Updated Jan. 2018
Now, I know not everyone is a fan of seafood. There are those who have never tried it or are plum crazy. The kind of people who prefer cats over dogs. Their judgment may be flawed, and they can’t be trusted, but for those of you with refined tastes, who love buckets of fried alligator, shrimp so fiery hot your sunscreen will slide off of your face, and the scent of salty goodness makes you get all giddy—welcome to heaven—the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
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5 Reasons to Go to the National Shrimp Festival
1. It’s a Shrimp Festival!
With over 25 food vendors, plus all of the numerous seafood restaurants found in Gulf Shores, Alabama, you will get to taste some of the best seafood in the world. Yes, I said it, the WORLD! With an average spectator attendance of 250,000, people all around come mainly for the fabulous array of seafood. Food stand after food stand serving everything from crab legs to, of course, shrimp prepared every way imaginable.
The festival is sponsored by Zatarain’s. We may have checked out their “free shrimp samples” tent more than once. When we needed an escape from the heat and crowds, we stopped by one of the many Gulf Shores seafood markets and had some large shrimp and crab legs steamed to take back to our camper.
Oh, and there’s plenty to drink, too! From sweet tea, to beer, to freshly squeezed lemonade, you’ll need to stay hydrated in the gulf heat.
2. Plenty of activities for the kiddos.
We weren’t traveling with kids on this trip. Yay for empty nesting! There was a whole section of the festival just for children called the “Children’s Activity Village”. Included in the village were free snow cones, inflatables, face painting, and crafts. Joe wanted to show off his manliness on the rock wall, but he said the shrimp had thrown off his weight distribution.
Out on the beach, every year there is a sand sculpture contest with cash prizes to winners in each age category from 5-16+ years.
3. Lots of shopping!
This year I told myself, I was not going to go overboard shopping at the festival. It was soooooo hard to not get loaded up with all of the cute Halloween decorations, beautiful fine jewelry, and even boutique dresses. However, we hit the motherlode, the Coleman Outlet Store booth, and all restraints went out the window. With discounted camping and hiking equipment, we looked like pack mules loaded up for a long journey. Fortunately, the festival has shuttle buses that took us back to our campground ($5 shuttle for the day) where we could unload, recharge, then head back for the nighttime entertainment. The festival itself is absolutely free, so we could afford to shop, right?
4. Musical entertainment all four days, from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Starting on the first morning (Thursday) of the festival and ending at 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the two main stages keep pumping out music throughout the entire festival. And we’re talking good, professional musicians, too. Not your typical “my grandpa says I have a pretty good voice” kind of performer. The 48 musical acts ranged from jazz, soul, rock, country and blues. By mid-afternoon, people reserved their spots by the main stages until there is a sea of colorful camping chairs. By nightfall, the lights come out and the main acts take the stage.
5. You’re right next to the beach!
Even though it is officially fall, mid-October in Gulf Shores, Alabama is hot and humid. But if you get too heated at the festival, you can just walk a few feet and you are on gorgeous, pristine-white sand. This isn’t a little strip of sand either. Gulf Shores has wide beaches that are only interrupted by the occasional protected sand dune areas. At night, the beach gives a wonderful gift of one of the prettiest sunsets found in the world.
Have I convinced you to go to the National Shrimp Festival next year? I convinced Joe. He wants us to go back next year for our third year of attendance. It is usually around mid-October, and lasts four days. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share by commenting below! We’d love to hear about any other food festivals we should check out.
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