Beat the heat in ‘The River City’
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 01, 2012 | 1564 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Point Mallard Park in Decatur features America’s first wave pool as well as an Olympic pool, diving platforms, a scenic lagoon, several water slides and a “duck” pond for young swimmers. The park is open year-round. Photo s`pecial to the Eagle
Point Mallard Park in Decatur features America’s first wave pool as well as an Olympic pool, diving platforms, a scenic lagoon, several water slides and a “duck” pond for young swimmers. The park is open year-round. Photo s`pecial to the Eagle
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Decatur — Point Mallard Park doesn’t need cartoon characters or cheap thrills to attract visitors. Mother Nature takes care of that.

The 780-acre family park is located on the banks of the Tennessee River and borders the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

“You can be in a water-themed area, go 100 yards and be totally surrounded by nature. It gives the park a very unique personality,” said Julianne Lowman, marketing director for Point Mallard Park and its operator, Decatur Parks and Recreation.

Point Mallard’s wave pool, which was America’s first when it opened in the 1970s, offers a view of the river and nearby Sandy Beach.

The aquatic center also features an Olympic Pool, diving platforms, a scenic lagoon, several water slides and a “duck pond” for young swimmers.

The rest of the park includes an 18-hole golf course, a 25-acre wooded campground, tennis courts, an indoor ice skating rink, an athletic complex and trails for hiking, biking and jogging that skirt the river.

An archery park opened at Point Mallard last week, and a lazy river and double-drop speed slides will be unveiled next season.

Lowman said care is taken to incorporate all new attractions into their surroundings.

“When Parks and Recreation took over several years ago, we tried to bring some cohesion to the park and maintain the integrity of the natural environment,” she said.

The department hosts numerous free family events at Point Mallard throughout the year, but the park is particularly busy during the summer.

The Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic is held each Memorial Day weekend.

Independence Day is time for the Spirit of America Festival. Billed as north Alabama’s largest free patriotic event, it includes live music, children’s activities, a Miss Point Mallard Pageant and large fireworks display.

The theme of Wednesday’s fireworks show is “America: We are One.”

The event also features a special ceremony to honor a select group of individuals who have sacrificed to make their community and country a better place.

On Labor Day, Civil War buffs will congregate at Point Mallard for the September Skirmish, a reenactment held annually to mark the beginning of the Battle for Decatur.

Lowman said that because Point Mallard is operated by a city rather than a company, it can offer advantages over typical theme parks such as free parking and reasonable admission prices.

Daily admission is $18 for most visitors and $13 for children 5 to 11 as well as seniors over 62.

Nominal additional fees are charged for activities such as ice skating, which is $4 in the summer.

Lowman said that Point Mallard draws thousands of people to Decatur each year because it offers a rare combination of breathtaking scenery and affordable fun for every member of the family.

“My idea of fun and my kid’s idea of fun are totally different ideas. In this venue, everybody’s happy,” she said.

Other options for staying cool on vacation this summer:

Splash Adventure

Formerly Alabama Adventure, the park reopened in May with a new owner and an emphasis on water attractions.

The park features a zip line, wave pool, lazy river, free fall and a variety of slides. Recent additions include the MIST-ical Maze and Wipeout Adventure Course.

General admission tickets are $25.99 for adults and $19.99 for children and seniors.

Season passes are currently available for $59.99.

Gulf Shores-

Orange Beach

Alabama’s Gulf Coast has 32 miles of surf and sand to enjoy.

Gulf State Park alone features more than three miles of beaches as well as the second-longest fishing pier on the Gulf of Mexico.

Several outfitters based in Orange Beach offer dolphin sightseeing tours.

Families who need a break from the beach might consider spending time at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo or The Wharf, which boasts the tallest Ferris Wheel in the Southeast.

Popular eateries in the area include The Hangout, LuLu’s, King Neptune’s and the Flora-Bama.

In August, Gulf Shores will be sponsoring the inaugural SEC Beach Fest. Several current and former SEC coaches are expected to attend.