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Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Mundelein, Illinois
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Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Need some help finding site suggestions, forums, etc. We've never seen the southeastern states and are considering 2 weeks driving along the gulf coast mid to late Feb. Primarily MS and AL, not as far west as TX and preferably not beyond FL panhandle. Are the areas fairly recovered from Katrina, oil, etc? What temps can we expect - mid 50-60s? Any hidden gems, scenery, beaches that are not-to-be-missed? I know these are really broad questions, but I'm just looking for some starting points. Looked for travel guides in library but only from 2009. I've ordered MS and AL state tourism guides. Thanks much! (also posted in MS forum)

Tyler, Texas
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1. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

I would not come this far without seeing New Orleans. Neworleansonline.com

Then Bay St Louis MS, Pass Christian, Biloxi and for sure Ocean Springs.

Then Bellinggrath Gardens in Mobile, go out to Dauphin Island, take the ferry to Fort Morgan on to Gulf Shores. Contine east to historic downtown Pensacola. You really need to continue east on 98 and see the gulf waters at Destin...not called the Emerald Coast for nothing. But you should see the best beach in the world at Grayton Beach east of Destin

Katrina left its mark but does not impede travel, oil is gone but not forgotten

The boat tour to Ship Island from Gulfport is good, Walter Anderson Museum in OS is interesting

Helena, Alabama
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2. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Glad you're considering a Gulf Coast vacation!

There was a similar recent post that would be very helpful for you, it covered the same stretch of the Gulf and received some detailed replies: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28922-i173-k69155…

The Gulf coast has *largely* recovered from Katrina and the BP oil spill. If you want to find signs of either I'm sure you can but they are few and far between.

The website Weather Undergound has a good page of average temperatures; here is the (shortened) link for Mobile, AL: http://tinyurl.com/n8oqzzf

As you can see, expect lows in the low 40s and highs in the 60s with generally cloudy skies. Snow is almost unheard of along the Gulf coast even in Jan/Feb.

Have a great trip! :-)

Tyler, Texas
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3. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

An alternate..go to Mobile, see the Uss Alabama on the causeway, see Fairhope downtown,pier, go to Gulf Shores, see Weeks Bay Esturary Center on the way at Fish River, Magnolia Springs,, eat at the Tin Top on the way

Tyler, Texas
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4. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

There is a new road that has been opened and closed so check on it from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach that should be beautiful.

Tyler, Texas
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5. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Along the way you have Beauvoir, Fort Morgan, Fort Pickens etc

Mundelein, Illinois
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6. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Great responses so far. Sounds like a number of you are dreaming along with us!

Mobile
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7. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

If you will be getting into late February be aware that Fat Tuesday for Mardi Gars is March 4, so the weekend of Feb.22 will also have a lot of Mardi Gras activity up and down the coast. That's good and bad, if you are looking for hotels plan ahead and places around New Orleans may be expensive. New Orleans Mardi Gras is wild, Mobile's is tamer and more family themed. Seeing some parades would be a good gulf coast experience.

Tyler, Texas
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8. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

Good point. Just happen to have that schedule for south Alabama:

http://themobilemask.com/Parade_Schedule.html

Gulf Shores, Alabama
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9. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

There are very good suggestions from everyone so far. It would help to know more of what you are interested in seeing and what you don't care for. The entire gulf coast is loaded with historical landmarks. You had several cultures that have settled the coast and they have all left there mark in one place or another. I would plan on making New Orleans a priority. It's a beautiful city and since Katrina the government in Jefferson parish has a massive blight campaign going on. All of the historical areas in New Orleans survived pretty much unscathed. The food scene in New Orleans is among the best in the nation with many prominent restaurants giving the world recipes like Oysters Rockefeller, Bananas Foster and Blackened Redfish. The French Quarter will be in full swing as Mardi Gras will draw millions of tourists to the city. The other thing New Orleans is noted for is music and there will be tons of that. There will be free concerts and some of the city's best Jazz musicians will play around town. There is a top Hollywood movie being filmed nearly every day of the year somewhere in New Orleans and you never know who you might see. The Audobon foundation has three properties in New Orleans alone, the Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas and the Insectarium. I have been to all three and surprisingly enjoyed the Insectarium the most. They even have a restaurant in the Insectarium where adventurous eaters can sample entomological cuisine. Not for me though. There are historic mansions all over Louisiana in general and the bayou country can be quite scenic and spooky. Biloxi, Miss. is known for casinos and does have some other places of interest. I personally have never found the city interesting but that's just me. The Stennis Space Center has a museum at the Miss/La border and I've heard that it is interesting but I have yet to see it. Hopefully soon! In Alabama I would highly consider spending some time in Mobile. It is the founding city of Mardi Gras and the French aspects of the carnivale are much more prevalent in Mobile than in New Orleans, which is mostly partying and parades. The balls associated with Mobile's Mardi Gras are much funner in my opinion and are definitely more French oriented. Keep in mind that nearly every city between Lafayette and Destin will have some sort of Mardi Gras parades going on between the start and the final days leading up to Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday. Mobile is a good base to see historic forts and a battlefield. Blakely State Park was the site of the Northern/Confederate lines and there are still remnants of those within the park. Between Pensacola and Mobile there are many forts in remarkable condition...Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, Fort Conde, Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens. As far as military history the area is rich. The Battleship USS Alabama and the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum are both well worth visiting and do not disappoint most people. The staggering amount of historic antebellum homes in Mobile alone is pretty amazing as are Mobile's antique stores. I would not miss Bellingrath Gardens either, just west of Mobile. Fairhope is a great little artisan city with a very walkable downtown. There are lots of treasures to be found in that city. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are the first or last nicest beach you will see on the Gulf coast depending on what direction you are coming from. Dauphin Island also has a nice beach but the island is nearly all residential. Noteworthy things on Dauphin Island are the Indian shell mounds, the Sea Lab and Estuarium and Fort Gaines. There is also a ferry to Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores from Dauphin Island. I would again spend some time in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There is lots to do and makes a great base to see other places like Pensacola, Fairhope, Point Clear and Spanish Fort. The beaches are in wonderful condition again and the largest pier in the Gulf is here. There are trails and no less than six state parks in the immediate area. In Pensacola, Fl. there are some attractions worth seeing. Joe Patti's Seafood Market is one of the best and biggest in the nation. The historic downtown area has some interesting places such as Old Town, Trader Jon's and Pensacola NAS (Home of the Blue Angels, Fort Barrancas and the lighthouse). Further into Florida is Destin, Fort Walton and Grayton Beaches. If you plan on this area I would drive down Hwy 98 along the Gulf Islands National Seashore and not the interstate. In South Walton Co. the beaches on 30-A in Grayton, Watercolor and Alys Beach are phenomenal. If you do take the interstate there are a few state parks worth mentioning. In Ponce, Fl. is the Fountain of Youth at Ponce De Leon Springs State Park. Falling Waters State Park is Florida's tallest waterfall and empties into a massive sinkhole. Florida Caverns in Marianna is the best state park I have been to in Florida. Amazing! is all I can say. I have put reviews for all three state parks on TA. Each park is less than a few miles from the interstate. VBest wishes and have a wonderful vacation.

Florida Panhandle...
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10. Re: Mid-Feb driving vacation?

I live in Pensacola and would agree with other responses that if you're going to drive this far and come to Pensacola, you might as well go a couple more hours to the beach communities in South Walton County via 30-A. Pensacola does have a lot of things already mentioned, with Fort Pickens at the west end of Pensacola Beach being a must-see if that's along the lines of what you're looking to do, but to be honest, I recommend the beaches of South Walton more for the drive than for the beach or for any stops along the way. Each of the beach communities there have their own architectural style and personality of their own, and just driving through and seeing the changes from one area to the next is really cool. I would recommend The Red Bar in Grayton Beach as a place to eat. The decor is very eclectic and fun, and they bring the menu to you on a large chalkboard. In Seaside, there is a town square with several places to eat and various shops, so it's a good place to stop in that area. I also agree with the idea of you going to New Orleans. However, realize that it is very chaotic and crowded and very much a party scene around Mardi Gras, so if you like that sort of thing, by all means go. If not, you'd be better off taking a trip to New Orleans another time. You would definitely want to be in the French Quarter within walking distance to but not necessarily right on Bourbon Street. While the surrounding areas took a beating during Katrina, the French Quarter itself was virtually unscathed. If you do New Orleans, go to Cafe du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait, and go to the French Market just to browse, even if you don't intend to buy anything. Mona Lisa Restaurant on Royal Street has some awesome homemade Italian food and is quieter than some of the other larger restaurants, and Clover Grill on Bourbon Street is a good breakfast spot, like an old diner with a lot more pizzazz. It's hard to say what the temperature will be in the panhandle that time of year, because some years we get a fairly cold winter and sometimes almost none at all. You'll have to keep an eye on temps as you get closer to your travel dates. Have a great trip!