If you’re a beach fan, Alabama’s Gulf Shores/Orange beach offers an excellent experience without being over-the-top fancy. But there is so much more beyond the beach out that way. We recently had the chance to visit the Park in neighboring Foley, AL, just 20 minutes away from the beach, and discovered a hidden gem. OWA offers tons to do, and is convenient to the beach. So if you need a vacation, or just a quick reboot, OWA needs to be on your list. Now, without further ado, here is everything you need to know before you go.
(Thank you to OWA for hosting our family with park tickets and a hotel stay. As always, all opinions and experiences are our own.)
What is OWA?
OWA is an entertainment multiplex with options for the whole family to enjoy. The name comes from the Creek Indian word owa, which means “big water.” And you can, in fact, see the big water of the Gulf of Mexico from the tops of some of the rides at The Park. That is, if you are daring enough to look. OWA offers plenty to do on a beach weekend, so much so that you might never end up going to the actual beach! But it’s just 20 minutes away, if you do feel like going. (And here’s some tips for that, if you do.) It features The Park, a full amusement park, Downtown at OWA, shopping, entertainment, and dining, and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, a resort hotel. But before you go, there are some things that will help smooth your trip to The Park along. So here for you is everything you need to know for a trip to The Park at OWA.
The Park’s hours can vary by day, and they are not even open every single day. So when you are planning your trip, you need to be sure to check the hours and dates to be sure that The Park is even open. This will save you no small degree of heartache when you promise your kids a fun day, and get there to find out that The Park is closed.
One way that The Park caters to various groups is with some special admission rates. For example, if grandma and grandpa came along, but won’t ride anything faster than a motorized scooter, no worries! Anyone can get a non-rider pass for free at the ticket window, and walk around all day long, enjoying the lights and the amazing landscaping. Have a toddler who is too little to ride most of the rides? Even if he really, really wants to? Even if he is so obsessed with the Twister that he named it Mickey Mouse for reasons you will never totally understand?
Not a problem. Kids 3 and under are also free. Just mention that at the ticket window and they will give you a free wristband for your little one, as well. And they will still get to ride anything they meet the height requirement for. And speaking of rides…
Rides for Everyone
The Park offers a wide variety of rides, from carnival-style, to full-on rollercoaster, to little kiddie rides. The only thing they don’t offer is motorized scooters. While many of the rides here feel familiar, others are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I like old-school rollercoasters, while Beth will ride almost anything if a kid drags her on to it. Bug would lasso a space shuttle and surf it into near earth orbit, if she had the roping skills. Bear is more… selective. And Bean, Bean wants to ride everything, until you walk up to the actual ride and try to put him on it. Then he becomes an octopus that you are trying to stuff into a mason jar for some reason. So only Beth and Bug were crazy enough to ride Rollin’ Thunder.
Their signature coaster stretches literally the entire length of The Park. This ride starts you off by going straight up in the air (no really, space shuttle style) and then straight back down. Then it takes you in every other direction imaginable, often all at once. I stood with Bean and watched, respectfully, until I felt like puking. Just from watching. From there, I took Bean on Zip Zap Race, a car ride that Bear and Bug are literally too big to ride.
Well, option, really. There are a couple of cart-style things. But only one actual food service place, Shady Arbor. This is fine, the food there was pretty good.
But if you are looking for choices, you will have to exit The Park and check out Downtown; literally right outside The Park gates. However, this isn’t a problem, because you just need to get a hand stamp and you can walk right back in to The Park to spend the rest of your day there. For example, when it started raining on our first day, we left The Park and went to the arcade in Downtown, played games until the rain cleared up, and headed back into The Park.
It will be HOT
While The Park does offer a lot, one thing it doesn’t offer much of is shade. There is a great cooling area with sunshades, tables and chairs, and misting fans. But on a real scorcher, this is gonna stay packed. So you will want to bring a few things with you. Sunscreen/hats/shades, and a bathing suit. Because they also have a splash pad where the littles can cool off. And if you need to run in there to chase down your toddler, well, you might get cooled off, too. We went in early May, and it was already crazy hot. But it’s nothing unmanageable, as long as you are prepared ahead of time. A couple other (delicious) options include a snow cone stand inside The Park, or ice cream just outside, in the Downtown area.
So there you have it
The Park is a really great addition to Alabama’s beach scene, and definitely worth a visit. Keep an eye out for our supplemental posts which will cover the rest of what OWA has to offer, coming soon.