that flies that doesn’t have feathers. Insects are to front porches like Southerners are to Me-Maw’s fried okra. There is an intense gravitational pull with nothing to deter us but serve them to us blue and you might get some hesitation. Actually, the old Southern belief is a front porch with a blue ceiling can deter wasps (and possibly door-to-door salesmen). Like the “haints”, insects will confuse the blue ceiling with the sky and will avoid the building their nests in the corners of the porch.
Now, I am not one to argue with Me-Maw or anyone who believes these theories but adorning your porch with this shade of blue does give a welcoming, calming vibe to your entrance. And just like other Southern traditions like sweetening your tea and using your manners, painting your porch ceiling haint blue will never fade away.
If you find that that blue paint didn’t quite pan out like you thought it would, well then the ole saying goes… When Life Hands You Grapes… Make Wine.
When you visit the South there are two things you will need: an empty stomach and a translator. Southerners have a unique way of using words and phrases that can be hard for those above the Mason Dixon Line to understand. Here is a simple explanation of some the South’s favorite sayings.
Bad-mouth – what your momma tells you not to do. Don’t say bad things about people.
Bless your heart – a heartfelt insult or empathy (depending on the situation or person).
Buggy – a shopping cart (and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise).
Catty-corner – at an angle (Ex. “He parked the car all ‘catty-corner.’”)
Fat as a tick – a full belly after a good meal (Ex. “I am ‘fat as a tick’ after eating supper at Boudreaux’s.”)
Fit to be tied – extremely frustrated/upset (Ex. “Our friends from Vermont were ‘fit to be tied’ when they found out Chick Fil A wasn’t open on Sunday.”)
Fixin’ to – what you are about to do (Ex. “I’m fixin’ to make a ‘mater sandwich.”)
Hissy fit – being overly dramatic (Ex. “He threw a ‘hissy fit’ because I didn’t use Blue Plate mayonnaise on his mater sandwich.”)
I don’t have a dog in that fight – feeling neutral about the outcome of a situation because it has no effect on you. (Ex. “Oh, that football game, I don’t have a dog in that fight.”)
Madder than a wet hen – one step above a “hissy fit”.
Mind your manners – be nice. The end.
Pocketbook – a handbag/purse (Ex. “I need to grab my pocketbook before we go to the store. Yes, I will need a buggy.”)
Preaching to the choir – trying to convince people who are already convinced (Ex. “You are preaching to the choir about the deliciousness of NoJa.”)
Reckon – to say you will do something (Ex. “I ‘reckon’ I’ll make myself a mater sandwich.”)
Slow as molasses – something that is extremely slow (Ex. “She was ‘slow as molasses’ when putting on her shoes.”)
Stinks to high heaven – something that has an unpleasant odor (Ex. “Those ‘maters stink to high heaven.”)
Stove-up – stiffness in the muscles after sitting down too long (Ex. “I sat too long on the front porch drinking my sweet tea. Now I’m all stove up.’”)
Sweatin’ like a sinner in church – an abundant amount of sweat.
Tan your hide – you about to get a whoopin’. (Ex. “I will “tan your hide” if you throw a ‘hissy fit’ at Greer’s.”)
That dog won’t hunt – used to express that an idea or plan will not work.
Ugly – being rude or a jerk. (Ex. “He sure acted “ugly” when I told him I was out Moonpies.”)
Y’all” – Most used word by Southerners. A contraction of ‘you all.’ (Who says ‘you all’ anyway?)
Yonder – a great distance when giving directions.(Ex. “We parked the car over yonder.’”)
As you can see, us Southerners have a colorful way with words. So, grab your favorite Yankee and show your manners by going over this list. Don’t be ugly if you get some crazy looks.