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Best Things to Do in Alabama: A Curated Guide

Alabama is a state brimming with rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural landscapes that provide endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Known for its significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and the birthplace of American space exploration, Alabama offers a mix of exciting activities that cater to people of all ages and interests. From taking scenic hikes through lush forests and exploring significant landmarks to delving into the world of art and science in exceptional museums, there’s something for everyone in this captivating Southern state.

Edmund Pettus Bridge

The range of activities available to visitors and residents of Alabama ensures that everyone can find something to satisfy their tastes and quench their thirst for adventure. History enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the state’s intricate past by visiting important landmarks, while outdoor adventurers can explore the natural beauty within Alabama’s state parks. For families with children, there’s no shortage of stimulating, educational, and entertaining activities that are sure to create lasting memories.

Key Takeaways

  • Alabama offers a diverse mix of historic attractions, outdoor adventures, and family-friendly activities
  • Museums and art galleries provide enriching cultural experiences
  • Unique food and drink options highlight the state’s rich culinary heritage

Historic Attractions

Civil Rights Movement

Alabama is deeply rooted in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. A must-visit site is the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, which commemorates the brave actions of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Another significant stop is the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where Bloody Sunday took place, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.


Birmingham is an important city for history buffs, with several attractions to explore. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute showcases the city’s role in the civil rights movement and provides interactive exhibits. Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is another noteworthy site, a preserved industrial iron-making facility that showcases Birmingham’s industrial heritage.


Mobile, one of the oldest cities in Alabama, offers various historic attractions. The Oakleigh Historic Complex features an antebellum mansion and tells the story of Mobile’s history. Another great option is the Richards-DAR House Museum, a beautifully restored mid-19th-century home that offers a glimpse into the life of a prosperous Mobile family.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile is a must-see for military history enthusiasts. The park is home to the USS Alabama, a World War II-era battleship, and the USS Drum, a submarine from the same period. Visitors can tour the ships and explore various exhibits, including aircraft and military memorabilia. The park also honors veterans from all branches of the United States military.

Outdoor Adventures

Alabama offers a variety of outdoor adventures, from beautiful state parks and trails to stunning Gulf Coast beaches. Discover the thrill of kayaking and canoeing through picturesque waterways and get up close with the local wildlife, including alligators.

State Parks and Trails

Explore the natural beauty of Alabama in its 22 state parks, including the oldest state park, Cheaha State Park. Set atop the state’s highest natural point, Cheaha Mountain, it offers breathtaking views and various hiking trails. For a unique outdoor spot, head to Dismals Canyon in Phil Campbell, an 85-acre nature preserve featuring one of the world’s rarest insects. Hiking enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Sipsey Wilderness, with its diverse array of plants and scenic trails.

Gulf Coast Beaches

The Gulf Coast of Alabama boasts pristine white-sand beaches perfect for relaxation and water sports. Numerous beachfront parks offer picnic facilities, playgrounds, and easy access to the surf. The area is also home to the famous Bellingrath Gardens and Home, a 65-acre estate with beautiful gardens, making for an ideal day trip.

Kayaking and Canoeing

With its numerous lakes, rivers, and coastal waterways, Alabama is a prime spot for kayaking and canoeing. Explore the quiet backwaters while keeping an eye out for alligators and other wildlife. Popular locations for paddling include the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, which also offers birdwatching opportunities, and Cetacean Cruises, where visitors can spot dolphins and other marine life.

Enjoy the confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear tone of voice in this section while embarking on your outdoor adventure in Alabama.

Family-Friendly Activities

McWane Science Center

The McWane Science Center in Birmingham is an excellent destination for families with kids. This interactive museum features a wide variety of exhibits to entertain and educate children of all ages. Here, the young ones can explore the wonders of science through hands-on displays, live demonstrations, and engaging presentations. Some of the popular exhibits include the World of Water Aquarium and the Itty Bitty Magic City, specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers. A visit to the McWane Science Center promises a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is a lovely spot to enjoy nature and spend quality time with your family. With 112 acres of beautiful landscapes, the garden offers well-maintained walking paths, vibrant seasonal flora displays, and educational exhibits for children to learn about the environment. The Children’s Garden features interactive elements, including a dinosaur dig, a butterfly house, and a water play area to keep kids entertained. Additionally, the Huntsville Botanical Garden hosts family-friendly events throughout the year, such as the Huntsville Blooms Festival, Scarecrow Trail, and the Galaxy of Lights. Overall, the Huntsville Botanical Garden provides a relaxing and educational outdoor experience for families to cherish.

Mobile Carnival Museum

Lastly, the Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile is an exciting and colorful attraction for families to explore the history and culture of the Mardi Gras celebration, which originated in Mobile. The museum showcases a vast collection of intricate costumes, dazzling floats, and fascinating memorabilia from past Mardi Gras events. Children can participate in interactive exhibits, such as trying on costumes and learning about float design. The Mobile Carnival Museum offers a unique insight into an iconic celebration and creates a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Museums and Art

Alabama has a diverse offering of museums and art attractions that make it an exciting destination for visitors. In this section, we’ll cover some of the most noteworthy destinations, including art museums, the USS Drum, and Bellingrath Gardens and Home.

Art Museums

Alabama Art Museums are known for their stunning collections and engaging exhibits. Some of the top choices include:

  • Birmingham Museum of Art: This museum boasts an extensive collection of over 27,000 works of art from around the world, ranging from ancient to contemporary pieces.
  • Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art: Located in Auburn, this museum features American and European art, with a particular focus on modern and contemporary works.
  • Mobile Museum of Art: This museum’s collection includes American, European, and non-Western art from various periods and styles.

These museums provide a glimpse into the rich artistic culture of both Alabama and the world beyond.

USS Drum

The USS Drum is a historic WWII submarine on display at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. This Gato-class submarine served in the Pacific theater during World War II and was awarded 12 battle stars for her service. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to explore the ship, gain insight into life on a submarine, and learn about unique aspects of naval history.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a 65-acre public garden and historic home located in Theodore, Alabama. The beautiful gardens contain vibrant blooming plants, tranquil water features, and intricate sculptures. The Bellingrath Home, built in 1935, is a 10,500-square-foot estate designed in a southern architectural style. Visitors can tour the house to see its stunning interior and learn about the history of the Bellingrath family.

This unique attraction appeals to visitors interested in horticulture, architecture, and history. Alabama’s museums and art scene provide a fulfilling and enriching experience for anyone looking to explore its rich cultural landscape.

Unique Experiences

Parasailing and Surfing

Alabama offers a variety of adventure activities for those who love water sports. Parasailing is a popular activity along the Gulf Coast, offering thrilling rides and stunning views. For those looking for a more laid-back experience, kayaking is a great way to explore the state’s waterways and coastline. If you prefer riding waves, surfing can be enjoyed at various beaches along the coast.

Space Program

Alabama is home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, which showcases the history of the United States space program. Visitors can learn about the development of rockets, space shuttles, and more while experiencing engaging exhibits and presentations. The center also offers a variety of educational programs to inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers.

Galaxy of Lights

During the holiday season, the Huntsville Botanical Garden hosts the Galaxy of Lights, a magnificent display of illuminated sculptures and scenes that dazzle visitors of all ages. This event features a drive-through experience, allowing people to marvel at the twinkling lights from the comfort of their cars. The spectacle is an unforgettable way to celebrate the festive season and bring some holiday cheer to families and friends.

Food and Drink

Local Restaurants

Alabama is known for its incredible culinary landscape, with restaurants offering an array of delicious dishes. From seafood to fried chicken and BBQ, you won’t leave the state hungry. One notable restaurant to try is Acre in Auburn, which offers amazing Southern-inspired dishes. Other favorites include the famous fried chicken at Martin’s Restaurant and delicious crab cakes at various coastal establishments.


When it comes to cafes, Alabama doesn’t disappoint. These cozy spots offer a variety of tasty coffee options and freshly baked treats. Whether you’re craving a cup of strong black coffee or a sweet and frothy latte, you’ll find a café that serves it. Some top choices include:

  • Big Spoon Creamery: Known for their delicious ice cream and creative flavors.
  • Orange Rolls: A local favorite, these sweet rolls are a must-try when in Alabama.

Gift Shops

Looking for a memorable souvenir from your trip to Alabama? Gift shops in the state offer a wide variety of items to remind you of the delicious food and drink you enjoyed during your stay. From local artisanal food products to unique handmade crafts, you’ll find something that truly represents the essence of Alabama. Don’t forget to pick up a jar of Alabama’s locally crafted honey or a pack of traditional southern-style spices to take home and share with your friends and family.