OWA :: An Amazing Indoor Waterpark & It’s 3 Hours Away!
The Gulf Shores / Orange Beach Alabama area is one of our go-to destinations every year. We absolutely love the beach and head that way once the summer hits. For the last couple of years every time we take that turn onto Foley Beach Expressway, we kept seeing OWA being built off to the right. While we were evacuated from Hurricane Ida, we went over there and checked out the shopping and restaurant area. It was super cute and I knew we’d be back.
Fast forward to about a month ago, I was sitting here trying to figure out what we were going to do for my daughter’s 11th birthday. If you have read my other article, “Why We Said Buh-Bye to Birthday Parties,” then you are familiar with my personal philosophy: experiences over things. The hard part though is that since her birthday is on the 21st, there are never a whole lot of options for us to do something fun and reasonable wedged in between Christmas and Mardi Gras. My 7-year-old (and an avid Great Wolf Lodge lover) suggested an indoor waterpark. While I didn’t feel like making the 8+ hour drive to one of them, all of a sudden I remembered OWA! I went down the research rabbit hole and within a day our entire trip was booked & planned.
Let’s start off with what OWA is! Pronounced “oh-wah” the name is inspired by the Muscogee Creek language that means “big water.” Right next to the Foley Sports Complex, the vision was to create a family-friendly destination that had retail, dining, and entertainment options for people of all ages. Well, let me tell you – they delivered!
I have never stayed anywhere but on the beach whenever we take a trip to the gulf coast, so I wanted to check out what options were available that were close and convenient. Located on property within walking distance to all the fun, is a Marriott Townplace Suites. After checking it out I decided to book with them! All of the suites have a kitchenette in them with a full fridge, sink, dishwasher, stovetop, microwave, and all of your cooking essentials. You also have a 4-person dinette and a chaise for relaxing. If you love avoiding the front desk as I do, you can check in and access your wireless key directly from your Marriott app. The hotel offers a great breakfast in the morning for a reasonable price, has a heated indoor pool, and offers cool things like board games & appliance rental at the front desk. The gift shop area could use a little spicing up with more essentials, but you are not even 5 minutes from both a Publix and an Aldi. The rooms were very clean, the hotel was not noisy (even with a huge volleyball competition staying there at the same time!), and overall it was perfect for a 3-day weekend. We would definitely stay there again.
There are so many dining options at OWA right on the property. We ate dinner at Groovy Goat one night and it is the perfect place for the whole family! They have big screens, live music, and delicious food, and are open late every night. Just to prepare you – it is also attached to a giant arcade that my kids discovered on their way to the bathroom (more on that later!). We also ended up getting a pizza from Valerio’s Pizza & Italian that was sooo good. There is literally something for everyone’s taste: Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar, El Diablo Express, Sushi Co., and Sassy Bass Amazing Grill. I wish we would have had more time to try the restaurants because I bet that are all great. If you are looking for something sweet they have a Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop & Cinnabon. If the kids have been driving you crazy all day, they have C’est Le Vin Wine Shop, Rum Island Daquiri Bar, and Murder Creek Distillery (that offers moonshine tastings). I got a delicious cotton candy-flavored drink from Murder Creek and snacked on a few bites of moonshine-infused pickles. Check the closing times of all of the restaurants before you go, they vary depending on the season. Right down the road, there are a ton of options if you can’t find something you like at OWA, we made the trip over to Flora-Bama for lunch which is just 20 minutes away!
They have a variety of retail options to browse while you walk around at OWA. With Alvin’s Island right there, you can grab any last-minute swim supplies or beachwear that you need. They have the Fairhope Soap Company which my daughter loved getting some bath bombs, I could have browsed in there forever. The Brandon Styles Magic Shop is really cool, check his schedule for the nightly variety shows that he offers as well! With other stores like Native Treasures, Body Tune Plus, and Somethin’ Sassy you can find some cute trinkets and gifts to bring home. If you are feeling crafty they have Paint Party Studios where you can go in and make yourself something to remember the trip by. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but The Sweet Tooth at OWA is a giant candy store that will be impossible to avoid! We picked up a Beanboozled game for fun in the room. With the Foley Outlets only 5 minutes away, there is a ton of good shopping around OWA as well.
There are lots of great things to keep you and the kids entertained at OWA. As I mentioned earlier they have a giant arcade that stays open late nightly. The games were really fun and there were lots of chances for the kids to win tickets. They have a VR rollercoaster that my kids didn’t want to get off of. Since it is attached to Groovy Goat it is easy to grab a drink or to go food on your way out too. The Brandon Styles Variety shows run all week long and is conveniently located in the middle of all the action. Clash eSports & VR Experience offers private and play together options for a variety of different gaming devices. The OWA Theater has a list of shows that run all year long as well if you are looking for some real entertainment. You can regularly find live music at both Groovy Goat and Rum Island Daiquiri Bar.
Now let’s talk about the real fun – Tropic Falls! This amusement park is SO much fun y’all. The first part is the rides that are mostly outdoors. The day that we went it happened to be 55 and rainy, but we were still able to make the best of it. There are 23 rides overall and we rode 21 of them (We don’t do super high spinning things like swings, my anxiety won’t allow it). They have an amazing roller coaster, Rollin’ Thunder, which was voted the 7th best rollercoaster in the country! They have two smaller coasters as well which are great for little kids. I noticed that all of the rides except two allow children 48 inches or above ride alone, but they have a full height list on their website if you want to check it out. They have a Haunted Mansion-type interactive ride, a super unique one called Wave Rider, and the Alabama Wham-a which was like an upside-down Ferris wheel that even my 7-year-old braved. All of the ride operators were so lovely too, talking to us, making jokes, etc. We had a blast and rode our favorite more than once.
The Indoor Waterpark at Tropic Falls
This place is phenomenal. We love a good waterpark and especially a really great indoor one! You enter through a gift shop that is stocked with any essentials you may need throughout your day. They have large restrooms and changing rooms, lockers are available for rent. Now, this may sound funny, but you don’t feel like you’re at an indoor water park. They nailed the temperature and ventilation system in there, no nasty indoor pool smell and it’s not muggy – just temperate and nice. At about the size of a football field, it is the perfect size for both kids and parents. None of the water inside the enclosure is more than 3ft deep which is amazing! I didn’t have to worry my little one was off in the deep end somewhere if I am not looking. The food was good and priced as you’d expect, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that they also have a bar inside the waterpark (with Shark Attack mocktails for the kids too!) They have equipped the retractable glass dome with giant movie-size screens on either side, perfect for anyone who wants to watch the game while the kids play like my husband. The lazy river is swift with lots of lifeguard supervision and the slides are all in one area together. With 7 slides to choose from, there is something that everyone will enjoy going on. Here is one thing however that I have never seen before: there are scales at the top of the waterslides and there are weight limits of either 250 or 300 lbs on certain ones. I understand the need for safety, especially in the water, but it definitely took me a little off guard as I watched people get turned away from riding. The kiddie area is awesome with its own waterslides, and it is conveniently placed in between the bar, the tv, and the lazy river entrance/exit. Once it gets dark outside the waterpark is lit up in neon light which was some awesome ambiance, and they actually sell passes to just go after 4 pm. They’re currently expanding and adding a huge wave pool and performance stage, I can’t wait to go back once that’s done.
OWA Park gets 5 stars from my family, but I have to give one piece of advice to close this out. Since it is so close to us (the drive from New Orleans is only 3 hours), I HIGHLY suggest going sometime in the off-season if you can. From what the employees and also other people that I know have gone, summertime and peak season can be an entirely different experience. We had literally no crowd at all and never waited for a ride or slide. But I can imagine if it was packed and in 90* heat I may have felt differently.
Check out all the highlights from our trip on the accompanying reel on Instagram and Facebook!