Birmingham, Alabama is the most populous city in the state and has a long history dating back to 1871 when the city was founded after the Civil War during the Reconstruction era. Today, Birmingham is still one of the industrial leaders of the South and is home to some of the most famous universities and colleges in the country. Because Birmingham is a hub city, taking day trips from Birmingham is easy and convenient. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
Huntsville, Alabama is steeped in history from the founding of the Alabama Constitution Village in 1819 through the civil war and 20th-century space race. Also called Rocket City, Huntsville is a great place to take guided walking tours to historical monuments and sites including the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Burritt on the Mountain, Historic Huntsville Depot, and the Weeden House Museum and garden. Other great attractions in Huntsville include the Earlyworks Children’s Museum, U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, and Veterans Memorial Park. Huntsville is also a great destination for nature enthusiast and is a hotspot for cave exploration, hiking, biking, boating, and golf.
Visitors Bureau 500 Church Street NW, Suite One, Huntsville, Alabama, 35801, Phone: 256-551-2230
2.Alabama Museum of Natural History
The Alabama Museum of Natural History has been open for more than 150 years and is dedicated to preserving the long natural history of the state through impressive exhibits, collections, and educational programming. The museum dives into the ancient past and explores all the way up to the modern era through three stories and multiple wings of the Classical Revival Style massive museum. You can become immersed in history through The Expedition, which gives students and the general public hands-on experience at an archaeological or paleontology dig site. The Alabama Museum of Natural History is owned and managed by The University of Alabama along with several other area museums.
427 Sixth Avenue, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487, Phone: 205-348-7550
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3.Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
Just 1 ½ hour south of Birmingham is the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in Marion. The museum’s goal is to preserve the history of prominent, influential women in Alabama’s history or who were from Alabama and made a difference in the world. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1970 and still inducts women into the Hall of Fame by unanimous vote through the board of directors. Some notable women featured in the Hall of Fame include Helen Keller, Tallulah Bankhead, Margaret Booth, Hattie Hooker Wilkins, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Julia Strudwick Tutwiler. The Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame resides within Judas College campus.
302 Bibb Street, Marion, AL, 36756, Phone: 334-683-5167
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The Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee is only three hours North of Birmingham and is definitely worth the drive. The non-profit zoo has a history spanning more than 100 years and has been a favorite Chattanooga attraction for decades that brings in more than 250,000 visits annually. The zoo is more than 12 acres and features six distinct habitats—Himalayan Passage, Warner Park Ranch, Walking the Tracks, Deserts & Forests, Corcovado Jungle, and Gombe Forest. Chattanooga Zoo also has a Zoo Choo train, carousel, gift shop, camel rides attractions, and Wild Burger restaurant along with concessions. Zoo tours and educational programs are also available.
301 North Holtzclaw Avenue, Chattanooga, TN, 37404, Phone: 423-697-1322
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© DeSoto Caverns
Desoto Caverns is a family owned family fun park with more than 20 activities for families to enjoy while visiting. Located less than one hour from Birmingham, the historic caverns were once a settlement for prehistoric Indians, a site for moonshine making, where mining for gunpowder was done by the Confederacy and is now open year-round as a family-friendly destination. Visitors can camp, visit the gift shop and café, explore the waterfalls and ponds with connecting streams, and take tours of the caverns where the temperature holds steady at 60 degrees Fahrenheit every day of the year.
5181 DeSoto Caverns Parkway, Childersburg, Alabama, 35044, Phone: 256-378-7252
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6.DeSoto State Park
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DeSoto State Park is found on the top of Lookout Mountain in Northeastern Alabama and is known for its captivating waterfalls and beautiful vast meadows of wildflowers. The park was founded in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is perfect for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. Visitors can go kayaking, fishing, hiking, rappelling, and rock climbing, mountain biking, walking, and wildlife viewing.
People love to explore the 25 miles of trails, the restaurant, pavilions, playgrounds, public seasonal swimming pool, the nature center, and the Civilian Corps Museum. This park is about two hours from Birmingham, and somewhere you can stay all day.
7104 Desoto Parkway NE, Fort Payne Alabama, 35967, Phone: 256-845-0051
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7.Elvis Presley Birthplace
© Elvis Presley Birthplace
Just a short two-hour drive over the border into Tupelo, Mississippi is the birthplace of American music and rock legend, Elvis Presley. The Elvis Presley public park features a statue of the singer as an adolescent with his guitar. Visitors to Tupelo can also visit the church Elvis went to as a child in the 1940s and house he was born in which both sit on the grounds of the Elvis Birthplace Museum. A paved walkway leads visitors to the picnic pavilion, reflections pond, Overlook Pavilion, Event Lawn, Theatre, Giftshop, and Restrooms. The campus offers RV and Bus parking and provides group tour options.
306 Elvis Presley Drive, Tupelo, MS, 38801, Phone: 662-841-1245
Fairhope, Alabama is a four-hour drive south from Birmingham on the Gulf of Mexico just a few minutes from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. The resort community was founded in 1908 with just 500 people and featured a beachfront park, a pier more than a quarter mile long, small bluff-top cottages for rent. Visitors can also stay in boutique hotels and visit the Fairhope Museum of History when they aren’t spending time together on one of the sunny beaches. When conditions are just right in Fairhope, a Jubilee Phenomenon occurs which delights fisherman who can catch buckets full of crab in just a few hours.
161 North Section Street, Fairhope AL, 36532, Phone: 251-928-2316
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, Michigan beaches
Just over the Georgia State line and two hours from Birmingham, Alabama is the Georgia Aquarium where tens of thousands of marine species can be seen through some of the largest underwater viewing windows in the world. Georgia Aquarium is the second biggest aquarium in the world and is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of ocean species, conservation, and research efforts. The aquarium is also featured on Animal Planet television series “The Aquarium.” Georgia Aquarium is open every day, has free Wi-Fi, public charging stations, and an app that guides visitors through the exhibits. Several dining options are also available so families can visit all day.
225 Baker Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA, Phone: 404-581-4000
10.Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
© Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum is the only official railroad museum for the state and is located in Calera, just a few miles south of Birmingham. The Railroad Museum features a vast indoor collection of railroad artifacts and several exhibits that detail the history of the railroad in Alabama. The Heart of Dixie also features outdoor exhibits highlighting locomotives, railroad cars, and cabooses where visitors can take a ride on a train. Museum admission is free and profits from the gift shop and birthday parties hosted on-site go right back to the museum and preservation efforts. Visitors especially enjoy coming to the museum in the wintertime for the North Pole-themed events.
1919 9th Street, Calera, AL, 35040, Phone: 205-668-3435
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11.Lake Lurleen State Park
Lake Lurleen State Park is 1,625 acres of wooded land featuring campground, 23 miles of trails, a NatureCenter, and meeting facilities. Lake Lurleen also has a public beach where visitors can swim, rent paddleboats, or relax at the picnic area. There are 91 campsites with modern amenities, including water and electric hookups. Campers can also take advantage of shower houses and modern restroom facilities. Lake Lurleen herself measures 250 acres with a depth of 48 feet at the deepest point. The stocked lake has amazing bass, catfish, and crappie fishing. Canoes, fishing boats, kayaks, and paddle boards can be rented from the marina.
13226 Lake Lurleen Road, Coker, Alabama 35452, Phone: 205-339-1558
12.Little River Canyon
© Robert Hainer/stock.adobe.com
Nature lovers enjoy Little River Canyon National Preserve in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Little River is an incredibly unique river because it flows across Lookout Mountain nearly unimpaired all the way from Georgia to Weiss Lake with waterfalls, pool, and sandstone cliffs. Visitors to the preserve can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and paddling, fishing, hunting, and trapping. Snakes are abundant in Little River Canyon National Preserve, but guests are forbidden from killing or trapping snakes. This relaxing outdoor recreational area is less than two hours from Birmingham and open year around.
© Magnolia Springs
Magnolia Springs is a boutique Bed & Breakfast on the Gulf Coast Alabama outside Fairhope. The Magnolia Springs community is centered around the Inn and is the last surviving river-based community with year round mail delivery by boat. The quaint town feels like it’s right off the pages of a Southern hospitality magazine and the Inn is modeled after Old Southern Homes where each room is tastefully decorated, and gourmet breakfast is served fresh each morning. Visitors to the Magnolia Spring Inn can venture into Fairhope for great restaurants, shopping, and outdoor recreation on the Gulf.
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Montgomery is Alabama’s capital and one of the most significant sites in The Civil Rights Movement. Home to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Montgomery was where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, and where the Selma to Montgomery Marches ended. Montgomery is now a thriving metropolitan city and is home to Maxwell Airforce Base and several public and private colleges. Visitors to Montgomery can visit the vibrant downtown for local shopping and dining, attend a sporting event or performing arts program, or visit one of the dozens of popular attractions and landmarks including the home of Martin Luther King and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum began as a children’s zoo in Montgomery, Alabama in 1920 at Oak Park. The 40-acre zoo has over 750 animals and is a vital partner in 21 species survival plans, including the African Elephant, Indian rhinoceros, and others. Exhibits at the zoo include habits modeled after Australia, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America. The Mann Wildlife Learning Museum features a collection of taxidermized large animals that were bow hunted by George Mann. The zoo also features a Zoofari Skylift Adventure Ride, animal encounters, educational programming, special events, and private events.
2301 Coliseum Parkway, Montgomery Alabama, 36110, Phone: 334-625-4900
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16.Rosa Parks Museum
© Rosa Parks Museum
The Rosa Parks Museum is dedicated to the history and life of Rosa Parks, The Civil Rights Movement, and Montgomery Bus Boycotts. The Museum is located within Troy University. The Museum is also a part of the three-story, 55,000 square foot University Library. The building feature two wings, one of which is an exhibition hall dedicated to Ms. Parks and the other a community gallery that features traveling exhibits, including those inspired by Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow. Visitors to the museum can celebrate Juneteenth annually along with other special events.
231 Montgomery Street, Montgomery AL, 36104, Phone: 334-241-8661
17.Southern Museum of Flight
© Southern Museum of Flight
The Southern Museum of Flight displays both civilian and military aircraft, as well as aircraft used in experiments and memorabilia from the early history of flight and aeronautics. There are over 100 aircraft in the 75,000 square foot facility that also houses exhibits educating visitors on history, engine, artifacts, and models. The Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame is conveniently located within the Museum of Flight, and active military personnel and their families are always given free admission to the museum. Special events, school tours, and educational programming are also available.
4343 73rd Street North, Birmingham, AL, 35206, Phone: 205-833-8226
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18.Space & Rocket Center
© Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and features a rotating schedule of traveling exhibits that come from all over the world. Permanent exhibits at The Space & Rocket Center include information on the space shuttle program at NASA, a Mars climbing wall, Rover challenge, G-Force Accelerator, National Geographic Theater, Team Redstone exhibit, a Mars Play Station, and presentations on NASA and tours through two modules of the international space station. Visitors can also check out the state-of-the-art planetarium and take bus tours of Redstone Arsenal and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. There’s also a special lunar landing simulator for children only and all sorts of special events and programming throughout the year.
One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Alabama, 35805, Phone: 800-637-7223
19.Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
© Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park is unlike any other in the state and offers a blast from the past for visitors who want to enjoy the day outdoors in McCalla. Tannehill is open 7 days per week from sunrise to sunset and features a visitor’s center that has open hours, 1.500 acres of land for camping, hiking, and a mini railroad that travels through the forest. During spring, summer and fall, blacksmiths, millers, artisans, weavers, and other craft shops open within the restored, historic cabins. Visitors to the state park may explore the historic cotton gin and gristmill or hike along the historic roadways that now serve as paved paths along with the numerous sites.
12632 Confederate Parkway, McCalla, AL, 35111, Phone: 205-477-5711
20.The Cook Museum of Natural Science
© The Cook Museum of Natural Science
The Cook Museum of Natural Science offers brand-new, state-of-the-art, immersive exhibits that educate children on the natural world and sciences around them. The Cook Museum of Natural Science held its grand opening in June 2019 after a three-year closing in 2016. Today, the exhibits at the museum include cave exploration, a 15,000-gallon aquarium, The Wonderful World of Insects Exhibit, and many other educational and interactive exhibits, are available to explore at the museum. There are three classroom spaces available for group trips and academic field trips, a museum store, and Monarch Hall event venue also on the Cook Museum of Natural Science Campus. Stay for lunch at Nature’s Table café.
133 Fourth Avenue NE, Decatur Alabama, 35601, Phone: 256-351-4505
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21.The Incline Railway
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The Incline Railway is a funicular railway that takes people from all over the world to the top of Lookout Mountain. The site has historical significance to the Civil War where the Confederate Army defeated the Union in the Battle Above the Clouds. The first incline railroad was constructed in 1885 and the second in 1895. The second incline is still operational today in St. Elmo. The incline is open year-round daily and only closed on Christmas Day And Thanksgiving Day. The only animals permitted on The Incline are registered service animals. Electric Wheelchairs are not permitted, and no wheelchair assistance is available for boarding or exiting the train.
827 East Brow Road, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, Phone:423-821-4224
© City of Tuscumbia
The Historic Tuscumbia Walking Tour guides visitors through over 25 antebellum structures that are still standing. These buildings are on the National List of Historic Places. Some of the highlights on this tour include the historic courthouse, the Palace, Helen Keller’s Home, a historic bookstore, Alabama Music Hall of fame, and the oldest commercial structure in Alabama. Tuscumbia is also known for it’s annual Dickens Christmas Feast and Festival, the Shoals Labor Day Festival and Music at the Mansion events. Tuscumbia has bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels, and even cabins and campgrounds for visitors needing accommodations.
719 U.S. Highway 72 West, Tuscumbia AL, Phone: 256-383-0783
23.Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
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The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge comprises 35,000 acres of land that serves as a migratory base for wintering waterfowl and 12 endangered or threatened species. The refuge has over 300 bird species, which makes Wheeler a great spot for bird watching. There are also more than 75 reptile and amphibian species and 115 different fish species at the refuge. There is a daily average of 2,000 geese and 75,000 ducks that are on the lakes of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Swamplands, caves, and sinkholes are also present in the park so visitors should be careful while hiking or biking.
2700 Refuge Headquarters Road, Decatur AL, 35603, Phone: 256-350-6639
23 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Birmingham, Alabama
- Huntsville, Photo: Jeff/stock.adobe.com
- Alabama Museum of Natural History, Photo: Editorial_Use_Only_wolterke/stock.adobe.com
- Alabama Women's Hall of Fame, Photo: Vitalii/stock.adobe.com
- Chattanooga Zoo, Photo: Foap.com/stock.adobe.com
- DeSoto Caverns, Photo: DeSoto Caverns
- DeSoto State Park, Photo: Jim Vallee/stock.adobe.com
- Elvis Presley Birthplace, Photo: Elvis Presley Birthplace
- Fairhope, Photo: petert2/stock.adobe.com
- Georgia Aquarium, Photo: f11photo/stock.adobe.com
- Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, Photo: Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
- Lake Lurleen State Park, Photo: Jonas/stock.adobe.com
- Little River Canyon, Photo: Robert Hainer/stock.adobe.com
- Magnolia Springs, Photo: Magnolia Springs
- Montgomery, Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com
- Montgomery Zoo, Photo: kevinbeasley/stock.adobe.com
- Rosa Parks Museum, Photo: Rosa Parks Museum
- Southern Museum of Flight, Photo: Southern Museum of Flight
- Space & Rocket Center, Photo: Space & Rocket Center
- Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, Photo: Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
- The Cook Museum of Natural Science, Photo: The Cook Museum of Natural Science
- The Incline Railway, Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com
- Tuscumbia, Photo: City of Tuscumbia
- Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Alberto Masnovo/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: jackienix/stock.adobe.com
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