Inside an airy enclosure, Sofia slooooowly opens her mouth for a slice of yellow squash as a wide-eyed 6-year-old Avah Danley gazes up at the fuzzy two-toed sloth’s glacial movements. Avah’s family drove 12 hours from Missouri to the Alabama coast for a much-needed family vacation. The sloth encounter at Gulf State Zoo is just a fraction of their itinerary. What does Avah think so far? “Good,” she says, shyly.
Nearby, just past the African servals, 11-year-old Landry Smith of Texas has a little more to say. “It’s just good to get out of the house!” he exclaims with the exuberance of everyone who’s spent the last year cooped up.
As family minivans head south for the first big summer since the pandemic hit, the twin towns of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are welcoming back vacationers with expanded entertainment options, family-friendly accommodations, festive waterfront dining, and an atmosphere that caters to kids (and kids at heart).