Nicknamed the “Heart of Dixie,” the “Cotton State,” and the “Yellowhammer State,” Alabama is known for its rich history, agricultural leadership, and small-town vibes. It’s the perfect place for travelers seeking a taste of Southern charm. There’s so much to experience that planning the perfect trip can be tricky. We’ve narrowed down 10 of the best places to visit in Alabama to help you get started.
The most populated city in Alabama, Birmingham definitely tops the list. It’s got a little bit of everything, meaning there’s also something for everyone. History buffs will enjoy the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and families and animal lovers will enjoy exploring The Birmingham Zoo. The Alabama Theater is great for a range of interests; the facility was built in 1927 and is one of America’s last functioning movie palaces. Visitors can both take a tour and catch a show. Additionally, Birmingham features live music venues, hundreds of great eateries, and a hopping nightlife.
Known as the City of Progress, Enterprise embraces its roots while leading the charge in cultural innovation. Every year, it hosts events like the Piney Woods Arts Festival, the Summer Fest, and the Boll Weevil Festival to showcase and celebrate the region’s art. Other opportunities to experience art in the area include the Enterprise Performing Arts Center and the Coffee County Arts Alliance, both of which regularly bring in a variety of shows and live entertainment.
Notably, the city is also home to the only monument of an insect in the world, the Boll Weevil Monument, which recognizes the bug’s significance to agricultural history.
3. Gulf Shores
Gulf Shores is one of the best places to enjoy the water in Alabama. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, this beach city is a hub for boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming, diving, and other watersports. One of the things that makes it so unique is the fact that it makes up part of the largest artificial reef program in the United States. There’s a whole other world beneath the waves.
While you’re there, don’t miss out on a chance to charter a boat and see what you can catch. Lazy Line II Charters, Lost Bay Guide Service, and Lost Key Charters all offer an array of fun fishing excursions for the whole family.
Want a vacation that’s both fun and informational? Look no further than Huntsville, Alabama, otherwise known as Rocket City. It has sat at the forefront of aerospace engineering for decades and continues to lead the pack via the Marshall Space Flight Center, which is still an active lab. Learn more about what they’re working on and about the history of space exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the world’s largest space museum. It features exhibits like Explorer I, the first American satellite, and a Saturn V rocket, and experiences like the G-Force Accelerator and Space Shot. It also has an IMAX theater and a space camp.
When you return to Earth, discover all our world has to offer at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. Besides the 120 acres of natural beauty, the facility is also home to the country’s largest open-air butterfly house.
Located only miles away from Huntsville, Madison is the perfect place for a small-town experience. The quaint downtown area features a variety of shops and restaurants with a strong emphasis on family. The community encourages both residents and visitors to shop locally and support local businesses.
One of the best times to visit is October. Every year on the first Saturday of the month, the Madison Street Festival brings everyone together for a celebration of fall. The event includes hundreds of vendors, performers, artists, musicians, and, of course, great food.
Literature lovers will revel in the opportunity to explore Monroeville. This city has produced famous writers like Truman Capote and Harper Lee, and it has come to really embrace its storied past. Harper Lee famously based the setting of her books, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman,” on Monroeville; the building where the inspiration for Atticus Finch still stands there, as does the courtroom and clocktower. Notably, she grew up next door to Truman Capote, the author of “In Cold Blood.” Visitors can get a glimpse into their world at the Old Courthouse Museum, which has photos, exhibits, and stories based on the pair.
To see “To Kill a Mockingbird” come to life, make sure to stop by between April and May to see the annual production, “Mockingbird.” The play starts on the lawn of the Old Courthouse Museum and concludes in the actual courtroom used for the trial.
Haven’t gotten your “To Kill a Mockingbird” fill yet? Check out the Birdhouse Trail, featuring 25 birdhouses inspired by the book. Each was carved by local artists.
The capital of Alabama, Montgomery is packed with fun things for the whole family to enjoy. The Montgomery Zoo provides the unique chance to see and interact with creatures from around the world. Feed river otters and giraffes, ride on the horse trails, and meet babies like the zoo’s African pygmy hippo, born in 2018, right in the middle of this sprawling city. The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts contains thousands of beautiful pieces, and the Shakespeare Gardens & Amphitheatre is famous for hosting one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the world.
8. Orange Beach
Neighboring Gulf Shores, Orange Beach offers a different take on the Alabama coast. The Wharf is the city’s premier entertainment destination. Centered around the city’s beautiful marina, The Wharf combines shopping, dining, and amusement for one big celebration. The Ferris Wheel provides unique view of the Gulf of Mexico, while the Hummingbird Zipline allows riders to soar over it. The Sunny Lady Dolphin & Sunset Tour will even take travelers out onto the waters in search of the area’s native dolphins.
For a more sports-centric trip, try Pelham. This small city rests in the foothills of Oak Mountain, creating the outstanding views the Ballantrae Golf Club is famous for. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the scenery as you make your way through the 18-hole course. Further, the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena is a premier destination for ice sports, and Pelham Racquet Club offers 25 tennis courts in a beautiful outdoor facility.
With an abundance of parks, Prattville is the perfect place to get in touch with nature. The Autauga Bluebird Trail has hundreds of houses for these special birds, and the Autauga Creek Canoe Trail is known for its calm and enjoyable waters. The creek is also the source of Prattville’s famous artesian wells. Although many are no longer operational, some still produce gallons of water. Residents and visitors often wait in line to fill up containers with it to consume at their leisure.
Steeped in history and culture, Alabama offers experiences like no other. Start your journey today!