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ALABAMA TRAVEL GUIDE


Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Alabama! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Alabama.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

OVERVIEW



Alabama is famous for its Gulf Coast beaches, Civil Rights museums and historical sites, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Beyond those attractions, the state offers many doses of natural beauty, especially in northern Alabama where you'll find several scenic rivers and nature preserves. Alabama also has the Talladega Superspeedway and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, arguably the best motorcycle museum in the country.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN ALABAMA



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Alabama? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Alabama, in no particular order:

Visit some of the top waterfalls in the Southeast, including Noccalula Falls in Gardsden and DeSoto Falls in Fort Payne
Explore the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, one of the finest space museums in the country
Cycle the Chief Ladiga Trail, a wonderful 33-mile paved rail trail that also connects to the 61.5-mile paved Silver Comet Trail in Georgia
Attend a racing event at the Talladega Superspeedway
Catch a concert at the outdoor Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Enjoy some of Alabama's Gulf of Mexico beaches, such as those found at Gulf Shores or Orange Beach
Learn about the Civil Rights movement at the excellent Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Go hiking in one of the beautiful nature preserves in northern Alabama
Enjoy some canoeing/kayaking or tubing on one of Alabama's scenic rivers (e.g. Cahaba River, Styx River, etc.)
See more than 700 motorcycles on display at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham

If I could select only one place to visit in Alabama, I would choose the beaches along the Gulf Coast.

For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN ALABAMA



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Alabama. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Alabama bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Alabama Barn Quilt Trail - take a driving tour to see more than 80 barns that have quilt designs painted on them
Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman - see miniature reproductions of famous religious sites
Big Spring International Park, Huntsville - a lovely public park with walking trails and a famous natural spring
Cane Creek Canyon Preserve, Tuscumbia - a large privately owned nature park with 15 miles of trails that is open to the public on weekends
Cathedral Caverns State Park, Woodville - guided tours of the best cave that is open to the public in the state
Cook Museum of Natural Science, Decatur - an excellent, relatively new hands-on natural science museum; great for kids
DeSoto Falls, DeSoto State Park, Fort Payne - see one of the best waterfalls in the Southeast; 104 feet tall!
Dismals Canyon, Phil Campbell - beautiful nature preserve with pretty forests, glowworms, hiking trails, and waterfalls; cabin rentals available
Harmony Park Safari, Huntsville - drive-thru wildlife preserve with free-range animals
Huntsville Botanical Garden, Huntsville - beautiful medium-sized botanical garden; one of Alabama's most popular tourist attractions
Little River Canyon National Preserve, Fort Payne - nature preserve with scenic views, waterfalls, and more; the "Grand Canyon of the East"
Little River Falls, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Fort Payne - take a short walk to see an impressive 45-foot waterfall
Madison County Nature Trail, Huntsville - nature park with walking trails and a covered bridge
Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville - nature park with great scenic views, 20 miles of hiking trails, and 14 miles of cycling trails
Natural Bridge Park, Haleyville - a 148-foot natural standstone bridge; one of Alabama's most impressive natural attractions
Neversink Pit, Fackler - an impressive geologic attraction; one of the biggest sinkholes in the U.S.; rock-climbers can enter the 162-foot pit
Noccalula Falls, Gardsden - one of the best waterfalls in the Southeast; 95-ft tall!
Skydive Alabama, Vinemont - a highly-rated skydiving experience in northern Alabama
U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville - one of the very best space museums in the U.S.; Alabama's #1 tourist attraction
U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, Huntsville - see historic military vehicles, weapons, memorabilia, and more

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Birmingham - the best motorycle museum in the U.S.; has nearly 750 vintage and modern motorcycles
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham - one of the top civil rights museums in the U.S.
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham - see 17,000 pieces of art from 3000 B.C. to the present day
Bryant Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa - famous college football stadium with a 100,000+ capacity; home of the Crimson Tide
Cheaha State Park, Delta - drive up to the highest point in Alabama; the park has lots of scenic views and great hiking and biking trails
Chief Ladiga Trail - Alabama's most famous rail trail; this trail connects with the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia for a total of 95 paved miles!
Civil Rights Memorial Center, Montgomery - see a memorial to the 41 people who died in the fight for civil rights
First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery - visit the home of President Jefferson Davis
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) Tours, Montgomery - tour a car manufacturing facility; reservations likely required
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn - famous college football stadium; home of the Auburn Tigers
Legacy Museum, Montgomery - learn about the history of slavery and rascim in the U.S.
McWane Science Center, Birmingham - a great scenic museum that also has an aquarium and IMAX theater
National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery - national memorial to commemorate the black victims of lynching
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham - excellent state park with more than 50 miles of trails; offers many other outdoor activities (too many to list)
Rickwood Caverns State Park, Warrior - one-mile long guided tours of an underground limestone cave
Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Montgomery - exhibits, artifacts, and art related to the life and lessons of Rosa Parks
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Birmingham - see a historic pig iron-producing blast furnace
Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega - the biggest and fastest oval in the NASCAR circuit
Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Tuscaloosa - a wonderful outdoor amphitheater (one of the finest in the U.S.)
Vulcan Park and Museum, Birmingham - see great views from the world's largest cast-iron statue
Wind Creek Casino & Hotel, Montgomery - one of several Wind Creek resort casinos in Alabama

Southern Alabama (including Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach)
Adventure Island, Orange Beach - a family-fun park with go-karts, bumber boats, miniature golf, and more
Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island - a marine educational facility and aquarium
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Gulf Shores - a very good medium-sized zoo
Alligator Alley, Summerdale - tourist attraction with hundreds of alligators (you can hold the babies)
Bamahenge, Elberta - a full-size fiberglass replica of the famous Stonehenge of England
Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Theodore - a beautiful 65-acre estate with lovely gardens
Boat tours from Orange Beach - e.g. dolphin cruises, fishing charters, sailing, sunset cruises, etc.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge - visit an "undisturbed coastal barrier habitat"; walking trails and great bird-watching
Dauphin Island - an "affordable family-friendly beach vacation destination"; features beaches, an aquarium, and the home of Fort Gaines
Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island - visit a historic Civil War-era fort on the shorelines of Dauphin Island
Fort Morgan State Historic Site, Fort Morgan - visit a historic fort that pre-dates the Civil War
Gulf Shores - a small city along the Gulf Coast known for its sugar-white beaches and family-friendly attractions (e.g. Waterville USA)
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores - features 2 miles of beaches, hiking trails, and fishing pier
GulfQuest-National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile - an excellent interactive maritime museum
Hummingbird Zipline Course, Orange Beach - excellent zip-lining tours
Mobile Carnival Museum, Mobile - museum dedicated to Carnival and Mardi Gras
Orange Beach - a small town along the Gulf Coast known for its white beaches; generally considered more upscale than nearby Gulf Shores
Skydive The Gulf, Elberta - highly-rated skydiving experiences
Track, The, Gulf Shores - family-fun center with excellent go-kart tracks and other family and child-friendly attractions
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile - one of the premier military museums in the U.S.
Waterville USA, Gulf Shores - the best water park in Alabama

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions Alabama? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:  FL  |  GA  |  MS  |  TN

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN ALABAMA



These towns and cities in Alabama are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Birmingham - a medium-sized city known for its many fine museums
Dauphin Island - a small town on the Gulf Coast that is known for its quiet, uncrowded beaches; the Alabama Aquarium is also there
Fairhope - a small city along the eastern shorline of Mobile Bay that has several boutique shops and art galleries; often called "Alabama Gulf Coast's most charming city"
Gulf Shores - a small city along the Gulf Coast known for its sugar-white beaches and family-friendly attractions (e.g. Waterville USA)
Huntsville - a medium-sized city in northern Alabama that is the home of the excellent U.S. Space and Rocket Center (considered one of AL's top tourist attractions); the city has several great breweries and some great fishing opportunities
Montgomery - a medium-sized city known for its Civil Rights memorials and sites
Orange Beach - a small town along the Gulf Coast known for its white beaches; generally considered more upscale than nearby Gulf Shores

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS ALABAMA FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Alabama is famous or well-known for:

aerospace and defense industries
beaches
civil rights history
college football

Click here if you'd like to explore what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN ALABAMA



There are currently no national parks in Alabama. However, there are many other federally-managed parks and properties in the state, including:

National Monuments
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Freedom Riders National Monument
Russell Cave National Monument

National Forests
Conecuh National Forest
Talladega National Forest
Tuskegee National Forest
William B. Bankhead National Forest

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

For more information on Alabama's national parks, visit the Alabama page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN ALABAMA



Alabama has more than 20 state parks. Here is a list of the finest state parks in Alabama:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Cathedral Caverns State Park, Woodville - guided tours of the best cave that is open to the public in the state
DeSoto State Park, Fort Payne - see one of the best waterfalls in the Southeast; 104 feet tall!
Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville - nature park with great scenic views, 20 miles of hiking trails, and 14 miles of cycling trails

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Cheaha State Park, Delta - drive up to the highest point in Alabama; the park has lots of scenic views and great hiking and biking trails
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham - excellent state park with more than 50 miles of trails; offers many other outdoor activities (too many to list)
Rickwood Caverns State Park, Warrior - one-mile long guided tours of an underground limestone cave

Southern Alabama (including Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach)
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores - features 2 miles of beaches, hiking trails, and fishing pier

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN ALABAMA



Alabama has more than 75 natural waterfalls. Here is a list of many of the best waterfalls in Alabama:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Caney Creek Falls in William B. Bankhead National Forest
DeSoto Falls within DeSoto State Park in Mentone
High Falls within High Falls Park in Grove Oak
Kinlock Falls in William B. Bankhead National Forest
Little River Falls within Little River Canyon National Preserve in Fort Payne
Lost Sink Falls within Keel Mountain Preserve in Gurley
Mardis Mill Falls (aka Graves Creek Falls) in Blountsville
Noccalula Falls in Noccalula Falls in Gadsden
Sougahoagdee Falls in William B. Bankhead National Forest

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Cheaha Falls in Talladega National Forest
Devils Den Falls in Talladega National Forest

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Alabama, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN ALABAMA



Here is a list of the best scenic drives in Alabama:

Natchez Trace Parkway - a 444-mile paved route from TN to MS with beautiful scenery and several significant historical sights
Talladega Scenic Drive/AL-281 - a 26-mile paved route that passes through Cheaha State Park and Talladega National Forest

I haven't driven the Alabama "Coastal Connection Scenic Byway" yet, but it's very possible that route is worthy of inclusion above.

For a list of great scenic drives in each U.S. state, click here.

BEST OCEAN BEACHES IN ALABAMA



Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches are famously beautiful. Here is a list of the best beaches in Alabama:

Western beaches
Public Beach, Dauphin Island
West End Public Beach, Dauphin Island

Eastern beaches
Alabama Point Beach
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach
Gulf State Park Beach
Orange Beach

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN ALABAMA



Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Alabama:

Aldridge Creek Greenway
Chief Ladiga Trail
Five Mile Creek Greenway
Gulf Oak Ridge Trail

The Chief Ladiga Trail is the premier rail trail in Alabama. If you combine it with the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia you can create a fantastic multi-day ride of more than 95 fully-paved miles. This distance makes this one of the longest (and best) paved rail trails in the U.S.

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Alabama, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN ALABAMA



There are only a few notable amusement parks in Alabama, and they are small or medium in size. They include:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Point Mallard Park, Decatur
Spring Valley Beach, Blountsville

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure, Bessemer

Southern Alabama (including Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach)
OWA Parks & Resort, Foley
Waterville USA, Gulf Shores
Water World, Dothan

BEST MUSEUMS IN ALABAMA



Alabama has many great museums. The best museums in Alabama include:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Cook Museum of Natural Science, Decatur
Rosenbaum House Museum, Florence
U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville
U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, Huntsville

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Birmingham
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham
Civil Rights Memorial Center, Montgomery
First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery
Legacy Museum, Montgomery
McWane Science Center, Birmingham
Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Montgomery

Southern Alabama (including Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach)
Foley Railroad Museum & Model Train Exhibit, Foley
GulfQuest-National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile
Mobile Carnival Museum, Mobile
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

In my opinion, the two finest museums in Alabama are the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

BEST DAY HIKES IN ALABAMA



Alabama offers many good hiking trails, especially in the northern half of the state. Here are some of the best day hikes in Alabama:

Northern Alabama (including Huntsville)
Alum Hollow, Green Mountain Nature Preserve, Huntsville
Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve trails, Tuscumbia
Dismals Canyon, Dismal Canyon Conservatory, Phil Campbell
East Bee Branch Canyon, Sipsey Wilderness, Mount Hope
Falls Loop, DeSoto State Park, Fort Payne
Little River Canyon National Preserve trails, Fort Payne
Noccalula Falls & Black Creek Trail, Noccalula Park, Gadsden
Rainbow Mountain Loop, Rainbow Mountain Preserve, Madison
Sougahoagdee Falls, William B. Bankhead National Forest, Houston
Walls of Jericho, Skyline Wildlife Management Area, Stevenson

Central Alabama (including Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa)
Bald Rock Boardwalk, Cheaha State Park, Delta
Chinnabee Silent Trail, Talladega National Forest, Lineville
Kings Chair Overlook, Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham
Odcum Scout Trail, Talladega National Forest
Pulpit Rock Trail, Cheaha State Park, Delta
Smith Mountain Fire Tower, Jacksons' Gap

Southern Alabama (including Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach)
Pine Beach Trail, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

A good article about hiking in Alabama can be found on the Fifty Grande website.

The highpoint of Alabama is Cheaha Mountain (2,413') in Cheaha State Park. You can drive to the top year-round. There are other excellent hiking trails in the state park though, including Bald Rock Boardwalk and Pulpit Rock Trail.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN ALABAMA



Alabama offers a few backpacking opportunities, including these favorites:

Conecuh Trail, Conecuh National Forest
Cathedral Caverns State Park
DeSoto State Park
East Bee Branch Canyon
Oak Mountain State Park
Pinhoti Trail, Talladega National Forest
Sipsey Wilderness
Skyway Backpack Loop, Talladega National Forest

Many of the trails that are listed above are sparsely maintained. You may need a GPS to help you navigate on at least some of these trails.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN ALABAMA



Alabama offers many outdoor adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking the Pinhoti Trail
Bouldering in Horse Pens 40
Bouldering in Moss Rock Preserve
Canoeing/kayaking on the Alabama Scenic River Trail
Canoeing/kayaking on the Bartram Canoe Trail
Canoeing/kayaking on the Cahaba River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Perdido River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Sepulga River
Cycling the Chief Ladia Trail - this excellent paved rail trail can be combined with Georgia's Silver Comet Trail (for a trip of 90-plus miles)
Cycling the Natchez Trace Parkway
Mountain biking Chewacla State Park
Mountain biking Coldwater Mountain
Mountain biking Lake Lurleen State Park
Mountain biking Oak Mountain State Park
Parasailing at Orange Beach
Rock climbing in Jamestown
Rock climbing in Palisades Park
Rock climbing in Sand Rock
Skydiving in Elberta (near Orange Beach / the Gulf Coast)
Skydiving in Vinemont (northern Alabama)
Tubing the Cahaba River
Tubing the Styx River

ALABAMA TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Alabama attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN ALABAMA



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Alabama:

banana pudding
chicken with white BBQ sauce
conecuh sausage
fried crab claws
fried green tomatoes
gulf shrimp ("big reds")
orange pineapple ice cream (e.g. Trowbridge)
pecan pie / pecans
shrimp and grits
west indies salad

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Alabama (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Alabama (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY ALABAMA INFORMATION



State Capital:
Montgomery

Major Airports:
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), and to a lesser extent, Huntsville International Airport (HSV)

Largest Cities:
Huntsville (221,986), Montgomery (199,571), Birmingham (198,433), Mobile (185,427), Tuscaloosa (101,426), Hoover (94,804), Auburn (80,695)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-10, I-20, I-22, I-59, I-65, I-85

State Highpoint:
Cheaha Mountain (2,413'); you can drive to the top year round

Professional Sports Teams:
None (although college football is enormously popular in Alabama)

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Allgood, Boar Tush, Burnt Corn, Frog Eye, Normal, Scratch Ankle, Screamer, Slicklizzard, and The Bottle

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.



ROAD TRIP GUIDEBOOKS



In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

        


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  


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