From classic southern barbecue and world-class museums to waterfalls and wineries, Alabama has something for everyone to enjoy. Its sandy beaches are pristine and white, it’s history is rich, and its cities are buzzing with activities for all ages.
Because Alabama thrives in the center of the South, it’s also easy to reach from many other destination cities including New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, and Atlanta. Whether you’re planning a classic cross-country visit or simply looking for a quick getaway, Alabama gives visitors the perfect opportunity to taste America’s traditional southern culture. After arriving, here are a few bucket list activities you might want to put on your travel itinerary:
Visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is a practical dream for any child or adult who has ever been captivated at the thought of space travel. As the largest spaceflight museum in the world, it offers engaging and hands-on exhibits aimed at educating visitors to learn about the development of the American space shuttle program and military hardware.
Its interactive sections feature a Mars Climbing Wall, a Human Exploration Rover Challenge course in which participants race, and a realistic motion-based flight simulator. For an additional charge, visitors may also enjoy immersive astronomy shows in the museums INTUITIVE Theatre, a state-of-the-art digital planetarium displaying 8k laser projections and cutting-edge clarity.
See the Glow Worms at Dismals Canyon Conservatory
Located in Northwest Alabama, Dismals Canyon Conservatory is charming by day and electrifying by night. While daytime visitors will enjoy 85 acres of hiking trails, waterfalls, and intricate rock formations, it’s advisable that you book one of the Conservatory’s famous night tours. After dark, the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent Dismalites, which visitors affectionately refer to as “glow worms.” Because the Conservatory is privately owned and operated, those wishing to visit must book a tour through the Dismals website.
Explore Gulf State Park
No discussion of Alabama’s top destination spots could be complete without mention of its gorgeous shoreline. Located along the state’s southern coast, Gulf State Park offers visitors some of the country’s best views of the Gulf of Mexico. The park itself consists of two miles of white sandy beaches flanked by a marvelous, surging surf. With plenty of seashells, the sun-kissed beaches of Gulf State Park are a popular spot to have a picnic, build a sandcastle, or simply enjoy the ocean breeze.
In addition to pristine beaches, the park is also home to a championship golf course, a premium tennis court, hiking trails, and a 1,512-foot-long fishing pier. Those wishing to stay overnight may choose to camp onsite or rent one of the Park’s quaint rental cottages and enjoy the beach all week.
Tour the USS Alabama in Mobile
During World War II, the USS Alabama cruised both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As one of the South Dakota Class watercraft, the ship was a heavily armed and powerful player in the United States navy operations. Now, it is retired and resting in Alabama—its namesake state.
Those passing through Mobile are encouraged to enjoy one of the ship’s three self-guided tours. Following three separate paths and spanning the entirety of the ship, the tours include interactive displays, somber memorials, and vivid illustrations of the daily life and sacrifices that happened onboard. As one of the state’s most iconic pieces of history, the USS Alabama is a must-see for anyone travelling through Mobile.
Tour the Legacy Museum in Montgomery
Founded by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2018, the Legacy Museums opening was greeted with much anticipation. The museum is a sobering and powerful experience which details the legacy of slavery and racial terrorism for which Alabama is sadly known. As both an educational and confrontationally compelling museum, Legacy explores the realities of hate using engaging technology which touches visitors while humanizing the stories and struggles of those impacted by slavery.
The Legacy Museum is an absolute must for anyone visiting Alabama. It’s open Wednesday through Monday with general adult admission of $8 and a reduced rate for seniors and students. Children 6 years and younger are free. Due to the museum’s overwhelming popularity, it’s advised that you book tickets in advance.
Shop at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of realizing your suitcase is missing at an airport’s baggage claim area, you’ve probably wondered what happens to unclaimed bags. While some finally do make it back to their rightful owners, many will end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.
The shop sells anything found in unclaimed airline luggage. While this often includes everyday items like clothes and electronics, much stranger items such as whale vertebrae, stuffed geese, and moose antlers have also made their way to the store. Though not a traditional sightseeing spot, the Scottsboro Unclaimed Baggage Center has become a popular attraction for travellers who love oddities and a good deal. The store covers more than a city block and draws in over a million visitors a year.
Cruise the Rim of Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located near Fort Payne, Alabama and DeSoto State Park, Little River Canyon is a 15,288-acre preserve that rests at the precipice of Lookout Mountain. Its crown gem is the river, which is said to be the purest and most pristine waterway in the Southern United States.
While the Preserve offers visitors a selection of trails which wind through the canyon with viewing spots of the river, the most common way to take in its beauty is via the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway. This 23-mile scenic drive winds along the outskirts of the Canyon, offering breathtaking scenes of its cascading waterfalls and glimpses of the abandoned Canyonland Amusement Park. While the Preserve is a delight in any season, it is especially popular in autumn when the area’s trees come to life with color.