Best Sites to Visit for a Look at the Past in Gulf Shores

Are you looking for a vacation destination with soft sand beaches and plenty of leisure activities? Then set your sights on the Gulf Shores, the serene community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where Bluegreen Resorts offers Shoreline Towers and Paradise Isle Resort. In Gulf Shores, you can listen to the gentle waves while relaxing on the beach or go deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and dolphin sightseeing.

History enthusiasts and Civil War aficionados are also drawn to Gulf Shores by the many historical sites in the area. Here are some of the top sites to visit if you want to experience the past in Gulf Shores:

Fort Morgan

fort morgan

Image courtesy nola.agent | Flickr

Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1819 and 1833, Fort Morgan is situated on Mobile Point at the tip of the scenic Morgan Peninsula, where the bay and the Gulf of Mexico intersect. The Third System masonry fort was named after Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan and it went on to become a crucial battle site during the Civil War.

Seized by the Confederate Army in 1861, Fort Morgan was retaken by Union naval forces in 1864 after one of the most powerful Union attacks on a single fort. In the years after the Battle of Mobile Bay, Fort Morgan was refortified and adapted for intermittent use during the Spanish American War and both World Wars.

Along with fort tours, you can explore the Museum at Fort Morgan to witness 200 years of artifacts, including uniforms and artillery, or enjoy the surrounding landscapes with beach access.

Swift-Coles Historic Home

Located just 20 minutes from Gulf Shores in Bon Secour, the Swift-Coles Historic Home allows you to experience the charm of historic Southern architecture and learn about the area’s history. The structure was initially built as a four-room home along the Bon Secour River in 1882. After Charles and Susan Swift purchased the home in 1898, they expanded it in 1902 and 1908 to raise their 11 children. The family also started a lumber business that still operates in southern Alabama. Over the years, much of the white, two-story manor house has been preserved in its early state.

The Swift-Coles Historic Home is currently maintained by the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission, and visitors can take guided tours of the house on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Fort Gaines

At Fort Gaines, you can take a step back in time by taking fort tours conducted by knowledgeable guides dressed in period uniforms. You can explore the fort’s original blacksmith shop, cannons, tunnels, and kitchens, which are all situated on the eastern end of Dauphin Island. During the Civil War, Fort Gaines played a key role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and it’s where the renowned Union leader Admiral Farragut famously commanded “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” To bring the past to life, Fort Gaines also provides blacksmithing and cannon firing demonstrations.

Fort Gaines’ well-preserved ramparts have defended Mobile Bay for more than 150 years, and the Fort has been listed as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in America because of persistent shoreline erosion.

Gulf Shores Museum

The Gulf Shores Museum showcases artifacts and local treasures that tell the story of Gulf Shores. For example, the museum houses a 1950s steeple from Oyster Bay Baptist Church and a 1940s ship mast donated by a local boatyard. The building that houses these historic pieces also has a past, as it was originally a beachfront cottage constructed before World War II. Donated to the city of Gulf Shores more than 35 years ago, the home has additionally served as a community center and library. The Gulf Shores Museum, which is free to the public, is open between Tuesday and Saturday every week.

Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail

For more Civil War history, you can tour the Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, which features more than 12 sites of action from the Battle of Mobile Bay and the following Overland Campaign. In addition to Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the trail includes sites like Blakeley State Park and Magee Farm. Magee Farm is the last original Civil War surrender house and Blakeley State Park contains miles of pristine battlefields and parapets.

Many of the sites on the trail provide interpretive signs with firsthand accounts and detailed illustrations that tell the stories of Civil War ship captains, average soldiers, and fort commanders.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Alabama

Image courtesy Paul Newton | Flickr

When you visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, you get to explore the 680-foot war ship known as the “Mighty A,” which weathered almost 40 months of active duty in World War II and garnered nine Battle Stars. The ship was part of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean campaigns, but did not sustain any major damage or casualties.

In 1947, the USS Alabama was retired in Washington, and the Navy planned to scrap the ship in the 1960s. Alabama soon launched a campaign to save the USS Alabama and relocate her off the coast of Mobile. Since 1965, the ship has been open to the public, and more than 14 million visitors have discovered her decks. Another World War II vessel, the USS DRUM Submarine, was added to the park in 1969.

You should allow at least two hours to see everything at the park, and cameras are encouraged. Active duty members of the U.S. military and senior citizens can also get into the park for free.

Top 3 Reasons to Visit Marble Hill, Georgia

Although it’s a lesser-known vacation destination, the North Georgia countryside is an optimum retreat for travelers who want to experience small-town charm and striking scenery. In Marble Hill, Georgia, you can explore the area while staying at either Bluegreen Resorts’ Golf Club Villas at Big Canoe or the Petit Crest Villas at Big Canoe. The resort grounds give you access to more than 7,500 acres of forest at the base of the North Georgia Mountains.

From Marble Hill, you can easily trek to the surrounding towns to discover historic attractions and cultural events. Also nearby is a wide range of natural wonders, such as breathtaking rivers, falls, and lakes. In this scenic landscape, you can enjoy water activities such as fishing and kayaking.

Here are the top three reasons to visit Marble Hill and the North Georgia countryside:

1. The History and Culture

Just 15 minutes from Marble Hill in Jasper, the Tate House is one of Georgia’s most unique landmarks, offering a history rich in the marble trade that drove growth and development in North Georgia. The Tate House is a stunning mansion made from the pink marble sourced from local quarries owned by the Tate family, who operated the Georgia Marble Company.

tate house

Tate House | Mark Chandler | Flickr

Colonel Sam Tate completed the 19,000-square-foot Tate House in 1926, and the home, sometimes known as the “Pink Palace,” has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Deemed one of Georgia’s “must see” landmarks by Georgia Magazine, the Tate House is open to the public through guided tours. The first-floor summer kitchen still features the original tin sink, butler’s pantry, and triple oak iceboxes. On the second floor, the mansion has four bedrooms with their own fireplaces and marbled bathrooms.

In Jasper and the nearby Talking Rock, you can also find a variety of cultural events and historic buildings. Talking Rock, the third-smallest town in Georgia, features a historic school house museum and hosts an annual Heritage Day Festival in October. While in Jasper, you can explore the region’s Cherokee heritage and enjoy quality dining options, including local wines from Sharp Mountain Vineyards and signature dishes at the Woodbridge Inn.

2. The Nature

Located 12 miles from Marble Hill, Amicalola Falls State Park is considered one of Georgia’s seven wonders. The park offers numerous hiking trails and remarkable scenery in the Chattahoochee National Forest. In addition to day hikes in the park, you can access the 8.5-mile trail that goes to Springer Mountain, which is the southern tip of the renowned 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. Amicalola Falls State Park is also home to the 729-foot Amicalola Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. To experience Amicalola Falls, you can hike a trail with staircases or view the flowing waters from an accessible pathway.

Along with Amicalola Falls State Park, there are two reservoirs, one state wildlife management area, and a total of 15 state parks in the Northeast Georgia Mountains region. There are a number of other falls located within 20 miles of Marble Hill, including Padgett Falls and Clay Creek Falls.

Vogel State Park, located less than 30 miles from Marble Hill, includes a 22-acre lake with a mountain-view beach. One of the oldest state parks in Georgia, Vogel is especially popular in the fall, when the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains turn yellow, red, and gold. You can explore Vogel State Park by walking one of its many trails, such as the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail, or the tranquil trail around the lake that passes Trahlyta Falls.

3. The Water Activities

For more outdoor fun around Marble Hill, find some water and go kayaking, fishing, or paddle boarding. At Big Canoe, you have access to three pristine lakes that allow boating and fishing. The 111-acre Lake Petit is regularly stocked with rainbow trout and is also home to indigenous fish, including bluegill and brim. Lake Sconti is ideal for more laidback fishing, while Lake Disharoon is the preferred spot for paddle boarding and recreation.

Nantahala River

Nantahala River | J. Stephen Conn | Flickr

With local outfitters, such as Appalachian Outfitters in Dahlonega, you can experience river trips that vary in difficulty and length. Take a canoe or kayak down the Chestatee River to experience gentle rapids or travel down the Etowah River for a more demanding journey.

You can also raft down the many rivers in the area with groups like Rolling Thunder River Company in McCaysville. To ensure predictable and consistent water flows, the company only operates on dam-controlled rivers, such as Nantahala River and Ocoee River. Nantahala River rafting is perfect for first-time rafters, with mostly class I and class II rapids. On the Ocoee River, you can raft down the longest continuous segment of class III and class IV rapids of any river in the United States.

9 Amusement Parks and Attractions to Visit in Wisconsin Dells

Vacationing with Bluegreen Resorts means that you have access to a wide range of unique, all-season vacation destinations around the United States, including Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. With resorts such as Christmas Mountain Village and Bluegreen Odyssey Dells, you can explore the scenic and exciting Wisconsin Dells, known for its seven-mile-long expanse of canyon, as well as its prime skiing locations and bevy of amusement parks.

Wisconsin Dells’ many amusement parks and attractions are famous for offering a variety of diversions, from waterslides to zip lines. If you’re looking for an adventure in Wisconsin Dells, here are nine of the top amusement parks and attractions in the area.

Noah’s Ark Waterpark

wisconsin dells noah's ark

Image courtesy Dave Reid | Flickr

One of the most popular water parks in Wisconsin Dells, Noah’s Ark Waterpark offers more than 70 acres of thrilling water rides and family fun. Noah’s Ark helped Wisconsin Dells earn the title of Waterpark Capital of the World. With two endless rivers, four water playgrounds for kids, and two large wave pools, Noah’s Ark offers some of the most exciting water rides in the country.

On the Black Anaconda ride, which was named America’s Most Thrilling Water Coaster, you reach speeds of 30 miles per hour while spiraling along a snake-shaped chute that is part waterslide, part roller coaster. Noah’s Ark is also famous for Scorpion’s Tail, a 400-foot long, 10-story-high waterslide that drops you down at more than 50 feet per second.

Along with water-fueled excitement, Noah’s Ark features a 4-D movie theater and various dining options. The park is open between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day every year.

Timber Falls Adventure Park

Located in downtown Wisconsin Dells, Timber Falls Adventure Park has something for everyone: for thrill-seekers, the exciting Hellcat Roller coaster, and for families looking for laidback fun, the jungle-themed Montazula’s Revenge minigolf course. The Hellcat’s 10-story drops and 90-degree turns have been featured on the Today Show, but it’s not the only wild ride at Timber Falls. On the Skyscraper Ride, you can pull 4 Gs at 60 miles per hour and fly 160 feet off the ground for a true adrenaline rush. If you’re interested in more mild fun, check out Timber Falls’ Howling Log Flume ride and bumper boats.

Heightened Adventures Aerial Park

At Heightened Adventures Aerial Park, you can explore six acres of aerial ropes courses, with four separate courses of varying levels of difficulty. The courses can take you anywhere from 10 to 45 feet in the air, and from the tree tops, you can experience stunning views of the Wisconsin River.

Perfect for guests of all skill levels, Heightened Adventures Aerial Park can provide experienced park monitors to help you navigate the courses, or you can explore independently on self-guided tours. The arborist-evaluated park is one of Wisconsin Dells’ eco-adventure attractions.

Olympus Water and Theme Park

Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park is another one of Wisconsin Dells’ most famous water parks, featuring 44 waterslides, two wave pools with nine-foot-high waves, and three lazy rivers. The park also includes the Lost City of Atlantis, a six-story water fortress with numerous waterslides and a massive water bucket that soaks anyone below it. In addition to plenty of speed slides and tube slides for the thrill-seekers, Mt. Olympus has Kiddie City for younger kids.

At the Mt. Olympus Outdoor Theme Park, you will find roller coasters instead of water rides. Some of the park’s most exciting rides are the 140-foot Manticore swing and the Hades 360 roller coaster, which is the only upside-down barrel roller coaster and the longest underground roller coaster on a fully wooden track in the world. If you tire of roller coasters, you can also visit the park’s arcades, batting cages, and go-kart tracks.

Top Secret

A truly unique year-round destination in Wisconsin Dells, Top Secret offers tours through an upside-down White House. Tours start every 10 to 15 minutes and reveal all of the secrets of the White House, including the top secret information stored in the basement. Open until 10 p.m. every day, Top Secret is a fun way for visitors of all ages to spend the evening.

Kalahari Indoor Theme Park

Spanning 100,000 square feet, the Kalahari Indoor Theme Park is a prime indoor escape when the weather isn’t ideal. Come inside to ride a six-story Ferris wheel, explore a ropes course, or compete in a round of laser tag. For younger visitors, the park also offers an African-themed carousel and mini-golf. The whole family can enjoy bowling and go-carts, or the adults can go relax in the sports bar and take a swing in a high-definition golf simulator.

Wild Fun Zone

If you’re looking for something fun to do in downtown Wisconsin Dells, Wild Fun Zone offers an assortment of exciting activities. The center features the black-light 3D Jungle Mini Golf and one of the largest laser tag arenas in Wisconsin Dells. In the Wild Fun Zone arcade, you can enjoy classic arcade favorites or try an exciting new game, like the virtual roller coaster ride. Wild Fun Zone operates seasonally and reopens its doors around spring break.

Bigfoot Zipline Tours

The largest zipline tour in Wisconsin Dells, Bigfoot Zipline Tours is more than 20 football fields long, with seven exciting lines and seven world-class towers. The two-hour adventure is a surefire way to experience a rush and enjoy nature at the same time. With Bigfoot Zipline Tours, you can fly over Bigfoot Island and soar through the white oak and red pine forest that encircles Sasquatch Lake.

Wizard Quest

Set in a 13,000-square-foot labyrinth called the Quadrasphere, Wizard Quest lets you play interactive computer games live. In a quest to locate and free imprisoned wizards, players enter a fantasy-themed world that features secret passages, traps, and hidden entrances. Players also encounter dragons and a devious opponent named Havoc.

5 Fun Facts to Know When Visiting Big Bear, California

If you’re looking for a vacation destination that offers fresh air and outdoor adventures, join Bluegreen in Southern California’s scenic San Bernardino Mountains at The Club at Big Bear Village. Big Bear Lake is a perfect vacation spot in every season and is easily accessible from nearby Los Angeles. In Big Bear, you can stay busy skiing the slopes, boating on the lake, or horseback riding and hiking through the forest.

To fully appreciate Big Bear’s rugged terrain and natural beauty, it’s helpful to know a little about the region’s rich history, which involves gold mining and grizzlies. Here are some fun facts about beautiful Big Bear, California:

1. People have lived in Big Bear Valley for thousands of years.

Big Bear Valley has been home to humans for thousands of years, and Southern California sustained as many as 30,000 Native Americans before Spanish settlers arrived in the region. In Big Bear, the Native Americans referred to themselves as the Yuhaviatam and called their territory Yuhaviat, or “pine place.” When Spanish settlers encountered the Native Americans, they called the tribe Serrano, meaning highlander or people from the mountains.

Over the years, the population of Native Americans in Southern California dwindled and just a few dozen were left by the 1890s. Currently, the Serrano (Yuhaviatam) tribe has around 200 members who continue to conduct sacred ceremonies at significant locations in the area, such as Baldwin Lake. It is believed that the tribe’s founder, Krukat, died at the lake.

2. Big Bear Lake isn’t that old.

big bear lake dam

Image courtesy WaterArchives.org | Flickr

While enjoying a day on Big Bear Lake, keep in mind that the lake has only been around for about 130 years. The lake is a man-made basin created because farmers from the nearby agricultural town of Redlands needed a reservoir for irrigation downstream. In 1883, Frank E. Brown engineered and started construction on a dam that would be the first substantial one in the area. The dam was designed to contain more water than any other dam that had been built before, and many people worried that the cement wall wouldn’t withstand the intense water pressure.

Completed in 1884, the dam made Big Bear Lake the largest man-made lake in the world at the time and people once called it the “eighth wonder of the world.” In 1912, another damn was built to enlarge Big Bear Lake in response to years of heavy snowfall. The original dam still stands, although it’s usually submerged in the lake.

3. A grizzly population led to the name Big Bear.

While Big Bear was once known as Yuhaviat, an event in 1845 prompted locals to start referring to the area as Big Bear. That year a 20-man posse led by Benjamin Davis Wilson rode into Yuhaviat Valley to retaliate against Native Americans who had raided ranches in Riverside. When the men rode into the valley, they discovered a large group of grizzly bears. The men divided into teams, and each team roped a bear to bring to their camp at Baldwin Lake. With the group of bears gathered at the lake, Wilson coined the named Big Bear Lake, a name that spread across the region.

Grizzlies were once abundant in the Big Bear region, but the population was hunted into extinction by the early 1900s. The California Department of Fish and Game chose to reintroduce a population of bears in Southern California in 1933, believing that outdoor enthusiasts and tourists would appreciate the wildlife. After securing 27 black bears from Yosemite, the department released six of them in the Big Bear area. These six animals helped establish Big Bear’s current black bear population.

big bear lake panorama

Image courtesy erenemre on Flickr

4. Big Bear was a gold mining mecca.

Before Big Bear Lake became a popular resort destination, it was a gold mining hub that sparked Southern California’s biggest gold rush. Records indicate that a bear hunter named William Holcomb found gold in 1860 while he was following a bear that led him to a mountain creek running with flakes of gold. Although Holcomb tried to hide his discovery, the secret was soon out and prospectors crowded into the area between 1860 and 1875.

Today, evidence of the gold rush, including historic structures and relics, can be found throughout the region. Gold mining tours are conducted year round, and Big Bear Discovery Center also offers brochures for self-guided tours. During tours, visitors can learn about the many gold mining landmarks in the area, such as Lucky Baldwin Mine, Wilbur’s Grave, Hangman’s Tree, and Two Gun Bill’s Saloon.

5. Big Bear landscapes have appeared in many Hollywood films.

With Los Angeles just three hours away, Big Bear has served as the backdrop for many Hollywood movies for over a century. Big Bear’s picturesque woods and mountains have been featured in a number of famous films, including Birth of a Nation in 1915, Gone with the Wind in 1939, and Old Yeller in 1957. In the 1930s and 40s, filmmakers were especially active in the area, and Big Bear was the backdrop for more than 110 films in just those 20 years.