When most people envision the state of Alabama, they think about a laid-back area in the United States that doesn’t offer much to visitors. The fact of the matter is, however, when you visit Alabama, you will find many things to do.
Alabama is rather unique in that it caters to those who want an exciting, eventful vacation as well as to those who would simply like to sit back and watch the world go by. Of course, it is also a state that is rich in cultural heritage and the history of the state is certainly well worth your attention.
This review of the top 25 things to do in Alabama will help to introduce you to the state and will certainly whet your appetite for what it has to offer.
1. US Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville)
This unique Museum, located in Huntsville, is the perfect stopover for anyone that has a love of science or space travel history. It outlines the US space program and includes a number of key artifacts that are certain to be a highlight of your visit.
It is commonly known as Earth’s largest space Museum and since 1970, it has thrilled visitors with over 1500 artifacts associated with space exploration. Those artifacts include those of the Apollo program, the Space Shuttle program and Army aircraft and rocketry. It is also the home to 2 different camp programs that can extend your enjoyment of this attraction.
2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Opelika)
What could be closer to a vacation than a great round of golf? If you are visiting the state of Alabama, you have the opportunity to tee off from one of the most renowned collections of championship golf courses in the world.
The Robert Trent Jones golf Trail construction project had its beginnings in the 1980s. It is the brainchild of Dr. David Bronner, who was inspired by the popular movie Field of Dreams and a desire to help the state of Alabama. He wanted to do more than simply build a single golf course; he wanted 378 holes at 8 different sites throughout Alabama, all of which would be constructed at the same time.
In the end, the Robert Trent Jones golf Trail included 26 golf courses, with some 468 championship holes at 11 sites throughout the state. You haven’t golfed until you have golfed in Alabama.
3. Birmingham Zoo (Birmingham)
This zoological Park, home to more than 200 species and 800 individual animals is spread out over approximately 122 acres in Birmingham, Alabama. Each year, more than 470,000 visitors come to the Birmingham zoo to watch the animals and to take advantage of the programs that the zoo makes available.
From its early start in 1955, it had a few exotic animals that were first kept at a firehouse. Eventually, it grew to the point where a park was established. Some of the top exhibits include the Predator Building, Primate Building, Kangaroo Kontry, Flamingo Lagoon, Alligator Swamp and the Sea Lions Splash Show. There are also camel rides available in the spring and summer.
4. USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park (Mobile)
For those who are interested in naval history, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is certainly well worth a visit. After the USS Alabama was ordered scrapped in 1962, the park was eventually established in 1977. The battleship, itself, is a US national historic landmark and there are several other vessels on site, including the USS Drum (submarine), which is also a US national historic landmark.
Both the USS Alabama and USS drum are World War II era vessels. There are also additional features at the battleship Memorial Park, including a river patrol boat used in the Vietnam War, bomber and fighter planes and various pieces of military equipment. It is also home to both a Korean War and Vietnam War Memorial.
5. McWane Science Center (Birmingham)
Established in July, 1998, the McWane Science Center is an interactive, state-of-the-art location where both children and adults can explore the world of science around them. The building itself is more than 9000 square feet and inside, you will find a number of interactive exhibits, as well as an IMAX Dome theater and the Challenger Learning Center.
More than 500,000 artifacts were brought from the Red Belt Museum at the establishment of the science center. Included among those artifacts are those of Native American descent, as well as fossils and precious minerals. Some of the highlights of the science center include dinosaur fossils (Mosasaurs and Appalachiosaurus), as well as an 80 foot fossil whale, which is the state fossil of Alabama.
6. Gulf Shores (Gulf Shores)
Although there are great vacation locations throughout the state of Alabama, the area of Gulf Shores, found on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, is certainly well worth a visit. It provides opportunities for almost any type of vacation seeker, including those that would just like to sit on the beach and relax.
As you would expect from a world-class beach vacation location, there are a number of lodging possibilities, from condo and beach house rentals to bed and breakfasts. Once you are in the area, you can check out some of the local attractions, including shopping, golf or the local arts and museums. There is also plenty of outdoor fun, including fishing, boating, cruises and various beach or water sports.
7. Huntsville Botanical Gardens (Huntsville)
The Huntsville botanical Gardens are conveniently located near the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It receives approximately 308,000 visitors annually and it is open year-round, although there is a fee for entry into the gardens. It is well worth the price, however, as there are a number of attractions included.
Some of the top attractions of the botanical gardens include a butterfly house, biblical garden, nature garden, daylily garden, herb garden, fern glade and a nature trail. There is also a butterfly house that is open on a seasonal basis. Be sure to leave time to wander through the various features of the botanical gardens and to soak in the sites.
8. Cheaha State Park (Delta)
There are a number of state parks operating in the state of Alabama, but Cheaha State Park, created in 1933, is the oldest. Located on approximately 2800 acres in southwestern Cleburne and Northern Clay Counties, it includes a general store and restaurant, boat launch, campsites, hiking and a number of other amenities.
The park is open for day use, including swimming, fishing and picnicking. There are also plenty of hiking opportunities available, with scenic overlooks that are certain to take your breath away. For those that are interested in staying overnight at the park, there are 73 campsites located within it that include modern amenities, such as electric, water and sewer hookups. If you are looking for less rustic surroundings, the Cheaha Lodge is available with 30 hotel rooms and is complete with a swimming pool.
9. Point Mallard Park (Decatur)
This public park, located in Decatur, Alabama is on 500 acres and is available year-round for visitors. It is adjacent to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and is well worth a visit if you are in the state.
The primary attraction of the park is the Blackburn Aquatic Center and it includes one of the first wave pools established in the United States. The park also includes a diving pool and a number of large slides, including the Pro Bowl, Sky Pond, Duck Pond and the Three Flumes Slide. Don’t be afraid to bring the kids, because there is also a children’s activity area (Squirt Factory), Sand Beach and various playgrounds, concessions and other amenities.
10. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham)
Alabama certainly was a hotspot of civil rights activities in the 1950s and 1960s, so it is appropriate that there is a civil rights Institute available in Birmingham. This Institute was established in 1992 in order to show the struggles of the American civil rights movement. It saw more than 25,000 visitors in its first week of operation.
Inside of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, you will walk through a self-guided journey, meant to provide a positive outlook for the future. Currently, it also is home to the Smithsonian institution traveling exhibition, let your motto be resistance.
11. Cathedral Caverns State Park (Woodville)
Located in northern Marshall County, southeast of Woodville, Alabama, this state park is home to a cavern of unbelievable awe and beauty. Approximately 11,000 feet of the cavern has been surveyed and explored, although there are still some 2700 feet that are not open to the public. In more recent years, a “wild cave tour” has been established to help explorers see beyond the end of the concrete pathways.
The cavern is home to a number of interesting features, including Goliath, which is said to be the world’s largest column. It stands at 243 feet in circumference and is 45 feet high. It is also home to a 3 inch diameter stalagmite which reaches the ceiling 25 feet above it at a 45° angle. The big room is 200 feet wide and 792 feet long.
A number of activities are available at the park in addition to regular cave tours. Those include day visits for picnicking, overnight tent camping and gem mining.
12. Little River Canyon (Fort Payne)
Have you ever seen a river on top of a mountain? This national preserve, located on Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne is home to the longest mountaintop river in the United States. The Canyon that was created, originally known as May’s Gulf, is said to be the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River.
A number of activities are available in the Little River Canyon national Park. Hunting and fishing are available on a limited basis but a valid state license is necessary. There are also opportunities for backcountry camping, but only in the locations of Billy’s Ford, Hartline’s Ford and Slant Rock.
13. Alligator Alley (Summerdale)
You could hardly expect a visit the state of Alabama without at least running into an alligator one time. If alligators are of interest to you, then you would certainly want to visit alligator Alley in Summerdale. This alligator farm provides a number of opportunities for alligator lovers as well as for those that are just mildly curious.
Some of the opportunities available to those that visit Alligator Alley include feeding and holding gators. If you would like to see the attractions but not quite so up close and personal, there are also plenty of photography opportunities available as well. While in the area, make sure you visit the Spear Hunting Museum, a rather unique attraction that may be the only one of its kind in the world.
14. Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham)
You don’t need to travel far in Alabama to find some excellent cultural opportunities. In Birmingham, the Museum of Art offers you the opportunity to see more than 24,000 different exhibits, including paintings, sculptures and various types of decorative arts. Some of the highlights of the Museum include top collections of Asian art, Renaissance paintings and European decorative arts.
Although there are art exhibits available from around the world, the Birmingham Museum of Art is also home to some of the best collections of Alabama art as well. Included among those collections are those from the miniaturist Hannah Elliott and Carrie Hill, who was known for her landscape art.
15. Bryant Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa)
You don’t have to be a fan of the University of Alabama to appreciate a visit to the Bryant Denny Stadium, located in Tuscaloosa. Established in 1929, the Stadium originally had a low capacity of 18,000 seats but since that time, it has expanded to hold over 100,000 fans.
Of course, that is a large Stadium by any standards and worldwide, it holds the honor of being the 10th largest stadium. If you’re in town for a game, you certainly will love the visit. If there is not a game taking place or if you are unable to get tickets, there are tours offered every day, once a day, during the week. Make sure to get tickets for the tour in advance, because only 25 individuals will be able to walk through the Stadium with each tour.
16. Bellingrath Gardens (Theodore)
If you are the area of Theodore, Alabama, be sure to take the time to tour and experience the historic property of Bellingrath Gardens. While there, you will thrill to see 900 acres of pristine garden property, which is located along the foul River. Within the 900 acres, 65 acres are cultivated to produce continuous color through annual blooms.
A number of other features are available for your enjoyment at Bellingrath Gardens, including a conservatory, the bridal garden and the great lawn. You can explore the area on foot through a self-guided tour, taking in the sights and sounds or simply relaxing and enjoying all of the beauty that is around you.
17. Rosa Parks Library and Museum (Montgomery)
On December 1, 1955, a brave African-American woman refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus. That courageous stand earned her the title “the mother of the civil rights”. Her name was Rosa Parks and near the area where she took her courageous stand now stands a Museum in her honor.
Located on Montgomery Street in Montgomery, Alabama, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum is open five days a week, with the exception of holidays. The museum itself is available for a virtual tour but if you’re in the area, you will certainly want to look through the various exhibits that are on-site. Some of the artifacts include a replica of the public bus, original historic documents and a restored 1955 station wagon. There is also a children’s wing, so that the younger generation can familiarize themselves with this brave woman as well.
18. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum (Birmingham)
Located on 740 acres in Birmingham, Alabama, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum displays one of the finest collections of vintage motorcycles and automobiles in the world. It was the brainchild of George Barber, who had an interest in vintage motorcycles and opened the first Museum in 1988 with his private collection. Since that time, it has relocated to Birmingham in the area of the Barber motorsports Park.
Over 1450 modern and vintage racing cars and motorcycles are on-site. Not only is it the largest collection of motorcycles in the world, it also houses the largest collection of Lotus racecars as well. Some of the oldest motorcycles date back to 1904 and they represent bikes from 16 different countries throughout the world.
19. Fairhope Avenue (Fairhope)
When you’re in the area of Fairhope, Alabama, you should take some time to visit the downtown area. Not only is it a beautiful and comfortable setting where you can walk around and look at the various shops, there are also a number of interesting items that can be found in the area that are rather unique.
Of course, it is not necessary for you to be a fan of shopping in order to enjoy the downtown area. There are a number of diners that are scattered throughout the area, including some formal dining that is well worth a visit. If you are coming to the downtown area, be sure to arrive early or leave enough time to find a parking space, because it can be difficult to do so.
20. Mobile Carnival Museum (Mobile)
The carnival and Mardi Gras have been in the area of Alabama as well as in other parts of the world for hundreds of years. In Mobile, Alabama, is a museum that is dedicated to the history of the carnivore Mardi Gras, and it is well worth a visit.
The primary part of the museum is associated with the historical evolution of the celebration and how it has grown since its early beginnings to what it is today. Some of the interesting features of the museum include displays of jewels and gowns that were worn by the Queens of the carnival throughout history. There are also a variety of original Mardi Gras posters and art pieces from local artists.
21. Richards-DAR House (Mobile)
Built in 1860 as a home for Charles and Caroline Richards, this property is now a historic house museum located in Mobile, Alabama. Although there are a number of mid-19th century homes located throughout the state, this is considered by many architectural historians to be one of the best preserved. Since 1973, it has been available for touring as a museum and is operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Both the interior and the exterior house some very unique features that are associated with the time period that it was built. There is even some speculation that children’s laughter and voices can be heard in the home, which also attracts some curious individuals as well.
22. Toomer’s Corner (Auburn)
In the city of Auburn, Alabama, is a well-known intersection that has become the hallmark destination of the city. This intersection, located where Magnolia Avenue and College Street meet, is the home to Toomer’s Drugs, which has been operating in the area since 1896.
Although the corner is somewhat unremarkable in and of itself, it is well known throughout the area as being the center of activity within the city. It is also well-known because of the campus life that takes place in the area as well.
23. Alabama Theater (Birmingham)
Located in Birmingham, Alabama, the Alabama Theater was established in 1927 as a premier movie theater in the southeastern area of the United States. The theater is able to seat some 2500 people at any given time and at one time, was home to theaters for the performing arts, vaudeville and first run movies.
Although there were a number of districts theaters in operation at one time, the Alabama Theater is the only one to still be in operation today. One of the primary features of the theater, which is why many people visit, is the large theater pipe organ that still exists. It was included with the theater because, when it was built, films were silent and musical accompaniment was necessary.
24. Paul W. Bryant Museum (Tuscaloosa)
The Bryant Museum, located in Tuscaloosa on the University of Alabama property, first opened its doors in 1985. It is established as a history of Alabama football but it pays particular tribute to Bear Bryant, perhaps one of the leading coaches of all time at the University of Alabama.
Included among the exhibits at this Museum is a painting that was used for a 32-cent postage stamp commemorating this football coach and a Waterford Crystal hound’s-tooth hat. It also contains a list of individuals who were named after Bryant, and the list continues to grow.
25. Mobile History Museum (Mobile)
You don’t have to be from the area of Mobile, Alabama to appreciate what the Mobile History Museum has to offer. It houses a number of exhibits, including some permanent and others that come and go. The primary focus of the museum is on education, and there are tours available on an ongoing basis, as well as outreach programs and resources for educators.
Some of the permanent exhibits include the community gallery, used to highlight artist in the local area and the Faces of Mobile Exhibit, highlighting some of the many people who have been instrumental in the development of the area over the past three centuries.