3 Reasons Kids Love Beach History
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Sometimes it can be hard getting kids to delve into our country’s history, especially when you’re on vacation along the Alabama Gulf Coast. After all, they want to splash in the surf and build sandcastles. But when kids can get actively involved in learning history, especially beach history, it takes on a new dimension for them, allowing them to experience and be a part of the events of the past. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to do just that along the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Playing and Learning at Fort Morgan
Located on the Fort Morgan peninsula, Historic Fort Morgan welcomes visitors to come and experience history throughout the grounds of this masonry fort built in the early 1800s. While there is a great onsite visitors center and museum detailing the fort’s history and its residents, my kids really loved being able to go inside the fort to explore its hallways and climb the stairs to the second level, where they could imagine soldiers scouting the horizon. I enjoyed hearing them tell me what they think a soldier saw as he walked along the fort’s perimeter. To help your kids imagine a soldier’s life at the fort, visit Fort Morgan during one of the fort’s re-enactment events. During these special events, kids can actually see how soldiers lived and worked day to day as well as talk to “soldiers” about their daily lives. It’s a great way for kids to learn and remember history!
Discovering the USS Alabama
Another site where kids can walk in history is the USS Alabama, a South Dakota-class battleship in nearby Mobile. This is actually a great stop on the way to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for those traveling to the beaches from the west on Interstate 10. Commissioned in 1942, the USS Alabama served in World War II; today, visitors can roam the battleship’s 12 decks, seeing how sailors lived and worked at sea. It’s always fun showing my kids areas like the bunkroom where the enlisted men slept. They can’t believe so many slept together in such tight quarters! At the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, you also can go aboard the Submarine USS Drum, where the kids can see how much work (and how many people!) can be accommodated in a small space.
Unveiling a Mysterious Ship
Of special note: If you visit the Alabama Gulf Coast following an intense rain storm, head out to the Fort Morgan peninsula in Gulf Shores and see if you can catch a glimpse of the Rachel, a 1918 schooner built in Pascagoula, Mississippi, for the purpose of transporting lumber. In 1923, during the ship’s first voyage, the Rachel encountered a damaging storm and ran aground along the peninsula. The crew survived and managed to salvage the cargo, but the ship was damaged and couldn’t be saved. Usually, the ship’s remains stay buried beneath the sand, but periodically they emerge after large storms wash away the sand. Although my kids and I haven’t been fortunate enough to see the Rachel during one of our visits to Gulf Shores, it remains on our to-do list. Hopefully, we’ll be able to mark it off one day soon!