The Park at OWA Review + Gulf Shores Beach: Fun family getaway

The Park at OWA Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster
The best ride at The Park at OWA - Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster
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The kids and I recently took a trip down to the Gulf Shores of Alabama to visit the OWA Entertainment District and the Park at OWA in Foley, Alabama. We learned about OWA at a couple of the travel conferences I recently attended and thought it would be a lot of fun. Here is my the Park at OWA review with some of our favorite things to do at OWA.

I partnered with during our visit so the kids and I could explore all that OWA has to offer and share our experience with you.

The Park at OWA freeway exit sign almost there
We’re almost there!!!

What is OWA?

OWA is a 520-acre resort destination that offers a mix of entertainment, dining, shopping, and an amusement park. Inside, you’ll find a 14-acre amusement park called the Park at OWA, a 14-acre lake, a 1.5-acre island, shops, and restaurants.

What does OWA stand for?

The name OWA means “big water” comes from the Muskogee Creek language. OWA is owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which are descendants of the original Creek Nation.

How to get the Park at OWA?

You can get to OWA from Pensacola Airport (40 miles), Mobile Regional Airport (59 miles), or Gulfport Regional Airport (114 miles). We could have flown to Pensacola in about an hour. Instead, we drove from Nashville, which was about 7 hours south. To me, it was worth driving to save $200 per person for plane tickets plus renting a car.

The Park at OWA

Thrill-seekers and families with young kids will have a great time at the Park at OWA. It offers 22 attractions and most are available to young kids. When we visited, Timothy and Scarlett were 8 and 4 years old, respectively.

What are the Park at OWA hours?

The Park at OWA is open 7-days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Off-season days and hours vary. The park opens as early as 10 am and closes as late as 10 pm during the summer. When we visited in mid-November, the Park at OWA was open from 11 am to 8 pm on Saturday. Click here for the current theme park hours.

How much are OWA amusement park prices?

Admission to the Park at OWA is:

  • $30 for adults
  • $25 for children (48″ and under)
  • Kids 3 and under are free
  • Seniors ages 60+ are $25
  • Military (with ID) are also $25
  • Non-riders are free

If you don’t plan on riding any of the rides, OWA has you covered. Simply request a complimentary “non-rider” ticket at the front gate.

Season tickets are also available starting at $80.

Seasonal promotions are available to save even more money. Currently, the Park at OWA is offering a $10 Spring Break discount. Tickets are only $20 and can be redeemed from February 6, 2020, through April 3, 2020.

Our thoughts and the Park at OWA review

Timothy was able to ride all of the rides, except for Rollin’ Thunder, because he was a couple of inches too short. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t ride the 100-foot vertical drop and multiple twists and turns. I’m sure we will next time when my wife Anna is able to come with us.

The rides are broken down into five categories based on height. I had never seen this before, but visitors 72″ (aka 6 feet) and taller cannot ride Swingin’ Fun or Zip Zap Race. Realistically, even average adults won’t fit into many of the rides designed for the smaller kids.

The Park at OWA Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster
Next time, Timothy and I will get to go on Rollin’ Thunder (if he’s tall enough)

I came away impressed with how well the kids did on the 21 rides and an interactive splash pad. Timothy’s favorite was the Alabama Wham’a, while Scarlett’s was Freedom Flyer. If you have asked me ahead of time, there’s no way I would have thought that either kid was daring enough to go on those rides. Scarlett would have gone on even more if she was just a bit taller.


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Thrill rides at the Park at OWA

These are the thrill rides at the Park at OWA:

  • Air Racer
  • Alabama Wham’a
  • Crazy Mouse
  • Freedom Flyer
  • Rollin’ Thunder
  • Twister
  • Wave Rider
Freedom FlyerThe Park at OWA Freedom Flyer
I still can’t believe that Scarlett’s favorite ride was the Freedom Flyer

Family-friendly rides at the Park at OWA

Family-friendly rides are geared towards kids and parents:

  • Aero Zoom
  • Flutter By
  • Flying Carousel
  • Flying Tigers
  • Rockin’ Raft
  • Sky Balloons
  • Southern Express
  • Tea Time
The Park at OWA Aero Zoom Timothy Scarlett Lee
Flying high on Aero Zoom

Toddler rides at the Park at OWA

While these rides are designed for the youngest kids so they can enjoy the Park at OWA as well:

  • Flying Aces
  • Gully Washer
  • Happy Haulers
  • Leap Frog
  • Swingin’ Fun
  • Wacky Waters Splash Pad
  • Zip Zap Race
The Park at OWA Zip Zap Race Scarlett
Scarlett having fun on the Zip Zap Race cars

I think we went on just about every one of these rides during our visit. Most of the time, the Park at OWA was not crowded and we were able to walk right onto the rides. We probably waited 5 minutes at the most for any particular ride.

Legends in Concert

It was fun watching the impersonators sing some of the greatest hits of George Strait, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, and Taylor Swift. The kids didn’t know many of the songs, so it was a great opportunity to introduce them to some classics. Scarlett enjoyed the Taylor Swift impersonation the most. Plus, we even got to meet her after the show so Scarlett could say hi and take a picture with her.

The show was about 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission about halfway through. This was a good opportunity for the kids to hit the restroom and grab a snack. Doors open 45 minutes before the show starts. I recommend arriving early to get the best seats.

Orchestra tickets for Legends in Concert are $35 for adults and $18 for children ages 4 to 12, while kids 3 and under are free. Preferred orchestra seating is an extra $3 each. Tickets on the Mezzanine were $5 more each.


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Brandon Styles Show – Magic & Impersonations

Over the course of an hour, Brandon Styles performs a non-stop array of impersonations and magic tricks. The intimate venue seats 100 people and we sat in the front row. Timothy and Scarlett were on the edge of their seats the entire time as they tried to figure out how Brandon performed those tricks.

Throughout the show, Brandon brought up several people from the audience to be his assistant on some of his tricks. We didn’t get up on stage, but hopefully will next time.


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Brandon offers different types of shows throughout the year. The Variety Show tickets start at $24 each, while Magic Show tickets start at $16. Both of these are available from March through December. During January and February, Brandon hosts “A Trip Down Memory Lane.” In this show, he impersonates 40 superstars from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, and Louis Armstrong. This show’s tickets start at $37 and includes a buffet dinner.

All shows offer add-ons for VIP, Snack Packs, and Kids experiences. If you’d like to perform magic, there’s also a magic shop at the entrance to buy selected tricks.

The Park at OWA Brandon Styles show levitation trick
I’m still trying to figure out how Timothy did this levitation trick

The beach at Gulf State Park

Although not technically part of OWA, the beach is only 10 miles away. We went to the beach at Gulf State Park and there was no charge for parking. We tried going onto the pier, but there was a charge to go out due to the popularity of fishing.

The kids and I spent a morning playing in the waves and building sand forts. It was a fun way to spend the morning before having lunch and driving home.

The Park at OWA Gulf Shores State Beach Lee Timothy Scarlett
The kids and I had a lot of fun splashing in the water and building sand castles

Seasonal events at the Park at OWA

The holidays always add a little something special for your trip. OWA decorates according to the holiday and plans seasonal events throughout the year.

You’ll enjoy fireworks celebrations during annual holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and New Year’s Eve.

Summer GLOWA presents a musical illumination with live performers and synchronized lights at 8:30 pm. It is available each night from May 29th through August 12th, except on Mondays.

Halloween gets spooky at OWA. Many of the attractions at the Park at OWA and around the shops and restaurants turn haunted. The Park at OWA offers additional family-friendly options, such as pumpkin painting, trick-or-treating, and a scavenger hunt in a special zone for the kids.

Santa pays a special visit for Christmas at OWA. You can explore Santa’s workshop for arts, crafts, and a photo with Saint Nick. Scarlett, Timothy, and I were at OWA for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree that happens in mid-November.

The Park at OWA festive Christmas lights
Festive Christmas lights were everywhere at OWA

Shopping at OWA

There are several shops to explore as you walk around the entertainment district. They’re a good way to spend time in between eating a meal and before catching a show. Whenever we travel someplace, I always make a point to stop in the local shops to support independent business owners and see if I find something unique. Some of the local retailers include:

  • Alvin’s Island Tropical Department Store
  • Body Tune Plus
  • Fair hope Soap Company
  • Parker & Co. Boutique
  • Pepper Palace
  • The Spice & Tea Exchange

OWA Restaurants

During our stay at OWA, we experienced a number of excellent meals and tasty treats at the OWA restaurants.


We ate lunch at Wahlburger’s one day during our visit. Timothy ordered a huge bowl of tater tots covered in melted “government” cheese and bacon. He staked his claim to the lion’s share of the dish and I’m pretty sure he growled at me when I tried to eat too many. Alas, the bowl of tots was too big, and Timmy tapped out midway through it.

The Park at OWA Wahlburger’s tater tots with cheese and bacon
Timothy wanted the tater tots with cheese and bacon all to himself

Groovy Goat

If you’re looking for a fun sports bar with good food, check out the Groovy Goat. You can watch games on TVs throughout the restaurant, but you need to ask for a seat by the 26-foot-wide screen for the big game. Be sure to order the “table side nachos.” This is a huge plate of nachos that are customized to your liking right at your table!

The Park at OWA Groovy Goat steak and mac n cheese
Yummy steak and mac n cheese at the Groovy Goat

Crazy Donuts

Visitors with a sweet tooth will find everything they need at Crazy Donuts. They offer a variety of donut and ice cream combinations that will make your mouth water. Timmy ordered a Death by Chocolate, which had a chocolate donut on the bottom, a scoop of chocolate ice cream in the middle, and a poop emoji donut on top.

Crazy Donuts is also open for lunch and dinner. You can order burgers, fries, and other goodies. Each has a unique flavor that only Crazy Donuts can do. For example, the “Flat Line” burger comes with two Angus patties, mozzarella cheese, candied bacon, cheddar cheese, and pickles and is sandwiched between two donut buns.


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Trattoria Pizza & Italian

Of course, we had pizza during our visit. Trattoria Pizza & Italian is an authentic New York pizza and Italian place with great service and even better pizza. Don’t forget to order their world famous “Garlic Ballz” as an appetizer. They were amazing, and the kids and I gobbled them up.

The Park at OWA Trattoria Pizza & Italian garlic ballz
You have to order the garlic ballz. You’ll thank me later.

We loved the food and service here so much, that we came back for lunch on Sunday before we drove home. Stop by on “Thirsty Thursdays” from 4 pm to 9 pm. You can get $3 Hurricanes, $3 wine and beer specials, and half-price appetizer specials. Trattoria Pizza & Italian also has Happy Hour every day from 2 pm to 6 pm. Enjoy $1 off beer, well drinks, and wine. Plus, there are mimosa and Bloody Mary specials on the weekend.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen

Unfortunately, Paula Deen’s opened a couple of weeks after our stay, so we couldn’t sample some of her cooking. Her restaurant offers Southern-Style entrees, delicious side dishes, and mouth-watering desserts in a family-style setting. I’ve seen her delicious food numerous times while Anna watches cooking shows, so we totally missed out. We’ll definitely have to hit it up when we visit next time.

The Park at OWA Paula Deen lighting the Christmas tree
Although her restaurant wasn’t open, Paula Deen lit the Christmas tree

Other dining options at OWA

We were only at OWA a couple of days, so we couldn’t try everything. These are some of the food options we didn’t visit:

  • Auntie Anne’s
  • Cinnabon
  • Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor
  • Sushi Co. by Mikato

Where to stay at the Park at OWA?

There are many hotels along the Gulf Shores, and many of them offer direct beach access. However, the best hotel for visiting OWA is the Marriott TownPlace Suites at OWA. It is located at the edge of the entertainment district and offers an easy walk to all of the fun. For our next visit in the Spring, I would split time between the Marriott and one of the beach hotels. This way we have the convenience of the TownPlace Suites while having fun at OWA and be able to enjoy the beach from one of the others.

The Park at OWA Marriott TownPlace Suites at OWA couch in our room Timothy and Scarlett
Timothy and Scarlett goofing off on the couch in our room

During our stay, we were in a studio at the TownPlace Suites. It had a mini-kitchen to prepare meals and keep items cold in the fridge. Timmy and Scarlett liked the couch, while I appreciated the desk so I could get some work done while they slept. The hotel had an indoor swimming pool and a spacious terrace with a fire pit.

The Park at OWA Marriott TownPlace Suites at OWA patio with fire pit
Relax at the fire pit and enjoy the view of OWA and the lake

Other hotels close to the Park at OWA are:

Parking is free at the Park at OWA. If you want to be close to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, I recommend:

Coming next at OWA

Although OWA has a lot to offer already, it is continuing to expand. In the coming years, a luxury RV resort, four new hotels, and an outdoor water park will open.

The Bald Thoughts

Checking out new destinations that are within a day’s drive of Nashville has been fun. Honestly, Alabama was not high on my list of places to visit. I’m glad that I met the people of OWA and Foley, Alabama so that I could learn about their attractions.

The kids and I had a blast and it was so much fun watching them test their limits on the rides at the Park at OWA, dance along with the Legends, and be mesmerized by Brandon’s tricks and impersonations. During our drive home, the kids couldn’t stop talking about bringing Mommy back with us in the Spring so she could participate in the fun.

Most families are looking for a fun vacation spot that isn’t crowded and is budget-friendly. The OWA Entertainment District, the Park at OWA, its attractions, and the Gulf State Park beaches fit the bill.

Have you been to the Park at OWA or Gulf State Park beach? What was your favorite part? Share your experiences in the comments below.



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