The annual beach trip is a ritual as common to many families as movie night and lunch at Grandma’s. Most people don’t need more allure than the warm waters of the Gulf and the sugar-white sand. However, the Coast is becoming known for several festivals and events that may just be worth planning your next beach trip around.

Oyster Cook-off

Enjoy live music, football on the big screen, and, of course, oysters prepared by more than 40 of the best restaurants in the region at the 6th Annual Oyster Cook-off on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The event, being held at the Hangout, is free to the public and tasting tickets are $2 each or $30 for a book of 20 tickets.

The Hangout Music Festival

The Hangout Music Festival is quickly growing to be one of the most popular events on the Coast. Nationally recognized musical acts converge on the beaches of Gulf Shores to perform for more than35,000 people on the beautiful sugar white sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast for three days each May. Headliners such as Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Mathew’s band have graced the stage on the beach to rock the Alabama Gulf Coast and the thousands that attend this annual event. The 2014 Hangout Festival is scheduled for May 16-18. Although prices have not been announced yet, expect general admission to cost around $210 for a weekend pass.

hangout music festival gulf shores

The Mullet Toss

The infamous Flora-Bama Bar, located on the Alabama/Florida border in Perdido Key, sponsors the Annual Interstate Mullet Toss. Hundreds of people wait for the opportunity to throw a mullet from inside a circle in Florida over the state line into Alabama in hopes of being crowned the new champion. The Mullet Toss is always held the last full weekend in April. There’s a small cover charge to get in the Flora-Bama, and a $15 entry fee if you want to toss a mullet yourself.

National Shrimp Festival

The National Shrimp Festival is a staple of what Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are all about. This annual four-day event, always the second weekend in October, brings more than 300,000 people together to enjoy local gulf shrimp, art and live music. Shrimp Festival is held at the Hangout, and admission is free.

Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival          

The Gulf Coast Balloon Festival, will be going into its 10th year in 2014. The event draws more than 50 hot air balloons for two days of family fun at the Foley Sports Complex. The balloon festival, which includes arts and crafts, music and a Kids Zone, is held in mid-June. Admission is free.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a Gulf Coast tradition that is not just limited to the widely known party in New Orleans or the “Family Mardi Gras” in Mobile, but rather something that each Gulf Coast town takes and blends into something unique.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are no exceptions, with each town offering a one of a kind take on Mardi Gras with boat parades that stream right down the Intracoastal Waterway. Be sure to bring a large bag to stash your daily haul of beads and moon pies. Mardi Gras will fall the first week in March during 2014.

SEC Beachfest

The United States is a football-obsessed country, but in the South, football fans are a different breed. TheSEC Beachfest is right up every football fan’s alley with talks from legendary coaches, skill clinics by former players, and plenty of entertainment to hold a fan over ntil SEC football season kicks-off in the fall. Beachfest, held on the main public beach in Gulf Shores, is the third weekend in August and weekend passes are $25.

Since most of these annual events happen off peak season, it’s a great way to check out the Gulf Coast at a different time of year and start a new family tradition.