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I am a born and bred Alabamian, and while my state does have its…ahem, issues….I actually love it so much. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and has so many stories to tell. Traveling around Alabama you can go from the beaches to the mountains, walk through history, and see the future of space exploration. There are truly so many things to do in Alabama, and I can’t wait to share them with you!
Things To Do in North Alabama
US Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville has a long history with space flight innovation (in fact, a lot of Huntsville’s economy comes from space-related government contracting) and it is home to the US Space & Rocket Center! It’s where Space Camp is located, but you don’t have to be attending Space Camp to enjoy the Rocket Center.
You’ll notice the US Space & Rocket Center right away from the giant Saturn V rocket that is part of Huntsville’s skyline. Plus the SECOND Saturn V with large display windows you can see in the Davidson Center.
There’s TONS to here, including the outdoor rocket park, indoor museums displays, and rides like the G-Force Accelerator and Moon Shot. You can also pay extra for additional Space Camp-like experiences such as the Multi-Axis Trainer or a Flight Simulator Experience.
Definitely don’t miss the Intuitive Planetarium! They have daily shows, and while it is an additional cost it is totally worth it!
And even though you may think geeking out at a space museum is more for adults, there’s actually lots for kids to do here too. Not only will they enjoy the rockets in the rocket park, but there are several dedicated kids play areas in the Davidson Center and a Smithsonian Spark!Lab which is a STEM exploration room just for kids.
Location: One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL
Huntsville Botanical Garden
The Huntsville Botanical Garden is one of my favorite places in the city! It’s a peaceful spot in the middle of the city full of peaceful gardens, walking paths, and fun seasonal events. When my kiddo was younger, it was actually one of my favorite places to take her in Huntsville. I enjoyed the time in nature, and she loved the dedicated kids spaces like the children’s gardens and the playgrounds.
Some highlights include:
- A dedicated children’s garden with interactive gardens, a splash area, and lots of room to run around.
- The Purdy Butterfly House—the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house!
- All kinds of gardens, including an aquatic garden, an herb garden, an azalea trail, and a fern glade.
- A place to relax in the hammock haven.
And be sure to check out the seasonal offerings. The Galaxy of Lights during the holidays is one of our favorite Huntsville traditions. During the fall, they have a scarecrow trail. And at other times of the year there often have special fun displays for the family to enjoy.
Location: 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, Huntsville, AL
Monte Sano State Park
Monte Sano State Park is one of the best places for getting outside in Huntsville! It’s on top of Monte Sano Mountain, and it’s a gorgeous place to take in the spectacular nature in North Alabama!
There’s tons to do here, from hiking trails to a Japanese Garden to an amazing playground for kids. They also offer campsites and cabins if you’d like to stay overnight.
There are lots of fun and family-friendly trails at Monte Sano, but one of my favorites is the Stone Cuts Trail. It takes you through some fun rock formations and cave-like tunnels. (Pro tip: If you want to see this DON’T take the Stone Cuts Trail bypass!)
So spend a morning hiking at Monte Sano, and then enjoy a picnic lunch at one of their many picnic areas.
Location: 5105 Nolen Avenue, Huntsville, AL
Burritt on the Mountain
Burritt on the Mountain is a unique open-air history museum up on the mountain. So first thing’s first: It has INCREDIBLE views of downtown Huntsville! So if you want to get a bird’s eye view of the city, this is where you need to go!
But more than the amazing mountaintop views, Burritt offers a look back in time where you can tour houses and cabins from Alabama’s history.
The main house here is the Burritt mansion, built by Dr. Burritt in 1938 (after his first one burnt down in 1936). Beyond that though, you’ll find cabins from various points in Alabama’s history in the outdoor park, along with a barn, a blacksmiths shop, and a recreated Rosenwald schoolhouse.
And beyond the historical outdoor museum, there are also several nature trails where you can enjoy a hike.
Location: 3101 Burritt Drive, Huntsville, AL
Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House Museum
Did you know that North Alabama is home to a Frank Lloyd Wright house? It’s the Rosenbuam House and it’s actually the only one in Alabama and the only one in the Southeast open to the public!
It was built for the Rosenbaum family in 1939 and was one of Wright’s Usonian designs, meant to be an affordable home for middle class families and able to grow with them. In fact, when the Rosenbaum family grew to include more children, Wright nearly doubled the size of the original house in 1948.
You can visit and take a tour that lasts about 45 minutes, where an expert will tell you all about the home’s history and architecture.
Location: 601 Riverview Drive, Florence, AL
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
The North Alabama town of Muscle Shoals has a long history with music. It’s a small town, and you might never suspect it, but some of the most famous hits of all time were recorded in Muscle Shoals.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was established in 1969 by four musicians known as The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka the Swampers) and they worked with artists at their studio including Cher, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, and so so many more.
In 2015, the building was restored after being closed for awhile and reopened as a museum in 2017. You can take tours and see the studio was it was in the 1970s.
But it’s also still a working recording studio, and artists from around the world still come here to record. For example, recently Lana del Rey stopped by for a recording.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. They offer tours every hour on the half hour.
Location: 3614 N Jackson Highway, Sheffield, AL
W.C. Handy Home and Museum
Here’s another iconic music location in the Shoals!
W.C. Handy is known as the “Father of the Blues.” He was an African American musician who fell in love with it despite his parents’ religious objections. And he went on to become one of the most famous blue composers, writing well known blues like Memphis Blues and St. Louis Blues.
You can visit the W.C. Handy Home and Museum and see items and papers he donated before his death. And it’s housed in the log cabin is was born in (which has been carefully reassembled in its current location).
If you love music, this is definitely a stop you want to make! I still remember learning about W.C. Handy in Alabama History class when I was in elementary school. He’s a truly iconic musician and important not just in Alabama’s history, but in the history of American music as a whole!
Location: 620 West College Street, Florence, AL
Ivy Green (Helen Keller’s House)
Even if you aren’t from Alabama, you know the story of Helen Keller. But here’s a summary: Helen became blind and deaf as a result of a childhood illness and reigned with terror in her house until a young teacher, Annie Sullivan, came to help her.
Ivy Green is the home in Tuscumbia where Helen Keller was raised. And it’s really one of my favorite historic sites in North Alabama! Here are some of the things you can do here:
- Take a tour of the house.
- See the small museum within the house with artifacts from Helen’s life and lots of braille examples.
- Walk the beautiful grounds and gardens.
- See the water pump where Helen had her famous “water” breakthrough.
- See the cabin next to the house where Helen lived with Annie (this is such a fascinating story!).
- See performances of The Miracle Worker (select summer days, and buy tickets in advance).
The history here is really incredible and the museum docents do an excellent job of bringing Helen’s story to life. One thing that really struck me here was how young Annie Sullivan was when she came to teach Helen and also how enduring their friendship became.
Ivy Green is in the Shoals area, so if you’re visiting, you can easily pair it with sites like the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the W.C. Handy Museum.
Location: 300 North Commons Street W, Tuscumbia, AL
So you probably know about the glowworms in Australia and New Zealand. But did you know the Dismals Canyon, Alabama is the third place on earth glowworms are found? (Y’all! I’m not kidding! Glowworms are found in only three places on earth: Australia, New Zealand, and Dismals Canyon in Alabama.)
At Dismals Canyon, these glowworms are called Dismalites, and you can book a night tour to see them. The best times are in the Spring and Fall, and you’ll need to call ahead to get your tour.
Pro Tip: Make reservations one week in advance for their weekend night tours. You can call on Sunday for the following weekend. The phone line WILL be busy. Just pack your patience and keep trying!
Beyond seeing the Dismalites, Dismals Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in North Alabama to hike! It is full of lovely trails, cool rock formations (be careful not to touch or you’ll disrupt the Dismalites’ habitat!), a peaceful stream, and fun bridges.
Location: 901 Highway 8, Phil Campbell, AL
Bankhead National Forest
Bankhead National Forest is one of the best places to go hiking in North Alabama! It’s about 1.5 hours away from Huntsville, and just about 45 minutes south of Muscle Shoals.
Bankhead is full of gorgeous hiking trails and waterfalls and forests. In fact, if you’re on the lookout for great waterfalls, Bankhead is one of the best places you can go in the area. It’s an incredibly biodiverse area (so yay science!) but it also feels like you are walking through an enchanted forest at times (yay magic!).
Location: Double Springs, AL
Natural Bridge Park
Natural Bridge in Alabama is a 148-foot sandstone bridge that rises to a height of 60 feet. It’s one of the many natural wonders of North Alabama and worth a trip to check out. It’s actually the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies!
There’s a short hiking trail to see the bridge, and once you are there you can climb some steps and continue on the path to walk underneath it. It’s truly awe-inspiring, especially when the sun hits it just right!
And while this is a great place to visit in the spring, summer, and fall, the last time I was there was in winter and I thought it was still incredible! (And the icicles hanging from various parts of the bluff were fun too! Although you aren’t always going to get icicles in Alabama!)
This is near Bankhead National Forest, so pairing the two together would be a great day trip!
Location: 315 County Road 3500, Natural Bridge, AL
Cathedral Caverns State Park
Another one of North Alabama’s most incredible natural wonders is Cathedral Caverns. This is an awe-inspiring cave that offers family-friendly tours about .75 inside the earth.
And when you get to the end, you’ll understand why it’s named Cathedral Caverns. The last publicly accessible room of the cavern is the incredible cathedral room, with stalagmites and stalactites forming intricate formations all around you.
You’ll also have the chance to see some other fun things like shark teeth in the ceiling (from when the cavern was once under water!), a frozen waterfall, and a filming location for a 90s Disney movie.
Bring a picnic, and after your tour you can enjoy the park’s picnic areas and even some of their hiking trails.
Location: 637 Cave Road, Woodville, AL
Unclaimed Baggage Center
Have you ever wondered what happens to your luggage if you lose it on a flight and are never able to recover it? Well, it often ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama! They are the only lost luggage retailer in the US, and their trademark is “You never know what you’ll find!” And it’s the truth!
When I was in college, I worked at a summer camp near Unclaimed Baggage, and we used to love going there on the weekends and picking through the CDs (ohhh, the early aughts) and finding fun t-shirts. But they have everything from electronics to clothing to toys. I’ve even seen a wedding dress there!
If you love shopping or looking through a good flea market, this is like that but on a whole different scale!
Location: 509 W Willow Street, Scottsboro, AL
You know how mountain towns just have their own culture sometimes? Like, they tend to attract free-thinkers and artists and such? Well that’s totally the vibe of Mentone, a tiny mountain town in Northeast Alabama.
Mentone is on top of Lookout Mountain, and it’s a charming and quirky little town with small shops and restaurants. (Check hours before you go though! This is a small town, so the days these places are open can sometimes be limited!)
Fun fact: Mentone is also home to Alabama’s ONLY ski resort! It’s a tiny place called Cloudmount Ski Resort, where they are two beginner hills and where the snow is of course man-made. But hey! We actually have a ski resort in Alabama, which is pretty cool!
Mentone makes for the perfect little peaceful getaway, plus with its proximity to DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy Alabama’s beautiful outdoors.
Location: Mentone, AL
DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is a beautiful state park in Northeast Alabama and it’s home to DeSoto Falls, ones of the tallest waterfalls in North Alabama. And this state park has tons of amenities you can enjoy!
Besides the waterfall and picnic area, there is a swimming pool, a playground, cabins and chalets, and of course hiking trails. It’s a beautiful park with the Little River running through it, which is controlled by A.A. Miller Dam, and there are several swimming opportunities along it.
Besides the over 35 miles of hiking trails, there are also lots of adventures you can have here. You can rent kayaks to kayak the park’s Little River. Or you can do a zipline canopy tour with Screaming Eagle.
It’s super easy to spend a whole day (or even a weekend!) having fun here! (And I highly recommend pairing it with a trip to Mentone and Little River Canyon!)
Location: 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, Fort Payne, AL
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located just a few miles down the road from DeSoto State Park is Little River Canyon National Preserve. I’m telling y’all…the beauty of Northeast Alabama is so much that the parks just have to come one right after the other.
Little River, which also goes through DeSoto State Park, winds through this nature preserve. You can hike, fish, bike, kayak, and just enjoy Alabama the Beautiful. There are lots of overlooks where you can see the beauty of the canyon too by driving the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway.
Location: 4322 Little River Canyon Rim Parkway, Fort Payne, AL
Cherokee Rock Village
Cherokee Rock Village is such a unique place in Alabama! It truly is like a rock village, where you can climb and walk across giant boulders and look out over Weiss Lake. (In a way, it’s kind of like Rock City in Chattanooga, except without the commercialism and prescribed trails.)
There are over 14 miles of hiking trails in Cherokee Rock Village. And of course if you are a rock climber, this is going to be paradise for you. There are over 200 spots for climbing and bouldering.
There’s also a pavilion and playground, and if you want to make an overnight trip of it there are camping spots and showers.
Location: 2000 County Road 70, Leesburg, AL
Noccalula Falls Park
Noccalula Falls Park is such a fun park and it’s a great place to go if you have young children! It combines a bit of outdoor adventuring with kid-friendly activities.
The highlight of the park is Noccalula Falls, a 90-foot waterfall that is just steps from the main parking lot. But beyond that there are other hiking trails, an electric train that drives you around the park, and a petting zoo.
It’s one of my favorite things to do in Alabama with kids, because family members of every age will find something to love about this place.
Location: 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, AL
Ave Maria Grotto
Ave Maria Grotto is another thing to do in Alabama that is truly unique. This is a grotto on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey where a monk named Brother Joseph Zoetl, O.S.B. built over 100 miniature structures.
Many of them are churches (if you’ve been to Rome you’ll immediately recognize St. Peter’s). But you’ll also recognize other famous landmarks (like the Colosseum). And while many of the structures are religious in nature, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the artistry of all Brother Zoetl built. It’s pretty incredible!
Location: 1600 St. Bernard Drive, Cullman, AL
Things To Do in Central Alabama
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Many people know about the central role that Alabama played in the Civil Rights movement. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to being a key location for the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Alabama has so much important history. (In fact there’s an entire Civil Rights Trail in Alabama that you can tour.)
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a great place to visit to understand the role Alabama played in the Civil Rights Movement. There are artifacts from key sites in the movement (like church pews and podiums), and displays that explain not just 1960s Civil Rights history, but also more recent Civil Rights issues. It also has the jail cell where Dr. Martin Luther King wrote his famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” It’s all very moving and worth taking the time to see.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is near the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a bombing in 1963. So you can make a couple of stops on the Civil Rights trail just within this one city block.
Location: 520 16th Street N, Birmingham, AL
Vulcan Park and Museum
Driving through Birmingham, it’s almost impossible to miss the Vulcan. Is a huge statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, that looks out over the whole city.
The reason it exists? Because Birmingham has historically been a huge iron and steel production city. And the Vulcan symbolizes this history.
And while you should definitely drive past and see the Vulcan, you can actually visit it and climb it for some great views of the city of Birmingham!
Location: 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham, AL
Birmingham Museum of Art
The Birmingham Museum of Art is one of the best places to go in Alabama to experience a wide variety of art. They have over 27,000 pieces that include art from around the world as well as regional exhibits that focus on the people and history of both Birmingham and the South.
One of the best things about the Birmingham Museum of Art? Admission is free!
And if you are visiting with kids, there are scavenger hunts you can participate in and a specific hands-on gallery that is geared toward kids.
Location: 2000 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard, Birmingham, AL
When my kiddo was little, the Birmingham Zoo was a staple for us when it came to things to do in Alabama. (But of course, zoos aren’t just for kids to enjoy!)
The Birmingham Zoo has over 900 animals to see, including lions, giraffes, bears, elephants, a jaguar, alligators, and more. And, staying true to its Alabama roots, there is a whole section of the zoo dedicated to native Alabama species.
And there are so many great kid activities here! There is a great play area and splash pad, a carousel, and a train you can ride around the zoo. There are also interactive animal exhibits, like feeding giraffes and entering the lorikeet habitat to let them land on your hands and arms (with the help of some sweet food of course!).
Location: 2630 Cahaba Road, Birmingham, AL
McWane Science Center
Aside from the Birmingham Zoo, the other best thing to do with kids in Birmingham is to take them to the McWane Science Center. This is a hands-on science museum that especially focuses on kids. But honestly kids and adults of all ages will enjoy the exhibits!
The exhibits here include aquarium tanks, a bubble room (yes, this sounds like it’s for kids, but if you’re an adult I promise this will bring out your kid-at-heart), an exhibit all about the dinosaurs that once called this area home, and a miniature city for the youngest visitors to play in.
Location: 200 19th Street N, Birmingham, AL
Sloss Furnaces is a National Historic Landmark in Birmingham where you can learn about Birmingham’s iron industry (which truly made the city what it is today). Inside, you can learn about how iron was made and about the people who worked at Sloss Furnances.
It’s also home to Sloss Metal Arts, where they host workshops on metal working. And its the location for the annual Furnace Fest music festival.
Location: 20 32nd Street N, Birmingham, AL
Oak Mountain State Park
If you want to get outside in the Birmingham, Alabama and find some hiking trails, we recommend Oak Mountain State Park. There are lots of hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and equestrian trails.
But this state park also has some other unique outdoor opportunities!
- Aquapark at Flipside — An inflatable obstacle course on the lake.
- Enchanted Fairy House Garden — Where you can bring your own approved materials to build in the fairy garden.
- Alabama Wildlife Center — The largest wildlife rehabilitation center in Alabama (see more below).
Plus there are traditional state park amenities like a picnic area, pavilions, cabins, and campsites.
Location: 200 Terrace Drive, Pelham, AL
Alabama Wildlife Center
The Alabama Wildlife Center is located in Oak Mountain State Park. It’s Alabama’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation center, and it focuses exclusively on birds. These include vultures, hawks, owls, and eagles.
Their goal of course is to rehabilitate animals so they can return to the wild. But there are sometimes animals who can’t be released and they become ambassadors for the center, participating in educational programs.
You can visit the Alabama Wildlife Center and see these birds in their Treetop Nature Trail. Or, if you want to visit with a group, you can request an educational program.
Location: 100 Terrace Drive, Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, AL
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
If you are into motorcycles at all (or cars or things that go fast in general) you will NOT want to miss the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.
This museum in Birmingham has the world’s largest motorcycle collection (over 1,800)! And they feature a large collection of Lotus race cars.
And behind the museum is the Barber Motorsports Park where you can sometimes catch races. (If they are holding an event when you visit though, you will need to purchase a separate ticket for the event.)
Location: 6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham, AL
Talladega Superspeedway is one of the most famous NASCAR racetracks in the US. And while you’ll find crowds and a real party atmosphere on race weekends, you can actually visit on non race weekends to take a tour.
The Talladega Track Tours include a tour of the track, photos at the start/finish line, and even a lap around the track. And right next to the race track, you’ll find the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, where you can see all kinds of historic race cars.
This is a can’t-miss spot in Alabama if you are a NASCAR fan!
Location: 3366 Speedway Boulevard, Lincoln, AL
Cheaha State Park
Not far from Talladega, you’ll find Cheaha State Park, which is a beautiful area to enjoy the outdoors in East Central Alabama. Not only do they have some great hiking trails here, but the views from Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock are amazing.
You can stay overnight in a campsite, cabin, chalet, or one of the glamping tents. And of course there are plenty of outdoor opportunities at Cheaha: hiking, mountain biking, swimming in Cheaha Lake, rock climbing, geocaching, and more.
They also have two small museums on site that will tell you more about the history of the area and the State Park: The Walt Farr Native American Museum and the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum.
Location: 19644 Highway 281, Delta, AL
National Memorial for Peace and Justice
It’s hard to even put into the words the power of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
It’s located in Montgomery, AL, was funded by the Equal Justice Initiative, and opened in 2018.
The Memorial focuses on the traumatic history that Black people have faced in this country. The Memorial itself has over 800 hanging structures, each on representing a county in the the US where a lynching took place. It’s powerful and almost hard to comprehend.
Nearby, you will also find The Legacy Museum, which goes through the history of the US from slavery to Jim Crow to the present day race issues we face as a country. And soon, they will be expanding to include the Freedom Monument Sculpture Park, which will immerse visitors in the history of slavery. (There is a 15-20 minute between each of these sites.)
Location: 417 Caroline Street, Montgomery, AL
Rosa Parks Library and Museum
Montgomery was of course home to the famous Bus Boycotts in the Civil Rights Movement, made famous by Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat to a white man.
At the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, you can step back in time to learn the history of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the terrible injustices African Americans faced in the segregated South, and the impact of the Civil Rights Movement. They also have a Children’s Wing that gives even more history back the 1800s.
Location: 252 Montgomery Street, Montgomery, AL
Dexter Parsonage Museum
The Dexter Parsonage Museum is another stop you can make in Alabama on the Civil Rights Trail. This house is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived when he was the pastor at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from 1954-1960.
Today, the house (which endured several bombings during the Civil Rights movement), is set up as it was when Dr. King lived there.
You can also visit the church nearby, where meetings for the Montgomery Bus Boycott were organized.
Location: 309 South Jackson Street, Montgomery, AL
First White House of the Confederacy
So, obviously this isn’t the thing we love to highlight in Alabama. But the history of Alabama in the Civil War is important to understand, and being home to the First White House of the Confederacy is an important part of that.
And to be completely honest, this historical site could probably use some improved storytelling when it comes to how the Civil War is depicted. However, this is an important historic home in Montgomery, and you’ll especially enjoy it if you love historic homes. They also have an interesting textile collection and give special attention to the many quilts, tablecloths, and blankets in the house.
Location: 644 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Did you know the Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s infamous wife, was from Montgomery, Alabama? The couple lived in this house on Felder Avenue for part of their marriage, and F. Scott wrote part of Tender is the Night here. Now it is the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, highlighting their lives and legacies.
But it’s also an Air BnB! While the downstairs is a museum, the upstairs houses two suites you can stay in! (I mean, how cool is that! Especially if you are a literature lover like me!)
Location: 919 Felder Avenue, Montgomery, AL
Edmund Pettus Bridge
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama is maybe one of the most iconic stops on the Civil Rights Trail. This bridge was the site of Bloody Sunday, as marchers tried to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights and were met with brutal police force.
After this event, the march did eventually happen. And today, the Selma to Montgomery March is still commemorated with annual events in March (Presidents Obama and Biden have both been in attendance in the past).
But of course, you can visit the bridge any time. Park on Water Street and view the Edmund Pettus Bridge from the Podium Area next to it (there are several levels of steps you can walk down for different views). Then you can also walk across it on the sidewalk.
Location: Broad Street, just south of Water Street, Selma, AL
National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
Near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, you’ll also find the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. Selma was a central location for Voting Rights activists during the Civil Rights Movement, and at this museum you can learn more about the history of Voting Rights.
They have exhibits and artifacts from the movement and immersive displays (like a church and a jail cell) to help you understand the fight for Voting Rights on a deeper level.
Location: 6 US Highway 80 East, Selma, AL
There are two major state universities in Alabama: Auburn University (located in Auburn) and the University of Alabama (located in Tuscaloosa). And we’re going to start with Auburn for one main reason: It’s my alma mater!
I’ll try to be brief here, but my love for Auburn goes back generations in my family. And there is so much you can do in this college town if you visit!
Get the famous lemonade at Toomers Drugs. Shop downtown. See the Toomer’s Oaks (which have been regrown since being vandalized and are doing well!) which are rolled with toilet paper after sports victories. Walk through Auburn’s beautiful campus. Go to a sporting event. Hike in Chewacla State Park.
There’s really so much to do in Auburn and it’s such a beautiful college town!
Location: Auburn, Alabama
Southeastern Raptor Center
Okay….one more Auburn thing! One really unique thing to do in Auburn is to visit the Southeast Raptor Center.
At Auburn, we’re known for our cheer “War Eagle!” and one of the coolest football gameday traditions anywhere in the country is to see one of Auburn’s eagles soar around the stadium before landing at center field. (And yes, Auburn’s mascot is a tiger, not an eagle. Just go with it.)
Well, Auburn actually has an entire center dedicated to eagles and other raptors as part of their College of Veterinary Medicine. They rehabilitate them and offer educational programs to the public.
Do note that if you want to visit, you will need to request a tour ahead of time. But they are open to the public so you can see the work they do with these amazing birds!
Location: 1350 Pratt-Carden Drive, Auburn, AL
Well, we’ve talked about Auburn. So I guess we have to be fair and talk about Tuscaloosa here too, home of the University of Alabama.
Honestly, as much as it pains me to say this being an Auburn fan, Tuscaloosa is a college town that a lot of people love and that offers lots to do. If you’re an Alabama football fan, this will of course be at the top of your list of things to do in Alabama. But there is a lot more to do in Tuscaloosa beyond football games.
Besides visiting Alabama’s campus and Bryant Denny Stadium, you can enjoy a walk along Tuscaloosa’s River Walk, visit Civil Rights Trail stops in Tuscaloosa, or spend a day outdoors at Lake Lurleen State Park or Lake Tuscaloosa.
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Moundville Archaeological State Park
Moundville Archaeological State Park near Tuscaloosa can offer you a look into the Alabama’s Native American past.
This area was once the site of a huge indigenous Mississippian community from around 1000 to 1450 A.D. Here, you can view the mounds they once built for prominent structures and learn more about this community in the museum.
This is perfect for travelers who love history and the outdoors.
Location: 634 Mound State Parkway, Moundville, AL
Things To Do in South Alabama
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
Into military history? Then you’ll definitely want to visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL.
The USS Alabama was once a WWII battleship in the Pacific Theater. Today, you can visit it and tour both the outside and the inside of this huge battleship.
There are also other military vehicles here you’ll want to see. The USS Drum is a submarine you can climb though (and you’ll really get the feeling of how cramped people must feel living for extended times underwater!). There is an Aircraft Pavilion with all kinds of planes. And there is an outside vehicle park with tanks and ground vehicles.
Honestly, even if you aren’t super into military history, this is a really cool place to visit in Mobile!
Location: 2703 Battleship Parkway, Mobile, AL
GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico
The main reason Mobile became the city was because of its location and function as a port city in the Gulf of Mexico. To highlight the maritime history of Mobile and in the Gulf of Mexico, the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum was created.
This really is a museum unlike any other. It offers immersive and hands-on activities so visitors can understand just what goes on with maritime activity around Mobile. There is a full-sized container ship, interactives maps, and a simulator where you can pilot a container ship.
Location: 155 South Water Street, Mobile, AL
Bellingrath Gardens & Home
One of the spots Mobile is most famous for is Bellingrath Gardens and Home. It’s a huge estate on the river that features a large home and extensive gardens.
The gardens include not just the beautiful gardens by the house, but also a Rose Garden, a Conservatory, an Asian-American Garden, and more.
Then you can also tour the huge house known now as the Bellingrath Museum Home. This home was built in 1935 and was home to the local Bellingrath family. So you won’t want to miss this if you love historic homes.
Location: 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore, AL
Mobile Carnival Museum
You may know all about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. But did you know that Mobile, Alabama is actually the Birthplace of Mardi Gras?
At the Mobile Carnival Museum, you can learn more about the history of Carnival, see the elaborate King and Queen robes and crowns, learn about Mardi Gras floats, and more.
Of course, if you are in Mobile during Mardi Gras, experiencing a Mardi Gras parade will give you the first-hand experience. But at other times of the year, this museum will be a perfect place to learn about this beloved tradition.
Location: 355 Government Street, Mobile, AL
Dauphin Island Beaches
Alabama has some beautiful beaches, and we’ll start with Dauphin Island!
Dauphin Island is a barrier island in Mobile Bay, and it has beautiful beaches and a true community feel. (There are lots of year-round residents here!).
I love Dauphin Island because it’s a quieter beach. There aren’t any high-rises or very many condominiums. So you can enjoy the beach without the crowds. Plus, there are enough activities (like the Aquarium which we’ll get to in a bit) to fill in some non-beach time or give you something to do on a rainy day.
Location: Dauphin Island, AL
Alabama Aquarium (Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium)
The Alabama Aquarium (which used to be known as the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium) is such a gem on Dauphin Island! This place really cares about the local wildlife, preserving local ecosystems, and educating visitors about Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
The small aquarium hosts exhibits with native species and the ocean at large, plus a touch pool with sting rays. I especially appreciated the exhibit about the history and impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Because the Alabama Aquarium is so passionate about education, they also offer some very cool opportunities including excursions into local habitats that you can book in advance. (I REALLY want to do one of these, but unfortunately they weren’t offering them the day we visited.)
Location: 102 Bienville Boulevard, Dauphin Island, AL
Love history? Then Fort Gaines is another place to add to your Dauphin Island list. This Civil War fort was a big part of the Battle of Mobile Bay, and it’s a VERY cool place to visit today!
You can climb up on the wall for some great views of the Gulf of Mexico, walk through the dark tunnels, and even sit on a Civil War era toilet (which, admittedly, is also pretty strange).
Honestly, I’ve been to a decent number of forts when I travel with my history-loving husband, and Fort Gaines is one of my favorites. It’s quiet and small, but also has so many fun nooks and crannies, plus those amazing views. And don’t miss the small museum inside either (try to find the part about the history of the lighthouse…it’s crazy!)
Location: 51 Bienville Boulevard, Dauphin Island, AL
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is THE most popular beach destination in Alabama! And there’s a reason for it — these beaches are truly so beautiful with crystal blue water and the finest white sugar sand.
Beyond the beach, there is TONS to do here too, including fantastic restaurants, family-friendly adventures (think mini golf and water parks), and lots of shopping. And of course there are lots of outdoor adventures too, from fishing to a visit to Gulf State Park and more.
Location: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL
Fort Morgan National Historic Landmark
Near Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, you’ll find another beach town called Fort Morgan. And at the very end of this, you’ll find the Fort Morgan National Historic Landmark.
Like Fort Gaines in Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan played a key part in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Fort Gaines is QUITE a structure. It was built with millions of bricks and has super impressive archways throughout.
It is very different from Fort Gaines. And if you want to make it a full history day, you could see both Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines in the same day by riding the Mobile Bay Ferry between the two sites.
Location: 51 Alabama 180, Gulf Shores, AL
More Alabama Fun
- 5 Easy Hikes in Huntsville, Alabama
- Downtown Huntsville, Alabama Murals
- Books Set in + About Alabama