After the show
Beat the masses to the shuttles
When the festival finishes each night, lines for the shuttles get hectic, crowded, hot, sweaty, and occasionally vomit-y, so you might not want to stick around for that curtain call of the night. Leave halfway into the set and you’ll avoid the rush completely. If you’re a die-hard bitter-ender, just remember the last shuttle leaves half an hour after the final performance, and it's a loooong walk back.
The best bars to postgame
We’ve told you about about Flora-Bama, the bar on the state line near Pensacola, where you can drink in two states at once. And it’s an absolute must-go while you’re there. But also check out Live Bait for live music, or Anchor Bar and Grill in Orange Beach for some seriously ramped-up bar food. LuLu's is the Buffett family outpost in Gulf Shores, take that for what it is.
Where to eat
Never underestimate the wait for a table at Hangout
Your natural temptation will be to grab a meal at the Hangout restaurant, aka the place that started it all. This is all well and good if you’re one of the lucky few who gets there at 10am and snags a table. The restaurant has a spectacular view of the beach and the main stage, but tables there don’t turn over. So get in for breakfast if you even want a chance, and tip your waitress well.
Locals picks > Yelp
Much like they do for people traveling to the beach, the Gulf Shores Tourism Department has put together a list of curated locals picks called Eat Your Way Around the Beach, a far more reliable and less ad-driven resource than Yelp! But if you don’t feel like searching their suggestions, here are the best spots for we've found in our visits to Gulf Shores.
Breakfast: Hazel’s Nook
Picture a small Southern diner with heart-stopping grits, fluffy pancakes, and surprisingly great coffee, and you're probably picturing Hazel's. Right down to the waitresses who've probably worked there since the 1960s. Breakfast here might not be the greatest culinary experience of your life, but it's definitely a lesson in Southern hospitality.
Barbecue: Hog Wild
This spot was actually featured in the PBS documentary film Alabama's Barbecue Legends, and for good reason: they slow smoke their meats in-house. A giant platter of their baby-back ribs is a perfect pre-show warmup meal for your whole crew.
Pizza: Papa Rocco's
The pizza offerings in Gulf Shores don't extend much past national chains and slices inside the festival. If you want a whole pie, this locals' favorite is the closest to a big-city pizzeria you'll find, and also slings burgers and subs.
Burgers: Pink Pony Pub
This historic, bright pink bar serves hands-down the best burger in Gulf Shores, nachos with enough meat that two people can easily split an order, and a huge list of po-boys if you want a little local flavor.
Seafood: DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen
This dark, cool spot a couple of blocks from the festival entrance is known for its coconut shrimp. But the rest of the menu is probably the best seafood you'll find in Gulf Shores, and still has some good pasta options if you have non-seafood eaters in your group.
Ice cream: Matt's Homemade Ice Cream
Definitely get the banana pudding.
Obviously, you’ve got your own schedule to keep to. But in making it, consider the highest traffic time leaving Gulf Shores is between 10am and 12pm on Monday. Make a stop at Hazel's on your way out of town and wait it out if you can.
If this is your first Hangout Festival, barring disaster it likely won’t be your last. And if you’ve got any tips from this year, or previous ones, please feel free to share them below. Enjoy your weekend in the Alabama sunshine, and we'll see you on the beach!
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer at Thrillist. See his Hangout pictures on Instagram @meltrez1.