25 Best Places to Visit in Alabama
Offering a warm Southern welcome, Alabama has more than its fair share of delightful places to visit. If you are looking for a beach holiday, you can head due south to Gulf Shores, Mobile and Orange Beach where 32 miles of soft white sand and warm azure waters await you. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from over 20 state parks offering camping, fishing, boating, caving, hiking and biking. Alabama is home to beautiful waterfalls, flea markets, and unique wedding venues. Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia
Surrounded by the brilliant azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is a barrier island located just across the water from Alabama Port. Accessible from the mainland via a three-mile bridge, this tranquil retreat boasts white sand beaches, walking trails and excellent bird-watching (Avid twitchers should be sure to include a tour of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Shell Mound Park during their visit). One of the best ways to explore Dauphin Island is on two wheels – you can rent a bike from Dauphin Island Bike and Kayak Rentals – and set off to admire historic Fort Gaines, pristine beaches and panoramic island landscapes. There are plenty of accommodation options on the island and you will easily find the ideal base for your vacation.
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Birmingham invites you to come and discover the warm heart of the South. This modern and cosmopolitan city has something to offer everyone and you will need to plan your time carefully to do it all justice. Perhaps you could start by learning about the part played by the city in the Civil Rights Movement – various tours are available. Next off, explore the city’s roots in the iron industry by visiting Vulcan Park, the Sloss Furnaces National Park and Tannehill Historical State Park. However, Birmingham is by no means all about history – the city offers excellent shopping, dining, golf and nightlife as well as great activities for younger visitors including the Alabama Splash Adventure and Steel City Jump Park.
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Picturesquely located along the cliffs and shores of Mobile Bay, the city of Fairhope has a great small-town atmosphere and enough interesting activities to warrant a visit. You could start your exploration by taking a walk down Fairhope Avenue which is lined with delightful shops, restaurants and galleries – the whole street is beautifully lit-up at night. You can take a pleasant walk through the rose garden and out onto the Fairhope Pier, go on a scenic boat tour, join a horseback riding tour or play a round of golf. Nature lovers will enjoy visiting Weeks Bay Reserve while beer lovers should not miss a tasting at the Fairhope Brewing Company.
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Located in the northwestern corner of Alabama, the city of Florence is home to a wide variety of interesting and informative attractions for all ages. Starting with the Great Outdoors, you will find a wide choice of scenic areas for outdoor activities – Mc Farland Park offers hiking, camping, fishing and boating, while Shoal Creek Preserve offers challenging hiking, biking and horse-riding trails. There are also plenty of attractions for history enthusiasts – try the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Florence Indian Mound and Museum and Ivy Green, the Helen Keller birthplace. For family fun you can head to the Children’s Museum, the Sky Zone Trampoline Park and the Killen Time Mini Golf and Adventure Park.
Photo: Visit Florence, AL
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Scenically stretched along the banks of the Coosa River in Etowah County, Gadsden was once an important shipping center. Noccalula Falls Park is usually one of first attractions for visitors – you can admire a 90ft waterfall, see some caves and take a leisurely stroll through the Botanical Gardens. Children will enjoy riding through the park on the miniature railway. The Neely Henry Lake is very popular with Bass fishermen and offers a variety of water sports in summer. Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts – the center is home to the Etowah Youth Orchestra, the Downtown Dance Conservatory and Imagination Place Children’s Museum.
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Imagine losing yourself along 32 miles of soft white-sand beaches lapped by the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico; Gulf Shores offers all this and a whole lot more. Although the beaches are the main draw-card for an increasing number of vacationers, you will find plenty of other activities to keep the whole family happy. You can try your hand at a wide variety of water sports including kayaking, paddle-boarding, jet-skiing and para-sailing, as well as learning how to scuba dive or surf. Back on land you can explore various hiking and biking trails, or re-live history by following the Mobile Bay Civil War Trail to see Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines and much more.
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The historic port city of Mobile lies directly on the shores of the Alabama Gulf Coast, welcoming visitors to come and sample genuine southern hospitality and a host of interesting attractions. History enthusiasts are in for a treat as they visit Battleship Memorial Park where you can take a tour of the USS Alabama before moving on to visit Fort Conde and the 1850 Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. In addition, there are no less than eight beautiful Historic Districts to explore. The city’s coastal location means that there is a plethora of maritime activities available as well as easy access to some of the best beaches on the Gulf.
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Centrally located in Eastern Alabama, Auburn is primarily known as the home of Auburn University and the popular Auburn Tigers University Football Team. However, even if you are not a football fan you will find plenty to see and do in the city. History buffs can pay a visit to the historic Whitfield-Searcy House and the Loachapoka Historic District, while art enthusiasts will want to see the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum and visit the Telfair Peet Theatre at the Auburn University. Outdoor activities include mountain biking and the chance to play a round at six superb local golf courses. There is also a treat in store for foodies who can visit several farmer’s markets, wineries, berry farms and tempting farm-to-fork restaurants.
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»Cheaha State Park
Nestled in the heart of Alabama’s Talladega National Forest, Cheaha State Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. The park offers access to some of the state’s most popular hiking trails including the Pinhoti Trail (which joins the Appalachian Trail), Odum Scout Trail and Chinnabee Silent Trail. In addition to hiking, visitors can try rock climbing, swimming, picnicking, fishing and mountain-biking. You can choose from various accommodation options including lodge rooms, chalets and cabins, as well as both primitive and serviced camp sites. For special occasions families and groups can book the historic 12-bedroom Bald Rock Lodge. Other area attractions include Historic Downtown Heflin, a wine-tasting trails and the Oxford Center for the Performing Arts.
Address: Cheaha State Park, 19644 Hwy 281, Delta, AL 36258, Phone: 800-610-5801 Photo: Jim Vallee/Fotolia
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Decatur is located along the banks of Wheeler Lake in northern Alabama and offers great attractions and activities for the entire family. Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, biking and exploring through several parks including Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, the Point Mallard Park and other city parks. History buffs will enjoy a stroll through both the old and new Decatur Historic Districts where there are many beautiful buildings to admire. If you love browsing through museums you can make your way to the Blue and Gray Museum which showcases Civil War history or take the family to Cook’s Natural Science Museum. Art lovers can feast their eyes at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center or catch a show at the Princess Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Photo: William R. Gates/Fotolia
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Whether you are visiting Dothan to join the locals in celebrating the National Peanut Festival, (held in November every year) or to spend your days trawling through the city’s remarkable antique markets, you will find the wide range of attractions on offer for all ages. You can tour the fascinating Farley Nuclear Plant Energy Education Center, learn about the history of the region’s agricultural heritage at the George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum or simply take a peaceful stroll through the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens. Families will enjoy stepping back in time at Landmark Park (a “living” farming museum), having outdoor fun at Advertureland Theme Park or making a splash at Water World.
Photo: Nick Fox/Fotolia
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The coastal community of Foley
has look been a popular vacation destination for families wanting to experience a warm southern welcome and a wide variety of attractions. A good place to start your visit is the Historic Downtown, where you can learn about the railway heritage of the town at the Foley Railroad Depot Museum and the Model Train Exhibit. While you are in the area you can follow the lovely Antique Rose Trail to see hundreds of heritage roses (best in April). Adventure activities include kayak excursions with BeachnRiver Kayak Rentals and hiking and boating at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve. Shopaholics will enjoy exploring the Bargain Hunter’s Thrift Trail and Tanger Outlets while foodies head to the Coastal Alabama Farmer’s and Fishermen’s Market.
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»Gulf State Park
If you are planning a vacation in Gulf Shores, the Gulf State Park offers a wide variety of accommodation options from which to enjoy this remarkable stretch of the Gulf of Mexico.
The park has something for everyone including primitive campsites at Park Outpost, the sprawling Gulf State Park Campground which has nearly 500 fully-serviced campsites (RV’s available for rental on-site) and a variety of cabins and cottages. The park boasts two miles of pristine beach, a Beach Pavilion, the Refuge Golf Course (with a clubhouse and grill), picnic shelters, hiking and biking trails, fishing pier (equipment rental available) and a swimming pool.
Address: Gulf State Park, 20115 State Highway 135, Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Photo: Eric/Fotolia
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A firm favorite with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Guntersville is blessed with an abundance of activities to keep even the most energetic visitor on the go. Located along the shores of Lake Guntersville, the city boasts over 170 acres of lakeside recreational facilities including a swimming area, new boat deck, picnic areas, boat launch and a public fishing pier. Lake Guntersville State Park offers a good selection of accommodation options including a hotel, campground, cabins and chalets. You can spend your time playing golf, hiking, biking, bird watching or fishing. For a change of pace you can visit the near-by Cathedral Caverns to see an astonishing frozen waterfall, a stalagmite forest and many other breathtaking cave formations.
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Centrally located south of Birmingham, the city of Hoover has grown by leaps and bounds since it was established in the late 1950’s. Today the greater Shelby County area surrounding the city offers visitors a wonderful selection of activities and attractions, starting with no less than ten beautiful golf courses where you can hone your skills. You can take a walk through the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, go hiking or rock climbing in Moss Rock Preserve or enjoy a day of shopping at the Riverchase Galleria. Some of the most popular near-by family attractions include the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum and the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum.
Photo: City of Hoover
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Huntsville (aka Rocket City) has had an extremely interesting past which is showcased by many entertaining and educational attractions for all ages. If you love history you will certainly enjoy strolling through the Twickenham Historic District which is home to one of the largest collection of stunning antebellum homes in the South – guided tours are available. However, if you are traveling with the family the amazing U.S. Space and Rocket Center should definitely be at the top of your list of must-see attractions (pre-book your tickets to avoid the queues). For a complete change of pace you can visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden (young visitors love the night firefly hikes) or spend a few hours at the Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment center to see local artists in action.
Photo: Robert Hainer/Fotolia
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Located in the north-eastern corner of Alabama, Lookout Mountain is a wonderful mountain-top destination for a relaxing laid-back vacation or an outdoor adventure. Just about every adventure sport you can think of is available in and around Lookout Mountain. In winter the hit the slopes at the Cloudmount Ski Resort (in summer the resort offers golf instead) or try a range of summer sports including hiking, kayaking, rappelling, rock-climbing and camping with One World Adventure Company. Do not miss the chance to take a scenic drive through three states along the 93mile Lookout Mountain Parkway. Cultural activities include a variety of hands-on classes and workshops and visits to the many galleries and craft shops dotted around Lookout Mountain.
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»Monte Sano State Park
Located in northeastern Alabama, close to the town of Huntsville, the Monte Sano State Park is known for fresh air and beautiful outlooks and a wonderful variety of healthy outdoor activities. In addition to the Monte Sano Lodge (11 rustic cabins) there is a large serviced campground and rustic stone self-catering cabins. People come to Monte Sano primarily to explore over 22 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, but there is also a large children’s playground and an 18-hole disc golf course. When you need a brief break from nature you can visit some of the interesting museums in Huntsville.
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Alabama’s delightful capital city Montgomery is packed with attractions and activities to delight visitors of all ages. History buffs could start exploring at the black granite Civil Rights Memorial and exhibition center before visiting the imposing Alabama State Capitol building, a variety of museum and fascinating Old Alabama Town. Golfers can test their skills at several great courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Art enthusiasts can feast their eyes on the collections at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts before catching a show at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center. Children will love the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum and the Montgomery Zoo.
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Located in Colbert County the city of Muscle Shoals is a popular tourist destination in northwest Alabama. People come to Muscle Shoals for a variety of outdoor pursuits including golf (along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail) and excellent boating and fishing on Pickwick Lake, Wilson Lake and Wheeler Lake. The city hosts several annual events including the Helen Keller Festival (you can visit Ivy Green, the Helen Keller birthplace all year round), the Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride and the W.C. Handy Music Festival. Younger visitors will enjoy the Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Splash Adventure Park and the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat in near-by Florence.
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Packed with historic sites and architecture, the town of Selma is a great place to visit to learn more about the early days in Alabama State. The city is located along the banks of the Alabama River where it played an important role in armaments and shipping during the Civil War, when it was surrounded by fortifications. Today history lovers can tour the largest Historic district in Alabama, where you can admire over 1,000 historic structures. Other city highlights include the Ancient Africa, Enslavement and Civil War Museum and the National Voting Rights Museum, Historic Water Avenue, the Jackson Home Historic Site and the Old Depot Museum.
Photo: Rex Wholster/Fotolia
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Steeped in history and surrounded by vast areas of scenic recreational areas, Talladega has something to offer each and every member of the family. Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers will enjoy all the resources on offer in the beautiful Talladega National Forest and the Cheaha State Park, both of which offer camping, hiking, fishing, swimming and much more. Everyone will have fun visiting Desoto Caverns and motor racing enthusiasts can attend a NASCAR event at the Talladega Superspeedway and visit the Talladega NASCAR Hall of Fame. There are also many historic sites to admire including the Silk Stocking District where you will find 113 acres showcasing various historic architectural styles.
Photo: Visit Talladega
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Founded in 1819, the city of Tuscaloosa is famously home to the University of Alabama and has many interesting attractions to showcase. Start your visit by soaking up the Tuscaloosa atmosphere at the five-acre Government Plaza Park in the heart of downtown, before taking a stroll along the beautiful Riverwalk which lines the Black Warrior River. There are many historic sites to visit including several interesting museums, the Black Warrior Model Railroad, the Battle-Friedman historic house and the Tuscaloosa Veterans Memorial Park. In addition you can take a (free) tour of the Mercedes Benz Visitor’s Center, take the kids to the Children’s Hands-On Museum or enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Bama Belle Paddlewheel Riverboat.
Photo: Thomas Braun/Fotolia
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Orange Beach is a sought-after vacation destination situated along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Beach lovers have a long stretch of 32 miles of soft white-sand beaches fringed by the turquoise waters of the Gulf – you can simply soak up the sun or enjoy a wide variety of water sport – Zeke’s Landing Marina offers rental equipment and boat charters. Just inland golfers will find the Orange Beach Golf Center and the Gulf Links Center. You can go deep-sea fishing, take a romantic sunset cruise or go dolphin-watching – many charter companies will be happy to arrange an excursion to suit your interests. Cultural attractions include the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum and the Orange Beach Art Center. Save some time for family fun at Adventure Island and shopping at The Wharf.
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Nestled between the Tennessee River and the Appalachian Mountains, the small town of Scottsboro welcomes visitors to come and enjoy great scenery, outdoor activities and genuine Southern Hospitality. The town has historic sites dating back to the early days of the railroad and the Civil War – visit the Scottsboro Jackson Heritage Center and the Scottsboro Depot Museum to learn more. There are several scenic areas to explore on foot or by bike and excellent cave exploring at Cathedral Caverns State Park and Russell Cave National Monument. In addition, there are three area golf courses and great fishing. Scottsboro offers a variety of accommodation options including campsites at the Jackson County Park and Goose Pond Colony Resort. Photo: City of Scottsboro Alabama
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25 Best Places to Visit in Alabama
- Dauphin Island, Photo: Courtesy of lightrapture - Fotolia.com
- Birmingham, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Fairhope, Photo: Courtesy of forestpath - Fotolia.com
- Florence, Photo: Visit Florence, AL
- Gadsden, Photo: Courtesy of jackienix - Fotolia.com
- Gulf Shores, Photo: Courtesy of George - Fotolia.com
- Mobile, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Auburn, Photo: Courtesy of xiefei - Fotolia.com
- Cheaha State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Jim Vallee - Fotolia.com
- Decatur, Photo: Courtesy of William R. Gates - Fotolia.com
- Dothan, Photo: Courtesy of Nick Fox - Fotolia.com
- Foley, Photo: Visit Foley Alabama
- Gulf State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Eric - Fotolia.com
- Guntersville, Photo: Courtesy of JudyK - Fotolia.com
- Hoover, Photo: City of Hoover
- Huntsville, Photo: Courtesy of Robert Hainer - Fotolia.com
- Lookout Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Friedemann - Fotolia.com
- Monte Sano State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Wirepec - Fotolia.com
- Montgomery, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Muscle Shoals, Photo: Courtesy of joeycheung - Fotolia.com
- Selma, Photo: Courtesy of Rex Wholster - Fotolia.com
- Talladega, Photo: Visit Talladega
- Tuscaloosa, Photo: Courtesy of Thomas Braun - Fotolia.com
- Orange Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Ulf - Fotolia.com
- Scottsboro, Photo: City of Scottsboro Alabama
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
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