Eight miles north of the white sand beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast sit two small towns rich in culture and heritage, Foley and Elberta. You’ll find everything from the biggest amusement park on the Gulf Coast, to modern art, antiques, a train depot and a medical museum where visitors have claimed to have seen ghostly spirits, to a soda fountain and, in Elberta, a museum with artifacts from pioneer days. Foley is a small town that’s big on places to shop, while Elberta is home to the German Sausage Festival and Baldwin County Heritage Museum.
Shopping in Foley
Foley is a great place to find antiques and collectibles in shops like the Gift Horse Antique Centre (209 W. Laurel Ave., 251-943-3663) and Hollis Ole Crush (204 S. McKenzie St., 251-943-8154). The shops are all within walking distance of each other.
The town is also home to the Tanger Outlet Center (2601 S. McKenzie St., 251-943-9303) where you can shop till you drop at nearly 100 brand name stores, from Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren to J. Crew and Michael Kors. The outlet is located approximately two miles from downtown Foley on Hwy. 59. The shops are open Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
For more information on Foley, stop at the Foley Welcome Center (104 N. McKenzie St.; 251-943-1200) located next to the Holmes Medical Museum. The center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Grab a Cup of Coffee for a Dime
After shopping, stop by for a treat or a cup of coffee for 10 cents at Stacey’s Rexall Drugs & Old Tyme Soda Fountain (121 W. Laurel Ave.; 251-943-7191). Since 1929, Stacey’s has been offering ice cream, handmade milkshakes, malts, ice cream sundaes, sandwiches and sodas.
Enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the roses along the paved public walking trail that winds through the heart of downtown Foley.
One of the newest attractions to bustling Foley is the Park at OWA (1501 S OWA Blvd; 251-923-2111). This 520-acre family-friendly destination features a theme park with 23 attractions, a wide variety of unique dining, live entertainment and seasonal events. After a long day of waterslides and roller coasters, dance the night away alongside a stunning water fountain light show. Outside the park, there is a downtown area full of top shops and restaurants. Conveniently choose from day passes or seasonal passes to the park.
Thrill as you ride Rollin' Thunder, one of the longest roller coasters in the country, and one of four roller coasters and more than 20 rides at OWA’s 14-acre amusement park. Then cool off at Wacky Waters, OWA’s 9,500-ft. splash pad. The “Legends in Concert” show, already a popular show in Las Vegas, has taken up permanent residence at OWA as has a new, indoor (and air-conditioned) Mystic Mansion haunted-house ride.
Model Trains, Roses, Art and Medicine
The Foley Alabama Railroad Museum (125 E. Laurel Ave.; 251-943-1818) is located in the Old L&N Railroad Depot and houses Foley’s archives. The first depot was built in 1905 when John B. Foley of Chicago used some of his own money to bring the railroad to the southern part of Baldwin County. This first depot burned and a second station took its place in 1908. The museum contains reminders of the days when Foley was a thriving agricultural center and the railroad played a major role in its prosperity. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Step inside the model train exhibit where families will enjoy the “O” gauge model train exhibit with one-fourth mile of track. The layout represents the 1950s era, when the rail lines were in the transition of being run by steam to running on diesel fuel. There is a Main Street USA, complete with a fire station, car wash, church, bus station and a city park with an "N" gauge train that carries children around the park. You will see a farm, a sawmill and a coal company on one end of the layout and an oil refinery on the opposite end. Also, "Thunder Road," an old Robert Mitchum movie, is playing at the Hub Drive-In. The model train exhibit is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
After touring the train museum stop to smell the roses, literally. Take a leisurely stroll along the Wilbourne Antique Rose Trail and camellia path that begins just outside the train depot. The paved public walking trail winds through the heart of downtown Foley following the path of the old railroad line. You’ll enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the roses along the one-mile trail. Enjoy the camellias in Heritage Park and continue north across Violet Avenue where the rose trail begins.
The Holmes Medical Museum (111 W. Laurel Ave.; 251-970-1818) served as Baldwin County's first hospital from 1936-1958 and remains mostly unchanged since it was in operation. On display are many original medical artifacts including surgical instruments, operating room machinery and a human skeleton. It’s said that some of the former patients are still around keeping watch. Visitors have told stories of seeing ghosts. The medical museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Downtown Foley is also home to two art galleries and studios. Jan’s Art Studio (115 W. Laurel; 251-971-3836) sells arts and crafts by local artists and also offers art supplies and art classes. The local crafts make great gifts and souvenirs. The Foley Arts Center (211 N. McKenzie St.; 251-943-4381). As you shop, you just might discover your hidden gem. Displays in the large gallery include paintings, mixed media, pottery, jewelry, clothing and many other crafts. The center also offers art classes, enrichment programs and annual events like their Art in the Park juried Art Show during Memorial Day weekend.
Where To Stay
The quaint Hotel Magnolia (119 N. McKenzie St.; 251-952-5005;) has celebrated more than 100 years of history. Built in 1908 by John B. Foley himself, the Hotel Magnolia was renovated in 2006 to serve a new generation of visitors. With all the elegance and craftsmanship of a bygone era, visitors can enjoy the hotel’s luxurious and charming atmosphere, which includes antiques, comfortable, graciously appointed rooms and exquisite mosaic-tiled bathrooms, for about the same price as a garden-variety motel room.
A nearby option is the Magnolia Springs Bed & Breakfast (14469 Oak St., Magnolia Springs; 251-965-7321;). This B&B with five guest rooms sits on a quiet street lined with old oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It has been featured in Southern Living and on HGTV.
At OWA, you can stay at either the accompanying 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites resort hotel (1070 N OWA Blvd, Foley; 251-581-9222) or Creekside Resort (21240 Miflin Rd, Foley; 251-378-9111), a luxury, family-friendly RV park with 61 RV sites, a clubhouse, showers, laundry facility, pool, dog park and playground. It offers back-in lots with 30-Amp and 50-Amp hook-ups.
Where To Eat
OWA is full of interesting restaurants, including a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen restaurant (203 N. OWA Blvd.; 251-236-4600), Groovy Goat (106-A S OWA Blvd.; 251-999-4628) and Trattoria Pizza & Italian (1070 N OWA Blvd.; 251-732-4111).
The lunch buffet at the Gift Horse Restaurant (209 W. Laurel Ave., 251-943-3663;) will satisfy your appetite for Southern food. Their apple cheese casserole is listed in the “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die” brochure. Other dishes on the buffet include fried chicken, seafood bisque, baked chicken, salads, turnip greens, fish and more. If you have room, there are freshly baked cakes like German chocolate, coconut and red velvet. Housed in a 100-year-old building, the restaurant is open for lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Slightly off the beaten path is Wolf Bay Restaurant (20801 Miflin Rd; 251-987-5129). This family-owned local seafood spot has a plentiful salad bar and a tempting menu of high-quality, fresh, daily specials. Many dishes featured today are from their original 1973 menu including a delicious seafood gumbo and stuffed whole flounder. Don’t forget to save room for dessert!
Just 10 minutes and 5.8 miles from downtown Foley on Hwy. 98 awaits the community of Elberta founded by farmers from Germany in the early 1900s.
Experience German heritage every October in Elberta. You can sample locally made sausage, dance, listen to music and be entertained at the Elberta German Sausage Festival.
The Baldwin County Heritage Museum (25521 US Hwy. 98 E.; 251-986-8375) offers a place for visitors to reconnect with the early history of the area. The museum has created a home for historically significant buildings, tractors, farming materials, documents and artifacts.
The Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival
The Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (251-943-3291) takes place the first weekend in May in Foley. Nearly 50 hot air balloons float in the Gulf Coast skies, and the evenings provide spectacular balloon glows. You can enjoy live entertainment, art and craft displays and more at the festival site daily.
You can even take your own hot air balloon ride with Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company (251-970-3589) where you will soar 1,500 to 2,000 feet over the Gulf Coast.
Related Road Trips
Eastern Shore: Girlfriends Bay Getaway
Experience a girlfriends getaway on Alabama’s Eastern Shore where the charming small town of Fairhope offers boutiques, bistros, art and the highest rated Marriott spa in the world just down the road. As you cruise along Scenic Highway 98 to Fairhope, you’ll drive under canopies of oak trees draped with Spanish moss.