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The Adorable Gulf Coast Town That Feels Like A Hallmark Christmas Movie

Foley is an adorable Gulf Coast town teeming with festive cheer and feels like something straight out of a Hallmark movie. From the magnificent live trees draped in Christmas lights to the quaint park, community activities, and a hometown parade, Foley is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into your favorite Hallmark movie — only this time it will be real! 

Visit Foley and Visit OWA provided hosted visits and experiences. OWA is an amusement park with a downtown shopping and restaurant area. Many people think OWA is an abbreviation for something, but it is not. OWA is the Creek Indian word for big water. All opinions are my own. 

Christmas In The Park

Heritage Park is in the center of downtown Foley, and just like in Hallmark movies, 

it is where the community gathers the first weekend in December to celebrate the upcoming holidays. The events begin on Friday evening with Christmas in the Park.

The park shines bright with all white lights at every entrance and throughout the park. Music plays in the background, and everywhere you look, there are lights — some in the shape of a snowflake, some in the form of angels, or in the shape of stars or hanging from the branches of a gigantic tree in the corner of the park. 

A large pavilion painted white with white lights and other festive decorations is where the mayor talks to the people attending. He announces some contest winners, and Santa arrives to visit the children.

Festive Tree Lighting 

In Hallmark fashion, the park has a countdown to light the giant Christmas Tree as the entire community watches with great anticipation. The tree is decorated in thousands of glittering white lights with red and gold ornaments.

A Fun Hometown Christmas Parade

Saturday is another community day, starting with the annual Foley Christmas Parade. The parade lasts approximately 45 minutes and includes everything from marching bands, twirling groups, fire trucks, floats, tractors and wagons, and more. Almost all the floats throw candy, and the streets are lined with people. We were fortunate to watch the parade from the balcony of the Hotel Magnolia, which was behind the announcer’s stand.

Marketplace of the Let It Snow Celebration
Robin O’Neal Smith

Let It Snow Celebration

After the parade, everyone gathers in the park again for the Let It Snow Celebration. 

This family-friendly event has a variety of fun activities for the kids to participate in, such as crafts, face painting, photos with a mermaid, a petting zoo, and festive hair styling. 

Just like in the Hallmark movie festivals, there was also a marketplace for crafts and goods.

You don’t expect to see snow in southern Alabama, but at the Let It Snow Celebration, there was snow!

Snow For The Kids

They had artificial snow machines running throughout one area of the park where kids could enjoy the snowflakes and be transported into a snowglobe-type scene.

Welcoming Community

We honestly felt like we were in a Hallmark movie with all the friendly people we met. We were outsiders visiting their community, and they welcomed us as though we had lived there all our lives. Everywhere we went, there were happy people who greeted us.

Train Museum

The Foley Railroad Museum is housed in a train depot built in 1909. It had been the hub of the city’s activities for over 60 years. When you visit the museum, you can enjoy the memorabilia, tools, and photos that document the town’s history and the role the railroad played in its development. Outside you can view some restored train cars. 

Within the same building, a gigantic Model Train exhibit is displayed. Train lovers will enjoy this expansive layout and over a quarter-mile of track. Dedicated volunteers have put this showcase together and continue to operate it.

Train Rides Around Heritage Park

What better ways to celebrate the holidays than hopping on a train for a ride around the festive park? That train was jam-packed during the fun-filled holiday weekend, with young and old passengers enjoying the lights and festivities. 

Ornaments at the Foley Art Center
Robin O’Neal Smith

Trim-A-Tree Annual Christmas Event

Local artists and artisans have their work on display. The Foley Art Center sponsors the event. The event begins in mid-November and continues till the day before Christmas. You can find all kinds of unique gifts, decorations, and tree ornaments. 

YMCA Elf Ride Parade in Foley
Photo Credit:

YMCA Elf Ride 

Another fun holiday activity was the YMCA Elf Ride Parade. The organizers invited community members to dress as elves, decorate their bicycles, and ride in a parade throughout downtown OWA. Prizes were given for best costume and bike decoration. 

Photo Credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

OWA’s Musical Tree

In the middle of OWA downtown was a musical tree. It has dancing lights that move to the music. It was fun just to watch the tree and the different patterns programmed. 

If you have younger family members with you, they will enjoy participating in the North Pole Experience and Mrs. Claus Crafty Christmas.

Both have hands-on activities, photo opportunities and visits with Santa or Mrs. Claus, and more. 

The author taking a photo in Foley
Robin O’Neal Smith

Great Photo Opportunities

There were outstanding Hallmark-type photo opportunities in both downtown Foley and at OWA. There were places along the street and in the Heritage Park perfect for photos. At OWA, they were everywhere, especially in the North Pole Experience. Families and couples were enjoying having their pictures taken.

Brunch with Santa at OWA in Foley
Robin O’Neal Smith

Brunch With Santa

I think we were some of the oldest kids to enjoy Breakfast With Santa at OWA. It was a fun event, and yes, I sat on Santa’s lap. 

Breakfast was buffet-style. Breakfast included pancakes, hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage links, fruit, OJ, milk, and Mimosa’s for the adults. OWA also had a hot chocolate bar with various items that could be added to the hot chocolate.

Legends in Concert Christmas Show at the OWA
Photo Credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

Great Entertainment

OWA offers plenty of entertainment options for various age groups. The Brandon Styles Variety Show offers music, comedy, magic, impressions, and more for your entertainment. 

Legends in Concert Christmas Show at the OWA Theater is another option for fun entertainment. Its Christmas Show featured a spectacular lineup of tributes to Karen Carpenter, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Celine Dion. This was a full hour and a half of entertainment, and then performers greeted the audience afterward. I was able to get my photo with the man who portrayed Elvis. 

Merry Christmas from Graham Creek
Photo Credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

Get Back To Nature

Graham Creek Nature Preserve includes over 500 acres of nature to explore.

Keeping with the holiday theme, it has created a lighted Christmas Trail through the preserve. You are on a raised boardwalk with rustic appeal as you go through the preserve and can enjoy various light displays, send letters to Santa, enjoy holiday scenes, and numerous photo opportunities to capture those special new Hallmark-type memories. 

Delicious Restaurants

Just like in Hallmark movies, the people of Foley enjoy good food, and the locals are quick to let you know which restaurants will serve up a great meal.

On our first evening in town, we visited the Fish River Grille, where we were introduced to a local favorite, Swamp Soup. I wasn’t sure I wanted to try this, but servers brought me a cup, which was quite good. It was a chicken broth with greens, beans, and spices.

We enjoyed a catfish dinner and fried pickles at the Fish River Grille. The food was delicious, and the service was outstanding. 

Another delicious restaurant in the area is Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant. I started with the Shaka Ceviche and had the Seared Tuna with Mango-Pineapple Salsa as my entree. The atmosphere was fun. We were seated on the deck in a glider that overlooked the water. We were able to watch a beautiful sunset as we finished our meal. 

If you enjoy eating family-style, then Paula Dean’s Family Kitchen will be perfect for you. Located in downtown OWA, you have the option of selecting several entrées and sides, and then everyone at your table enjoys the meal.

Wolf Bay Lodge is a Gulf Coast seafood tradition. Its food is high-quality fresh seafood and has a touch of local ambiance. I enjoyed the coconut shrimp with tropical marmalade. Our meal was terrific and a delicious way to end our time in Foley, Alabama.

Hotel Magnolia in downtown Foley
Photo Credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

Excellent Places To Stay

The gorgeous Hotel Magnolia in downtown Foley is right across the street from Heritage Park, where the Christmas celebrations happen. 

There is a large wrap-around porch that is very inviting. When we visited, we were able to watch the Foley Christmas parade from the balcony of the Hotel. 

The outside of this bed & breakfast looks like it is the star of a Hallmark movie with garland, wreaths, lights, bows, and sprays. 

The historic B&B common areas are furnished with antiques, including items from the 1800s. 

In keeping with the season, the dining, living, and hallway areas were embellished for the holidays with festive trees, lights, and decorations.

The sleeping rooms are elegantly decorated with antique furnishings, and a Southern-style breakfast is served in the dining area each morning.

Even if you don’t leave the hotel, you will feel like you are living a Hallmark fairytale just staying in this adorable B&B where the owners treat you like relatives. Such a welcoming feel to it. 

The hotel also has an event area used for weddings, parties, and other festivities. 

Another lovely place to stay is the Marriott TownePlace Suites on the outskirts of town near OWA Amusement Park. The suites have a kitchen area with a full refrigerator and lots of room. The stay at the TownePlace Suites was very relaxing, and from our window, we could see the park and the fountains. 

I could go on and on about this adorable Gulf Coast town that feels like a Hallmark Christmas movie. There are plenty of small towns in Alabama that have a charm all their own, but Foley has something special. The city is an ode to Christmas with gorgeous decorations and twinkling lights everywhere you look. It certainly has the charm and friendly characteristics so common in Hallmark towns. When you visit, you will feel like a Hallmark movie has come alive with you in it.

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