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Planning the perfect vacation can be somewhat daunting but in Alabama you won’t need to make tough decisions – this southern state has something for everyone. Sun-seekers and water-sport enthusiasts can have the time of their lives exploring over 32 miles of sun-drenched coastline lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf Coast. Outdoor adventure seekers have an almost endless list of activities to keep them happy including golf, hiking, biking, rock-climbing, fishing, hunting, birding and camping. Alabama is also packed with historic and cultural attractions, many of which you can discover on a road trip along the famous Alabama Civil Rights Trail. In addition you will find year-round sunny weather, 22 State Parks, talented crafters, great food, arts, museums and everything else you need for a memorable vacation.
The USS Alabama (aka BB-60 or Mighty A) was built in 1942 and saw active duty in World War II in both the North Atlantic and the South Pacific. Today this historic battleship forms the highlight of the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, which is dedicated to all Alabama citizens who were part of the US Armed Forces. You can tour the battleship and see how the 2,500-strong crew lived and worked all those years ago, before moving on to explore the fascinating submarine, the USS Drum. Other exhibits at the park include the Aircraft Pavilion (which contains over 28 aircraft including a recently restored Marine I helicopter), the Tanks and Artillery section and several memorials.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, 2703 Battleship Parkway, Mobile, AL 36602,
Ph. 251 433 2703
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute offers all visitors a deeper understanding of the journey of the Civil Rights Movement, from its inception in the 1950’s and 1960’s to the present time. The institute comprises a large permanent exhibit which includes several galleries, archives, meeting rooms and exhibition space for rotating exhibits in the Odessa Woolfolk Gallery. You can start your visit by watching an eight-minute introductory video before setting off on a self-guided tour of the permanent exhibit which includes multi-media exhibits in the Confrontation Gallery, the Movement Gallery and several others which depict the many historic struggles caused by racial segregation.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 Sixteenth Street North, Birmingham, AL 35203,
Ph. 205 328 9636
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
One of Alabama’s most popular attractions for all ages is the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham. In his heyday during the 1960’s George Barber raced Porches, achieving an impressive 63 first place wins and igniting his ambition to establish a world-class museum to showcase his collection of vintage racing cars and bikes. Today you can see the world’s largest collection of Lotus racecars, as well as several other brilliant vehicles nearly all of which have been completely restored to track-ready condition. In addition to the cars the multi-storey, state-of-the-art museum also showcases a remarkable collection of racing bikes. After viewing the awesome collections you can visit the research library and the gift shop to pick up some Barber memorabilia.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, 6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham, AL 35203, Ph. 205 298 9040
Bryant Denny Stadium
The enormous Bryant Denny Stadium is located on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and is home to the Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team. The historic stadium originally opened in 1929 with a seating capacity of 12,000 but a string of enlargements and improvements have resulted in the stadium becoming one of the nation’s top five campus football venues with a current seating capacity of over 100,000. Besides football you can watch a wide variety of other sports including baseball, basketball, gymnastics and softball at the stadium or take a behind-the-scenes tour led by one of the university students. Before you leave you can visit the shop to stock up on Crimson Tide products.
Bryant Denny Stadium, 920 Paul W Bryant Drive, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401, Ph. 205 348 2262
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
At the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about space travel and the incredible people responsible for the national Space Program. Your journey through the fascinating exhibits will show you how astronauts function in outer space and how vital experiments are undertaken at the International Space Station. There are a variety of hands-on exhibits to thrill all ages and you can watch daily film features in the Spacedome IMAX Theatre or in the National Geographic Theater. You can view over 20 rockets and missiles in the Rocket Park and see the orbiter, Pathfinder, on display in the Shuttle Park. In addition you can have hours of fun trying out several simulators or climbing the Mars Wall. Younger visitors can enjoy Kidspace and the Mars Play Station.
USSRC, One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805, Ph. 256 837 3400
Dexter Parsonage Museum
The Dexter Parsonage Museum occupies the historic parsonage where Rev. Vernon Johns and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived and worked, and is essential viewing for anyone interested in history, architecture and the Civil Rights Movement. The original clapboard Baptist church to which the parsonage is attached was founded in 1877 in a slave trader’s pen and the current red brick building dates back to 1889. Much of the furniture and fittings have been preserved and many were in use by Dr. King and his family. You can join a guided tour of the museum and the church and see the actual pulpit where Dr. King once preached. The museum also includes the King-Johns Garden for Reflection where visitors are urged to take a stroll and reflect on the teachings of two of Dexter’s most famous ministers.
Dexter Parsonage Museum, 454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104, Ph. 334 263 3970
McWane Science Center
Birmingham’s McWane Science Center has been welcoming inquiring minds of all ages since it first opened its doors in 1998. The multi-level center offers a wide diversity of interactive exhibits that will teach you about everything from dinosaurs and sting-rays to creating square and triangular bubbles. On the lower level you can admire a myriad of marine animals in the aquarium (which includes a touch-tank) before moving up to the ground level where you will find the IMAX Dome Theater, the Bubble Room and Science Quest. The next level is devoted to Itty Bitty Magic City (where the youngest visitors can have fun), dinosaurs, monsters and more, and the top level features visiting exhibits and the chance to get creative in the Art and Tech Gallery.
McWane Science Center, 200 19th Street North, Birmingham, AL 35203, Ph. 205 714 8300
At Alligator Alley in Summerdale you can learn all you ever wanted to know about alligators. The alligator farm was established in 2004 to provide a home for countless “rescued” alligators – usually animals which wander out of the wilds and find themselves in animal/human conflict. At Alligator Alley you can go on a guided tour to see up to 450 alligators of all shapes and sizes, from tiny hatchlings to 50-year old ten foot “monsters”. You can watch them interact, sunbathe, swim, and even get the chance to hold a young one or help at feeding time. You can also take a nature walk along an elevated boardwalk to see the alligators in their natural surroundings and to spot other wildlife such as turtles, owls and ospreys.
Alligator Alley, 19950 Highway 71, Summerdale, AL 36580, Ph. 251 946 2483
Huntsville Botanical Gardens
The Huntsville Botanical Gardens offer an oasis of beauty and serenity and beckon both locals and visitors to come and spend a few hours getting back in touch with nature. The gardens have something for everyone – you can stroll along shady paths along the Dogwood Trail to see a host of shade-loving plants or delight your senses with color and fragrance in the Annual Garden. There are many more beautiful corners to explore, each of which contains themed gardens to thrill all plant lovers. The younger generation has also been carefully considered and you can bring the children to enjoy the wonderful Children’s Garden which is full of fun and surprises which include a Storybook Garden and a maze.
Huntsville Botanical Gardens, 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35805,
Ph. 256 830 4447
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Bellingrath Gardens and Home encompasses a flourishing 65-acre garden and the beautifully restored stately mansion which dates back to 1934 and is operated as the Bellingrath Museum Home. The garden attracts nature lovers all year round and the property is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, nature and unusual architecture. The original mansion was constructed using salvaged bricks and ironwork in what the architect, George B. Rogers referred to as the “English Renaissance” style and was considered to be way ahead of its time when it was built. The interiors have been carefully preserved just as they were in 1934 and in the six-car garage you can now view a significant collection of Boehm porcelain.The surrounding gardens include a rose garden, conservatory, mirror lake and rockery, among other gems.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home, 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore, AL36582,
Ph. 251 973 2217
Birmingham Museum of Art
Dedicated to instilling a love of art in each and every visitor, the Birmingham Museum of Art is proudly home to an enormous and diverse collection of more than 25,000 examples of paintings, prints, sculptures and decorative arts. Within the permanent exhibits you can find examples from various cultures including Asia, Europe, Africa, and America, including many examples of Native American Art. To enrich your experience at the museum you can join a free docent-guided tour or bring your children to enjoy some of the children’s hands-on areas. Families can pick up an ArtVenture passport and collect stamps towards a fun prize every time they visit the museum.
Birmingham Museum of Art, 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd, Birmingham, Al 35203
Ph. 205 254 2565
Rosa Parks Library and Museum
A must-see Alabama attraction for anyone interested in history and the Civil Rights Movement, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum is dedicated to the memory of Rosa Parks, an ordinary American citizen whose quiet rebellion helped change the face of American history. Your visit to the museum, which is situated on the campus of Troy University, will reveal how Mrs. Parks’ 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to several interactive permanent exhibits the museum also hosts regular temporary exhibits, lectures and workshops and facilities include a public research library and a Children’s Wing featuring the Cleveland Avenue Time Machine.
Rosa Parks Museum, 252 Montgomery St, Montgomery, AL 36104, Ph. 334 241 8615
GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico
The GulfQuest Maritime Museum is by far one of the most interesting Alabama attractions for all ages. Here you can learn just about everything to do with maritime history and modern-day shipping as you make your way along multiple decks of a life-sized replica of a container ship. You will need to allow yourself plenty of time to make the most of your visit as there are over 90 interactive exhibits as well as various simulators, displays and theaters. You can learn how to operate a crane, navigate and interpret weather data supplied by live satellite. Kids can have fun dressing up and exploring in the Junior Mariners exhibit and there are several places where you can just relax and enjoy the view over the Port of Mobile.
GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, 155 South Water Street, Mobile, AL 36602, Ph. 251 436 8901
U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum
Anyone who has an interest in military history owes it to themselves to visit the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville. The museum is dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of American Servicemen and Women, and showcases a significant collection of military artifacts, equipment and memorabilia from the American Revolutionary War to the present day. Some of the exhibits you can see include over 30 military vehicles dating back to World War II, including the oldest surviving jeep, the Ford Pygmy. In addition enthusiasts can see several aircraft, tanks, motorbikes, watercraft and weapons, all of which have been painstakingly restored. You can stroll around at your own pace or request a docent-led tour.
U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, 2060A Airport Road, Huntsville, AL 35801, Ph. 256 883 3737
Ave Maria Grotto
The Ave Maria Grotto is a unique landscaped park located in an old quarry in the grounds of the St. Bernard Benedictine Abbey, which showcases a collection of over 125 miniature reproductions of famous churches, religious buildings and shrines. The collection is the life-work of just one man, Brother Joseph Zoettl who came to the abbey in 1892 and began creating the remarkably accurate miniatures as a means to pass the time. As you stroll through the curious four-acre park today you can see replicas of many famous buildings including the Vatican City, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Noah’s Ark. The appeal of the grotto goes beyond art and religion and will charm just about everyone.
Ave Maria Grotto, St. Bernard Abbey, 1600 St. Bernard Dr, Cullman, AL 35055, Ph. 256 734 4110
Vulcan Park and Museum
Vulcan Park and Museum is located in the heart of Birmingham and celebrates the city’s history as a prominent steel producer. The enormous statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, stands guard over the city from the summit of Red Mountain, surrounded by a beautiful park. Vulcan is made of over 100,000 pounds of iron and at 56 feet tall is the world’s largest cast iron statue. You can explore the small but very informative interactive museum to learn all about the heydays of the iron and steel industry in Birmingham and then climb the stairs (or ride the elevator) to the top of the statue to see sweeping views over the city.
Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham, Al 35209, Ph. 205 933 1409
Fort Morgan State Historic Site Museum
Fort Morgan, and its predecessor Fort Bowyer, have been standing guard over Mobile Point on the Gulf Coast since 1813 and have been crucial to the defense of the region through the War of 1812, the Civil War and both World Wars. History buffs will enjoy exploring the fort and the small museum or attending one of the regular living-history events which are held to keep the history alive. In addition to history, the Fort Morgan State Historic Site provides a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts who flock to the site to enjoy miles and miles of unspoiled beaches, fishing, boating and simply relaxing. The site is also an important resting site for migrating birds during spring and autumn and you can walk along several short trails to do some wildlife watching.
Fort Morgan State Historic Site Museum, 110 AL – 180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542, Ph. 251 540 5257
You can find historic Fort Gaines at the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, a barrier island at the entrance to Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. The fort has stood guard over the entrance to Mobile Bay for over 150 years and is an interesting and educational attraction for anyone who loves maritime history. You can explore the well-preserved ramparts and there are costumed docents to lead you on a guided tour of the fort including tunnels, kitchens, the blacksmith shop and some original cannons. Your tour will include demonstrations of cannon firing and blacksmithing. Dauphin Island is also a great place to kick back and enjoy nature – there are several good beaches, nature walks, a bird sanctuary and campsites.
Fort Gaines, 51 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, Ph. 251 861 6992
The First White House of the Confederacy
Nestled in the heart of downtown Montgomery, the First White House of the Confederacy is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in American Civil War history and stately homes. The ten-room house was the home of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis for four months in 1861 before the capitol of the Confederacy moved to Richmond Virginia. The Italianate-styled house is currently run as a museum and is completely furnished with original period furniture dating back to the 1850’s. History buffs can learn all about the history of Montgomery and the Confederacy and visit the comprehensive Reference Library.
The First White House of the Confederacy, 644 Washington Ave, Montgomery, AL 36130
Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium is a unique and exciting aquarium situated on Dauphin Island, off the coast of Mobile Bay. Here you can spend several hours learning all about the fascinating marine habitats found off the coast of Alabama, which include a river delta, salt flats and barrier islands. As you make your way through the aquarium you will have the chance to touch stingrays, stroll along the Living Marsh Boardwalk and see over 100 species of marine creatures and plants housed in 31 aquariums. You can also attend free twice-monthly Boardwalk Talks or join a guided Salt Marsh Summer Excursion or Beach Dune and Maritime Forest excursion in summer.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, 101 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528,
Southeastern Raptor Center
The Southeastern Raptor Center is based on the campus of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Alabama. The center was established primarily to provide refuge and rehabilitation for injured and sick native raptors. Over the years the center has expanded to offer educational programs to teach the public about raptors. One of the highlights of a visit to Auburn is to attend the regular Friday evening Football, Fans and Feathers show which is presented at the Edgar B. Carter Amphitheater on the university campus before all home games. The show lasts for about an hour and will give you the chance to see owls, falcons, buzzards, and eagles in action and offers plenty of good photo opportunities.
Southeastern Raptor Center, 1350 Pratt-Carden Dr, Auburn, AL 36849, Ph. 334 844 6943
Alabama Wildlife Center
The Alabama Wildlife Center in Pelham provides a critically important sanctuary for all sick, injured or abandoned native birds, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and release back into the wilds. The center welcomes visitors and offers a variety of educational experiences which include the chance to volunteer to assist with various duties including feeding baby birds or attending the regular Sunday Audubon Teaches Nature Lecture Series. You are also welcome to do a self-guided tour of the facility which includes walking the (wheelchair-accessible) Treetop Nature Trail where you can see several rehabilitated raptors which cannot be released and have found a permanent sanctuary at the center.
Alabama Wildlife Center, 100 Terrace Drive, Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, AL 35124
Talladega Super Speedway
Alabama’s Talladega Super Speedway has been thrilling petrol-heads since it first opening in 1969. The speedway holds the twin distinctions of being the longest NASCAR track in the country and is also where the fastest ever NASCAR speed record of over 212mph was established back in 1987 by Bill Elliot. One of the best ways to totally immerse yourself in the Talladega experience is to bring your RV or tent and set up camp in one of the infield campsites. Besides spending your weekend watching the exciting thrills and spills, you can spend your evenings enjoying music and great partying. To further enhance you racing weekend you can buy tickets to a box or hospitality tent and even get a Pit Pass to see all the action up close.
Talladega Super Speedway, 3366 Speedway Blvd, Lincoln, AL35096, Ph. +1 877 462 3342
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Although authors Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald never actually owned their own home, preferring a gypsy-like existence, the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum has been established in the last house in which the couple lived together as a family in Zelda’s home town of Montgomery. The Museum is dedicated to protecting the rare artifacts and memorabilia which celebrate their lives and to teaching visitors about the legacy of Scott F. Fitzgerald, renowned author of The Great Gatsby and his flamboyant wife who was both an artist and a writer. The best way to gain an intimate glimpse into the life and times of the couple is to join a guided tour of the house which was built in 1910.
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, 919 Felder Ave, Montgomery, AL 36106,