Just past Mobile and most of the way to Gulf Shores lies a new and exciting destination called OWA (visitOWA.com).

I knew that I would feel right at home as the turn off to head south was right next to a new Bucc-ees location (I asked some locals, and they are just as obsessed as I am). Developed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, OWA provides an all-in-one destination for restaurants, live entertainment, and even an amusement park. It’s also located immediately adjacent to the City of Foley, Alabama’s $40 million sports-tourism complex.

I checked into the brand-new Marriott Towne Place Suites, which is located on-site, so definitely plan to park your car and be set to walk around for your entire stay. The Towne Place Suites is located right along the 14-acre lake that OWA built for their 520-acre complex. The hotel is an all-suites property with each room having a kitchen with full-sized appliances including dishwasher. There’s even a large outdoor deck with BBQ grills and fire pits for guests to use while they stay. Don’t worry parents, they have a bar as well. 

Dreams come true for the family at OWA.
Rolling Thunder adds a bit of thrill to an exciting day.

Right next door to the hotel was a theater that was home to one of the two live shows that both really blew me away. The Legends in Concert (legendsinconcert.com) show is a national production company that hires performers that both look and sound just like the original artist and perform their greatest hits. The acts travel around to the different Legends in Concert locations (you might be familiar with them from their Las Vegas location) and the musical acts rotate every few months. The acts that were at OWA when I was there were Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and Elvis and WOW, they really brought the house down. The theater only holds maybe 150 people, so you are really close to the action. Backup dancers (they must have had 20 costume changes) and pyrotechnics really rounded out the experience. These are professional musicians, and while you might not be 100% fooled into thinking they are the original, they are shockingly close.

The other live show I checked out was in the main hub of OWA, which is called Downtown OWA. It is centered around a main street that is pedestrian only and surrounds you with a variety of retail, restaurants, dancing fountains, and even a movie theater. The Brandon Styles Magic Show (brandonstyles.com) was a family performance that featured accompaniment by both his wife and daughter. He had both adults and kids rolling with laughter and the magic tricks and illusion were top notch in his one-hour show. He does a variety of shows, so check out his website to see what is on the schedule. His small theater seats only a few dozen, and with several helpers selected from the audience, you have a good chance of being a participant yourself. This is simply a must do, especially if you have kids with you.

Paula Dean’s family style dinner presentation.
Fish tacos to die for.

The other main draw to OWA is apparent when you are turning into the parking lot: The Park at OWA. Open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it features 22 attractions across 14 acres. While it’s not a mega-sized amusement park, it still provides tons of fun for only $35 general admission and $28 for juniors (under 48”). Did I mention that all parking is free at OWA, as well? If you don’t want to ride any rides and just look over the kids, then that’s no problem and there’s no fee. You can even bring in alcoholic drinks that you’ve purchased at the restaurants inside OWA. 

And the restaurants are certainly plentiful at OWA. The highlight was dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen (pauladeensfamilykiychen.com). Served family style and all you can eat, you get to choose from your southern favorites and they will keep them coming. Chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, and meatloaf were the choices at my table, and the fried chicken was incredibly fresh and juicy. The more people eating at your table, the more entrees you get to select. The sides were also great with our macaroni and cheese and green beans really hit the spot. Every person is also entitled to a dessert (which is the only thing they’ll let you take to go) and the cobbler and banana pudding were greatly enjoyed a few hours later.

Groovy Goat is an upscale sports bar with some fun fare including nachos prepared tableside. They even have a 26’ screen to watch the big game. They had great beer selection on tap with a killer burger. Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar is a small Gulf Coast chain that delivered one of the better orders of fish tacos I’ve had in recent memory. The beer batter fried avocado fritas were also super tasty. They have a back deck that overlooks the lake with sand and swinging benches that really lets you enjoy the relaxed vibe. 

Crazy Donuts is a place that must be seen to be believed. There is no mistake in their name as you can get chicken tenders or a burger on a donut. Places like this are catnip for kids and they’ll be begging to walk back over to get another one of the 28 different entrees available. If you just want a sweet donut as a snack, they have plenty of those as well. 

The other dining highlight was the C’est Le Vin wine bar (www.facebook.com/clvwines). Located in a prime spot in Downtown OWA, they have an incredible curated wine selection and the friendliest staff and owner. They have great wine flights, and are happy to make you a charcuterie and cheese tasting board to go along with it. One of the best parts of C’est Le Vin is that they sell bottles that you can take to go for extremely affordable prices. We all know restaurants and bars mark up their alcohol as high as they possibly can, and many of the options at C’est Le Vin are at or just above retail price. Also, remember how you can take drinks to go and walk throughout OWA with them? Gotta love that!

A long, fun filled family day to remember. Photos by Wilson Calvert

There’s plenty of shopping on-site at OWA with Fairhope Soap Company, The Spice & Tea Exchange, Pepper Palace, Alvin’s Island Tropical Department Store, Parker & Co. Boutique, and more all right in Downtown OWA. Off-site, you’re only 10 miles from the coast and there’s a nearby outlet mall. 

OWA also delivers on special events. They do firework shows for major holidays (including upcoming Labor Day and with a special Labor Day car show from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 where cool cars will line the streets of Downtown OWA. They are also doing OWA Island Movie Nights on Sept. 19 and 26 where they will be showing a family friendly movie in the OWA amphitheater (bring a chair!). 

Whether going for a sports tournament, a beach weekend, or just a weekend away, OWA will bring some new experiences and certainly some fun to you and your family. Southern Alabama has the closest top-tier beaches to Houston, and if you wanted to ditch some of the high beach-front prices then this is a really unique opportunity to be close enough to the beach for a day in the sand while also providing all of the fun and excitement of an amusement park, live entertainment, and tons of fun restaurants. OWA is currently open, and be sure to check OWA’s calendar on their website visitOWA.com for the latest in updates and any fun new planned events.

Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist / Director of Operations
I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.

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