The days are longer, the skies are a deep blue, and the temperatures are just right. It must be summertime. Well, not quite, but close enough. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, the nation’s “unofficial” start of summertime fun in the sun. From the beaches of the Gulf to the cool, shady mountains in the north, Alabama has plenty of fun-filled events lined up to fill your holiday weekend.
We’ve highlighted seven favorites to kick your summer into high gear.
1. Joe Wheeler State Park Watermelon Eating Contest
Okay, it’s the unofficial start of summer, and what is the quintessential summertime event? A good old-fashioned watermelon eating contest, of course! One of the first of the season takes place at Joe Wheeler State Park Memorial Day weekend.
Kids up to 12 years old can sink their teeth into the sweetest, juiciest, sloppiest watermelons for fun and prizes on the stage behind the state park lodge. The contest begins at 2 pm on May 25.
Admission to the park is $4 for ages 12 and up, $2 for kids six to 12, $2 for seniors (62+), or you can pay $20 for a carload of six people (depending on which is cheaper).
2. Lake Guntersville State Park Memorial Day Bike Ride
There’s nothing like a morning bike ride in the cool breeze coming off a lake. For this Memorial Day Weekend, bring your bicycle to Lake Guntersville State Park and join the staff for the annual Memorial Day Bike Ride and Parade on Saturday, May 25 in the park’s campground. The fun begins at 9 am in the Outdoor Classroom where everyone will have a chance to decorate their bikes. The parade through the campground begins at 10 am.
3. Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival
The sight of dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons silently floating through a deep blue sky is spectacular enough, but wait until you see them on the ground after dusk when they light their jets and do a balloon glow!
It’s all part of the annual Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival held May 25 and 26 at Decatur’s Point Mallard. All three days are filled with food booths, arts and crafts, entertainment, a car and tractor show, and of course, the balloons. You can fly in one—not free flight—but tethered safely to the ground. Tethered rides are free and available on a first come, first served basis. Admission and parking are free.
4. Fort Morgan Living History Memorial Day
For 185 years, historic Fort Morgan has occupied a peninsula that juts out into Mobile Bay and separates the bay from the Gulf of Mexico. Since the military occupied the fort from 1834 until World War II, it’s an appropriate place to visit on Memorial Day to honor the men and women who died in the service of our country.
Historical reenactors wearing period military uniforms will conduct guided tours of the fort and present small arms and artillery demonstrations throughout the day. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 and college students, and free for active military and veterans.
5. Pepsi Beach Ball Drop
Located only a few miles north of Alabama’s snowy white beaches and turquoise Gulf waters, the Wharf has plenty of attractions to keep you and your family busy any time of year. But, during Memorial Day weekend it’s extra special.
Of course you’re familiar with the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City. Well, instead of one large ball dropping, imagine 5,000 beach balls falling from the sky. The annual Pepsi Beach Ball Drop takes place on May 24 from 5 pm to 9 pm and includes a ton of games and activities for kids, including face painting, a bouncy house, a surfing simulator, trampoline games, and animals to pet—there’s even a kangaroo. There will also be a variety of foods and beverages to choose from.
At 6:25 pm, it’s time for the big drop. If you catch one of the beach balls and it has a letter on it, you win a prize! At 8:45, the festivities conclude with a spectacular fireworks display. Admission is free.
6. Smith Lake Park Memorial Day Festival
A little putt-putt golf, a little stand-up paddleboarding, and a ton of fun for the entire family await you at the annual Smith Lake Memorial Day Music Festival, which takes place in Cullman on May 25 from 8 am to 4 pm.
Live music begins at 9:30 am and lasts until close. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard and enjoy the beautiful waters of Smith Lake. Or, take a dip in their swimming pool, which officially opens for the summer during the fest. During the festival, browse arts and crafts displays and sample a wide assortment of mouthwatering food at one of the many vendors. Admission to the park is free.
7. GLOWA at OWA
If you’re down at the beach, looking for something different to do after the sun goes down, check out the brand new Glowa at OWA.
OWA is Foley’s thrilling new amusement park with rides for kids of all ages, plus a downtown area that mimics an old town square and includes shops and restaurants. During Memorial Day weekend, the downtown area ignites with family-friendly entertainment, including a lighted water fountain show, continuous DJ music, a large dance floor, and a fireworks display. Admission to Glowa is free, but there is a charge to enter the ride area.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.