From historic towns to state parks, Alabama has no shortage of great options for day trips near Birmingham and other cities. Whether local residents or even visitors want to get away and escape to nature in one of the many parks, caves, forests or canyons. Or spend a day visiting towns and cities like Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville for restaurants, entertainment, art or shopping.
There are plenty of options in Alabama to choose from for either an adventurous or completely relaxing day.
1. Bankhead National Forest
Bankhead National Forest is located in the northwest corner of Alabama near Double Springs and is considered to be one of the state’s more magical areas.
Encompassing over 180,000 acres of protected forestland, waterfalls, streams, and lakes, the Bankhead National Forest offers a variety of excellent outdoor activities, including paddling, fishing, and hiking. Scenic campgrounds can be found in the national forest as well, such as the Clear Creek, Corinth, and Houston Campgrounds, open from April to October. Clear Creek and Corinth include water and electrical hookups. Trails can be used for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling. Explore weekend getaways in Alabama for more travel ideas.
2. Lookout Mountain
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Known as Alabama’s “Mountain Town,” Lookout Mountain is an excellent choice for a day trip in Alabama for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Not only does the area boasts an abundance of natural beauty, there are plenty of activities to enjoy as well.
Lookout Mountain is a destination that has been welcoming visitors since 1836 and offers a rich cultural heritage, master artisans, grand mountains, stunning landscapes, exciting adventures, and delicious country cooking in its restaurants, as well as rustic cabins and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns for people who wish to extend their day trip to an overnight stay.
The town of Childersburg is among the state of Alabama’s most historic towns and boasts the title of the state’s oldest settlement.
Dating back to the latter part of the nineteenth century, the modern city of Childersburg is relatively new, however, the site where it now sits has been occupied continuously by successive groups for centuries.
During the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers occupied the area, and at one point an indigenous community as well, according to records. The historic town of Childersburg, Alabama is an intriguing destination for people to learn about both the modern and old history of the state. Browse our things to do in Alabama guide for more ideas.
4. Dauphin Island
There are many great things to do on Dauphin Island on a relaxing day trip. The natural environment is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters.
Dauphin Island is a small barrier island boasting a rich history, plenty of wildlife, walking trails, and white sand beaches. The entire island, in fact, is designated as a bird sanctuary and is named as one of the “birdiest coastal communities” in the United States. The three-mile island is one of the top places in North America for viewing spring bird migrations, and also offers several other outdoor activities, such as fishing and kayaking.
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5. DeSoto Caverns
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The DeSoto Caverns, which is located close to historic Childersburg, Alabama is considered by many to be one of the country’s most attractive cave systems.
This massive underground cavern is located deep under the ground surface and is named after Hernando DeSoto, the famous Spanish explorer who lived in the Native American settlement nearby that later became the town of Childersburg.
The DeSoto Caverns are historically important to the area’s indigenous people and was used at one time as a burial ground. It’s also a unique place geologically and visitors can join one of the tours for exploration. Explore more Alabama caves.
6. Dismals Canyon
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The Dismals Canyon is a mysterious, dark, and fun place to explore, offering a unique and adventurous day trip or nighttime tour in the state of Alabama.
Found in Phil Campbell, Alabama, a mile and a half trail meanders through the canyon floor where visitors can explore while sandstone bluffs tower above them. Huge green moss-covered boulders brighten the path along the way.
The trails guides people to the water of Rainbow Falls and Secret Falls, as well as the picturesque Weeping Bluff. There is also the Soda Fountain and Grill for refreshments and a bite to eat.
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7. Day Trips in Alabama: Fairhope
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The small town of Fairhope is located just off the shores of the Mobile Bay, radiating southern charm throughout. There are many great things to do in Fairhope. This walkable, friendly, and warm town is known for its events, recreational trails, gorgeous floral displays in the downtown area, and an active arts community.
Numerous visitors come and explore Fairhope every year to enjoy its original small-town charm and ambiance. Along with several events taking place in town throughout the year year, Fairhope, Alabama is also home to a local museum with several permanent exhibits that illustrate the town’s unique history, including its Jubilee phenomenon and the town jail.
The city of Florence offers something to do for just about anyone, boasting a wide variety of activities for a day trip to this area of the state. There are many great things to do in Florence.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Florence provides an array of water sports, world-class golf opportunities, legendary fishing, and plenty of walking trails. For history lovers, the region has a rich Native American and pioneer history, as well as a historic downtown.
The city is also home to retail stored by award-winning designers, restaurants serving some of the best food in Alabama, and the only home in the state designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
9. Gulf State Park
Located in the Gulf Shores area of Alabama, the Gulf State Park spans across two miles of sandy beaches and includes a Lodge and a spacious campground for visitors who wish to stay overnight. The park offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities, wildlife, a beach pavilion for picnices, and white sand surf. For visitors looking for outdoor recreation, the Gulf State Park offers opportunities for kayaking, parasailing, paddling, geocaching, exploring, fishing, biking, and hiking.
There are also abundant educational adventures provided by the Nature Center, along with programs offered by the Learning Campus and Interpretive Center. There are many great things to do in Gulf Shores.
The city of Guntersville, Alabama is situated just a short drive to the north from bustling Birmingham. There are many great things to do in Guntersville. Located along the edge of the beautiful and massive Lake Guntersville, the area is one of the state’s most picturesque destinations. Visitors will find mountain peaks surrounded by clear waters.
The scenery is breathtaking in itself, but the trails and hiking opportunities allow visitors and local residents of Alabama alike to become fully immersed in an outdoor paradise.
Along with the beautiful natural scenery, Guntersville also offers plenty of outdoor recreational activities, including birding, biking, hiking, fishing, boating, and skiing.
11. Day Trip in Alabama: Huntsville
While the city of Huntsville, Alabama has been widely known as a destination to learn about aeroscience for quite some time, this “Rocket City” today has become a place for creative entrepreneurs, restaurants, and craft breweries, creating a boom of numerous new things to do in the area besides the United States Space and Rocket Center and providing even more of a reason to visit Huntsville for a day trip in the state of Alabama.
There is a wide range of culinary, historical, and cultural attractions throughout the city, including arts performances, historical districts, botanical gardens, and much more. There are many great things to do in Huntsville.
12. Day Trips Near Me Today: Little River Canyon
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The Little River Canyon National Preserve is led by the Little River’s winding contours. Despite the rather diminutive name, the Little River has created one of the continent’s deepest canyons over time.
The tree-lined canyon is considered by many to be one of the best outdoor sights in the state of Alabama and is an amazing thing to see first-hand.
The Little River Canyon is full of epic and fascinating rock formations, and cascading powerful waterfalls hidden along the way. There are short hiking trails that guide visitors into the canyon gorge, immersing them into the setting.
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13. Cathedral Caverns State Park
The Cathedral Caverns State Park consists of a series of underground caves in Alabama, just to the north from the city of Birmingham.
These caves beckon travelers to spend a day exploring the cool and interesting cave system that is beautiful in its own gloomy way, providing a chance for adventure in the underground darkness.
The Cathedral Caverns State Park is a protected area that visitors and locals alike can visit and explore during one of the site’s cave tours, during which guests are taken through the network of caverns and chambers hidden within the rocks of the area.
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The city of Mobile, Alabama is located along the state’s coastline in the south. There are many great things to do in Mobile. Mobile is a culturally vibrant and lively city that offers a scenic seaside setting.
Visitors can delight in the warm weather of the Gulf and French-inspired cuisine. Depending on the time of year that people visit Mobile, Alabama, they may even get to experience the country’s oldest Mardi Gras festival.
Once known as the “Paris of the South, the city is a melting pot of traditions, cultures, flavors, and people. As such, Mobile has become a cultural center along the Gulf Coast.
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15. Monte Sano State Park
The Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville, Alabama is overall an excellent park for a day trip meant for enjoying nature.
The park offers a variety of trails for biking, walking, and hiking, as well as several camping options. Along with the outdoor recreation activities available, the Monte Sano State Park is also home to the Von Braun Planetarium, the brainchild of Wernher von Braun, a famous rocket scientist who helped the United States with the first moon landing.
Visitors can watch shows and tour the planetarium on Saturday nights and presentations are sometimes given by NASA astronauts.
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16. Day Trip Near Me: Mooresville
Mooresville, Alabama is a charming small town around twenty miles from Huntsville that offers a less hectic way of life. On November 16 of 1818m the town of Mooresville was the first town to be incorporated by the Alabama Territorial Legislature.
The whole town is listed on the country’s National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most intact and important villages in the state of Alabama.
Visitors to the historic town of Mooresville can explore tree-shaded streets, beautiful gardens, and historic buildings and homes, an experience that feels like stepping back into the past.
More ideas: Things to Do in Gulf Shores
17. Muscle Shoals
Muscle Shoals has become a popular destination for day trips in Alabama and a popular destination for tourists in general in the country.
Thousands of people visit this “gateway to Northwest Alabama” for the many events and attractions in the area.
Annual events include the Alabama Renaissance Fair and the W.C. Handy Music Festival, while Wheeler Lake, Wilson Lake, and Pickwick Lake provides some of America’s best opportunities for fishing.
Other things to do in the area include the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Wilson Lock and Dam, and the Natchez Trace Parkway.
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18. Oak Mountain State Park
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The Oak Mountain State Park is just a short distance outside of the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, offering a great escape for a day from the city.
Even though the park is within such close proximity to Birmingham’s city center, Oak Mountain still provides a great destination for getting out to the countryside and a day trip surrounded by beautiful nature. As Alabama’s largest state park, Oak Mountain State Park provides abundant opportunities for fun that keep visitors returning.
The grounds include swimming holes, a small beach, camping spots, a Wildlife Center, trails for mountain biking, and walking trails.
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19. Payne Lake
Payne Lake is located around one hour and thirty minutes to the south from busy Birmingham, Alabama and is a protected area surrounded by forest and wilderness, offering a great destination to simply enjoy a day in a relaxing lakeside setting. Payne Lake provides a relaxed, quiet, and peaceful atmosphere with picturesque spots for picnics and camping.
Each campsite features a trailer or tent pad, fire or cooking circle, and a picnic table. Walking trails also surround the lake’s glistening waters and hiking opportunities are immersive and easy. There are also two bathhouses and swimming beaches at Payne Lake.
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20. Red Mountain Park
The Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, Alabama is another good choice for a day trip to the great outdoors, situated just a short distance from the center of the city.
The park is a place of natural beauty located nearly within walking distance of several neighborhoods.A particularly good place for outdoorsy or adventurous people, the Red Mountain Park has plenty of outdoor activities to take part in.
The grounds have undergone a redevelopment and have now become an adventure playground with biking trails, hiking trails, rock climbing, vast green spaces, zip lining, and much more.
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The historic town of Selma provides plenty of opportunities for exploration in Dallas County of Alabama. Visitors of the state and locals like will find themselves surrounded by rich layers of American history and many different recreational opportunities. Selma, Alabama is a great day trip whether visitors are looking for a relaxing getaway or a journey to the past. One of Selma’s claims to fame is being home to the state’s largest historic districts and provides visitors with numerous civil rights movement-related exhibits to explore. For those not really interested in history, there is a large lake for boating, fishing, swimming, and more.
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22. Talladega National Forest
The Talladega National Forest is located within the natural beauty of the country’s famous Appalachian Mountain range and is one of the state of Alabama’s best outdoor destinations. The forest area was once almost destroyed due to over logging, however, it has recovered over the years, and today provides a pristine environment that both visitors and locals can now enjoy for a day in the outdoors. The Talladega National Forest includes some great trails for hiking through the protected area, as well as throughout the beginning of the Appalachian mountains. The grounds are a genuine wilderness that showcases the natural scenery of Alabama.
Explore Alabama's wineries and flea markets.
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The city of Tuscaloosa is the largest center for education, industry, and commerce in western Alabama, as well as the locations of the University of Alabama.
Tuscaloosa boasts a wide variety of things to do that can easily fill a day trip to the city, including the Lake Lurleen State Park, Alabama Museum of Natural History, football games, and many other family-friendly attractions.
The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk extends the length of the southern banks of the Black Warrior River in downtown Tuscaloosa and offers a paved trail for bicycling, running, and walking. There are also several great restaurants. Browse more places to visit Tuscaloosa.
The city of Tuscumbia is a historic city dating back to 1820 and was one of the state’s earliest centers for industry, commerce, and agriculture, including the home of the country’s first railroad on the western side of the Allegheny Mountains. There are many things to do in Tuscumbia for a day trip in Alabama, such as the Tuscumbia Depot, the Cane Creek Canyon Reserve, Spring Park, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the home of Helen Keller, the Coon Dog Cemetery, the Rattlesnake Saloon, the Belle Mont Mansion, and the Tennessee Valley Art Center, and much more. There are many great things to do in Tuscumbia.
The historic city of Tuskegee in Alabama is just a couple hours away from Birmingham, offering a unique area to explore for a day. The city boasts many different small museums that provide insight into the events of the civil rights movement that took place in Tuskegee, as well as the area’s local history in general. However, Tuskegee, Alabama isn’t just for the history enthusiast. Outdoorsy visitors can head to the Tuskegee National Forest, the country’s smallest national forest, and while the grounds may not be that large, there is plenty of natural beauty within the small forest to keep people interested.
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