Nothing screams summertime fun like a trip to an amusement park: the rides, the cotton candy and ice cream, the arcade. In July 2017, the biggest amusement park along the northern Gulf Coast opened to the delight of the thousands of visitors who flock to the sunny beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast each year. It’s called OWA.
OWA is a joint venture between the city of Foley, Alabama, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The name is inspired by the Muscogee Creek language and means “big water.” What it means for you is big fun.
The park is separated into two areas – the Park at OWA and Downtown OWA. Both offer up lots of summertime fun and memories. The Park is where you will find all of the wild rides that will satisfy every thrill seeker. Downtown resembles main street America with rows of shops and amazing dining opportunities.
Jutting up into the crystal blue Alabama sky is the king of the rides at OWA, the Rollin’ Thunder, an incredible maze of steel track that twists, turns, and plummets for the ultimate thrill ride. The anticipation builds as you are strapped into your seat and slowly ride straight up 114 feet to the top of the first drop, then plunge straight down, hitting speeds of 55 MPH. It’s incredible!
Rollin’ Thunder is the centerpiece of the thrill rides at OWA, but there are seven more that will really get that adrenaline pumping, including the Air Racer, which really puts the g-force on you as you perform aerobatic maneuvers in a stunt plane, and the vertical spinning Ferris Wheel called the Alabama Wham’a.
A personal favorite is the Twister. Remember as a kid swinging on a swing set wondering what it would be like to swing completely over the top? That’s the best way to describe the Twister, except that you are also spinning at the end of the arm that swings back and forth until it finally arcs over and makes a complete vertical loop.
If you want something a bit tamer, there are the more traditional but equally fun rides, such as the Flying Carousel, where you circle high in the air on swings. Feel like you’re catching a whitewater wave on the Rockin’ Raft. Or, maybe you want to blast a few ghosts in the Mystic Mansion.
Water, Water Everywhere
Aqua Play is a giant inflatable obstacle course where you can challenge your friends and family to successfully navigate the bouncing obstacles without falling into the lake.
Wake Park is the first of its kind on the coast. A two-tower cable system gives riders a chance to wakeboard, kneeboard, water ski, or tube in the lake. Grab onto the tow line and off you go. If you have never tried it, trained instructors will show you how it’s done.
And coming in 2022, a one-of-a-kind indoor water park! The 65,000 square foot glass building will have a retractable roof so that you can enjoy the Alabama sunshine while splashing around and keep the fun going even in the rain.
The new water park will feature an incredible array of pools, splash pads, floating rivers, and towering waterslides. It will even have an outdoor pool with a tropical setting where you can grab your favorite beverage and feel like you’re miles away in the Caribbean.
Shows And More
Day or night, OWA has some great entertainment and shows that will keep you singing and dancing.
Strolling down the streets of Downtown OWA, you will be treated to music by street musicians and be amazed at the mystical illusions of street magicians. On any given weekend, the park comes alive with live music at their dancing water fountain.
Then there are their big showcase theaters. Brandon Styles will keep you amazed and entertained with his multi-talented show of impressions, music, comedy, and magic.
In the main theater, the ongoing Legends in Concert show brings impeccable talent to the Gulf Coast that recreates the music of some of your favorite singers like Stevie Wonder, Carrie Underwood, Alabama Gulf Coast’s own Jimmy Buffett, Madonna, and the unforgettable Elvis.
The park also holds an eclectic array of events throughout the year like the Town of Terror at Halloween, the German Nachtspiele October Fest, and Wine Fest in April.
Oh sure, there are the usual treat carts wheeling down the cement and brick streets of the park serving quick snacks of hot dogs, nachos, shaved ice, and ice cream that you can grab for a quick pick-me-up before hopping back onto your favorite ride, but OWA goes way beyond that with a street lined with incredible dining venues.
Local favorites include the Groovy Goat, where traditional sports bar eats are given a new twist and nacho servers come to your table and build customized nachos. And don’t forget to partake in their signature margarita, the G.O.A.T., either rocky or frozen.
The tagline of the El Diablo Taqueria and Cantina is “tastes of the ancients with new world surprises.” Locals recommend their ribeye steak that is fired at your table and bursts with the flavor of tequila and lime.
Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy brings the beach vibe of the Gulf Coast to OWA at her Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant. And for family dining, famed chef Paula Deen brings her Southern home cooking to the coast at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.
The streets of Downtown OWA are lined with an eclectic array of shops. Native Treasures features authentic and inspired Native American apparel, jewelry, and home décor. On the other end of the spectrum, Alvin’s Island brings the beach to the park and is a one-stop shop for all of your coastal vacation needs and souvenirs.
For those with a sweet tooth, the aptly named Sweet Tooth has what you need to quench your craving. Your tastebuds will be stimulated at the Spice and Tea Exchange, which offers 140 spices (85 of those are hand-blended) and over 30 exotic teas.
With so much to do and see, you won’t want to leave OWA. The good news is that you won’t have to. Make reservations at the Marriott Townplace Suites. Located within walking distance of Downtown OWA, the Marriott has an impressive set of amenities that makes your visit to the park extra special.
The Ins And Outs
The Park at OWA is generally open Monday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday throughout the summer. A weekend-only schedule begins the second week of August (with the exception of being open on Labor Day Monday). Visit the park’s hours page for the latest schedule and hours of operation in winter and over the Christmas holidays.
Admission to the Park at OWA is $24.99 per person, which allows all-day entry and re-entry. Season passes are only $79.99. If you don’t want to get on one of the rides, a free Non-Rider Pass is available at the gate.
The best advice for a day in the park is to be prepared for sunny days by wearing sunscreen and a hat.