Located in the southeastern part of the United States, Alabama is the 30th biggest state in terms of its area and the 24th largest in terms of population. Nicknamed the Yellowhammer state in honor of its state bird, Alabama is also known as the 'Cotton State' and 'Heart of Dixie'. Alabama has the unique distinction of having more inland waterways than any other state, with over 1,500 miles in total.
Alabama covers an area of 52,419 square miles and has a total estimated population of more than 4.8 million. The state has borders with Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, as well as having a relatively small stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. The capital city of Alabama is Montgomery, but its biggest city is Birmingham, with Greater Birmingham being the biggest metropolitan area in Alabama. Here are some key details, statistics, and facts about the largest cities in Alabama. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
5 of the Largest Cities in Alabama
- Birmingham, Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com
- Montgomery, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Mobile, Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com
- Huntsville, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Tuscaloosa, Photo: kichigin19/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Kevin - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Mobile Botanical Gardens
The Mobile Botanical Gardens, located along the sunny Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama, prides itself in its extensive collection of unique plants and scenic walking trails. Besides the breathtaking scenery, there is a fascinating history behind the city of Mobile and its life-long relationship with gardening. The mission of the staff at the Mobile Botanical Gardens in Alabama is to promote a passion for the outdoors, knowledge of conservation techniques and the pleasure of gardening. They strive to make the gardens a safe-haven for both education and enjoyment for all who visit.
The Mobile Botanical Gardens consist of more than 100 acres of paved garden areas and woodland trails, as well as a butterfly and pollinator garden and one of the most comprehensive collections of Azaleas along the Gulf Coast. Sightings of local wildlife is also fairly common at the gardens, visitors can expect to see all kinds of unique insects, birds, turtles and frogs throughout the gardens and trails.
There are plenty of paved gardens to enjoy: The Japanese Maple Garden; The Fragrance and Texture Garden; The ReBloom Mobile Garden; The Bamboo Garden; The Herb Garden; and The Butterfly and Pollinator Garden (still in development). These gardens are self-guided, and contain paved paths and level grounds that are safe for visitors of all ages and abilities to navigate.
There is also the Woodland Gardens and Trails, which caters to visitors who cannot navigate uneven ground (mulch, pebbles, etc.). These gardens and trails include: The Rose Garden; The Kosaku Sawada Winter Garden; The Fern Glade; The Camellia Bridge; The Tea Maze; The Magnolia Grove; The Hydrangea Garden and Trails; and even the Dodd Quarry and Amphitheater. More able-bodied visitors can enjoy a scenic hike or walk on these trails.
Interestingly enough, one of the last remaining pine forests in the city is also located at the Botanical Gardens. This forest, known as Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest, consists of 35 acres of land that is subject to controlled burns in order to encourage reseeding and regeneration. Hard-working volunteers constantly maintain the land by ridding it of invasive species and helping new seedlings to flourish in newly regenerated areas. The maintenance of Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest is extremely important to the vast ecosystem that resides within: as of 2007, scientists found that there were more than 250 different plant species in the forest alone.
The Kosaku Sawada Winter Garden is home to one of the most historically intriguing and diverse flowers in the world: the Camellia. The flower arrived in America, from its original home in the Orient, approximately 200 years ago. It is a vibrant and ever-evolving flower that quickly became a native to the warm climates of the Gulf Coast. Currently, there are over 20,000 documented variations and hybrids of the flower, with new species being discovered every year. The gardens, with the aid of three local Camellia clubs and societies, proudly house a diverse collection of these vibrant flowers. Most recently, the Kosaku Sawada Winder Garden received a great honor from the International Camellia Society: it was named a "Garden of Excellence."
The equally beautiful, but vastly different species of flower, Azalea, also resides at the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Located in the Rhododendron Garden, this collection is one of the most extensive collections of Azaleas along the Gulf Coast. These flowers bloom amongst a longleaf pine forest filled with walking trails, which ultimately converge at a plaza filled with 19th century cast-iron columns. These columns used to be a part of buildings that made up downtown Mobile before they were demolished. There are also hand-made bricks that once paved the streets of downtown Mobile which now make up the walking area of the central plaza. This central plaza has been created with literal pieces of history from the City of Mobile, while breathtaking Azaleas, the pride of the gardens, bloom all around. It is truly a place of astounding beauty and reflection.
The warm and breezy weather that accompanies the Gulf Coast will make any of these trails and gardens a beautiful year-round experience for visitors.
The Botanical Gardens were established in the early 1970s when the City of Mobile donated 100 acres of land to the South Alabama Horticulture and Botanical Society. The Gardens were officially open to the public in 1974 and have been flourishing ever since.
The establishment of the Mobile Botanical Gardens, its vast collection of flowers and its shady trails come from great European influence. When the city of Mobile was founded by the French in the 18th century, Louis XIV gave strict orders to his colonists stating that gardening and horticulture were to be priorities for the new colony. In fact, some of the earliest city plans for Mobile picture a wealth of shady paths and blooming gardens, both edible and ornamental. The City of Mobile clearly has gardening in its roots.
In the early 19th century, the City of Mobile was well-known by visitors for its splendid villas and embellished gardens. Even through the many battles of the Civil War, and even deadly hurricanes which caused many of the city's gardens and estates to repeatedly be destroyed, the City of Mobile has rebuilt and continuously maintained its reputation as an exuberant gardening community.
The Mobile Botanical Gardens experienced hardship due to weather in the late 70s and early 80s, when Hurricane Frederic struck, destroying many of the gardens and trails, followed by a horrible flood that washed out the main road to the gardens. Since that time however, the Botanical Gardens have established many new traditions, gardens and trails that visitors know and love today.
The Botanical Gardens are also available for a variety of events such as weddings, receptions, parties and holiday celebrations. The recently renovated Botanical Center has a truly rustic feel with scenic views of the gardens from large windows all around. The exposed beams and stone floors mimic the feel and color of the local culture of the City of Mobile. There are French doors that open out to the ReBloom Garden on the north side, while the south side doors open out to the Herb Garden. The Botanical Center combines nature and glamour, making it the perfect place for any party.
There are an abundance of outdoor activities and adventures awaiting the entire family at the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Whether it's hiking, picnicking or nature-watching, there is plenty to do and see at the gardens. Artists can also explore and feel free to draw, paint or take professional photographs in the gardens. Professional photography sessions can also be scheduled ahead of time.
Although guided tours are available upon request, most tours of the gardens are self-guided. The Botanical Gardens have even installed several stations with QR (Quick Response) codes that can be scanned with visitor's personal cell phones. Upon scanning the QR codes, a cellular audio tour will begin, allowing visitors to tour the park on their own.
Once you have completed your tour of the Mobile Botanical Gardens, there is plenty to do and see in the great City of Mobile. There is the Museum of Art, the Azalea City Golf Course, and plenty of historic sites and fine dining in the downtown section of the city.
5151 Museum Drive Mobile AL 36608, Phone: 251-342-0555
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Attraction Spotlight: Environmental Studies Center
The Environmental Studies Center is a facility for educating visitors in the natural sciences located in Mobile, AL. The center not only provides unique learning experiences for visitors, but is also home to a wildlife rehabilitation program that treats and cares for over six hundred sick, wounded, and orphaned animals a year.
The Environmental Studies Center covers over five hundred acres of forest that includes natural habitats such as pine and bay groves, freshwater brooks, a predatory plant bog, swamps, and a lake taking up over twenty acres of the facility. The facility also contains man-made trails, sheltered pavilions, live animal displays, a native plant garden, and a butterfly garden. The center has several indoor exhibits and facilities as well, including a gift shop, live reptile displays, a saltwater aquarium, an auditorium, and several preserved specimens displays that are native to Alabama.
The Environmental Studies Center is also home to a wildlife rehabilitation program. The program focuses on caring for and treating the wounded and orphaned wildlife of Alabama, rehabilitation center takes in over eight hundred animals a year. The rehabilitation program counts on donations to provide the animals with the shelter, care, and food the animals need to survive.
What’s New at ESC
Visitors to the Environmental Studies Center can expect to encounter new animals when visiting due to the wildlife rehabilitation program.
The center took in Cassi, an American kestrel in the spring of 2016. A vehicle hit her causing damage to her wing that was severe enough to prevent her being released back into the wild. Visitors should stop in and see her in her new home with the screech owls on the Bird of Prey Boardwalk.
In June the Environmental Studies Center agreed to house eight baby pelicans from the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center in Biloxi, in Mississippi. The baby pelicans were found after on the beach after Tropical Storm Cindy and had been blown off the Mississippi barrier island where they nest. Out of twenty babies found only sixteen of them survived and eight of them made it to the center in Mobile. In August the Pelicans were released back into the wild.
Bringing Animals to the Center
The community can do their part for the animals the Environmental Studies Center works to rehabilitate. If an injured or sick animal is found it can be brought to the center. Until it can be brought to the center, rescuers should do the following:
· Use gloves or towels when touching and handling the animal
· Fill a box with a t-shirt or torn newspaper
· Make sure the animal stays calm and warm
· Do not give food to the animal
Since the center does offer a pick-up service for wounded animals, the animal must be brought to the center by the person who found it for it to receive treatment.
Baby Squirrels- The center is only receiving wounded or sick squirrels and asks that if a baby squirrel is found that it is returned to its home. In order to return it, it should be placed in a hanging plant basket filled with straw or grass made into a nest, with holes in it. The basket should be hung next to whichever tree the baby was found under. It is okay to touch the baby, as squirrels have a very strong paternal instinct and will not refuse to take the babies back. Baby squirrels should never be left on the ground as predators and ants can harm them.
Baby Birds- The difference between the two types of baby birds should be learned as it affects how and if they should be rescued:
· Nestling- a baby bird without feathers or with pin feathers, that hasn’t yet left the nest. It should be returned to the nest in the same way as baby squirrels
· Fledgling- has feathers and is in the process of learning to fly; once a fledgling has left the nest it does not return. These babies should be left alone other than to place them in a bush near the tree for their protection.
Baby birds should only be brought to the center if it can be verified that the parents are dead, it is injured, or is in danger.
The Environmental Studies Center partners with the schools all around Mobile to offer field trips that can bring learning out of the classroom and into the real world.
The center holds a semiannual fundraising open house to raise awareness and fund for the rehabilitation program.
Donations can also be made as resources or materials needed by the center to care for the animals or as a monetary donation.
6101 Girby Rd, Mobile, AL 36693, Phone: 251-221-5000
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Attraction Spotlight: Mobile Museum of Art
The Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Alabama seeks to provide a thought-provoking atmosphere, where guests are enriched by interacting with the visual arts. To educate, the museum conserves, collects, interprets, researches, and exhibits art.
The museum’s permanent collection of 10,000 works is comprised of European, American, Asian and African art featuring sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, and decorative art. Significant holdings include: realist paintings from the WPA era, 19th-century American landscapes, turned wood and ceramics, and contemporary international studio glass.
In 1957, the Mobile Museum of Art was launched by the Mobile Art Association. 1963 saw the establishment of the Mobile Art Gallery. The museum opened to the public in a large building in Langan Park in 1964, and then a new wing was added in 1976, with city funding and monies from private and county contributors. The museum ran a satellite gallery downtown, from 1992 to 2001.
In 1993, a bequest was received to construct a gallery. This bequest gave way to thinking about a significant museum expansion and the MMofA Board of Directors adopted a plan in January 1997. The museum’s first capital campaign set a goal of $15 million and the effort was underway in 1999. Finally, the museum broke ground for its new facility in March 2000.
The museum hosted a re-opening on September 5, 2002 with Picturing French Style: Three Hundred Years of Art and Fashion, an exhibition that coincided with Mobile’s celebration of its founding by the French 300 years earlier.
American Art: 1945 to the Present is an expansion on the theme of another museum exhibition: 150 Years of American Art (ca. 1795- 1945). The first-floor exhibition essentially gives a visual narrative of America as seen through art; this latest exhibition includes the decorative arts and art, which has been produced since World War II, when art in America was seen as a major force in the art world across the globe.
As New York, rather than Paris, became the center of the art world, artists in America departed from European traditions – and the past. Art work in America, in scale and theme, grew outsized, more gestural and abstract, as American artists created a new vocabulary for themselves. In its collection, the museum has works that represent top artists from the United States. Many works have rarely been seen, if at all. The work of artists who have been recognized nationally and regionally is exhibited.
Contemporary American artists can be seen in three related exhibitions in adjacent galleries. These exhibits represent the continuation of the bold vocabulary of American art today. On view are Hiroshi Sueyoshi’s site specific installation Rock Garden, Raine Bedsole’s site specific installation You are the River, and John Cerney: SELFIE.
In the Katharine C. Cochrane Gallery, visitors will come face to face with the American art story, which is the story of America itself: the people and their environment, typical lives, and their interaction with others and the world. Prior to 1776 and afterwards, the painting of portraits was a predominant event as leading citizens and their families sought to celebrate and flaunt their achievements – even more so as the American colonies moved toward becoming an independent country. At that time, art could be said to include certain household items as silversmiths, furniture makers, glassmakers, weavers, and potters produced their crafts to compete with imports. With the War of Independence, artists in America sought to convey the meaning of war – with its victories, heroes, and tragedies – sometimes keeping in mind Old World painting as a model.
With independence and westward expansion, the immense landscape caught the attention of American artists. Beginning in the 1820s through the 1860s, there was the widespread belief that nature was “the visible expression of the divine” and that “to study nature would bring one closer to God’s handiwork and so to God’s revelation.” These beliefs were rendered in art. Although American artists could be trained in major cities, many ventured to Europe, with its established museums, to learn to become part of that artistic tradition. This continued throughout the entire nineteenth century.
After a time, artists hailing from America and Europe saw what they considered modern life as worthy of art. In the middle of the nineteenth century, American landscape artists started to weave into their work African Americans and Native Americans, and there was a shift expressed – a movement to depict the stress of modern urban life. With the Great Depression, came an interest in conveying the difficulties of the period realistically. At the same time, some artists began to favor European Modernism – Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, Dada, and abstraction – which made a strong showing in 1913 at New York City’s Armory Show. Yet, even as stylistic and intellectual trends of the 1920s and 1930s were influenced by Europe and those artists who came to the United States because of World War II, art maintained an American bias. That American flavor would lead artists to convey their own modernist art and influence the schools of abstraction.
In the Mary and Charles Rodning Gallery, visitors will see the museum’s long tradition of connections with Asia. Asian goods did indeed pass through its port, while the camellias and azaleas that one sees in Mobile originated in Japan and China. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many travelers, like Christian missionaries, used Mobile as a base for making their way to the Far East and returning from it.
One exceptional resident of Mobile – for his connection to Asian Art – was Ernest Fenollosa, who lived from 1853-1908. He is credited for spearheading the nation’s interest in Japanese and Chinese art. He was born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard, and for a few years, he made Spring Hill his home, with Mary McNeil Scott, his second wife. The pair established a Japanese garden, that is not in existence any longer, but the Charles Wood Japanese Garden pays him tribute. Fenollosa’s posthumous two-volume “Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art,” was published in 1912.
Asian art comes from many sources. Early examples, like the bronzes and ceramics, were buried to accompany the deceased in the afterlife. Frescoes and sculptures and hanging scrolls come from temples, sanctuaries, and private home altars where they were used as part of Buddhist worship. The privileged classes enjoyed exquisitely crafted ceramics, bronzes, enamels, and textiles.
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4850 Museum Drive, Mobile, Alabama 36608-1917, Phone: 251-208-5200
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